Friday, September 28, 2012

New Innovation Assessment: Project da Vinci

Want to beta test an exciting, new innovation assessment?
Project da Vinci, a new product initiative for 2013, has just gone into beta. This program explores the question of how organizations foster and maintain an innovative culture? We hypothesize that organizational innovation is a function of (1) individual behavioral styles and (2) group dynamics. Project da Vinci explores this question using individual and team self-assessments.

We're looking for existing, intact teams that consider themselves innovative, are working on an innovative project, or have an interest in innovation.

Our beta testers will receive a detailed, highly personalized report of their individual innovation styles, including suggestions for recognizing and adapting to colleagues' styles. You will also receive a team report, offering insights and guidance on how group dynamics affect (positively or negatively) the team's ability to innovate. Plus, you'll get a sneak preview of a very exciting new product, and your feedback will shape how it ultimately looks, feels, and works.

Interested? To participate, please let us know at, or see our Project da Vinci webpage for additional details.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The State of Create

Adobe and consultancy StrategyOne have released an international creativity study, the State of Create Global Benchmark. Before we get to their conclusions, I have two quick caveats. One, yes, I'm late to party on this one. Mea culpa. Two, I have some concerns about their methodology. Specifically, the report offers little information about their methodology, and the some of the phrasing slants in one direction. Together, these two facts make me question the report's objectivity. Regardless, I always welcome new research on creativity and innovation, so I'm pleased to read this report.

Their summary of drivers of and barriers to creativity includes two statements that I agree are bang on:

1. "People need more time, training and an environment where they can think creatively."
2. "A majority of people prefer to create by themselves."

Yes, absolutely, on both counts. Creative thinking is hard work, and it requires a specific time and place where the thinker can concentrate. It's important to take time out from one's everyday routine in order to think creatively.

As the benchmark notes, innovation also requires training. It's insufficient to say, "Okay, team, today we're going to think out of the box! I want 50 new ideas!" That's all well and fine, but innovation requires snapping the brain out of its habitual thought patterns. There are many techniques for accomplishing this - we, of course, are particularly fond of Six Thinking Hats and Lateral Thinking - but the specific methodology is less important than getting participants' brains out of their comfort zones.

The second point also illustrates the importance of allowing time and space for individual thinking. Particularly in a group setting - such as stereotypical office brainstorming sessions - people nonetheless do their best thinking by themselves. The most effective ideation meetings include time for individual thinking as well as group feedback and analysis.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Innovation Fridays at Garage Games

Digital Journal sends us to video game company Garage Games, which has implemented Innovation Fridays to give employees time and space to work on creative projects of their own devising. We wholeheartedly applaud this decision; it's our experience that giving time and space for individual thinking is an essential element of the innovation process. Kudos to Garage Games.

Friday, August 17, 2012

More on Six Thinking Hats: The (Non)-Musical

Quick follow-up to my previous posts (here and here) on Asher Treleaven's Six Thinking Hats stand-up comedy routine.

First, the Guardian reviews Edinburgh fringe. Of Treleaven's show, they say, "Not many comics could get away with introducing their show as 'like a comedy TED talk', but Treleaven always walks a fine line between the intellectual and the physical – he sums up his show as 'Daddy issues, juggling and ball cancer'. It's a slick blend of physical comedy, beat poetry, circus skills and some nicely crafted lines – he describes a fellow performer as 'the sort of woman who would try to give you echinacea for Aids' – but you can't help feeling at the end that you wanted to know more, or at least to see beneath the carefully polished surface."

Second, the Independent gives Treleaven a column in which he muses about art vs. sport, or the decision to attend Edingburgh fringe vs. the Olympic Games. He also summarizes the different hats, although I fear he rather makes a hash of yellow and black. It's completely wrong to call the yellow hat "speculative creativity," whatever that means. Regular readers of this blog know that the yellow hat represents benefits and positive outcomes, not creativity (whether speculative or otherwise).

As for the black hat, Treleaven calls it "the Black Hat of critical thinking and decision-making," which is both imprecise and flat-out wrong. The statement is imprecise in that the black hat is "critical thinking" in the sense of "criticizing" or "identifying problems," not in the larger sense of "logic and analysis" (which in fact is a property of all six hats). Furthermore, the statement is wrong in that the decision-making hat is the Blue Hat, which controls the thinking process and determines next steps.

On balance, however, I'm still endlessly entertained by the idea of a Six Thinking Hats stand-up routine (or, for that matter, a Six Thinking Hats musical), and I do hope to catch a performance sometime. Has anybody seen the show? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Blind 'I' of DMAIC

Shameless plug: there's still time to register for our free, one-hour webinar, The Blind 'I' of DMAIC. This webinar explores the connection between innovation and process improvement. Our Master Trainer has decades of experience applying Edward de Bono's thinking tools, Six Thinking Hats and Lateral Thinking, to Lean Sigma programs at blue chip companies.

In his experience, most process improvement initiatives are extremely good at DMAC - in other words, at defining the situation, measuring variables, analyzing the data, and controlling the new solution. Where they fail is the "I" - the improvement. Most Lean Sigma programs spend very little time thinking about how to improve the status quo process - instead, they implement the first solution that springs to mind.

This webinar will teach process improvement professionals how to apply Six Thinking Hats and Lateral Thinking to DMAIC programs to radically improve the quality and efficacy of operational improvements.

The Blind 'I' of DMAIC is Thursday, August 16, at 11:00 Central. Register today for this free process improvement innovation webinar.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Six Thinking Hats: The Musical

No, not really. But Australian humorist Asher Treleaven is back in the news with his stand-up routine based on the Six Thinking Hats. Treleaven is performing at the Edinburgh Festival, and the Huffington Post brings us an interview. We first wrote about Treleaven's Six Hats routine back in April.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Disney's Top 10 Innovations

Staten Island Live has a feature on Disney's all-time greatest innovations. And no, I don't see the connection between Staten Island and Walt Disney, but let's just glide right past that question.

Anyway, it's an interesting article. Several of these innovations have become so commonplace that I had no idea that Disney had invented them. Nor, for that matter, did I even consider them particularly innovative. But then, what's that old chestnut? "Every great idea is obvious in hindsight."

Saturday, August 04, 2012

How Edward de Bono Saved Olympic Swimming

Again, I hyperbolize.  But Scientific American has a lengthy article about innovation in swimsuit technology. Following the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, officials banned a performance-enhancing swimsuit that was either credited or blamed (depending on one's perspective) for breaking record after record.

In response, swimsuit maker Speedo had to rethink swimming technology. Amongst the techniques they employed? Six Thinking Hats

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

How Edward de Bono Saved the Olympic Games

Okay, okay, I confess: "saved the Olympics" is a bit melodramatic. But according to the Malta Independent, "Peter Ueberroth, who was in charge of the [1984 Los Angeles Olympic] Games, developed a new way of thinking about financing them and for the first time in history, the Games were profitable. Asked how he came up with these ideas, he attributed the results to Edward de Bono’s philosophy of lateral thinking."

Is there any truth to this story? I have no idea. But if true, it would be a fantastic success story. I'm very curious, so I asked the Times to share their source material.

The larger question is whether hosting an Olympic Games is in fact a profitable endeavor. In 2009, the New York Times asked several economists to answer his question. Their panelists largely agreed that, with few exceptions, the Olympic Games is a money-losing venture for the host city. It makes you wonder why more cities don't follow Los Angeles' lead and apply some Lateral Thinking.

Monday, July 30, 2012


The Times of India has an article about Dr. de Bono's book H+, a meditation on happiness, help, health, hope, and humor. Nominally a quasi-religious treatise, it sounds like the sort of easily digestible pop psychology that Alain de Botton has popularized.

But who knows? Dr. de Bono is certainly one of the world's leading thinkers, and scholars have grappled for millenia with commingled questions of religion and philosophy. Perhaps someday the name "Edward of Bono" will be uttered in the same breath as Augustine of Hippo, William of Ockham, Maimonides, and Thomas Aquinas.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Obstacles to Innovation

This article about obstacles to innovation recently caught my attention. I know nothing about the author or publication, but this particular essay is largely consistent with my understanding the brain's approach to innovation.

For instance, Coker writes that "the first step in innovation is being able to make connections between unrelated things." Edward de Bono would wholeheartedly agree with this statement; in fact, one of his Lateral Thinking techniques, Random Word, is expressly designed to accomplish this. This technique forces a person to concentrate on two unrelated things and try to draw a connection between them.

A classic example is George Ballas' invention of the Weed Eater. One weekend, George needed to mow his lawn. He decided to wash his car first, so he drove to the carwash, but he was still thinking about mowing the lawn. As he was sitting in the carwash, watching the rotating nylon bristles scrub the dirt and grime from his car, his large lawnmowing project was still on his mind. And then, presto! His brain made a connection between spinning nylon bristles and lawnmowing, and the Weed Eater was born.

Coker also writes about the importance of perseverance to innovation. I agree, but not quite the way Coker means. He describes perseverance in execution: "It's important to try many ideas and endure many failures before finding the one that works" and blah blah blah. Yes, yes, that's fine, whatever.

More interesting, I think, is the role of perseverance in idea generation. The idea necessarily precedes its execution - so how many ideas do we need? Is one idea sufficient? Probably not. Maybe five? Ten? A hundred?

Brainstorming five or ten ideas is pretty easy. Coming up with 20 or 50 or 100 is significantly harder, but that's where the best ideas are probably hiding. After all, if the obvious idea were so good, you'd already be doing it, right?

Hence my assertion that perseverance is important. Don't stop when you have three or four ideas; keep going until you have 20 or 30 or 500. That is precisely why Edward de Bono invented Lateral Thinking - to help people think of large numbers of new ideas.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Upcoming Six Thinking Hats training

A quick public service announcement: the next public Six Thinking Hats training session is scheduled for the week of September 24th, 2012.

This is part of de Bono Consulting's "Innovation Week" program, with a variety of Edward de Bono's courses on offer:
  • Six Thinking Hats - Tuesday, Sept. 25
  • Lateral Thinking - Wednesday, Sept. 26
  • Course in Creativity - Sept. 25-26 (a combined Six Hats + Lateral Thinking program)
  • Focus on Facilitation - Sept. 25-28
  • Trainer certification  - Sept. 25-28 (in Six Hats, Lateral, or any other Edward de Bono course)
To register for any of these programs, see the Six Hats registration page or call 515.278.1292.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Practical Ways to Become More Creative

In the latest issue of Pacific Standard, Paul Silvia reviews Roberta Ness' new book, Innovation Generation: How to Produce Creative and Useful Scientific Ideas.

Full disclosure: I haven't yet read the book, so my impressions are based entirely on Silvia's review. It sounds like a useful (albeit imperfect) contribution the literature, and I look forward to getting hold of a copy.

Many innovation books fall into what I affectionately think of as the Platitude Pitfall: exhorting the reader to be more creative, to think "outside the box," to challenge assumptions and preconceptions, etc., whilst simultaneously providing no guidance whatsoever on just how to go about this. I don't know whether Ness' book falls into the Platitude Pitfall, but I fear that it does.

For example, "Incubate" - one of the six innovation steps in Ness' gimmicky "PIG IN MUD" mnemonic - is not, in fact, a practical or actionable technique for developing new ideas. Instead, it amounts to saying, "Take a break and hope that something will come to you." And sure, this does sometimes happen; we have all had good strike us out of nowhere. But hoping for the best has no place in a formal innovation process.

The same holds true for steps 1 ("Phrase a Question"), 5 ("Meld your Best Idea"), and 6 ("Disseminate"). None of this has anything to do with developing new ideas; they are instead pre-work (i.e., picking a specific topic), or they involve analysis, communication, and consensus-building. I don't object to any of that, but let's be clear: analysis, communication, and consensus-building have nothing to do with innovation. Rather, they take place only after the radical new idea has been conceived.

I look forward to reading "Innovation Generation," and perhaps the book contains some useful nuggets. But I would predict that these methods are inferior to, for instance, Edward de Bono's group of Lateral Thinking innovation tools, which definitely do not fall into the Platitude Pitfall.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2012 Global Innovation Index

The 2012 Global Innovation Index is here! This report, developed jointly by the INSEAD business school and WIPO (a division of the United Nations), creates a league table of innovation and ranks every country in the world.

Before we look at the results, an obligatory word about the methodology. As with any ranking system, one can always take issue with the methodology and the relative weights of different variables. That doubtless holds true here, as well. In this case, the rankings are compiled based on "creative inputs" (which include institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, market sophistication, and business sophistication) and "creative outputs" (e.g., knowledge/technology). Further explanation of the methodology is available here.

The value of such indices does not lie in the actual results. For example, it's largely irrelevant whether the UK's "correct" placement is third, fifth, or seventh. More importantly, league tables of this sort invite conversation and thinking around trends in innovation. How have the world's top innovators achieved such success? What factors contribute to their innovation efforts, and how can other countries emulate them? Also, what regional trends can we spot? Are there certain factors that hold back a particular region from being more innovative? If so, there may be scope for regional collaboration amongst policymakers, academics, and businesses to jointly overcome these hurdles.

But enough qualifying and footnoting. Who are the world's leading innovators? The top five:
  1. Switzerland
  2. Sweden
  3. Singapore
  4. Finland
  5. United Kingdom
Particularly interesting is the chapter We Are All Content Creators Now: Measuring Creativity and Innovation in the Digital Economy, which describes various models of creativity. Which model best fits your organization? Do the peer organizations in the article offer any lesson for your business

Friday, April 13, 2012

Forbes has a nice interview with Tina Seelig, author of the new book inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity. I haven't read the book (though it's on my list), but the interview is worth a read.

Particularly intriguing is the fact that Seelig is a neuroscientist, so she approaches creativity from a very different perspective than most writers and thinkers. In the interview, Seelig states that creativity is both a natural characteristic and a learned skill, rather like musical or athletic abilities. I look forward to reading the book and learning what neuroscience has to say about innovation.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Six Thinking Hats: the Stand-Up Routine?

Wild. An Aussie comedian has developed a routine based on the Six Thinking Hats. You can read about it here (and buy tickets, if you happen to be Down Under). The rest of us will have to content ourselves with Chortle's review.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Innovation @ Google

Is Google still as innovative as it once was? Lately, this question has occupied the attention of the press and blogosphere.

The CSM lauds Google as an innovative company. The main thrust of the article is the race for innovation at the international level - how innovation varies in China vs. Europe vs. America. But the author implicitly endorses Google as being at the forefront of innovation.

James Whittaker, a former Google employee, thinks otherwise. He explains his decision to leave Google, saying, "The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovation. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus." Whittaker goes on to describe how Google missed the social-media boat, leaving Facebook to dominate the hottest internet trend.

As companies grow and mature, growth and innovation invariably slow. Managing a large organization requires formal processes and procedures, and bureaucracy creeps in. Has Google reached that point? What do you think?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How to Be Creative

Jonah Lehrer's article, How to Be Creative, is spot-on. Whilst the media likes to lionize so-called "creative types," the fact remains that creativity does not reside our genes. Rather, as Lehrer correctly observes, it is a skill that can be learned and developed like any other.

Regular readers of this blog will know that Lateral Thinking, invented by Dr. Edward de Bono, provides a set of techniques for spurring innovation. Moreover, anybody can learn these techniques with great success.

In this sense, creativity is like tying your shoes. No child is born with an innate gift for tying shoes, nor is one child a naturally better shoe-tier than another. Rather, it is a learned skill that children acquire through teaching, practice, and perseverance.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Innovation Week is Just Around the Corner!

Join us at de Bono Consulting for our upcoming Innovation Week, March 20-23 in Des Moines, Iowa!

We're holding end-user courses and trainer certifications in Edward de Bono's powerful creativity systems, Six Thinking Hats and Lateral Thinking.

Can't make this session? Not a problem. We run Innovation Week periodically through the year - see our training calendar for full details.
  • May 8-11 in New York
  • June 12-15 in Des Moines
  • September 25-28 in Des Moines
  • November 13-16 in New York
  • December 4-7 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Thursday, March 08, 2012

How to Create a Culture of Innovation

Today, few people would describe AT&T as a particularly innovative (or for that matter, particularly admired) company. But once upon a time, Bell Labs was a bastion of innovation.

In fact, Jon Gertner describes Bell Labs in its heyday as "the most innovative scientific organization in the world." He points to a number of conscious decisions that fostered an innovative, collaborative environment:

1) Physical co-location - AT&T intentionally put various unrelated teams in the same place, which encouraged cross-disciplinary conversations. This interaction was further enhanced by the building architecture, which encouraged researchers to mingle.

2) Empowerment - Bell Labs gave its researchers the autonomy to pursue their ideas without senior managers breathing down their necks.

3) Time -AT&T realized that sometimes, it's important to let ideas percolate for a while. They gave time to their scientists, without worrying overmuch about instant results.

Gertner's article is quite good - you should read the whole thing. The one thing he fails to describe is Bell Labs decision-making processes. I'd like to know how they analyzed their projects and made decisions - did they employ a process akin to, for example, the Six Thinking Hats? How did Bell Labs evaluate their results? And ultimately, what led to their decline?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Innovation Week in New York City: Feb. 7-10

It's not too late to register for the upcoming Innovation Week in New York, Feb. 7-10!

We're offering a variety of innovation programs, including Six Thinking Hats on Feb. 7, Lateral Thinking on Feb. 8, and the full Course in Creativity on Feb. 7-8, which covers both Six Hats and Lateral Thinking. This programs will give you a solid grasp of in Dr. de Bono's tools, and you'll receive plenty of practice with their application. You'll leave ready to apply Six Hats and Lateral Thinking to your own organization and context.

We also offering trainer certification in Six Hats, Lateral Thinking, and the Course in Creativity. After this intensive, four-day program (Feb. 7-10), you'll be prepared to teach the de Bono methods in your own organization. 

Are you already a de Bono trainer? If so, This is also a convenient opportunity to re-certify, or save 15% when you certify in a new course.

Register online for Innovation Week in New York, or call us at 515.278.1292.