-- INNOVATION/CREATIVITY WORKSHOP --
RESOLVE ISSUES, SOLVE PROBLEMS, PURSUE OPPORTUNITIES,
CREATE YOUR ORGANIZATION'S FUTURE:
USE BOTH SIDES OF THE BRAIN
There are only two futures for an organization,
the one it creates for itself or,
in the vacuum of inaction,
the one others create for it.
Engineers and other technical professionals typically rely on left-brain thinking
which is verbal, analytic, symbolic, abstract, temporal, and linear.
The workshop gives participants tools to engage in more right-brain thinking
which is nonverbal, synthetic, actual, analogic, non-temporal, and holistic.
Participants will supplement valuable left-brain abilities
with equally valuable right-brain abilities.
As a result, the individuals and their organizations
will be better equipped to take more creative-innovative approaches
to resolving issues, identifying and solving problems,
seeing and pursuing opportunities,
and forming their futures.
A half brain is good, a whole brain is much better.
So Much To Do, So Little Time To Do It Together: Are you and your colleagues, whether in the private practice, government, manufacturing, or academic sectors, very busy? Perhaps you rarely take the time to systematically and collaboratively, in a creative and innovative manner, address issues, solve major problems, or pursue promising opportunities. As a result, is the future happening to you rather than being created by you?
Daniel Pink, in his book, A Whole New Mind, asserts that we are moving from the current knowledge age to the conceptual age (and many of us are still struggling with keeping up with ever-expanding knowledge!). In his book, Mind Set! Reset Your Thinking and See the Future, John Naisbitt claims that future leaders will be exploiters of opportunities, not problem solvers (and we engineers and other technical professionals pride ourselves in problem solving). John Kao, author of Innovation Nation, states that innovation has become the new currency of global competition” (and maybe national, regional, and local competition?). Also stressing the growing importance of creativity and innovation, columnist Thomas Friedman says “Today, just about everything is a commodity, except imagination, except the ability to spark new ideas.”
Want to take a fresh look at where you and your organization are going, or could be going, in a rapidly changing world? Worried about difficult economic times and market challenges? Want to more effectively use the knowledge and skills of your personnel? If so, please consider how this proposed two-day workshop could benefit you and your organization.
Workshop’s Premise: Given a basic understanding of the mind – more specifically, the very different functions of the left and right hemispheres -- and the mind’s role in creativity and innovation and given the proper practical tools, a group can more successfully resolve an issue, solve a problem, or pursue an opportunity. The results will almost always be better than that produced by the common hectic, hit or miss, reactive, suboptimal, left-brain dominated approach. Furthermore, solving some problems may create more opportunities for the problem solvers.
Groups Only: The proposed workshop is hands-on and interactive. Therefore, consider inviting groups, not individuals. While there is no limit to the number of groups, the nature and composition of each group is critical. More specifically, any group that participates in the workshop should:
- Include three to nine members.
- Be diverse with respect to function, expertise, and experience.
- Share a strong interest in addressing an issue, solving a major problem, or pursuing a promising opportunity. While members of each group should share a problem or opportunity, the problems or opportunities are likely to vary widely from group to group. Descriptions of hypothetical groups drawn from the business, academic, manufacturing, and government sectors follow.
- Hypothetical Group 1: Seven individuals within an E/A firm are committed to finding a way or ways to take a fresh look at some existing services and modify and/or package them to meet the changing needs of clients. This group consists of a principal, an engineer, an architect, an accountant, an administrative assistant, a technician, and an engineering intern/coop. (They may be part of the same department/office/other entity and have often worked together or, at the other end of the spectrum, most could be strangers. The key is a strong shared interest in the service packaging challenge.)
- Hypothetical Group 2: Five personnel within a manufacturing company are trying to reduce the elapsed time from concept to production. The group consists of a senior design engineer, the manufacturing director, the marketing head, the IT manager, and an engineering intern.
- Hypothetical Group 3: Seven members of a municipal water-wastewater utility are faced with privatization, that is, take over by a large organization. The utility group is exploring ways to dramatically improve their operations to counter the claims of the outside organization. Group members are the utility director, three department heads, the municipality’s financial director, a member of the municipality’s city council, and the utility’s consultant.
- Hypothetical Group 4: Nine members of a university engineering department are seeing their traditional research funding diminishing while being asked to bring in more funds. This group, some of whom have worked together for several years, is encouraged by the basic and applied research opportunities that are appearing in using remote sensing techniques to assess the condition of existing structures and facilities. Group members are two professors, an assistant professor, a department head, a laboratory technician, a graduate student, a post-doctoral student, an administrative assistant, and a member of the university’s development office.
Many and varied problems, opportunities, and other future-oriented issues could be brought to the workshop by participating groups, or individuals if you choose that format. For example, and in addition to the above, finding a way to: imagine future technology changes as part of a strategic planning process, work more effectively with a difficult client/owner, decide what services/activities/products should be discontinued, connect with a potential new client or customer, prepare a convincing proposal, reorganize your organization, reform a curriculum, create a new service or product line, reduce the cost of city services, determine how to present a technically-complex topic to a non-technical audience, resolve inter-office conflicts, solve a complex design problem, and convince investors to participate in a new venture.
Back to the workshop’s premise and purpose in the context of participation by groups. During the course of the workshop each group will solve, or move much closer to solving, their major problems or each group will determine a way, or get much closer to a way, to pursue their promising opportunity. How do I know that?
Simple, I have great confidence in the intelligence, knowledge, imagination, and good will of the kind of people – mostly technical and scientific professionals -- who typically work within E/A/C firms, government entities, manufacturing firms, and universities. When brought together, given a challenge, and provided with “whole brain” collaboration tools, good things will happen. “We know most of the creativity, the innovation, the stuff that drives productivity lies,” says Jack Welch, the former Chairman of GE, “in the minds of those closest to the work.”
How would we do this? Answer -- Follow this agenda for a two-day workshop:
- Introductions—participants, facilitator.
- Purpose and premise.
- Synopsis, by each group, of their problems/opportunities—just enough information to demonstrate that real issues are at stake.
- A brain primer—describes elements of the human brain and its role in creativity. More specifically, what do we know about how we think and how can typically left-brained engineers and other technical professionals be encouraged to make additional use of right brain capabilities? Explore ways to supplement traditionally strong problem-solving abilities with equally strong creative and innovative opportunity finding and pursuing abilities. This is the science part of creative collaboration and draws on research I am doing.
- Examples of creative breakthroughs—draw on historic and recent science, technology, and business examples—begin to see some common elements.
- Introduce and explain some creativity-innovation tools such as borrowing brilliance, brainstorming, mind mapping, SWOT, multi-voting, freehand drawing, the six caps, biomimicry, take a break, Medici effect, process diagramming, fishbone analysis, Ohno circles, problem first meetings, and the Swiss army knife method. These tools could be presented and selected ones applied in breakouts depending on the specific problems/opportunities that are brought to the workshop by the various groups.
- Breakouts—Each group, whose members will be sitting together throughout the workshop, will now work together by using the tools to address their issue, solve their problem, or pursue their opportunity. Note: Items 6 and 7 will interact and be repeated. That is, introduce one or a few tools, use the tool or tools, introduce a new tool, use the tool, etc. Agenda items 6 and 7 are the pragmatic part of the collaborative, creative-innovative effort and will comprise at least half of the workshop.
- Present results—After repeated Step 6 and Step 7 efforts, each group will have made progress with the issue, problem, or opportunity that they brought to the workshop. Accordingly, as the end of the workshop approaches, each group will be asked to summarize the results of their efforts for the benefit of all workshop participants. This will provide another level of creative-innovative input because each presenting group will benefit from the ideas offered by the other groups and vice-versa. The shared results may prompt identification of new issues, problems, and opportunities that warrant attention after the workshop.
- Wrap up
- More creativity-related knowledge and skill that will be immediately applicable to other problems/opportunities/issues.
- Resolution of an issue or significant movement toward the solution of a major problem. Or determination of a way, or getting much closer to a way, to exploit a promising opportunity. Maybe a new direction for your organization.
- Handout: Summary of principal points and a list of resources (articles, books, websites, e-newsletters, blogs) for possible self or group study. A partial bibliography, which is an example of the resources to be provided, appears at the end of this workshop description.
On-site Support: Besides providing groups with shared, strong interests, I ask that the sponsoring organization provide a room with tables arranged so that each group can sit together comfortably on three sides of the same table with the side facing the front being open. Each table should be provided with a newsprint pad, colored markers, masking tape (not needed if the newsprint includes an adhesive strip), and several pads of writing paper. Also provide a projector, that I can use with my computer, and a large screen.
I will provide focused background material to be read by participants prior to the workshop so that they are prepared to participate. I will also provide handouts to be distributed at the workshop. You or I will need to provide an evaluation form for use at the end of the workshop.
Cost: I suggest that we agree on a lump sum for preparation, conducting the workshop, follow-up, and reimbursement for direct expenses such as travel, lodging, meals, and graphics/handouts. The lump sum fee would be determined based on your needs such as the length of the workshop, the extent of pre-workshop coordination, and the possible need for post-workshop support.
Closing Thoughts: Please contact me if you have questions/suggestions/concerns or want to schedule this workshop or if you know of someone who may be interested in exploring application of this workshop in their business, government, academic, or volunteer organization. Feel free to share this proposal with anyone. Referrals to potentially interested organizations will be appreciated.
Stuart G. Walesh, Ph.D., P.E., Dist.M.ASCE
My brief bio may be viewed at here.
Information about clients and ways I have helped them can be found here.
Bibliography-Creativity and Innovation (Partial):
Arciszewski, T. 2009. Successful Education: How to Educate Creative Engineers, Successful Education LLC, Fairfax, VA.
Arciszewski, T. 2010. “Successful Civil Engineering Education,” Forum, Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice-ASCE, January 2010, pp. 1-7.
ASCE Body of Knowledge Committee. 2008. Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century: Preparing the Civil Engineer for the Future-Second Edition, ASCE, Reston, VA.
Benyus, J. M. 1997. Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Harper Perennial, New York, NY.
Costa, R. D. 2010. The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction, Vanguard Press, Philadelphia, PA.
Davenport, T.H. 2005. Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Results from Knowledge Workers, Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, MA.
De Blij, H. 2009. The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization’s Rough Landscape, Oxford University Press, New York, NY.
De Bono, E. 1999. The Six Thinking Hats, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, MA.
Doidge, N. 2007. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, Penguin Books, New York, NY.
Edwards, B. 1999. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York, NY.
Florman, S.C. 1976. The Existential Pleasures of Engineering, St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY.
Friedman, T. L. 2005. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, New York, NY.
Gelb, M. J. 2004. How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, Delta, New York, NY.
Gross, R. 1991. Peak Learning, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Los Angeles, CA.
Herrmann, N. 1996. The Whole Brain Business Book: Unlocking the Power of Whole Brain Thinking in Individuals and Organizations, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.
Kao, J. 2007. Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why it Matters, and What We Can Do To Get it back, The Free Press, New York, NY.
May, R. 1976. Courage to Create, Bantam Books, New York, NY.
Murray, D. K. 2009. Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others, Gotham Books, New York, NY.
Naisbitt, J. 2006. Mind Set! Reset Your Thinking and See the Future, HarperCollins, New York, NY.
Nierenberg, G.I. 1996. The Art of Creative Thinking, Barnes & Noble Books, New York, NY.
Pink, D. H. 2005. A Whole New Mind: Moving From the Knowledge Age to the Conceptual Age, Riverhead Books.
Pink, D.H. 2007. “Revenge of the Right Brain,” Public Management, July, pp. 10-13.
Pinker, S. 2009. How the Mind Works, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, NY.
Restak, R. and S. Kim. 2010. The Playful Brain: The Surprising Science of How Puzzles Improve Your Mind, Riverhead Books, New York, NY.
Rico, G. 2000. Writing the Natural Way: Using Right-Brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York, NY.
Roam, D. 2008. The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas With Pictures, Penguin Group, New York, NY.
Walesh, S.G. 2000. Engineering Your Future: The Non-Technical Side of Professional Practice in Engineering and Other Technical Fields—Second Edition, ASCE Press, Reston, VA.
Walesh, S. G. 2011. “Enhancing Engineers’ Creativity and Innovation: Why and How,” 2nd Reunion Conference on Environmental Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, August 3-5.
Walesh, S. G. 2011. “Enhancing the Creativity and Innovation of Project Managers: Why and How,” presented to the Project Management Institute - Calumet Chapter, Merriville, IN, May 25
Walesh, S. G. 2011. To Engineer is to Create (a book in progress).
Walesh, S. G. 2011. "Enhancing Engineers' Creativity and Innovation: A Whole-Brain Approach," Invited Kirlin Lecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of Maryland, October 12, 2011.
Walesh, S. G. 2011, "Project Management and Creativity/Innovation," Portion of the graduate course Master of Leadership in Engineering, Civil Engineering School, Castilla LaMancha University, Ciudad Real, Spain, September 19-22, 2011.
Walesh, S.G. 2012. “Art for Engineers: Encouraging More Right-Mode Thinking,“ Leadership and Management in Engineering-ASCE, January 2012.
Destiny is not a matter of chance,
it is a matter of choice.
William Jennings Bryan, statesman
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