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.