Hi Creativity, pleased to meet you.

9 05 2009

Say what creativity? We have been friends all along? Thank God, I was starting to think you were platonic 🙂

It has been a long time since my last post! Regrettably, my new responsibilities not only required but also deserved my full attention, yet thanks to them I have had the chance to acquire new knowledge –mainly air transport industry- and refresh some. Today’s post wanders around creativity, a subject briefly touched upon on our Annual Sales Meeting.

I am sure there has been times when most of you all believed you are not the creative type and had voice some of the following: “I would never come up with something as beautiful as that!”, “I dearly thank you, but what I did here with this work is far from creative I just played around with what we had and what we could do”, “I do not know how to draw, not even sticks figures, how come you say I am creative”.

Hey! I’ve been there too, always tying creativity with and aesthetics and superpowers blend, I always struggled with others opinions regarding my creativity. What they heck do they meant? Do they want me to draw better or do they think I can deliver a Cannes winner? Nowadays I bet lots of you have been hearing the need for being more creative so we all could find ways to cope with the financial storm and safely arrive our destination.

Time and experience had taught me that creativity or the state of being creative is not directly tied to beautifulness, arts or stickiness. When someone is creative it means she has gone through a mental process that delivered an idea or concept that has never existed before or at least not commonly thought about. When the product of creativity is then applied and provides either an answer to an unresolved problem, evolved a product or transformed a given context, you have met innovation. In other words: when you come up with something not thought before you’re being creative; and, when that thought is in turn applied and produces a benefit, innovation occurs.

Lias Colors by laurenatclemsons

Lia's Colors by laurenatclemson's

Our creativity speaker at the annual sale event gave us our fast track tour to what it means to be creative and what kind of habitudes could nurture this trend, and I would love to share my notes with you.

Fluidity: you cannot be creative if every time you think of a new idea you stop dead on your tracks and think of ways that idea cannot be applied. Sit back and think of the times your own Jiminy Cricket has played against you: “Oh God! This is so simple someone else must have thought it before and found out it didn’t work”, “there must be a rule somewhere I am forgetting about”, “plain stupid”, etc. In order to be creative you must hush down your consciousness, demolish your self-imposed restrictions and just play along with whatever idea burst, in the end it might prove the right one.

Flexibility: As the result of a well known human trait (once you’ve found something works or feel like it might stick with it Joe) there have been times when every single idea I come with has common elements with the ones I’ve thought of before. Is this creative? I don’t think so, the storm of ideas might seem alluring but once you end the creative phase and start reviewing which ideas might work you’ll find that you’ve wasted precious time biting your own tail, hence ending with a handful of ideas instead of lots of them.

Or from another point of view: think of how much more chances you’ll have to nail something if the ideas you came up with have origins in different contexts (eg. Think out of the box, oblique strategies, woods vs trees) and how less probable you’ll find an answer if you stick with the same elements.

Goal oriented: to be creative does not gives you license to ramble of your goal. If you are trying to solve airspace travel it won’t help you at all if your ideas are of different ways dogs could take themselves for a walk. You are not being ingenious, you are just being rebellious.

Last, the guy who spoke at our event also mentioned originality as a trait to work upon if you are working on your creativity. In my opinion originality is not a trait to work upon creativity since coming with an idea not thought before is what you are aiming at, hence being original at your context.

In a future post I’ll ramble around the concept of innovation and what guides I believe most be applied through creative process so their product is actionable and could produce innovation. If you squint your eyes and read again what defines and describes creativity processes, you will see a triggered trap there: you could generate unviable new ideas forever and ever.

— Speaker name and bio will be linked during the week as well as some links to books/techniques that might help you with cretivity, fluidity and/or or flexibility

The above mentioned speaker: Mr. Eduardo Kastika (spanish)

Interesting books:
The Ten Faces of Innovation by Thomas Kelly
Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun
Ignore everybody by Hugh Macleod 

Oblique Strategies


Excessively searching for inner harmony?

6 01 2009


Dwelling in insipidness.

Most of us run shy from the battle meetings that some times burst out at the office. We lament the moment someone steps into someone else’s toes and hell breaks loose; that is, when someone finds a pitched product lacks and offers an unbiased critic. Though the intention might have been good, we all know most people tend to take things personally, so what was an impartial argument was really a “my idea is better” fire cracker. 

... fight off the Furry trio of foxes by jillallyn

... fight off the Furry trio of foxes by jillallyn

In this kind of meetings -generally product or functionality definition reunions- arguments are rapidly fired back and forth, escalating in tone and reducing in value, swiftly reaching the screaming point. And suddenly magic happens! Tones go down to a civilized volume, arguments are organized and the meeting ends with an action plan. Time for joy?

Why then, is everyone who was in that room leaving it with contorted faces and the pitcher is mumbling incoherently?  Chances are someone at the meeting with a leadership position suffering from reunion-battle aversion stood up and tried hard to tone down the meeting thru several maneuvers that will end dismissing and superseding research findings and crafting a false sense of participation.

Why invent the wheel?

When you hear this or something by the lines it means your managers or the leaders of your organization are giving up, are growing very tired of facing every argument and prefer to find an easier route out of the problem. I am not talking about time proven procedures here, what I am thinking of are the times when you having understood your audience needs and aligned them to your business goals have produced a new feature design and someone else says: I prefer to copy cat. 

Oh sure, copying what others have done in your industry will help you reduce design time, and it might even produce something useful for your audience but then you’ll be just one more grain of sand at the beach. You might have rationalized why your competitors have developed such a feature; yet, what you’re copying today might be aimed to a similar audience with similar needs to your own but otherwise it is another set of people and will soon leave you clueless as to what might have gone wrong.

Democratize the process

Maybe the arguments, the shouts and the screams were because someone felt like they were left out of the decision process? Asking everyone to cast their vote would help them feel part of the process, wouldn’t it? Perhaps some of your employees and coworkers will fall for this stunt, but sooner or later they would realize it was a vain attempt, something that neither establishes a culture for participation nor adds value to the processes by itself. Voting on functionalities or priorities gives everyone a chance to have their say and will produce a warm feeling of order; however, the final product will be a produce of everyone’s gut feelings, a blend of what Tom from accounting thinks is important with what Alice from operations thinks her costumers need. 

Instead of wildly gathering votes unexpectedly, organizations should institute ways by which the people designing their products/features leave their ivory towers and aside from hearing the costumer voice, mingle with their coworkers, understand their needs and assess their great ideas. As for how to settle priorities and defining what to work, organizations could introduce a method by which every feature and product could be evaluated against business indicators (how they will be affected), brand stance and audience needs –easier to say than to follow-.

Even though these methods, and others, might prove useful from time to time when the hordes are running wild, I believe if they are used frequently you are playing for consensus instead of giving people on decision making roles the chance to proof their worth. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand a harmonized office environment works marvels for everyone involved and it is part of managers’ role to keep a close watch on it, but when the priority is on making everyone comfortable at work instead of producing kick ass products something is really unbalanced out there.

Continuously struggling to bring consensus to the decision table will cut the sharp edges from your produces, eliminate their singularities and with time make them just something anyone else can offer. You will end with a very harmonic working environment but with an undifferentiated product. Why wait for a final meeting to find the stressing points, instead work on serializing the decision process (establish check points during the design phase) in which people who must have a saying could have it in an organized way thus producing a product in which everyone who had to collaborate did and ingrained it with sharp edges.

A foal giving Web 2.0 lessons? :)

19 12 2008

in your face Mr. Ed!

You still don’t get why all the noise around web 2.0? Wondering how you can follow along this beta companies? Still banging your head against the wall? Let Kathy’s foal show you how to apply Web 2.0 principles for startups:

I totally loved it, still the castration part was unasked for 🙂

Just call me salmon: from bystander to actor.

11 12 2008

As far as I know, we all live in the same planet, the very same that went berserk about a month ago and started experiencing what some cal the worst financial crisis of the past 60 years. It comes to my mind, that since I was born I’ve been living from time to time several events with “worst” as their top adjective.  Well, hear me you all: enough is enough! I will not accept as truths what others tell me will be the future; I am now, willing to harness my skills and charisma and walk the road, face the monsters and define my own adjectives for the events I live. How about this for starters: lively?

Waiting by conorwithonen

Waiting by conorwithonen

As most of you might already know, last week I ended my 8+ year relationship with my former employer (Dridco). When told or asked for advice, some of you thought I was suffering from a malady, I sounded nutty, anxious.  In the past 6 months several events occurred*, some of them by accident and others by my own will, which ended adding to the same effect: freeing me up from my comfortable witness position and throwing me into the arms of endeavor. 

You can match my decision to that of millions of teenagers worldwide (and not so teen) daily take: even though they find themselves quite happy and sumptuously living at their parents “hotel”, they have a car, their parents ask them for advice, they have a 24×7 all you can eat and no direct expense;  yet, they feel something is amiss, they have the hunger to eat the whole world, the need to walk the roads, make mistakes and learn more: the need to learn who they are as individual and be themselves from the on.

Spot on with my personal believes –yes I am evangelizing here- regarding idea sharing and value creation I would like to share with you my endeavor, you are welcome to rip, add, criticize, laugh and even: I defy you to start this going somewhere else. Ideas are free. What differentiates you from the competitor: YOU (who you are, the way you build, act and learn). 

Enough rumble, this is the project: develop a consultancy, a boutique of sorts, by which companies can asses their current and future online products against industries, revenue models, technological platforms and users goals. Sounds common? Well, it has a glint on it. Are you curious enough Alice? I plan to share under a Creative Commons By Attribution License part of my knowledge and research base. Caveat: project my change due to externalities,  I am not a stubborn donkey, if opportunity knocks at my door and is in line with my passions and needs, I’ll go for it. 

As yesterday, I’ll like share with you one of the sources of my inspiration. Hörtjur Smárason, an acquaintance of mine built via twitter, was one of the people who I consulted before jumping into action pointed me to his ebook and politely suggested me to read it. What could I say? He is behind IfThe WorldCouldVote.com blockbuster, is a well known personality regarding online marketing and user engagement, and after all a U$ 25 price tag for something he authored is a rip off. If you feel tremulous and don’t want to jump into the water before tasting its temperature, read his blog and you will acknowledge that any advice coming from his side will be a good one.

The book is a swift, empathic review of the decisions most companies will now take based on the current financial crisis, how many of those decisions will run against common sense, and what tools you can use (hence the Marketer’s Magic Chest title) to exploit the opportunities exposed by a crisis. After all, Hörtjur is from Iceland; if someone knows about how to survive adverse conditions the icelandics kick ass.

Pd.  If you want to further talk about my project or are interested in reaching me out, feel free to contact me via linkedin or drop me a comment and I would get back to you.

*Brief account of the events that might have caused my recent flare-up:

  • Dario Manoukian introduced me to twitter.
  • Guy Kawasaki invited me to review his now published book “Reality Check” and acknowledged my grain of sand.
  • Started working with Digbang as a software development provider, and confirmed corporations can also have goodness as their mantra.
  • Answered a question on “Linkedin Answers” and ended up with a new pen pal, marketing director of a huge corporation.
  • World went nuts in terms of financial environment.
  • Met Kathy Sierra, Joesys, Patricia nd several other interesting people who openly provide advice if asked for.