Social Innovator

Social Innovator aims to “bring together the people, experience and issues involved in designing, developing and growing new ideas that meet pressing unmet needs.”

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blockquote>”This material is intended to guide and support the practice of all those who can contribute to this social economy: policy‐makers who can help to create the right conditions

Sparks – Playful Innovation

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Philips Design has created a boardgame called Spark to help generate insights. It looks like it is a pretty simple premise – there are a set of characters (basic personas) and a set of situations. As you roll the dice and the characters land on the situations, you have to brainstorm the implications.

According to Slava Kozlov, Senior Consultant in Strategic Futures Design at Philips Design:

“You can experiment without taking risks. Suspend your values and beliefs and adopt different roles which allow you to consider issues from a different angle. Learn how to deal with new situations effectively. Think more unconventionally while remaining relevant. And, in the process, enjoy yourself more!”

In many respects it’s not all that innovative. Personas and scenarios are often used in brainstorming sessions. But one of the aims of this approach seems to be to take the activity away from the slightly forced nature of some brainstorming sessions. In theory (as much research shows) the more participants’ minds relax into a playful state, the more laterally creative they should start to think.

There is a quite a bit of talk in the PDF article about “serious games” and a mention of The Serious Games Institute. I’m not a fan of this kind of terminology, the same as the idea of serious play. I understand why people use this, but it is an immediately apologetic framing of play. Play is play and it is important – it doesn’t need the prefix of being serious to make it so. It doesn’t do much to advance the value of play.

As for the game, I can imagine in a corporate culture that this could be a useful tool allowing people to enter into a suspended-judgement, creative idea generation space because is “only a game”. Of course the flipside could also be the case – that it or its outcomes are not taken seriously because it’s a game. It is good to see these ideas becoming more accepted and mainstream though.

There’s a video of Birgitta ten Napel talking about the game on the Philips site too.

Confusing Information with the Form

Information from MAYAnMAYA on Vimeo.

Lovely video from design and research consultancy MAYA on the difference between information and the form we give it.

I came across this on David Sherwin’s ChangeOrder blog in a post about moving beyond words for better brainstorming, which is also and interesting article. He asks why it is so hard to break people out of their regular ideation habits. Words are one problem, but it is also an issue of corporate and company culture, even within design agencies.

The rules of brainstorming are pretty much the opposite of what a usual business culture is. Working in a company that has a traditional hierarchy encourages sniping, competitive, uncooperative, pressured and role-based behaviour. It’s the way people “fight to the top”, create “creative competition” and so on.

It’s very hard to convince people to take suspending those habits seriously if they’re not taken seriously at a company culture level and we have come to consider that the normal way of working. Companies like IDEO or Pixar spend a lot of time and effort on not working this way. It’s no surprise that they are successful in this area and why so many other companies fail to bring ‘innovation’ into their culture, despite bringing in consultants who specialise in ‘innovation training’ or whatever the latest business buzzword is. The consultants, of course, are temporary blips, outside the main culture of the company, so easily dismissed after they have gone.

Much like MAYA’s video, you have to re-think what it is and means to work together, what the purpose and idea of a company is to really change its culture. A company is the form given to a group of people working together, but it is by no means the only, nor the best, form.