Wednesday, November 4, 2009

WAMBATOSIS - A Creative Jumpstart for Your Next Meeting

I often get asked for suggestions for some sort of creativity exercise to include in a meeting to act as a spur, energizing the participants and getting their brains ready for a full day of work. I have many in my arsenal, but recently came across one called Yamodo! It's a game that was developed by Bill Phelps based on an activity that he used to participate in with his friends using a cocktail napkin. He's now moved past the cocktail napkin and come up with a pad of made up words. Each page has a fictitious, but fun to say, word at the top of the sheet. There's also the start of a doodle. The premise of the game is to have the first person add to the doodle and start the first part of a definition for the word. The sheet is then passed to the next person who adds to the doodle and the definition. It's a great way to get people's creative juices flowing and have some fun. Who knows, you might even come up with a word that becomes part of the popular vernacular (maybe not country-wide, but at least company-wide). Check out the website for more information and a whole slew of inspiration starters: And don't forget to do the hakpado every day!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

50 Ways to Foster a Sustainable Culture of Innovation

I've partaken in quite a few discussion around how you go about creating a culture of innovation within a company. No matter how large and well-organized a company seems to be, very few appear to have figured out how to actually infuse their corporate culture with innovation and make it a key aspect of how they do business. The directive tends to come from above that the company intends to become an innovator in their marketplace, and yet very few, well-thoughout steps are actually implemented. I came across this fantastic posting by Morris Miselowski who calls himself a Futurist Guru, where he lists "50 Ways to Foster a Sustainable Culture of Innovation." I have to say that the list is quite a good one and worth sharing. It definitely provides food for thought and discussion.

1. Remember that innovation requires no fixed rules or templates — only guiding principles. Creating a more innovative culture is an organic and creative act.

2. Wherever you can, whenever you can, always drive fear out of the workplace. Fear is “Public Enemy #1″ of an innovative culture.

3. Have more fun. If you’re not having fun (or at least enjoying the process) something is off.

4. Always question authority, especially the authority of your own longstanding beliefs.

5. Make new mistakes.

6. As far as the future is concerned, don’t speculate on what might happen, but imagine what you can make happen.

7. Increase the visual stimuli of your organization’s physical space. Replace gray and white walls with color. Add inspiring photos and art, especially visuals that inspire people to think differently. Reconfigure space whenever possible.

8. Help people broaden their perspective by creating diverse teams and rotating employees into new projects — especially ones they are fascinated by.

9. Ask questions about everything. After asking questions, ask different questions. After asking different questions, ask them in a different way.

10. Ensure a high level of personal freedom and trust. Provide more time for people to pursue new ideas and innovations.

11. Encourage everyone to communicate. Provide user-friendly systems to make this happen.

12. Instead of seeing creativity training as a way to pour knowledge into people’s heads, see it as a way to grind new glasses for people so they can see the world in a different way.

13. Learn to tolerate ambiguity and cope with soft data. It is impossible to get all the facts about anything. “Not everything that counts can be counted. Not everything that can be counted counts,” said Einstein.

14. Embrace and celebrate failure. 50 to 70 per cent of all new product innovations fail at even the most successful companies. The main difference between companies who succeed at innovation and those who don’t isn’t their rate of success — it’s the fact that successful companies have a LOT of ideas, pilots, and product innovations in the pipeline.

15. Notice innovation efforts. Nurture them wherever they crop up. Reward them.

16. When you’re promoting innovation in-house, always promote the benefits of a new idea or project, not the features.

17. Don’t focus so much on taking risks, per se, but on taking the risks OUT of big and bold ideas.

18. Encourage people to get out of their offices and silos. Encourage people to meet informally, one-on-one, and in small groups.

19. Think long term. Since the average successful “spin-off” takes about 7.5 years, the commitment to innovation initiatives need to be well beyond “next quarter.”

20. Create a portfolio of opportunities: short-term, long-term, incremental, and discontinuous. Just like an investment portfolio, balance is critical.

21. Involve as many people as you can in the development of your innovation initiative so you get upfront buy-in. This is the “go-slow now to go-fast later” approach. (The opposite approach of having a few people go off to a desert island and come back with their concept is almost always doomed to failure).

22. Improve the way brainstorming sessions and meetings are facilitated in your organization. Create higher standards and practices.

23. Make sure people are working on the right issues. Identify specific business challenges to focus on. Be able to frame these issues as questions that start with the words, “How can we?”

24. Communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate and then communicate again. Deliver each important message at least six times.

25. Select and install idea management software for your intranet.

26. Don’t focus on growth. Growth is a product of successful innovation. Focus on the process of becoming adept at taking ideas from the generation stage to the marketplace.

27. Make customers your innovation partners, while realizing that customers are often limited to incremental innovations, not breakthrough ones.

28. Understand that the best innovations are initiated by individuals acting on their own at the periphery of your organization. Don’t make your innovation processes so rigid that they get in the way of informal and spontaneous innovation efforts. Build flexibility into your design. Think “self-organizing” innovation, not “command and control” innovation.

29. Find new ways to capture learnings throughout your organization and new ways to share these learnings with everyone. Use real-life stories to transfer the learnings.

30. Stimulate interaction between segments of the company that traditionally don’t connect or collaborate with each other.

31. Develop a process of trying out new concepts quickly and on the cheap. Learn quickly what’s working and what’s not.

32. Avoid analysis paralysis. Chaotic action is preferable to orderly inaction.

33. Before reaching closure on any course of action, seek alternatives. Make it a discipline to seek the idea after the “best” idea emerges.

34. Know that attacking costs as a root problem solves nothing. Unreasonable costs are almost always a sign of more profound problems (e.g. inefficient structures, processes or training).

35. A great source of new ideas are people that are new to the company. Get new hires together and tap their brainpower and imagination.

36. Get customer feedback before committing resources to a product’s development.

37. Seek diversity of viewpoints. Get people together across functions. A diversity of views sparks more than conflict — it sparks innovation.

38. Invite outside partners early on when exploring new opportunities. Find ways for your company to partner with others and actively share ideas, technologies, and other capabilities.

39. Avoid extreme time pressures.

40. Don’t make the centre of your efforts to help people be more creative a physical “creativity center.” Fold your innovation resources into your business units.

41. Don’t make innovation the responsibility of a few. Make innovation the responsibility of each and every employee with performance goals for each and every functional area.

42. Give your people specific, compelling, and measurable innovation goals.

43. Try to get as much buy-in and support from senior leadership as you can while realizing that true change NEVER starts at the top. How often does the revolution start with the King?

44. Realize that “resource allocation” is the last bastion of Soviet-style central planning. Think of new innovation opportunities as “resource attractors.”

45. Pay particular attention to alignment. Ensure that the interests and actions of all employees are directed toward key company goals, so that any employee will recognize and respond positively to a potentially useful idea.

46. Reward collective, not only individual successes, but also maintain clear individual accountabilities and keep innovation heroes visible.

47. Do your best to ensure that linear processes give way to networks of collaboration.

48. Remove whatever organizational obstacles are in the way of people communicating bold, new ideas to top management.

49. Systematize. Find problems (not only with products, but with processes, customer service, and business models) and solve them.

50. Drive authority downwards. Make decisions quickly at the lowest level possible.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Scrooge-Proof Holiday Gathering:

• Something fun

• Something different

• Something everyone will enjoy

• Something that gives back

• Something they'll be talking about long after the Holidays are over

What kind of an event could possibly fit all those criteria while still pleasing your boss and not breaking the bank?
How about a Toy Building Workshop with your creations going to a children's charity?
Perhaps an afternoon of painting?
Or what about giving your team the opportunity to make a delicious meal with take home recipes?

We've tackled that challenge before; we've partnered with some of our favorite creative vendors to give you some inspired Holiday Gathering ideas. All of these programs can take place at the Ranch and can be tailored to groups of various sizes.

Corporate Event Interactive has been offering Innovative Team and Networking Experiences for Corporate Meetings and  Events Since 1987. Here's a list of some of the great programs they can put together for your team.

Bottles & Brushes creates unique painting parties for both private & corporate events. They take care of all the supplies including a professional artist to help with the instruction! Check out their Holiday Gathering information here.

Parties that Cook, offers well, a party that cooks! They'll help you put together a menu, supply the equipment, ingredients & cooking instructors. Check out all their Holiday Gathering information here.

Got a date in mind? Give us a call to get the ball rolling! 
Catalyst Ranch  in Chicago for Scrooge-Proof Holiday Gatherings

Monday, September 21, 2009

Imaginative Customer Service

Imaginative Customer Service to “Take their Breath Away!”

If you’re looking for a way to super charge your team on what real customer service means, we highly recommend "Take Their Breath Away(TM): How Imaginative Service Creates Devoted Customers” by Chip Bell and John Patterson, customer service specialists.

Successful companies know that excellent customer service is the standard for good business relationships. In today’s climate: “you have to take their breath away!” Excellent isn’t enough!

Chip and John write:

“The brave face of serving needs to shine through no matter what’s going on with the economy. "Keep your eye on the prize" that's the "wowed" client! Proactively solve problems for your client with "them in mind" when you offer your services or products. Always focus on helping – serving. If the experience of working with you and your company is "more-than-they-could-have- imagined-they-read-my-mind" they'll share and keep coming back for more. We all do.”

This is why we love them! Couldn’t say it better ourselves! Don’t miss this one!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Resetting Innovation -like Edison!

Resetting Innovation –like Edison!

As the economy begins to show glimmers of improvement, we would like to share a great article in a recent newsletter about "Resetting Innovation" by our friend, Sarah Miller Caldicott, Great-Grand niece of Thomas A. Edison. Referencing in her newsletters the power of Edison's Five Competencies that stand as a spot-on timeless beacon for us all as we strive in these days of change and "resetting" to stay on point to be innovative in our organizations, whatever our businesses:

Sarah writes:

"Resetting" is a crucial skill for every innovator. Edison continually reset his goals, rapidly forming new ones when others had been achieved. He even reset his work environment from time to time. These shifts were always done with the intention of creating new pathways for innovation."

"Instead of having all chemists or all mathematicians on a team, he (Thomas A. Edison) mixed the chemists and mathematicians together with the physicists and machinists. Shifting your organization's team design is one of the most powerful steps you can take to begin innovating faster. Through multi-disciplinary teams, Edison uniquely harnessed the intellectual and creative power of his employees, and drew cutting edge thinking from each one. He then banded employees of diverse experience levels together in clusters of 2 to 8 people, and gave them the latitude to discover new insights that would either create new markets or improve existing products. This approach to multi-disciplinary teams was baked into Edison's business model. Without these team structures Edison's operating culture would have collapsed, and key discoveries would have been lost."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Huge Art Installation coming to Grand Rapids, MI

I'm sure most of us think that nothing all that cutting edge happens in Michigan, but I have to beg to differ. Deborah Adams Doering recently won a juried spot in ArtPrize 2009, an international art exhibition and competition taking place in Grand Rapids, MI on Sept. 23 - Oct. 10, 2009, with her piece titled: “Code for the Grand River, Grand Rapids_09.”

Her earthwork will contain over 200 of her “Codes,” eco-painted on the 500 x 100 foot
expanse of lawn in Ah-Nab-Awen Park, centrally located between the Grand River and
the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in downtown Grand Rapids.

The first installation will be on view from September 23 – October 1. On October 1,
the installation will be mowed, leaving a grassy expanse for a weekend wedding.

(If you missed the “wedding” episode, please go to then click
“News,” then “
Link: WOOD TV8 video and article ArtPrize Entry Almost Derails Wedding”).

On October 4, a second installation will be painted, referencing the first installation
and the wedding event.

ArtPrize is a radical art competition. Awards will total $449,000, reportedly the world's largest
art prize. Part arts festival, part social experiment, this international art contest is decided
solely by public vote. Voters must register at an official ArtPrize Voter Registration Site in
Grand Rapids to vote.

For more information about ArtPrize, go to / enter “Doering”, or go to

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Crowdsourcing an Opera - Taking Collaboration to a Whole New Level

From Jim Stewart:

Micro-blogging service Twitter and London's Royal Opera House may not be seen as birds of a feather. Founded hundreds of years apart, one represents a stronghold of traditional high culture, the other the fizzing surface of contemporary communication. But the tendency of culture to respond to new technology should never be underestimated—over the past three weeks the ROH has been using Twitter to crowdsource the libretto for a new "people's opera".

"The Twitter Opera" is to be performed as part of the ROH's
Deloitte Ignite Festival at the beginning of September. The libretto will consist entirely of 140-character tweets that the ROH has received from members of the public since the project was launched. It will be set to original music composed by Helen Porter, along with some more familiar classics. Simply put, the goal is to help attract a wider audience. Alison Duthie of the ROH summed this up: "It's the people's opera and the perfect way for everyone to become involved with the inventiveness of opera as the ultimate form of storytelling." The plot, which is now complete, begins—fittingly—with a man being kidnapped by a flock of birds.