Paper Airplane Video

June 18, 2012

A new video based on Paper Airplane: A Lesson for Flying Outside the Box. Whether it’s education, business or an entire nation, significant accomplishments require us to look beyond our initial perceptions. They take vision, clear goals and unwavering commitment… diverse people open to different perspectives, willing to ask questions, to challenge the status quo and take a stand. Looking ahead, preparing for future success, sharing knowledge, learning from experience, and measuring our progress. We put a man on the moon… and that was a half century ago. By embracing creativity and having the courage to take action, imagine what we could do today. Enjoy!

Feel free to “share” and your comments are always appreciated. Thank you.

“Pink Bat” Stairs

January 25, 2011

This short video is an excellent (and fun) example of “Pink Bat” thinking… turning “problems” into solutions. The perceived problem was the stairs… most people preferred using the escalator instead.

When we look past accepted labels, suspend our judgment, and tap into our creativity… a real world of possibilities emerges. Consider the “Pink Bat” elevator example… and to think it was also considered a problem! Are you surrounded by “problems”… or are they unseen solutions, just waiting for you to see them? The world we focus on is the world we create. Have fun turning problems into solutions.

Cut, Baby, Cut

May 19, 2010

I first became interested in Easter Island (Rapa Nui) years ago after reading “Chariots of the Gods” by Erich von Däniken. His basic hypothesis is that space travelers visited earth and were welcomed as gods by our ancient ancestors. To Däniken’s way of thinking, this explains many of the unexplainable ancient technologies, past marvels and religious stories. Easter Island was one example sighted in his book, specifically the large monolithic statues called “moai”. According to Däniken, creating and transporting such massive statues would have been outside the intellectual or physical scope of primitive islanders. While most scientists and historians reject Däniken’s ideas, his book captured my imagination and made me aware of Easter Island.

Easter Island is the most isolated habitable piece of land in the world. It lies in the Pacific Ocean more than 2,000 miles west of South America. According to scientists, when its inhabitants first arrived around 400 AD, they must have thought they landed in paradise. The mild climate, fertile soil, rich vegetation and forests would have provided all the resources needed to build homes, canoes (for fishing), fuel for fire, making rope, weapons, thatching, and so on. Over time these islanders developed a complex social structure, centralized government and religious practices… and at some point, they began creating statues.

But by the time Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen discovered the island in 1722 on Easter day (hence its name), it was far from a paradise. There wasn’t a tree or bush standing higher than ten feet tall. The native animals had vanished and the islanders were raising chickens to survive. According to Roggeveen and others who followed him, these famished natives certainly weren’t capable of producing and moving such massive statues. So what happened on Easter Island? There are many theories. Not only about why and how these statues were made… but what happened to the islanders who made them… and what happened to their paradise? Read more

Beach Balls, Truth and Innovation

April 16, 2010

Have you ever tried holding a small beach ball under water? It’s not too difficult at first… but the longer you try to hold it down, the harder it becomes. At some point, the upward force (buoyant force) wins and the beach ball surfaces. Back in 200 BC, Archimedes, the brilliant Greek scientist, discovered the deeper you hold a buoyant object underwater, the higher it shoots above the surface once it’s released. Buoyancy = weight of displaced fluid. Archimedes’ principle seems to apply to truth as well. Try as you may to keep it hidden, eventually it surfaces.

One technique I’ve used to hide a ball in the pool is to sit on it. This seems clever at first, but it’s a bit risky… one wrong move and the ball shoots right out from underneath you and flies out of the water for all to see. This is what happened to Bernie Madoff… he made some bad moves, lost his balance, and the truth surfaced in a flash. Sometimes, if you’re careful and have enough power, you can let the ball up slowly. This is what the tobacco industry did regarding the dangers of smoking. They realized the truth was going to surface sooner than later… so they let it up slowly. Whether it’s a beach ball or the truth, it’s not a matter of if or how it will surface, but when. At some point, even master beach ball hiders need to leave the pool and take a break. Read more

Sacred Cows and Innovation

April 6, 2010

Without all the pieces, it’s hard to solve a puzzle… and developing innovative solutions is no different. I’ve always considered the creative process a search for truth. That’s what I love about creativity… it has no “sacred cows*”… everything is fair game and anything is possible. When you consider that creativity fuels innovation, the notion of truth (the whole truth and nothing but) can’t be taken lightly—especially if you’re really serious about innovation.

The number of “sacred cows” that dwell within organizations always intrigues me. You can see them in government, education, business and religious institutions. They can even be found in your own home! Contrary to popular belief, everyone has “sacred cows,” existing at every level and in many forms. Once you start looking for them, they’re relatively easy to spot. How? Start by asking some basic questions or suggesting some alternative ideas and watch how people respond. The more honest and logical your questions are, the better. You’ll soon realize that sacred cows are immune from questions or criticism, so doing either makes people defend them. Expect to hear these kinds of responses:
“That won’t work.”
“That violates the rules.”
“We shouldn’t be discussing this.”
“You don’t understand…”
“I can’t believe you asked such a question.”
“You’re missing the point.”
“That could get you fired.”
“It’s too complicated.”
“That’s outside our process.”
“You’re being irreverent.”
“That’s too radical.”
“That’s not the way we do things here.”
“You don’t have the authority.”

In addition, these kinds of responses are often cloaked in argot to make them appear more complicated, important or official-sounding than what they really are. Read more

John Deere’s Pink Bat

February 2, 2010

Deere & Company was founded in 1837. Since its humble beginnings, it has grown into an international corporation that today employs approximately 56,000 people throughout the world.

A few years back, Deere hired me to design a coffee table book that would capture its rich history and more importantly, convey its core values. The title of the book was Genuine Values. I, along with the CEO and a few senior executives, built this idea around the following values: integrity, quality, commitment and innovation. We felt these words best reflected the core values exhibited by its founder and that have successfully guided Deere up to today.

In my new book, Pink Bat: Turning Problems Into Solutions, I share the John Deere story from a different perspective… from its very inception. It’s easy to talk about the after effects… the success story that followed. But when you realize this international corporation started when one young man saw a “problem” as a solution… the story is even more amazing. Read more

Stay Focused on Solutions

October 23, 2009

How many times has a great solution stared you right in the face, yet somehow you missed it? It always seems amazing after the fact, doesn’t it? So how do we start seeing the endless solutions that surround us each and every day? Before answering that question, let’s understand how we miss them in the first place. In part, it’s due to a phenomenon psychologists call “perceptual blindness” or “inattentional blindness.”

Consider the following example: Professor Daniel Simons and his psychology students asked volunteers to watch a short video. In the video, team members (one team dressed in black shirts, the other in white shirts) passed a basketball back and forth. The volunteers were told to count the number of passes made by the team wearing white. At some point, a person in a gorilla suit appears during the video. When the video ended, researchers asked if anybody saw anything unusual. Only half of the volunteers reported seeing the gorilla. The other half reported to have seen nothing unusual.

Here’s a video based on the original study:

gorilla1How could people not notice the gorilla in the room? Mostly because they weren’t looking for it. They were focused on something else. Magicians have known about this phenomenon for years… so have politicians.

Here’s another example called the “Door Study

This helps explain how experts can be more susceptible to perceptual blindness than beginners, and why “outsiders” often find solutions that experienced “insiders” miss. Beginners and outsiders are usually more open to possibilities because they don’t make common assumptions. By extension, they’re often better at finding solutions the experts have stopped seeing.

Perceptual blindness sheds much light on why we miss obvious solutions… especially those we mislabel as problems. By focusing on one thing (a problem), we miss something else (a solution). So why not refocus on solutions? This is one of the topics in my upcoming book: “Pink Bat: Turning Problems Into Solutions.” It should be available for the holiday season… I’ll keep you posted.