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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Old Hotel Turned into Artists Canvas and Filled with Rooms of Inspiration for the Traveller

My brother just sent me an article about some local doings in Seattle that he knew would inspire me. And boy, did they! Here are a couple of folks after my own heart who understand the impact art can have on the individual psyche. It's a good thing I already booked a ticket to Seattle for the fall, but hadn't yet figured out where we were going to stay. I think the search is over! Here is the full article from The Seattle Times.

New Belltown hostel a work of art
An old Belltown hotel will become Seattle's newest hostel, with each bedroom painted by local artists.
Blythe Lawrence
Special to The Seattle Times

Belltown's old Lorraine hotel is once again ready for its close-up.
In its new role as an international hostel, the three-story hotel, rumored to have been visited by Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and other silver-screen stars from the 1920s to the 1960s, greeted its first guests in more than 20 years.

Long ago, the Lorraine had a starring role on Film Row, as Second Avenue was known when it housed the regional film-distribution center for MGM. By 1986, the building was purchased by the Plymouth Housing Group.

Plymouth moved out about two years ago, leaving The Lorraine empty and in need of repair. John Slonecker, president of Seattle real-estate investment group Gibraltar, first saw the building's interior in the fall of 2007. It had been vacant for more than six months.
"It was hard to imagine people living there at any point in its recent history," Slonecker said. "Believe me, the glamour had left long ago."
City Hostel Seattle, as the Lorraine is now being called, has some standard-issue hostel amenities, such as metal bed frames and a choice between private and family rooms or dorms for a low price. It's located at 2327 Second Ave.

Less standard is the artwork, done by 47 local artists who painted the walls or created installations in all but four of the hostel's 51 rooms.

"We really tried to go with a full spectrum of types of art that reach every area of what Seattle has to offer," said Jen Vertz, who curated the project.

Lee Kindell and Nancy Gambin operate City Hostel Seattle. The idea for the project came from Kindell, who is the sort of person who "if you were to drop like a Big Gulp cup on the floor, you would turn around to pick it up and Lee would have already made it a lampshade," Slonecker said. In City Hostel Seattle, Kindell saw an opportunity to craft something special.

"I hope this is a catalyst to inspire people," Kindell said. "I hope it makes a difference and a little bit of change. We're not just machines trying to make a dollar."

Kindell met Vertz and her partner, Jeff Jacobson, an artist who uses the name Weirdo, while Vertz and Weirdo were painting the Pioneer Square Community Association Mural on the corner of South Washington Street and Occidental Avenue South. Vertz took care of the planning and recruited the artists.

The artists worked for free, realizing that the hostel's clientele will give them a measure of international exposure. Some, balancing full-time jobs with the time it takes to create art, brought sleeping bags and slept on the floor of the rooms they painted.

"It's a win-win situation," said Chris Sheridan, whose delicately crafted paintings feature crows and string and are inspired by Aesop's fables, Grimm's fairy tales and Homer's "Odyssey." "They get a bunch of free art, but we get a way to get our work out to the public."
Each bedroom is wildly different from the next. One shows the Seattle skyline surrounded by what appear to be spray-painted polka dots, the result of reverse ink photo transfers.
Another's walls are milky white with small, whimsical patches of blue, which gives the impression of being inside a cloud. Inside another, gnomes resting on mushrooms smoke from a hookah.

Having up-and-coming artists paint the rooms is just one of Kindell's ideas for City Hostel Seattle. Other plans include a rainwater-collection system. And a wall on the outside of the hotel will be turned over to artists to craft an art insect to be placed near a sign that says "Infestation." The insect idea was inspired by the gum wall in Post Alley at Pike Place Market, Kindell said.

The lobby will become an art gallery for young artists, including those who painted rooms inside the hostel.

A stay at City Hostel Seattle runs between $33 and $95 a night, depending on the room. Slonecker, whose company paid $3.1 million to buy the building and another $750,000 to remodel it, said he believes the art adds value and marketability to the property.
The hostel's Aug. 14 opening attracted so much attention that Kindell said all rooms will be available to be toured during Belltown's Second Friday Artwalk from 6-9 p.m. on Sept. 11.
Inside the hostel are touches of the old Lorraine. Kindell restored the hotel lobby's original terrazzo floor and bookshelves have been crafted from recycled mailboxes, he said.

"This hotel kind of reminds me of the life of Mickey Rourke," Slonecker said. "You have this tough in-between time and now you're back on top again. It's kind of great to give this building back its dignity."

Blythe Lawrence:
Copyright © The Seattle Times Company
If you're interested in more inside scoop on this project, check out this blog:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Creativity on the Go

A co-worker came across this article in last week and thought it might be handy to add a few more tools to the electronic creative toolbox. So, the next time you get stuck at the airport, don't twiddle your thumbs . . .

Best iPhone Apps For Creativity
by Josh Clark, 08.11.09, 06:00 PM EDT

In Pictures: Top 10 iPhone Apps For Creativity

When I was a kid, our art teacher had a magical cart of craft supplies that she'd wheel into the classroom, a mobile art laboratory loaded with treasures for our grade-school masterpieces. Construction paper, googly eyes, glue, markers, scissors, paints, beads, ribbons--the cart had every raw material that we young Picassos might have required. Decades later, I'm no longer on intimate terms with glue and glitter, but the idea of that art cart still holds strong appeal, a roaming studio that's at the ready when inspiration strikes.

The iPhone is like a modern-day art cart, full of apps that let you write, make music, take photos, paint or create interactive stories. These apps let you conjure your own grown-up version of a well-stocked art cart with just a tap of the screen. I have selected a collection of apps that are not overly complicated, giving preference to simple tools that let you express your ideas with ease and, often, a spirit of lighthearted play.

My pick for best music-making app is Bebot. At first glance, this adorable music synthesizer seems more toy than serious music instrument. Tap or drag your fingers across the screen to make an animated retro robot croon, squeal and sing. That's good fun in itself, but the app features some serious audio geekery under the hood, letting you create new voices by adding echo or reverb, changing the scale, limiting playback to certain notes and more. It's a whole new kind of musical instrument unique to the iPhone, simple to use but with sophistication that will please seasoned musicians and charm any audience.

The Brushes app brings the same mix of ease and refinement to the drawing and painting category. While it offers fewer features than other iPhone drawing tools, that effortless simplicity is what makes Brushes a great pocket sketchpad. Pick a brush style, choose a color and draw with your finger, zooming into your painterly masterpiece when you need a closer look. Meanwhile, Type Drawing gives you a whole different kind of brush, giving new meaning to "word play" by letting you draw pictures using text.

All of the other apps in this collection apply a similar keep-it-simple approach for capturing creative thunderbolts, helping you get your ideas out of your head and into the world with minimum fuss. WriteRoom provides a clear, uncluttered environment for writing, and Birdhouse creates a tailor-made home for carefully crafted Twitter posts. Whrrl offers a fun way to collaborate with others to create interactive stories and slideshows.

For photographers, Photogene provides a digital darkroom, Postino sends photos as paper postcards and Pano constructs widescreen panoramic photos. Finally, if you're looking for artistic inspiration, Artnear guides you to the hot happenings in nearby galleries and museums.

The creative muse is capricious, and inspiration is rarely scheduled. Stock your iPhone with apps that make it easy to capture those bright ideas and colorful visions, and you'll be ready to create no matter where you might be. (Glue and glitter sold separately.)

Josh Clark stress-tested thousands of iPhone apps to identify the 200-plus apps featured in his book, Best iPhone Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders, from O'Reilly Media. When he's not tapping and flicking, he makes words, spins code and pastes googly eyes at his hypertext laboratory in Paris, France.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Memory Triggers from the Rhinoceros who Knows

Today, I've decided to share with you one man's story behind a significant object. We all have at least one object in our life that spurs certain memories. Well, here's a man, Nathaniel Rich, who perceives meaning in objects that are insignificant to others and imbues that with a new level of importance. I thought you would enjoy this story:

Do you ever struggle to remember insignificant facts? Facts so small and irrelevant to the natural course of your life that you wonder how you ever learned them in the first place? And yet your inability to recall them infuriates you. Who was the actor in that Greek film, you know the one with Melina Mercouri, from the sixties? What do you call the stick that leprechauns carry? What’s your cousin’s girlfriend’s name? Is it “Man on the Run,” or “Band on the Run”? Who is that famous autistic lady who writes about what it’s like to be an animal?

The answers to all of these questions and more will be answered when you come into proud possession of the Rhinoceros Knows. Whenever you feel stumped, simply rub its nose (also known as its “horn”). You will feel a jolt of energy in your neurons, your synapses will grow extra sticky, and your frontal lobe will throb pleasantly. Also, the rhinoceros’s eye will, ever so subtly, twinkle.

And then, in no more than five minutes, the answers will come: Phaedra is not a Greek film, but an American film set in Greece; the actor is Tony Perkins. Shillelagh. Candace. “Band on the Run.” Temple Grandin.

One warning: the Rhinoceros Knows must not be misused. Should you try to retrieve a more significant memory (“When did I first tell him that I loved him?”), the Rhinoceros Knows will shut down. From its eye will descend, ever so subtly, a tear. It will know no more.

Study the image of this talisman. You will see that the body is heavily crosshatched, as an elderly palm or a balled-up sheet of aluminum foil that has been carefully unfurled and pressed into its original form. These creases are important, for there is exactly one for every question you are permitted to ask. Do not go over your limit. The total number of creases is unknown, and impossible to count, but woe to the person who asks one too many questions. On that occasion, as soon as you rub the rhinoceros’s nose, you will feel a rather violent knock behind your forehead and your short-term memory will vanish altogether. You will be left only with the answers the rhinoceros has already given you, and your brain will cycle through them, nonsensically, for the rest of your life.

You must pass the Rhinoceros Knows on to another person before you reach that point. Trust me. It is a waking hell.

If after reading this story you must own the Rhinoceros Knows, you can bid on it on ebay:

Friday, August 7, 2009

Innovating outside the lines

I found an interesting blog today that was posted a month or so ago by Jeffrey Phillips, author of "Make Us More Innovative." If you'd like to check out any other tidbits he has to share, go to

Monday, June 29, 2009

Innovating outside the lines
This is going to be one of those posts where I try to take a trite concept, like coloring inside the lines, and turn it into something more insight. Stick with me, we'll see how it goes.

As long as people have created art, there have been critics. One can imagine the first caveman to sketch a buffalo or mastodon probably had a critic standing just behind him, commenting on his work. I was thinking about this recently after watching a "Monk" episode. Perhaps you've seen Monk on television - played by Tony Shaloub, the detective is obsessive-compulsive, and that's just on his good days. Monk volunteers to watch the kids of his friend and colleague, Captain Stottlemeyer. He takes the kids to their favorite restaurant, a 50s themed diner, where they start coloring the menus. It drives Monk crazy that the kids won't color within the lines.

That got me thinking - everything we do in school and in business encourages people to stay "within the lines". In art we encourage people to "stay within the lines" of conventional art expectations. In science we encourage people to stay within the lines of received wisdom - after all, it was a "known fact" that the sun revolved around the earth for thousands of years. Think we are above that now?In business we encourage people to "stay within the lines" by carefully defining their job descriptions. People who work outside of their descriptions and responsibilities are quickly reminded of their responsibilities. We encourage people to "stay within the lines" by developing specific evaluation criteria. We communicate effectively what we want from people, and reinforce that by what we provide in the way of compensation and rewards. We encourage people to stay within the lines through the power of formal and informal corporate culture, which is constantly pushing people to remain within the fold, within the expectations of the organization.

Then, we wonder why we can't innovate, why no one will - wait for it - "THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX". Hmmm. Perhaps it's because we've been constantly told that coloring outside the lines, working outside our job grade or job description, questioning the status quo, is wrong. We've become the trained elephant, which only requires a cuff to be placed on its leg to believe it is staked to the ground. If everything in your culture reinforces thinking "inside the box" and coloring "inside the lines" then why is your team surprised to find that innovation can be difficult?

What to do? Well, there are several responses to this, none of them easy. One that is often attempted and never seems to work well is to hire a couple of "left brained" people and scatter them throughout the organization, hoping they'll influence the thinking. Most of these people will be co-opted into the group think very quickly or ejected like a virus as quickly as possible. Another response is to demand innovation and change from a group that has been educated by the firm over time that change is difficult and new ideas are risky. A quick, rapid change in this environment is exceptionally difficult. The third, and most permanent change, is a consistent change from the top down, starting with strategic direction and working its way from the management team and its priorities into business plans and individual evaluations. This change may take two or three years, but the subtle shifts will encourage the entire team to get on board.

Why do we think people can immediately and effectively "think outside the box" when for their entire lives we've reinforced "coloring inside the lines"?

posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 5:23 AM

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Creative Meeting Space in NYC & Columbus, OH

I know that you can't always get to Chicago for your meeting and finding creative meeting space seems to be the country's best kept secret, so I thought I would start introducing you to some of our friends in this selective niche. Yes, there's this underground group of us who all believe that environment is an incredibly important component of having a more effective and productive meeting. The visionary who started it all is Mark Henson. He opened sparkspace in Columbus, OH about 10 years ago and has continued to evolve his space and offers incredible teambuilding programs -- when's the last time you got to "play" with an army of Mr. Potatoheads? I never have and now I can't get the thought out of my mind. I may have to order an army of my own! Mark is incredibly creative and will help any group have a fantastic day(s) out of the office.

Then there's Wendy Friedman of SohoSoleil in NYC. Wendy manages a whole host of really cool loft spaces in Soho. If you look closely, you might recognize some of them from various fashion and home photos you have have come across in magazines. Wendy's spaces are highly coveted by photographers with incredible views and lighting. That's why they make a great space to have a meeting in the middle of NYC -- what's more exciting than getting to hang out in a NYC loft in Soho, surrounded by floor to ceiling windows. Wendy and her team are super friendly and hospitable, lavishing care and attention upon all of their clients.

There's a few more cool spots out there that I'm happy to share. So, give a call if you have a need for a cool space to take your team.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pecha Kucha Night

I attended Pecha Kucha night just a couple of days ago at the Hyde Park Arts Center and had a really great evening listening to the wildest range of subjects ever put together under one roof.

What is Pecha Kucha Night?

Pecha Kucha Night, devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham (, was conceived in 2003 as a place for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. But as we all know, give a mike to a designer (especially an architect) and you’ll be trapped for hours. The key to Pecha Kucha Night is its patented system for avoiding this fate. Each presenter is allowed 20 images, each shown for 20 seconds each – giving 6 minutes 40 seconds of fame before the next presenter is up. This keeps presentations concise, the interest level up, and gives more people the chance to show.

Pecha Kucha (which is Japanese for the sound of conversation) has tapped into a demand for a forum in which creative work can be easily and informally shown, without having to rent a gallery or chat up a magazine editor. This is a demand that seems to be global – as Pecha Kucha Night, without any pushing, has spread virally to over 100 cities across the world. Find a location and join the conversation.

Although initially the presentations were mostly by architects and artists, as the word-of-mouth has spread, the subject matter (and the presenters) has expanded beyond those initial parameters. Have a hobby or a collection that you're dying to share with others? Go ahead. It can't be any quirkier than the gentleman who collected "do not disturb" signs from all over the globe and decided to share his favorites. Or the scientist who has managed to record the music made by molecules. It was actually quite tunefull and created interesting visual patterns when mapped! You never know what you'll learn about what people are up to and how they spend their time when they're not watching tv.

If you are interested in starting a Pecha Kucha Night in your city, please contact :

Friday, July 17, 2009

FableVision -- On a Mission to Infuse Kids with Creativity

If kids are part of your life, you probably already know the work of Peter H. Reynolds. Peter’s simple, charming books — Ish, The Dot, and Someday – encourage kids to be creative by teaching that what they make, “doesn’t have to be perfect, only perfect-ish.” His books are bestsellers and a favorite among kids, parents, and teachers alike. But Peter’s talent isn’t confined to the written word. He and his twin brother, Paul, co-own an educational software company called FableVision.

Here's their stated mission:
We are big believers that a well-educated student is not complete without less "test-able" skills such as creativity, communication, self-expression, problem solving, and cultural understanding. We also need students with self-determination and a desire to learn.

These foundation skills are the building blocks upon which a lifetime of learning can be built. While the details of educational goals and outcomes vary from state to state and country to country, we all share these fundamental goals. FableVision’s mission is to help educators inspire their students to develop and strengthen these fundamental skills. We will continue on our "200-year mission" to develop, discover, and share creative tools for educators and students to help all learners reach their true potential through meaningful challenges and authentic learning.
Onward,Peter H. ReynoldsFounder/CEO, FableVision

Their most recent creation?
A program called Animation-ish. The program allows kids to indulge in “screen time” in a safe and fun way. The easy-to-use software lets kids make their own animated movies, greeting cards, websites, and presentations. The program is available to download, so you can buy it on a rainy day and get designing before the chorus of “I’m bored” reaches a deafening roar.The program is packed full of more than 50 video tutorials and quick tips.

Make Your Mark
The ‘Make Your Mark’ Professional Development programs for teachers blend the best current teaching practices and theories, innovative technology tools, and ready-to-roll ideas to bring back to the classroom – all with a creative flair. Each session is taught by highly skilled educators who share the mission of making the classroom a more wonderful place. Each believes that we can make learning more rewarding and effective by acknowledging different learning styles and multiple intelligences, including emotional intelligences. Where most workshops inform -- their commitment is to inform AND inspire.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A New Creative Outlet -- Virtual Graffiti from YR Wall

If you've always secretly wanted to grab a spray paint can and just go to town on a pristine garage door or brick wall, making your mark and starting your own gang, the folks from Lumacoustics somehow sensed your deepest, darkest thoughts and developed the virtual graffiti wall. Lumacoustics teamed up with YR Wall, who handles the rental and customization of the product.

The wall is used in much the same way as a conventional canvas but has the functionality of a typical interactive computer digital art paint program crossed with a simple animation package, enabling users to easily create and explore colours, textures and movement. Artistic digital creations can then be saved, recalled and played back, as well as utilized in a number of other ways to create unique and personal mementos of their digital graffiti experience. For example, the user will have the option receive a copy of their creation by email free of charge and to email friends and family with a virtual 'postcard' from the event. A recent addition to YrWall allows T-shirts and stickers to be printed for the user to take away.
The user's graffiti can also be projected digitally onto another screen or multiple screens in higher, more visible positions. This not only gives the user's creation more impact, it also allows more people to view what is being drawn. With a mutiple screen setup, the user can choose which screen to edit, leaving the other screens un-effected by changes to the wall.
It occurred to me that there's potentially a fantastic application here for facilitators and graphic facilitators. Can you imagine the possibilities for your next ideation session -- using a virtual wall to illustrate ideas and share them with the group? No need to transcribe and/or scan. And add into that the savings on markers and its a done deal! See some live demos at and let the ideas flow . . . . .

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Art to Drape Over Your Walls & Windows

There's a fascinating artist from Iceland (living and working in Chicago), who is exhibiting her work in Chicago right now by the name of Anna Joelsdotter. Anna recently spent 18 months creating a work that cascades from the windows at ZG Gallery, painting and drawing on both sides of the vellum. If you live in Chicago and have a moment, I advise stopping by the gallery and seeing the work in person. You need to see and touch it to truly appreciate the colors and artistry involved. Here's a link to Anna's website: which will give you an idea of the breadth of her work. This is a whole new level of creativity being brought into play in Chicago.

The Cartoon Character Ice Breaker Exercise

Today I thought I'd share a fun "getting to know you" exercise that you can use at the start of your next meeting and get everyone's creative juices flowing. This one is perfect to use with groups who don't know each other as well as those where we think we know everyone quite well. The beauty of this exercise is that it gives everyone a chance to share something about themselves that may not ordinarily show in the workplace. Plus, it's just plain fun to do arts & crafts while at work!

The Cartoon Character

Assignment: Create a mask that shows how you would like to look if you were to become a cartoon character.

Allotted Time: 15 minutes

Directions: Provide a table filled with various supplies to build a mask, using a colored paper plate as the base. Supplies can include yarn, pipecleaners (buy several varieties), plastic eyeballs, ribbons, fabric remnants, construction paper, colored index cards, wrapping paper, gluesticks, Elmer’s glue, glitter paint tubes, scissors, cotton balls, colored string, candy, staplers, tape, plastic beads, paperclips (regular and colored), felt, pompoms. Have each person wrap their mask around the back of their chair using yarn for the ties.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Get Paid for Your Brilliant Ideas!

Well, we're back after our little hiatus and I've been busy coming up with all sorts of creative hook-ups for y'all. If you don't know about InnoCentive, you should. The whole idea centers around unleashing the creative brain power available out there to generate sustainable breakthrough innovation for your company. It works quite simply -- you post a problem or challenge you are trying to solve on the InnoCentive website ( along with a price you're willing to pay for the winning solution. More than 160,000 of the brightest minds in their database get to work on your problem. You choose the solution that best meets your challenge. If you're the creative genius out there that's always coming up with brilliant answers to questions no one has asked, here's a chance to make some serious money. We're not talking in the hundreds of dollars, but in the tens of thousands of dollars. So, go ahead, lubricate your brain and do some breakthrough thinking.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Here at Catalyst Ranch we are always looking for inspirational ideas, thoughts and environmental elements to ignite creativity. One of the best ways that I have found to foster creativity is to change environments and try new ways to find my "Creative Zone."

I thought it would be fun to ask two other creative experts where they find their inspiration and why it works for them. Gregg Fraley, author of Jack's Notebook and Lennie Rose, CEO, Big Ooga provided insight and thoughtful suggestions on where they find inspiration and why it works for them.

Gregg writes:

I go for a long walk in the woods or in a park for inspiration. Why? Because it's a great way to clear the mind of distractions and a way to purposefully incubate. I don't go out for a walk and try to think of things, I go out for a walk and try Not to think of things. Usually, things come to me that I would never "get to" if I were trying to be logical/analytical.

Lennie writes:

I wake up inspired. Having made the choice to build the Big Ooga life continues to expand. I'm awed and inspired by the people around me. They make me laugh and reach. I mine creativity from two directions - spontaneous expression and instinctive response. Ideas come to me and I give them permission to exist. You've got to put it out there to find out if it will work.

Lennie adds: (I loved this!)

Creativity is a spontaneous combustion of permission and fantasy refusing to be silenced by doubt.

Please add to our Font of Creativity. It doesn't stop here! We would love to include your inspirations and suggestions in future blogs. Remember you can always contact me directly at

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jammin' with Creativity!

I have been on a creative roll all morning. I started the day by clicking on Paul Williams's Idea Sandbox blog and here is what I found. If you want to set your creative side in motion be sure to click on the Youtube presentation. And, you may want to turn up the volume!

John Moore at Brand Autopsy launches the April Post2Post Virtual Book Tour featuring Marty Neumeier’s latest book The Designful Company.

John put together a jamminYouTube presentation that’s not to be missed.

This just goes to prove that inspiration is everywhere you just have to know where to click.

Thanks to Paul Williams at Idea Sandbox.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Entreprenuer's Creative Networking Skill!

Networking as defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary is the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions ; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. Networking as described her is exactly what one company has been able develop into an art form.

The Big Ooga is a virtual and localized referral-based resource designed to connect entrepreneurs to new clients and each other. It’s the perfect place to find your people and be found by the companies needing your services.

On the first Tuesday of each month the Big Ooga hosts a greet-up for professionals to network. The event which takes place at the Catalyst Ranch has actually been met with much success. Following is an example of how networking in the right forums really does work.

Rebecca Berneck founder of Officeheads, Inc. outlines her recent networking successes after attending a Big Ooga event.

My newly formed company, Officeheads, Inc., partners with Derek Huyser at Apogee Strategies :: Apogee provides to my clients all of their technology needs. Derek attended the first Big Ooga networking event hosted at Catalyst Ranch on February 3 where the networking ball began to roll:

· Feb 3 :: Derek Huyser mentioned my services to Jonathan Vehar at the Big Ooga.

· Feb 6 :: Derek made an e-mail introduction

· Feb 9-11 :: a flurry of email traffic occurs between Jonathan and me

· Feb 18 :: We meet and get excited about working together; he suggests I contact Catalyst Ranch

· Feb 24 :: I met Bobbie and Eva at the Ranch where I’m energized by the surroundings and excited to be working with them!

· Mar 4 :: its official! I’m a Ranch Recommended Vendor!

This is just one example of how you can use word-of-mouth, coupled with technology to spread the word about jobs, projects, events to which you have the capability to lend expertise. Sometimes it is easier to select key events and get your message out there. It is for that very reason that Big Ooga was created: to help professionals connect! If you would like to attend any of these networking events more information can be found at Big Ooga and the Catalyst Ranch websites. Happy Networking!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Peter Lloyd Addresses Creative Space

Today we are thrilled to welcome Peter Lloyd to our Creatives' Space. He is one of the leading experts in Creative Space and the role environment plays in Creativity and Innovation. He is the author of Creative Space and you can find out more about his MANY creative endeavors by visiting

So sit back, make yourself comfortable and treat yourself to the work of Peter Lloyd.

Why I Think the Catalyst Ranch Works

One of the most creative men and erudite creativity gurus I know, Stephen R. Grossman, recently told me that being creative boils down to having fun. One of the creativity gurus Steve puts at the top of his list is Edward de Bono. I watched de Bono literally draw a diagram and illustrate how and why humor and creativity are identical processes.

Fun and play take people out of and away from the serious, narrowly focused business of drill-down thinking. The kind of thinking de Bono says to replace with lateral thinking. Fun and play allow and encourage humans to generate ideas that are unconnected or illogically connected, to jump from sense to non-sense. If you haven't found the ideas you need in the sensible world, they're obviously somewhere else. And we all know how difficult it can be to get people to go there.

When you walk into a place like the Catalyst Ranch, there's no missing the point. This place was made for play. It tells you, "It's okay to have fun here."

"Why else would they surround me in bright colors and litter the place with toys?" you tell yourself. "What else could they mean by a monkey on a pogo stick?"

Hundreds of creativity and brainstorming sessions have taught me that people in general--and especially people fresh from the corporate office, shop floor, or the sales road--need to be told it's okay to have fun and to play during work hours, while they're collecting their pay. Yet most of these people have no problem playing with babies or pets. Some have even been known to make fools of themselves at wedding showers and fraternity parties, in bowling alleys and karaoke bars, on fishing trips and family vacations.

People play at parties, because it's okay to play. No one is judging. At a party where you know your boss is examining your behavior, you have less fun. At your child's birthday party, amid a screaming throng of three-year-olds, you can't possibly be more ridiculous. The pressure's off. You might even join a food fight. But could you solve a serious problem under these conditions?

There it is again, that pressure to perform, that specter of evaluation, that demand for results.

The mind must leap laterally into the unknown to come up with brilliant ideas. And brilliant ideas that deliver the best results. Play will get us into the dangerous unknown, sometimes to brilliant ideas, but it won't complete the problem-solving process. We need more. Not a map. There are no maps of the unknown. There are no roads in unexplored territories.

The best creative processes help us connect stuff we know has not been connected and to "what-if" those connections into possibilities. Effective creative processes help us make metaphors of what we know and to mirror the light of those metaphors onto our challenges. I've learned that to do this well, the processors must play. They don't have to hug and giggle. New York Times crossword puzzles make great fun for me. Origami is great fun for some. They just have to have fun.

I've also learned something else--the deepest secret behind why brainstorming sessions work. It's going to make all brainstorming facilitators appear to be charlatans. But here it is: put intelligent and responsible people in a room, any room, knowing that they have to come up with new ideas and they will. Just not very well most of the time. Introduce a person from outside, who is not inept (doesn't even have to be great), and they will do better. Add processes to prompt them, they'll do better. Take them away from their familiar environment to any other environment and they will also do better.

While there are many other factors that affect the outcome, process, person, and place, stand out in my experience as the three most powerful. Dial up the quality of any or all of them and you get better results.

All of these factors lead people across a bridge, to another side, and into a set of conditions that allow creative thinking. Improving these conditions stimulates the creative thinking. They act as catalysts for people's natural creativity.

I've seen competent facilitators tell people at the beginning of a session that it's okay to have fun. I've watched warm-up exercises almost force reluctant people to play. A creative space like the Catalyst Ranch makes such contradictory caveats unnecessary.

No one should doubt that it's okay to play and have fun when they walk into a Catalyst Ranch meeting room. Like yawning and laughter, fun is infectious. It spreads a contact high. A playful place that facilitates fun stacks the deck for problem-solving success.

People are already creative. They can be more creative under certain conditions, even under the most horrible conditions. Unfortunately some managers impose horrible conditions with this in mind. In fact, in one of the experiments I use to prove to people that they are creative, I do just that. I give a volunteer what seems to be an impossible task to perform in front of a judgmental audience of peers. The experiment is rigged so that the volunteer will succeed. But the volunteer doesn't know that. The audience knows that the volunteer doesn't know that and watches him or her step intrepidly into the unknown. And even though, in the end, they all discover that success was guaranteed, they marvel at how the volunteer succeeds. Contact high!

Whatever tricks we can use to advance success, make the hard business of problem solving not just successful but rewarding.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Love letter to Catalyst Ranch

At times it is in hindsight that we realize that we were part of something special and unique. Often we may be a part of something that is even more special than we know until we set sail for new experiences.

Such was the case for Edward (name and a few details changed) who recounts his Ranch infatuation in a love letter sent to his former colleagues at Catalyst Ranch, Chicago. He fondly talks about how the environment at the Ranch was something that was inspiring, especially compared with his new gray and blue sterile environment. These are a few thoughts taken from his letter that serve as an example of environmental impact on creativity.

Edward writes,

Bleak, too, is the color scheme. In my position are twenty brave souls. We're split into two teams, blue and gray, company colors. I am on team gray... GRAY! Gray as the cubicle wall, as the metal file cabinet as the foam backs of the chairs, as the carpet (mixed with muted tan). Gray...GRAY!!! But it's all neutral colors. Black are the computers, the monitors, the doors, the window frames, the light fixtures, the phones, the staplers, tape dispensers, pen cups and even the planters. White are the ceiling tiles, the walls, and the pallor of my face as the blood drains out of it while watching another of dozens upon dozens of training videos.

But then, there's the coffee. Who makes this awful coffee, and why do I trust them enough to drink it every day? I have never seen a person preparing the coffee. It's just always there. Always. Hot and bland. It is not the Intelligentsia King Kong Blend served fresh daily at the Ranch. Not even close.

With the blue play-doh that was part of my going away present, I made a little blue snowman named, Damian. I was watching the "All By Myself," Celine Dion's video on Youtube. I swear, I had something in my eye when it watered up...I dusted away the blue doh crusties, and my desk smelled for a moment like the inspired Ranch, and I missed it. I missed Catalyst Ranch like an ex-girlfriend I really loved, but couldn't be with any more. Our time was sweet -- puppy love. Flirtatious and uninhibited. But I know she'll always be there for a friend.

Who says environment doesn't matter? Just think of what someone like Edward would be doing if he were in an awe-inspiring, energy-infused, creative environment!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Space CAN Make You More Creative --

I often hear that the space in which you are located does matter in terms of creativity. I know I feel more productive, creative, just plain happy when I am in a bright, colorful, sun-lit room. But is that just in my mind?

I decided to do a little research and came across the most wonderful study done by Janetta McCoy while working on her Master's Thesis at Arizona State. With the aid of Gary W. Evans, McCoy wanted find out which environmental elements contributed to its creativity potential and to see if we can use those elements to foster creative ideas.

To find her answer she decided to show photographs of varying types of rooms to students. She posed the question "if you had a special problem to solve and needed to generate new ideas, which room would you choose?" Those interiors that were selected most often were deemed to be higher in creativity potential.

While McCoy found that the size or shape of the room did not seem to matter. The most highly selected rooms were visually stimulating, complex and interesting, had natural materials, designed for easy interaction and had views of the outdoors. When rooms had both textured wood and glass they were thought to foster creative potential, as were those spaces that encouraged curiosity and exploration.

When she tested people's reactions to projects created in different environments, she found that the projects considered more creative were those created in spaces that offered higher creative potential. McCoy is currently a professor of interior design at Washington State University.

I think what I find so fascinating is just how big a role our physical environment does play in our lives. It is so important when we have the opportunity to create and design spaces for work, school and our personal lives that we think about how we want to feel in those spaces. If you want to feel inspired, creative, happy it's all in the space!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Corporate Creativity Coaches Tackles Meeting Distractions

Today I revisited a past Pogo-A-Gogo, The Catalyst Ranch newsletter. I came across an article that was submitted by a friend of the Ranch Brendan Sullivan.

I could not help but think how great this piece of advice would be if applied to daily life when problems/thoughts keep you from tackling the task at hand. After reading this advice I wrote down a list of things I need to do, placed it in my calendar, now I am ready to start chatting.

Pearls of Wisdom from:

Brendan Sullivan, Corporate Creativity Coach

"Have you ever led a meeting where the participants didn't seem to be 'there' even though they were sitting right in front of you? They were distracted by other issues, projects, etc. that were preoccupying them, and distracting them from focusing on the matter at hand. Next time, take a moment before the meeting begins and ask everyone to write down whatever that stuff is, on their own individual notepads. No need for them to share it. Now that it's on paper, they can stop thinking about it for the duration of the meeting. After the meeting, they can read it and go back to whatever issue is pressing to them. When you take a moment to do this, do it together and don't single anyone out. Position it as a benefit to them. The meeting will be shorter and they will be more likely to fully participate."

To contact Brendan, call 773-463-3143 or email him
You can also check out his website,

Friday, April 3, 2009

Creative Life Lesson

A few evenings back I attended the Cyriel Kortleven event at Catalyst Ranch, Chicago. Cyriel is an innovator/author with New Shoes Today in Belgium. I always take away a fun nugget or two of information when I leave these events. But I have been thinking about one idea in particular that is actually an idea gold mine.

The concept is one often used in the world of improvisation – Yes, And…! We participated in an exercise where we thought of an idea (in this case a vacation), one person started and the partner then added an idea agreeing (YES, AND) then attached an additional idea. We performed the exercise for three minutes. It was exhilarating and fun to have the sky be the limit.

We also played the Yes, but… game. That was the exercise where one started with an idea and the partner quickly found fault by saying Yes, But… and offered the problem.

I think you would agree that the Yes, And.. exercise was a lot more rewarding for all those participating. If we could only employee this technique in all life’s opportunities and challenges I think we would reach heights that are almost unimaginable.

I thought back to school experiences where teachers push children to obtain the one right answer and squelch the opportunity for exploration. It undoubtedly happens in business for many reasons -- time, organizational charts, territorial issues… the list goes on…

I think this concept has such far reaching implications if we just brought YES, AND… into our homes, schools, community and then, of course it would naturally occur in the corporate environment.

Yes, And I would love to hear your thoughts and applications of this concept.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Yes, it is that time of year again when many are traveling to those lush tropical or picturesque ski destinations. Spring marks the time to pack up the vacation clothing, sun-tan lotion and cameras to take a break from the ordinary routine of school, work or just everyday life.

Do we really need the break? I think the answer is yes! Do we need to go to far away lands, beaches or mountains? I think the answer is no! Although, I must admit that those vacations are always welcomed and exciting.

A new environment can function as a catalyst to shake the cobwebs from your brain, give you energy and help you to think new creative thoughts. When you step into a fresh environment (especially those dramatically different from your regular routine) you awaken your senses because you are inundated with stimuli of all shapes and sizes.

So maybe all you really need is a change of scenery. To awaken your spirit this spring try something new and different. It is easy! You can pretend you are a tourist in your own town. Look at a travel book or visit the web and find a location nearby that you have never visited. Yesterday, I took a trip into Chicago and visited the Shedd Aquarium. Now I have been there many times but this time we decided to only visit those areas we usually overlook or just never get around to seeing. We spent four hours seeing exhibits and shows that were completely new to us. That is exciting and rejuvenating.

If your schedule doesn’t permit a full-day excursion you can try just varying your routine. Travel a new route to work, eat lunch at a new restaurant or pack something completely different, or you can do something completely crazy like having pancakes and eggs for dinner. I think you get the picture – mix it up! I guarantee you’ll have a surge of creativity and probably a whole lot of fun. Happy Trails!

We would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on ways to stir creativity. Have you visited some great locations, tried new experiences or experimented with changing your everyday routine? Let us know your ideas and results!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Innovation Recipe -- Change locations -- Move

My best thoughts come when I am engaged in other endeavors. You know like working out at the gym or visiting blogs of other creative types. I am always on the hunt for new and inspiring places where I can put pencil to paper or click away into cyberspace.

When I need a break from my desk I first head to the coffee shop. Not just any coffee shop -- the little retro, diner like coffee house. A place where they still keep the regular customers’ cups mounted on a peg board. Just hearing the lively, spirited conversation, the smell of regular coffee, and the 1950s d├ęcor whisks me away and can magically fill me with new inspirations.

If it is later in the afternoon and I am afraid of that sixth cup of coffee, I often head to the woods or the beach. There is something therapeutic about the quietness of being outside. Just seeing the sun and feeling the air on my face can be enough to face the rest of the day.

Other changes of scenery may include the treadmill, library, driving in a car, book stores, some have even found their best ideas come while in the shower

Do you have any unusual or even wacky places that you visit for inspiration or that creative "AHA Moment"? Share it, if you can, who knows maybe we'll even visit you there!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What are Catalysts for Creativity?

I am sitting here trying to think up a name for a new product. It is funny that while I have performed this act a hundred times before --- never has an idea come while sitting down, looking at a blank page waiting for the name to just show up. I just isn’t going to happen like that!

That is why I ask, "What are your Catalysts for Creativity?" For me there is a formula. I love to gather information about the product/project I am working on. I mean as much information as possible. I become steeped in the research (company provided, internet, library) I then go back and bounce the idea off a trusted co-worker, friend, family member or at this point anyone who crosses my path. Watch out!

I then bounce away from the process all together. I rejoin life with ideas still wondering about. If time is available two or three days later I will go to my favorite little coffee house and begin writing to see what takes shape. And, it is usually there where I will witness the beginnings of an idea or concept taking form. Ideas and names appear, sometimes faster than I can write. I could spend days in this mode! That is if the lattes keep coming.

At this point it is just a matter of making sure I convey the vision in a format that others can quickly grasp. For me the input of others always makes the end product even better. It’s called collaboration darlin’ and nothing is sweeter…except maybe my coconut macaroons at midnight.

Please feel free to send any of your catalysts for creativity. We would love to share them on-line or we’ll stop by your on-line Creative Space to see what innovations you have.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Stimulate Creative Thinking with Cyriel Kortleven

I was just checking the Catalyst Ranch calendar to see what creative talent may be stopping by and I found something that may be of interest -- especially to those of you living in the Chicagoland area.

Cyriel Kortleven from NEW SHOES TODAY will make his way from Belgium on March 31 from 6 to 9 spend an evening at the Ranch for an interactive session to stimulate your creative thinking.

Cyriel is an enthusiastic, driven crew member of NEW SHOES TODAY who work to support people & organizations on their road to creation, innovation & change. Cyriel is an expert in creativity & innovation & loves to move people in both literal & figurative ways. Recently he and a colleague wrote a Dutch book "And Action" to help trainers, facilitators & consultants work in a more interactive way with their groups.

If you would like to join Cyriel on March 31 visit and find out all of the details. If you would like more information on Cyriel and the creative work that he does just visit

For me spring is often a time of renewal and recharging the batteries. I can think of no better spark than joining Cyriel for an evening of fun, where great actionable ideas are shared in a creative space.