Inspiration is a funny thing.
It comes from places you expect, don’t expect, and come to expect.
You have to be open to it. Defend it. And, on occasion, abandon it.
Physics has been my muse for thinking about ways creative ideas might be better shepherded through an organization as we try to:
Avoid concept death by committee.
Avoid killing creativity through argument.
Avoid ignoring the game changing idea.
As I explored folks came to my rescue – building on concepts, offering encouragement, arguing kindly (and on occasion providing the needed fix). Very similar to the way discussions surrounding physics were described in Gilder’s Book. The discussion has spurred my thinking – and so this seemed like a good time to review where we are at.
Strategies for Probing and Testing Ideas without Killing Them
Thought experiments were a favorite of Einstein and Bohr in part because they help you to think through the implications of a theory. I started with the idea that formalized thought experiments could form a foundation of ideas to draw from.
Brad Shorr provided a good spin by suggesting we choose the most ridiculous idea possible and working backwards from that. “You might find something that seems impossible at first blush is not impossible at all.”
LaVonn commented on how the idea could help organizations break out of their ‘linear chain of command.’ “A great organization has many paths for an idea to take for examination and consideration.”
Kay Plantes warned of how playing this game poorly can lead you “over a waterfall where only the lowest cost companies end up floating.”
So thought experiments could be used to break down boundaries between divisions, transfer information, explore the ridiculous as well as the likely – all to form a library of stress tested ideas that can be referenced as conditions on the ground change.
As Andrew said, “Ideas are powerful but only so if they are acted on.”
Nurturing and Defending Ideas Against the Brick Wall
Ideas seldom come packaged ready to implement. They can be messy, humorous, illogical and unlikely. From my list of strategies for breaking through brick walls discussion quickly turned to how hard it is for a creative spirit to survive within the corporate confines.
“Once you are “inside,” you are absorbed and then defined by their lack of imagination,” Diana commented
Creativity itself may be easier to outsource in our technological world, Brad predicts. “Too much pressure on employees to toe the line. Within organizations the pull of conformity is as irresistible as the pull of gravity.”
No matter if the work is internal or outsourced, a driving need for ‘fresh perspectives’ is essential to improved creativity. As Andrew brought up, “It is too easy for employees of an organization to become accustomed to the ways and systems of the organization, and this may limit their ability to see the potential for new and better ways of accomplishing certain tasks.”
Entanglement As A Tool Rather Than A Theory
I mentioned that I love the word entanglement. It seems ripe with possibility when applied to the idea of relationships. It is what drew me to Louisa Gilder’s book The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn in the first place.
The effect of entanglement is (using the more correct definition courtesy of Salvador), when you measure one entangled particle that simultaneously determines the state of the other. Applied to marketing I imagine this to mean: Mutual Long Term Influence Even at Long Distance.
While Bill Welter thought the idea was interesting, he did bring up concerns about how ‘noise in the system may overcome the real communication.’ So entanglement must be something more than social media. “Just because we can use social media doesn’t mean we should use it all the time for meaningless broadcasts.” I think of the explosion of corporate sales chatter on Twitter is a pretty clear description of where this can go wrong.
Salvador is the true scientist in this great group and took a shot at further defining what ‘entanglement’ might look like as apposed to a standard network:
“‘Entanglement” was Schroedinger’s word, and he just casually tossed it off, I think he didn’t take it seriously, and it is a fine word for the phenomenon. ….However, the word IS conceivable, it can have meaning. And the ‘force’ at issue, is essentially inconceivable, which is why they say no one can ‘understand’ the quantum physics.
So in your context here, I’d suggest entanglement be “undefinable” as part of its definition. But then it could be described for example by how it is unlike a network, or what things are possible under entanglement, which are not possible in a network, or are there improvements to be applied to a network? Redundant nodes…”
I’ve been really energized by the ideas-from-strange-places that have come about from this series and readers’ comments.
The power of blogging to explore and record ideas should not be surprising, but it is a relatively underused tool at the corporate level. The community interaction has helped me get my head around concepts that may have some long-term merit. It would be interesting to see companies get past their security concerns, adopt an open attitude and see how their crazy ideas were reacted to, even if it was just with the corporate audience.
Thanks to all who comment and read. I appreciate your thoughts and encouragement. Now I just need to decide if frogman should be my moniker as Salvador suggests.
Fred, Fascinating summary of your and your community’s thoughts, and I love your conclusion. Indeed, why don’t corporations take advantage of these wonderful communication tools at our fingertips, tools that can shake large organizations out of their lumbering and slumbering? You are too kind though, to say that blogs are relatively underused. I would say grossly underused or perhaps incomprehensibly underused. Regardless, I’m optimistic that adaptation to new media will accelerate – partly because of the bandwagon effect, partly out of desperation, and partly due to the efforts of folks like us who explore and explain its value.
Brad Shorr’s last blog post..How to Succeed on LinkedIn in 100 Easy Pages
Thanks for the mention and thanks for the great insights. Your closing comments about blogging at the corporate level should be used by every comany that is interested in building “communities of ideas.”
I conducted a workshop this week and when the attendees complained that travel budgets had been cut and they could not regularly meet each other face-to-face I suggested the one of them start a blog and “keep the conversation going.” Hopefully they will.
Keep up the good work, your posts push my mind to places it doesn’t naturally want to go.
Thanks for the mention. One image that came to mind as I read your blog–
ideas from the outside are like oxygen to a human. To little and you die; too much and you die. Finding the right blend is critical as is building up your musculature to do more with the oxygen that you get.
Organizations –whether we are referring to one part of a company or the whole company or even an entire industry — die when they get too little input from the outside.
My biggest fear about companies today is that everyone is working so hard, frantically, and so focused on getting through the short term that the spaciousness and openness required for creativity is being lost.
Everyone–take a mini sabbatical. For a day, an afternoon, a lunch hour, 20 minutes en route to work. Breathe. Imagine your world from a balcony and see what you cannot see when you focus too narrowly.
Kay Plantes’s last blog post..Strategic Leadership in Fearful Times
Brad – Optimism is a good thing and I share your belief that adoption of new media will accelerate. I’m not sure that there is any other choice, especially as orgs continue to get leaner the new tools will drive productivity and communication. Thank you for your contributions!
Bill – It would be interesting to see what grows from that suggestion. When there is an urgent need then sometimes the concerns about security and secrecy get put on the back burner. No reason to be secretive if your project is going to flounder on the rocks. Thanks for your insights!
Kay – You bring such a visual sense to your comments, it brings your ideas to life. Interesting to think of ideas as corporate oxygen, that really highlights the need for organizations to keep an outward focus. Thank you for your additions here, they are appreciated. And now I think I’ll head out for my 20 minutes on the balcony 🙂
I love your suggestion of the mini-sabbatical. If people really planned on taking a “mini” they would also have something to look forward to during stressful times.
Thanks for the mention.
You have certainly developed a very thoughtful community here and I am glad to be a part of it.
Any form of customer or public interaction has the potential to stimulate creative thinking and this includes interaction through the blogosphere, a tool which organizations ignore to their peril.
One particular area which companies should not ignore is the monitoring of online complaints about their services, or problems which people have experienced in using their services. Hidden inside complaints are often ideas which constitute potential areas of service improvement, and companies should not ignore complaints as a potential source of creative ideas for improvements in service and/or product quality.
Andrew’s last blog post..Animal testing – a positive EU proposal to eliminate unnecessary suffering
Hi Andrew, the power of turning a complaint into an opportunity is an art form all in itself. Many great products are actually just solutions to a problem or need in the first place – so I agree, the complaints should be a great source of creativity. I’m glad you’re a part of the discussion as well, your comments are always thought provoking. Thank you!