How do you perform like a star when you don’t feel like one?

How can we consistently create the things we can’t envision? Well the short answer is you can’t. The long answer is to follow a series of steps, putting yourself into a state where you can begin to envision what you wish to create.  As a product designer, my job is to create new products that don’t yet exist.  As designers we are given a problem and then we set out to solve it. When I was a new designer right out of college, I struggled to even get started. I had no process or even any true confidence that I could succeed. Sometimes I got lucky, and sometimes, well not so much. It was really hit or miss. Ironically that affected my confidence in a negative way even more. I could never trust that I “had it under control.” The more something mattered to me the more I struggled to “see” my way to the successful solution.

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I had no faith. When I doubted myself, it was like pouring water on a fire, the ideas dried up. Over the years I have developed a process which allows me to ask the right questions and that allows my brain to start coming up with the right answers. Having complete faith in the process has also created real confidence and the ideas flow even faster.

But what if you are the product? What if you wish to create an improved version of you? What if you wish to create an improved version of your future? As I work more deeply on myself, and I look to continually design my own future, the task seems to get infinitely more difficult. I find the process is vaguer and the faith part more elusive. I have found that if I can’t literally can’t wrap my mind around some future desire being a possibility, I have to get myself to a state where I can begin to see it as a possibility. It is from this place that I can create. It is in this place that the faith lives.

Take on the negative self beliefs. You can’t build a strong foundation on weak ground. I believe for me that negative beliefs are illusions. Maybe that is true for you too. During an Ayahausca ceremony in the jungle of Peru, I saw my own true state of being from outside my body. My physical body looked many times larger than it really is. Emanating out of me was a field of energy that kept expanding. It was large, very large. Alongside me in the vision were the feelings of shame, self criticism, guilt, and failure. They look so small and pathetic next to my true essence. In that moment I no longer felt those negative emotions; they were completely gone. I spoke and said “how can these feelings that have ruled me most of my life just be gone?” The all knowing voice in my head said “I just showed you who you are and how small the negative illusions are, what else do you need?” I said “Yeah, I get that but how can they just go away?” The voice said “You want them back?” “Noooo,” I said. The voice continued. “Just go back to your normal life and do everything the same as you have and those negative beliefs will all come back. I promise”

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I realized in that moment that what I do, moment to moment will either feed the negative beliefs or feed the positive empowering beliefs. I cannot live a sloppy, unaware life and expect to feel good about myself. I never wanted to be aware every moment of my life. It sounded tedious and like way too much work. I wanted to be distracted and oblivious to my life because I didn’t know any better. That vision on Ayahausca showed me a door into a realm of self love and self responsibility that made me want that more than I wanted the unawareness. That brings me to the main point here; you have to have a vision of what you want that inspires you to want to make the changes. For me, doing the work got me to my personal vision. Once you have the vision and the desire, everything begins to change.

Discipline is great at helping to quiet the negative self talk of the mind. When I was in the jungle on my personal retreat, I made a list of things I could do at any given moment in order to keep myself aware and focused.

Walk with intention and awareness, Stand up straight, Meditate, Observe without judgment, Harness the energy of my body, Consciously move my energy, Exercise, Eat well, No coffee, No alcohol, Limit sugar, Limit fats and oils, Limit TV and social media, Read, Walk in nature, be creative/ do creative tasks, stop labeling situations as good or bad, breathe deeply / focus on breath, stretching, journal, move with intention, focus, eat with awareness, rock climb, motorcycle riding, separate the mind from body sensations and body pain, visualize before sleep, exercise acceptance, be in the present moment.

These tasks help me to remain focused on the present moment. We cannot create anything of real value when we are being overridden by the ego mind and negative self talk or focused on our past or future.

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I have noticed that when I slip into unawareness I am more likely to react to life’s situations, getting sucked into moment to moment drama, then to observe life and respond from a place of calm intelligence. These steps which I list here help me stay present, aware and focused. For me it took a month of being mostly by myself for me to realize what things in my life were triggering negative thought loops. I have also learned that the discipline I incorporate in my life quiets my mind. The ego part of me becomes silent, almost as if it understands that it is pointless to resist. I am going to override it anyway.

When I am in doubt, and cannot feel the future I am trying to create, I find I have to take these small, disciplined action steps, daily, or even moment by moment to override my minds constant need to doubt every bit of change. As my faith in the vision I wish to create comes back into focus, I take bigger and bigger steps toward that goal.

I am learning that this is a lifelong practice that requires constant attention. One would never think we could exercise for awhile and then never exercise again and stay healthy. The same is true for creating the ideal version of ourselves and the life we desire. There is no getting there, only the process that goes deeper and deeper until we leave this earth. I found a real sense of peace in knowing that, once I accepted it. If we love something we take care of it. When we love ourselves, we take care of us, body, mind and spirit. There is no end to our development, there is no race to get anywhere and there is no winning or losing. There is only the process of going deeper and deeper into our own understanding, fulfillment and exploring our own individual action. There is no judgment when we take a detour or get temporarily lost. Just realize it and get back to the path.

The benefit of continual self realization work is continued awareness and insight. This awareness and insight keeps us anchored to the present moment, where all creation happens. Where we are the most content and fulfilled. It is in this state that we perform at our greatest potential. We are open to creative input. Our minds are open and relaxed not stressed and scattered.

The truth is we are always creating. We are all fantastic manifestors. We are creating every single moment of our life. I never even realized that, until one day I did. I realized I was creating the life of an endless loop of struggle and trial. I was a professional at it. The awareness of this fact was enough to put me on a different track. In hindsight it felt like I was a fire hose at full blast with no one holding and directing it; shooting everywhere; rarely hitting the fire.

The first step in any journey of improvement of the self is awareness. If we are unaware of what we are creating in our lives, how can we expect to create what we want, except if it happens by pure luck? Awareness is a powerful healer. I have found that at times just the awareness of a negative thought, panic feeling or undesirable physical body response to a life situation can be enough to cause it to evaporate. If we are creating by default at any given moment, no matter what, why not create with intention and have the life we desire.

If you would like to learn more about any of the concepts discussed in this article, please reach out to us at getdriven@driveninnovation.com.

Two lives, one conclusion

Three weeks ago I returned from a solo, twenty six day retreat in the Amazon jungle of Peru. I traveled 24 hours by plane, car, and then boat up the river  to the lodge where I stayed. I slept in a thatched roofed hut and ate a very strict diet; no salt, coffee, alcohol, red meat, spices, oil or sugar. There was no internet,  nor electricity; a generator ran for a couple hours each evening. This trip was the latest step for me in a self improvement journey that began twenty years ago. During the retreat, I spent most of my time alone. I worked with the shamans, took native plant medicines, and meditated.  Without any way to distract myself from my thoughts, it was difficult physically, spiritually and mentally. It was also one of the most life changing experiences.

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When I returned from this trip, the reintegration process was just as difficult as the trip itself. I realized I was living two different lives; the life of my design and product development career and the life of my self-development and spiritual journey. I also realized that they should not be separate, as the concepts and insights I have learned from the self development journey should be the foundation for all aspects of my life, including my business. 

Let’s be clear, my self-development journey has taken me to some extreme ends, from fully immersive five day long “mental boot camp” like courses, to ancient plant medicines with Shamans in the jungle, multiple times, and everything in between. This level of self-development work has led me to the same conclusions. The basis for everything I do in life needs to include self love, love for others, non-judgment and developing solutions that are mutually beneficial to all involved. Without these things in place, I may be monetarily successful but I won’t be fulfilled.  Conversely,  I may be fulfilled but struggle to reach my financial or career goals.   Or, if I benefit myself at the expense of others, eventually it will come back to bite me.

There was some fear at first when considering fully merging these two separate areas of my life. On the surface they seem so different from each other.   How could they possibly merge together as one? The reality is, they have been overlapping for years already. I have been taking knowledge learned in my self-development journey and using it in all aspects of my life, including business. 

Here are some highly beneficial things I have learned in twenty years of internal growth and how they apply to great business practices.

We all win or eventually we all lose – Years ago in a self development course we played a game. The object was to win as much money from the banker as possible. The group was divided in two and separated. Over ten rounds each team could choose either X or Y.  If X was chosen, both teams received the same amount of money. If Y was chosen, one team got more money, and the other lost money. The way to win the game?  Getting the most money from the bank was for both teams to always choose X for each of the 10 rounds. We failed at the game because we chose Y. We got more money than the other team but failed on the real objective. The world is a perfect mirror to this game right now.  The only eventual success for us is if we all succeed. The world needs more win-win solutions in many different areas. When the entire world is lifted out of poverty and lack, we all win.

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No problem was ever really solved by ignoring it or trying to contain it. Pollution and disease on the other side of the world will eventually make it to you. But just like the game, if we focus on the bigger goal, the right decisions can be made and the right solutions appear.

We only create in the present – There is no past or future, other than in our thoughts. Thinking about the past keeps us there and our thoughts of the future eventually create that reality. The only time we are in top creative and peak performance is when we are fully present, in the only time there is, now. If we approach our work with a heavy mind, focused on past mistakes or future problems, there is no way we can be innovative. We only rehash old ideas, feel stuck, frustrated and tired. Being totally in the present is invigorating and allows infinite creativity to flow through us. I have learned this truth from the creative process over the years. Truly innovative and creative ideas come when we are fully present. Worry, stress, thoughts of the past or future, judgment, negativity keeps us out of the all powerful present.

The only time we are in top creative and peak performance is when we are fully present, in the only time there is, now.

Past and future are concepts of the ego, whose goal is to influence us to do things the same as we have always done, meaning no change and no growth. Real connection and trust with others is only built when we are present. The solutions the world really needs will be created by many people working together at their highest level. But, if you just want to start by performing better at your current job, try keeping your mind in the present moment and see how much better you perform. 

Self Love, love for others and for what we do is essential – I learned the magnitude of the importance of self love one night while taking plant medicine. During the ceremony, I felt the most alone I have ever felt in my life. It was so extreme I felt like I was dying. I felt like I had nothing and no one at that moment. It completely encompassed me. I also was in excruciating physical gut pain. At the moment I thought,  I can  take it no longer”, all the loneliness and pain vanished. All I felt was the most amazing love. It was a level of love so complete, I struggle to describe it in words. I realized in that moment, the pain and aloneness were illusions that covered up the love in me; the love that we all have access to within us. That love will not fight to been seen, we have to go look for it beyond the illusions of our mind. 

This love is required in business, desperately. It is when we are in this state that creative solutions flow, we do our best work, we motivate and inspire others and others want to work with us. We have all been around people that love themselves, others and life which, in turn, helps us to feel great. They lift us up. That is the power of love. There is no blame, no judgment. Things get done and they get done right. Imagine your entire team functioning at that level!

Stress and fear start in the mind – After about eight days of being mostly alone in the jungle, I started to panic. The sun went down around 6pm each night and the mosquitoes came out. After dinner,  the best place to be and not get bitten, was on my bed under the mosquito net. It was hot and a little bit claustrophobic for me. The fear that I just wasn’t going to make it 26 days surfaced in my mind. I felt the panic, and then was immediately aware of the thought that caused it. That awareness caused the fear to just vanish. 

Often, our thoughts can create a corresponding feeling in the body and then the body, in turn, can trigger the mind to think the thought. It can become a vicious cycle of the body and mind. In this state, we become reactive to situations in our life; the mind and body, already on high alert and ready to act in a preprogrammed way; definitely not an example of living in the present. Stress also can be caused by thoughts. Those thoughts can manifest as body aches and pains. I saw how my own thoughts had been causing my massive neck and back pains along with migraine headaches. Awareness is a major key to mastering our thoughts. When we do that we become powerful creators and leaders.

Energy is real, I mean really real – We have all had a massage and after they tell us to drink lots of water and take it easy. Sometimes it can even feel like we are getting a cold. That is because the massage moved energy in the body and as that energy is released.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel good.  In my recent retreat, I felt how powerful moving energy can be. I have internally stored grief and self criticism in my life. These are feelings I had but never dealt with effectively. I knew I was repressing these feelings, I just didn’t think it mattered all that much. By the time I realized how wrong I was, I was clueless on how to deal with this repressed energy. Well, the shamans in the jungle know how to release trapped energy. I literally felt flu-like sickness for over twenty four hours, as my body purged deeply stored emotions. What we don’t deal with will eventually, deal with us.   Storing up negative feelings has a heavy price when it comes due. We are energetic beings and our energy is felt by others; both the bad and the good.

We learn most effectively through feeling - I mean really learn; the type of learning that stays with us and makes real lasting change. These real learning moments are sometimes called peak emotional experiences. It can happen in a second or take a long time, but when we feel something to a great degree; it can make a drastic change in us. We probably all have an experience like this where an event happened and it affected us so strongly that we never forgot it. This happens to us a lot more than we may realize. We have experiences all the time and they affect us. Why not be more proactive about creating the peak emotional experience that we want, not just accept the ones we don’t want?  During some of the immersive courses I have taken, along with this latest trip to the Amazon and plant medicine, I felt these lessons, sometimes over and over until it changed my actual thoughts. 

Getting others to feel the message we are giving is crucial to getting buy in and team support.

This definitely applies to business. How many of us have been subjected to the Power Point show that seemed to never end and lacked all feelings. Getting others to feel the message we are giving is crucial to getting buy in and team support. This can be done in many ways, even subtle ones. You don’t have to break out in tears to make others feel your point. The point remains, when others are emotionally involved in what we say, they remember it and are more likely to support our goals. 

The message here is that everything we do is connected. Trying to compartmentalize our lives, this is work, this is family, this is my time, this is a hobby, and where we are happy and fulfilled in some and not others only seems to fracture us. We can still have all these separate parts of our lives, but the true foundational principles apply to them all. If we are miserable or unhappy in one area of life, it is going to spill over and affect everything else, eventually. As I start to really learn this, my life is coming together and I begin to feel the true sense of calm, love and fulfillment.

If you would like to learn more about any of the concepts discussed in this article, please reach out to us at getdriven@driveninnovation.com.

Want to Increase Your Next Hardware Program's Chance for Success?

There are no guarantees of success when developing a new product. In fact, there are no guarantees for success in anything we undertake in life. As product developers, though, there is something in us, some internal optimism that pushes us to create new products and experiences. This optimism drives us to embark on the long journey of developing a new product.  We believe we will succeed, no matter the odds.

Optimism aside, there are some cold hard facts about new product success that are important to keep in mind. Not knowing them doesn’t make them go away. It only makes your competitor that does, more likely than you to be the one to succeed. I don’t believe that there is one magic bullet for success in developing a new product. Just as in life, it comes down to a combination of many things in just the right order and amount. Like the ingredients in the perfect meal.

”There is no magic bullet for success in developing a new product. Just as in life, it comes down to a combination of many things in just the right order and amount.”

The odds of creating a successful new product are one in ten to one in twenty depending on whom you ask. Optimism in the product development process is absolutely critical for success, but it is not enough to believe in the success. We need to stack the odds in our favor. Here are just five things; ones that may not be so obvious, that I have learned make a noticeable difference in increasing the odds for success in new product development.

Lose the ego. We all know when we are really good at something. To be a legitimate expert in anything requires a lot of time, effort and critical self evaluation. The problem happens when we get over confident and start to believe that we are experts in other areas outside our core competency. It is actually really easy to do.

You read a bit about a particular product development area, maybe saw someone else do it and boom, you now know what it takes and your off advising and telling others what they need to do and how to do it. Unfortunately we cannot be experts at all aspects of the product development process. We need to have team members that truly understand the areas where we are not experts.

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The reason for this is that we don’t know what we don’t know. What seems easy is easy until you overlook that critical area and find yourself in a situation that is difficult to rectify. I get it, we all think that we are smart and can do many other people’s jobs, and we know better than the experts we consult. Sometimes we do; more often though we don’t.

My rule for myself is that if it is not in my core area of expertise I need to defer to someone I trust for what to do and what not to do. Especially when my ego is telling me that it is easy, I can do it, what could possibly go wrong? Having the courage to admit what we don’t know is probably one of the biggest advantages in creating a successful product. You most likely won’t know what you did wrong until it is too late. Hire the experts and listen to them.

“Having the courage to admit what we don’t know is probably one of the biggest advantages in creating a successful product.”

Know yourself, and know people. Learning all there is to know about ourselves and the motivations behind why we do what we do is a lifetime job. Learning all about others and why they do what they do might require another whole life. We can greatly improve our understanding though. Those that become aware of their motivations and what motivates others are at a real advantage in product developemnt, and in life.

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They are the ones that have productive teams that are creative, communicate well and stay focused. They handle problems and deal with changes as part of the process, not as major meltdowns. Lean about how you communicate best, and learn how your team members give and receive information. Wasted time and effort happens when team members do not understand their role and how it fits in with the main program goals. Keeping team members isolated or out of the loop in order to save time usually ends up adding time as their solutions will miss critical areas to which they are not privy.

"Continually invest in your own personal development, through reading, courses, coaches and seminars and watch how much more effective your product development programs become."

Don’t work in a vacuum. Developing a product is hard, really hard. It can require massive amounts of effort just to get the product concept to work, let alone focus on all the other very different tasks that must come together perfectly in order for your product to be a success. As hard as it may seem to do during the day to day development, keep your eye on the end goal and make sure to continually consult with the experts you have assembled to keep the product on track for success.

Taking your eye off the end goal, even for a short while, can result in the product moving in a direction that may solve one issue at the detriment of an even more important one down the road. For example, you may want to add a feature that seems easy to implement but in reality it becomes much more difficult to execute and you miss critical marketing milestones.

“Taking your eye off the end goal, even for a short while, can result in the product moving in a direction that may solve one issue at the detriment of an even more important one down the road.”

Or, you may decide not to have certain features because the time to implement them will cause you to miss a milestone, but those features are absolutely crucial for your target market. Making critical decisions without the proper expertise is straight up gambling. Developing a product is difficult enough; you want to increase the odds of success, not add more risk.

"The only way to make the correct decisions is to consult the experts in each area of your team every time new information is learned and evaluate the pros and cons of each possible direction."

Don’t waste your time on the things that won’t pay you back. In hindsight it can be very easy to see where effort was wasted. That knowledge after the fact is also not very valuable to your development program. How can you know what effort is valuable and necessary and what effort isn’t? The key to avoiding wasted effort is to continually evaluate new information as it is learned and asses if that information requires a course correction. Not evaluating new information as it is learned because it’s not convenient or would require changes you don’t want to make is shortsighted. Making more, smaller course corrections is much better for the health of your development program than fewer, more drastic changes. Unfortunately, you will most likely find that out once most of your resources are used up or you are out of time.

"Evaluate new information as it is learned, consult your team of experts and decide if the new information requires a course direction adjustment. Dismissing new information as irrelevant or not important often leads to building the wrong product or a product that doesn’t function as required." 

The ultimate manufactured cost of your product is determined early in the design process. All the early design decisions you make and all the features you decide to include in your product will cost you in the end. Early on in the design process there are no manufacturing ramifications to adding features to your product, picking certain materials, or even the way you design and assemble your product. The true ramifications of those early decisions will become known only once you hit the manufacturing phase. How much they will cost you really depends on a lot of factors. If you are not paying attention to the ultimate cost of the design features you implement at the beginning of the program, you may be very surprised by the cost estimates you receive once you get to the manufacturing phase.

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Know that the overwhelming majority, as much as eighty percent of the ultimate cost of your product will be determined in the very first weeks and months as you design the user interface, chose the product features and pick the design direction. That means that by the time you move to manufacturing your costs will be all but fixed. There will be very little room to reduce the manufactured price of your product. Should it be more costly than is acceptable, you might find that your only option is gut your product features, drastically reduce the product quality or perform a major redesign.

"Hire manufacturing experts for each manufacturing process required to build your product and pay very close attention to the ramifications of the design decisions on your manufacturing costs by consulting your manufacturing experts early and often."

If you are in the process of developing a hardware product and you need input, please contact us at Driven Innovation. We are here to help! 

Don't Start a Product Innovation Program Without Knowing These Points!

Don't get caught making product development errors. Save time, save money and avoid making critical mistakes! Checkout the next 3 Value Bombs! from our ongoing posts in this series on "15 Things You Should Know Before You Begin Your Next Product Development Program!"

 

Contact us at www.driveninnovation.com for assistance with your next design engineering and innovation program.

Don't Start a Product Innovation Program Without Knowing These Points!

Don't get caught making product development errors. Save time, save money and avoid making critical mistakes! Checkout the first 2 Value Bombs! from our ongoing posts in this series on "15 Things You Should Know Before You Begin Your Next Product Development Program!"

Contact us at www.driveninnovation.com for assistance with your next design engineering and innovation program.

3 "Must Know" Steps For a Successful Innovation Program

As designers and product development consultants we are constantly solving problems for our clients. These problems that need solving can be big or small or somewhere in between. There is a common theme in regard to problem solving of a creative nature; during the process of solving a problem, decisions must be made, and every decision leads the process in a direction, ruling out other directions. In a sense, every one of those decisions is a compromise. You get one thing at the cost of another. It is not a bad thing, it is just a thing.

The question I have found that is most important is how do you make many sequential decisions, one building on the next and wind up at the desired goal, when you have no idea what the journey looks like from where you are to where you need to be?

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In the very beginning of the creative process there are two statements that I have found are true. The first is that there will be unknowns that only the innovation process can unearth. After all, at this point you haven’t solved the problem or made the product. The second is that critical decisions or program criteria (that rely on this unknown information) will need to be made in order to begin the process. This conundrum can cause a problem.

Attempting to outline the program criteria for a new innovation program, lacking the knowledge that only the innovation process itself can provide, can lead to incorrect assumption. And those assumptions, if not corrected can lead the program to a dead end. Sometimes teams just avoid making certain decisions, putting them off for later, which can be disastrous. Sometimes teams guess and hope the decisions will turn out right, even as they doubt those very decisions. Sometimes conflicting information is just disregarded until it is too late and can no longer be ignored.  There is a way to use this situation to your advantage if a particular process is followed. I will get to that later in the article.

"In the very beginning of the creative process there are two statements that I have found are true. The first is that there will be unknowns that only the innovation process can unearth. The second is that critical decisions or program criteria will need to be made in order to begin the process."

Some examples of critical information that may be missing at the beginning of an innovation program might be; a comprehensive list of correct product features, the total budget and resources required to complete the program, the ultimate product cost of goods, how many will be sold over the lifetime of the product, what the materials or manufacturing process might be, what does the customer want and what does the customer need and are they the same, will this product concept meet those wants and needs, what is possible for your team to achieve, and what are the pitfalls your team may face on this program as they move through the innovation process?

All innovation programs that deal with solving an unmet need, which will ultimately wind up being a product purchased by an end user, must have criteria by which to judge the success or failure of each concept direction. Without these criteria to guide the innovation process, the program will become an “art project”, meaning that the criteria are totally up to the creator and no one else.

The third critical part of this innovation process requires this evaluation criteria. The evaluation criteria are used to guide the innovation process. The evaluation criteria can be fluid, meaning they can change or evolve. The evaluation criteria need to be in place at the start of the innovation process so the development team has a place to start. If the criteria are vague or incomplete, it will be more difficult to evaluate concepts.

All innovation programs are an exercise in compromises. No one thing can be the answer to everything. Each decision made will rule out the opposite option. That is why the criteria that drive the program are so important. If the criteria are wrong, the design solution will be wrong.

So how do these three components:

1)      The unknown information

2)      The required decisions

3)      The evaluation criteria all come together?

(See illustration 1-1) 

 

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                                                                                                                          Driven Innovation has created the above graphic image to describe our innovation process. I look at the creative innovation process as a tapered helix. At the beginning of the innovation process there are lots of choices and options available.  As the innovation process progresses through each discrete task, new information is learned. That information should be used to continually reevaluate the baseline assumptions. Do not build on top of assumptions that may no longer be valid or relevant based on the new information.

·         A healthy creative process will narrow in scope over time as progress and decisions are made. If the process does not narrow in focus, the creative process can stretch on indefinitely.

·         A natural byproduct of the narrowing process is that certain options will be removed from consideration.

·         If new information uncovered in the development process requires new thinking in regard to previously made decisions, evaluate and make the necessary changes. Make continual smaller course corrections based on constant reevaluation in order to keep the innovative process on course. This is shown as the straight line entitled “evaluation” running down the center of the helix.

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·         Going down the wrong path, by building on top of misinformation or incorrect assumptions can lead to a dead end. Course corrections at that point tend to be much greater, more time consuming and also much more costly.

·         Often innovation programs have conflicting goals or criteria. An example of this could be the requirement for a simple, intuitive user interface and a requirement for numerous, complex features making the user interface difficult. This is where the continual reevaluation is important. In this example, what is more important, the features or the ease of use? Continually assessing that question as the design evolves and more information is learned will lead to the correct answer.

 “As the innovation process progresses through each discrete task, new information is learned. That information should be used to continually reevaluate the baseline assumptions. Do not build on top of assumptions that may no longer be valid or relevant based on the new information.”

The creative process is always challenging and it can be torture or it can be made to be enjoyable. When the process is enjoyable, better team solutions emerge. Knowing what to expect in the innovation process and actually enjoying the sometimes messy nature of innovation, and using that messiness to your advantage, can lead to amazing, profitable solutions.

Making decisions and blindly holding onto them regardless of new information, or not reevaluating those early decisions frequently, is where the innovation process derails. For an innovation team to effectively reevaluate earlier decisions, it requires the ability to let go of ideas that no longer work; even the ones which you may be personally vested in for whatever reason. Never fall in love with an idea.  Allow the creative process to lead you to the correct solution, not the other way around.

Contact us at www.driveninnvation.com and let us help you with your next innovation program.

5 Ways to Realize Your Creative Potential

I believe that we are all creative and have the ability to think and create in any medium of our choice. Whether or not you exercise your creative abilities in your life as a hobby or as a part of your day to day job, those abilities are still there, waiting to be utilized. Creativity and the ability to solve problems is one of my greatest areas of fulfillment. Being creative is also a skill that can be practiced and improved upon throughout one’s life. We never reach that ultimate creative place. That, I think is the greatest thing about creativity. We get the privilege of always getting better. The effort we put into improving our ability to enter the creative state will always be rewarded with new and better ideas.

As humans, though, we all have a set of proverbial glasses through which we see the world. The lenses of those glasses are made up of the experiences and knowledge we have amassed throughout our lives. No matter how hard we try, we always have to look through those glasses.

We can be aware of what our particular biases are and compensate a bit for them when we are working on creative solutions. Our preconceived ideas can negatively affect our ability to be creative as they keep us locked into a particular way of thinking.  Truly great ideas come to us when we see much bigger pictures, pictures that are way beyond our own day to day scope of life.

When we question our preconceived notions or the platform we take for granted as fact and reality, we move our creativity upstream closer to the source of the problem we are attempting to solve. It may be that a problem we are looking to solve with a creative solution can be completely eliminated by removing the perceived source of the problem. You can filter polluted water in order to make it drinkable, or you can eliminate the source of the pollution. Both get you clean water. One of those directions may be perceived as harder to achieve than the other, and maybe that is why it rarely is tried, or maybe it is harder to solve because not enough effort has been exerted to uncover solutions. Both could be true.

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My point is that when enough creative effort is put into solving a problem, it always gets solved. Questioning the foundations of what is possible is how truly creative ideas start. There needs to be a vision of a possible solution first, and then the technology can be developed to realize that vision. This applies to both small and large scale problems.  Sometimes the technology to solve a solution doesn’t arrive until many years later.  The vision without the exact solution still has value.

Break your creativity into two parts; the vision of the solution, and then the detail of how you will go about achieving that vision. All problem solving has limitations based on the time and resources you have available to you to solve the problem. If the solution is valuable enough, you can almost certainly generate the resources to pursue it.

There is a tendency to want to approach solving new problems with the thinking of the past. It makes sense that we want to approach creativity using what we know. It can be a way to get started. But creative solutions usually require thinking that is new, or at least a combination of old thinking with new thinking.

The creativity process must be fluid. The process of creativity requires the ability to be nimble in your thinking. The creative process must be both fixed (no problem can be solved without guidelines and criteria guiding the process) and allowed to change in an instant.  It must be fixed long enough to get started, to choose a direction, and to address real problems, but the fixed criteria needs to be reevaluated often and changed if it no longer becomes relevant or if it creates more problems than it solves.  

Mastery of the basics is required. This is the foundation of all creativity. You cannot be truly creative in our world today without knowing what has come before and without first being proficient at the basics. The often boring and tedious practice and learning of the fundamental knowledge, in any area, needs to be in place before you can consistently generate creative ideas.

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If you want to be a creative writer, you need to understand grammar. If you want to be a creative chef, you need to know about how ingredients work together. If you want to be a great musician, you need to practice scales, and so on.  Mastery of the basics in any field keeps us from reinventing the obvious and also gives your creative mind fuel with which to soar.

There are a couple of reasons why this is true. One is that the knowledge and mastery of technique allows you to do and come up with ideas that would not have been available to you otherwise. The second is, all that practice and knowledge increases our confidence and helps our minds go into the creative space more easily.

Question the foundations of the problem. Just because it has always been done that way is not always a good enough reason to continue doing it that way. It can be easy to take as fact, certain criteria, and then begin the creative process building upon them. It certainly saves a lot of time to not have to go back and question all that has proceeded. If there was an assumption that was made in the past that is no longer valid, it can send your creative process in the wrong direction.  

The worst thing that can happen in any creative process is a dead end, where a series of assumptions leads to a conclusion that does not work. At that point there will be no option other than starting over. That costs valuable time, energy and resources; smaller, more frequent course corrections are always better than fewer, larger ones. Constant questioning of the foundations of your creative endeavor can really help with this.

The world desperately needs more creativity, and everyone can have a part in creating a better place for us to live. Exercise your creative muscle and be amazed at what you can create!

Contact us at www.driveninnovation.com and let us help you develop your next great creative idea!

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