Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Is Creative Culture Linked to Play?

Babis Mainemelis, a professor of organizational behavior at London Business School, has been researching the connection between office playtime and creativity. In his view, play is not a specific set of activities, but rather a mindset of flexibility, curiosity, and exploration. Furthermore, Prof. Mainemelis identifies two different types of play: play as engagement and play as diversion.

Diversion play means playing while at work, but not with work. Examples might include office ping-pong matches or lunchtime soccer games. This type of play allows workers to take a mental break, which helps foster the incubation of new ideas. It also breaks down hierarchical barriers by throwing together colleagues from different departments and different rungs on the corporate ladder.

Engagement play means playing with the work itself. He describes it as a true transformation of the work. It boosts the creative process and allows employees to reframe activities, explore different ideas, and experiment with variables or processes that typically go unnoticed. For example, he cites professional animators who, in searching for new ideas, fantasize about things like “What if zebras were green?” and “What if sharks flew through space?” This is, incidentally, strikingly similar to one of the
Lateral Thinking techniques.

Prof. Mainemelis goes on to discuss ways in which managers can foment play, as well as the risks of not letting workers play.

The podcast lasts about nine minutes; you can listen to it here:
Is Creative Culture Linked to Play?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stimulate Innovation and Creativity

People Vision's blog has several suggestions for stimulating innovation and creativity during the current economic downturn.

My favorite? Tip #3: "train your employees on mind mapping and creative thinking methods."

The Six Thinking Hats and Lateral Thinking techniques are, of course, a good place to start.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Innovative lawyers (!)

Last week, the Financial Times released its Innovative Lawyers report. I know, I know… I had the same reaction. Innovation in the legal industry? C’mon. As it turns out, however, law firms are doing some pretty cool – and yes, innovative – things.

For example, in the “billing and fees” category, the FT gave top marks to a firm that (at least in one case), has tied its fees to client satisfaction. Moreover, “bonuses are payable if the firm proactively reduces litigation.” In other words, this firm is compensated for helping its client avoid legal woes, rather than racking up billable hours by bogging the client down in endless litigation. Another major law firm now pays its lawyers a percentage of the fees they generate, rather than simply divvying up profits. While pay for performance has become common in many industries, it's rare in the legal world.

And in the “finance” category, the FT points to a law firm that has worked on microfinance securitization. Admittedly, this innovation is perhaps more financial than legal, but it’s nonetheless an important step in reducing global poverty. Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in microfinance, and asset securitization could spread its impact even further. Other innovations include branding and advertising campaigns, technologies for monitoring client relationships, outsourcing of back-office processes to countries like the Philippines, and more.

In short, it’s a good report, and all the more enjoyable because it examines a stereotypically dreary industry.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Edward de Bono on Innovation

Edward de Bono discusses the importance of training employees in lateral thinking to give them a systematic approach to innovative thinking.

Check out the article on the de Bono Consulting website: