Category Archives: Academic Focus

Purdue University Students Dominate Using SIT

Recently, I was delighted to receive a message from my friend, Frank Grunwald, Visiting Lecturer at Purdue University, telling me of his plans to incorporate Systematic Inventive Thinking into his spring Industrial Design course. An expert industrial designer himself, Frank has extensive experience in consumer product design and new product development. Over the last several decades, he has designed small appliances, audio products, televisions, and other consumer electronic products for major corporations including General Electric. I couldn’t think of a better person to instruct these students on utilizing the patterns of SIT.

Frank’s teaching approach was fairly straightforward: after providing his 16 students with a two-session introduction to SIT he divided the class into four teams and set them lose to apply the five innovative templates to various products. Each group chose three products to run through the SIT process and subsequently picked the most promising of the three to develop into a final proposal.

Not only does Frank’s approach demonstrate how feasible it is to integrate the SIT process into academia, his students’ final products show that SIT is accessible, applicable, and advantageous to users of any age and field of interest.

The following are the final products from Frank’s students. These rising stars clearly put their best innovation foot forward. Click on the images below to read more about their products.

 

Ceiling fan

Hava: Ceiling Fan Redesign

by Mallory Evans, Reed Fansler, Bridget Lisec, Walker Mardis 

 

Grillain: Grill SIT Design Modification

by Johnnie Coats, Justin Harner, Maris Park, Courtney Rolland

 

Grill
RELIEF resized

RELIEF Atmosphere Enhancer

by Becca Alderink, Aaron Frutchey, Carter Gerard, Jack McGann

                                                                                     

Tazman Blend: Stand Mixer

by Dom Atibil, Casey Keyler, Ben Stibal, Sophia White

Mixer

 

New: Innovate! App Brings Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) to Your Computer and Tablet


App-CoverWant innovation at your fingertips? Consider the Innovate! Inside the Box web application, which acts as a digital sherpa for Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT).

This web app (available for an annual subscription of $12) takes you inside the box and into the world of creativity. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can generate thoughtful, fresh ideas to solve a problem or improve a product.

For those who have yet to read “Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results,” the SIT method uses techniques that evolved through research that examined thousands of innovative products, demonstrating that innovation is teachable and accessible to anyone. SIT refutes the traditional view of creativity, which is typically considered as thinking “outside the box” to find big ideas. The app harnesses this method to help you generate ideas digitally.

How to use the web app:

  • First register and create log-in credentials.
  • Once logged in (and paid), review the five techniques to understand how each one works and how to apply them.
  • View the sample project, Refrigerator, under My Projects. Review the Ideas List for examples of ideas generated with each technique. You may recognize some of these already from reading the book.
  • Create your own new project and follow the instructions on how to apply the SIT method techniques.
  • After applying the method(s), see the idea(s) you’ve generated. If you’re happy with your idea, the tool will allow you to write a more detailed description, get a new virtual product and share your breakthrough innovation via email, Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #InnovateInsidetheBox.

Tips to help you navigate the tool:

  • If you’re not sure where to start, you can always reference previous blogs and categories to view real life examples of each technique. Typically, I recommend starting a new project with subtraction because it helps address fixedness.
  • Remember the difference between a component and an attribute because you will kick your project off by listing both.
  • Don’t go outside of the Closed World. The Closed World includes only the resources available in the immediate area.
  • You have the ability to create groups and add others to your projects.

Professors and instructors who are interested in teaching a course about innovation may want to consider using the Innovate! Inside the Box web app as a supplement. Download the faculty instruction manual, which includes a course guide and suggested materials.

Great Innovators Embrace Resistance, Not Fight It

ResistanceImagine your marketing team comes up with an idea for a great new product. You absolutely love it. But when you start shopping the idea around the building, you get some very strange looks from people. People are resisting the idea, and you and your team are getting frustrated. Resistance to innovation is a natural phenomena in companies, and it can become a huge challenge unless you manage it correctly.

Why do people resist new ideas? As you’ll see in a minute, there are lots of reasons. But before I dive into them, let’s first understand that resistance is necessary. That’s right. Necessary. Here’s why.

First, innovation and resistance cannot be separated. In a real sense, they help define each other. After all, something’s not really innovative unless it meets with at least some resistance. Think of resistance as a gatekeeper. All adoption of new ideas starts with resistance, and think of resistance as an important filter to get to the best ideas.

That said, it must be addressed if progress is to happen. You, as the leader, have two important roles to play. First, see yourself as a Resistance Maker. When new ideas are brought to you, it’s okay to question it, bring up challenges, and so on. But you also have to serve as a Resistance Breaker, someone who works within the company to knock down the barriers and cause adoption of the new idea. Let’s understand the sources of innovation.

Resistance comes from three domains: characteristics of the innovation itself, characteristics of the resistor/adopter, and characteristics of the innovator, meaning you or the person selling the idea.

By characteristics of the innovation, I mean the factors of the idea itself that make people resist it. For example, what value does it bring, how risky is the idea, how compatible it is with your current products and services? Can the idea be tested, preferably in stages, and can we back out it if needed? How complex is the idea, and can it be communicated clearly? Sometimes people resist ideas because they just don’t get it. Finally, is there flexibility to change the idea, how long will it take to realize the benefits, and will the idea have some unintended side effects on other projects? In the exercise files for this course, you’ll find a handy checklist and definitions for all of these factors.

Resistance can also arise because of certain personality traits of the resistor/adopter. I call them that because we all start as resistors to a new idea, even if just a tiny bit before adopting it.

These traits include how much they perceive the benefits and risks, how motivated they are to change, and their attitude and experience with previous innovations. If they had a bad experience with the last idea, they’re going to be more resistant to the next one. Another trait that can affect how reistive they are is their own ability to generate highly creative ideas. The poorer they are at innovating, the less likely they’ll be open to new ideas.

Resistance can also arise depending on who you are as the person selling the idea. If you’re seen as credible and as someone who explains ideas clearly and informatively, you’ll meet with less resistance.

Your job as the Resistance Breaker is to understand the strongest sources of resistance and to find ways to lower the effect. Don’t try to tackle every source, just the ones that matter and that can be changed. If you do, you’ll find that next great idea winning in the marketplace.

To learn more, read Resistance to Innovation: It's Sources and Manifestations (University of Chicago Press, 2015) by  Shaul Oreg and Jacob Goldenberg 

Great Innovators Embrace Resistance, Not Fight It

ResistanceImagine your marketing team comes up with an idea for a great new product. You absolutely love it. But when you start shopping the idea around the building, you get some very strange looks from people. People are resisting the idea, and you and your team are getting frustrated. Resistance to innovation is a natural phenomena in companies, and it can become a huge challenge unless you manage it correctly.

Why do people resist new ideas? As you’ll see in a minute, there are lots of reasons. But before I dive into them, let’s first understand that resistance is necessary. That’s right. Necessary. Here’s why.

First, innovation and resistance cannot be separated. In a real sense, they help define each other. After all, something’s not really innovative unless it meets with at least some resistance. Think of resistance as a gatekeeper. All adoption of new ideas starts with resistance, and think of resistance as an important filter to get to the best ideas.

That said, it must be addressed if progress is to happen. You, as the leader, have two important roles to play. First, see yourself as a Resistance Maker. When new ideas are brought to you, it’s okay to question it, bring up challenges, and so on. But you also have to serve as a Resistance Breaker, someone who works within the company to knock down the barriers and cause adoption of the new idea. Let’s understand the sources of innovation.

Resistance comes from three domains: characteristics of the innovation itself, characteristics of the resistor/adopter, and characteristics of the innovator, meaning you or the person selling the idea.

By characteristics of the innovation, I mean the factors of the idea itself that make people resist it. For example, what value does it bring, how risky is the idea, how compatible it is with your current products and services? Can the idea be tested, preferably in stages, and can we back out it if needed? How complex is the idea, and can it be communicated clearly? Sometimes people resist ideas because they just don’t get it. Finally, is there flexibility to change the idea, how long will it take to realize the benefits, and will the idea have some unintended side effects on other projects? In the exercise files for this course, you’ll find a handy checklist and definitions for all of these factors.

Resistance can also arise because of certain personality traits of the resistor/adopter. I call them that because we all start as resistors to a new idea, even if just a tiny bit before adopting it.

These traits include how much they perceive the benefits and risks, how motivated they are to change, and their attitude and experience with previous innovations. If they had a bad experience with the last idea, they’re going to be more resistant to the next one. Another trait that can affect how reistive they are is their own ability to generate highly creative ideas. The poorer they are at innovating, the less likely they’ll be open to new ideas.

Resistance can also arise depending on who you are as the person selling the idea. If you’re seen as credible and as someone who explains ideas clearly and informatively, you’ll meet with less resistance.

Your job as the Resistance Breaker is to understand the strongest sources of resistance and to find ways to lower the effect. Don’t try to tackle every source, just the ones that matter and that can be changed. If you do, you’ll find that next great idea winning in the marketplace.

To learn more, read Resistance to Innovation: It's Sources and Manifestations (University of Chicago Press, 2015) by  Shaul Oreg and Jacob Goldenberg 

Can you learn to be more creative?

by Todd Bookman (with permission)

 

ROMFirst, a definition.

"So my definition would be, in order for a certain idea to be creative, it must possess two major components. One, it has to be new, novel, something we haven't seen before," says Rom Schrift, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

"But it also has to be useful. So, if it is just something new, but doesn't offer any benefit, it is not necessarily a creative idea."

This semester, nearly 300 students are learning how to crank out more creative ideas in Schrift's class titled "Creativity: Idea Generation & the Systematic Approach for Creativity." It's part of a growing field that treats problem solving as an academic discipline, complete with competing theories for what approaches produce the best results.

A page from Dr. Seuss

During lectures, Schrift bounces around the classroom, white sleeves rolled, preaching the gospel of creative thought. But if you think his mantra is as simple as 'think outside the box,' it turns out it is the exact opposite.

"The problem with this phrase is that, in most situations, we don't know what the box is," says Schrift. "What is the box? If we cannot define the box, how can we think outside of the box?"

According to Schrift, the core of learning to be creative is recognizing what the box actually is. What are the components and structures that make up the problem you are trying to solve, and what tools or attributes are at your disposal? Knowing what these constraints are, he argues, makes it easier to produce creative solutions.

"Actually inside the box, there are a lot of opportunities, and most of the creative ideas, if anything, they come from inside the box."

Schrift uses an example from none other than Dr. Seuss to make his point.

"Dr. Seuss and a friend had a discussion about the shortcomings of using books to teach first graders how to read. And so his friend gave him a bet," he says.

The challenge was simple: there were 350 unique words that first graders were expected to understand, and Seuss was to write a book using just 225 of them, and nothing more. Those, says Schrift, are his constraints.

"He used these constraints, right? He could not use any words, but there was a specific bank of words, and he came up with The Cat in a Hat.

"His publishers saw this, they said, interesting...let's have another bet, another challenge, and he challenged Dr. Seuss to write another book using only 50 words, and he wrote Green Eggs and Ham."

"You could argue, sure, Dr. Seuss is an extremely creative individual, and I agree, but there is something about imposing these constraints that maybe helped him be more creative. And this is kind of the approach we are teaching."

Creativity on demand

Schrift's class isn't exactly Wharton's version of "Rocks for Jocks." During the semester, students learn different methods for approaching creativity with head scratching titles such as "The Attribute Dependency Template" and the "Task Unification and Closure Principle." There's a hefty reading list, as well as a major group project where students take on a real-world problem in partnership with a major company.

"I think I'm definitely more creative than I was before because I just can just think about it in a different way," says Nicole Granet, a senior majoring in management. "I don't feel like I need to just close my eyes, listen to some relaxing music, maybe something will come to me. I feel like I'm much more in control of being able to produce these ideas that can really make a big change...sort of be 'creative on demand.'"

Granet is starting a job in consulting after she graduates, where, ideally, she'll help companies be more productive, and creativity 'on demand' will definitely be an asset.

Gerard Puccio hears from employers all the time about how much they value that type of skillset. Puccio directs Buffalo State's International Center for Studies in Creativity, which, in the late 1960s, became the first school in the country to offer classes on the subject.

He says the discipline has evolved over the years as the challenges we face have become more complex.

"Life has become much more complicated, and as a result, we need to enhance the level of complexity of our own thinking, to be able to deal better with complex problems...problems that don't have easy answers," says Puccio.

He adds that many of these creative skills are actually innate, and perhaps just need a little coaxing.

"It is a human characteristic. It is the reason why we've survived through the millennia. It is because...our competitive advantage is creative thinking. We are not the fastest, we can't fly, we don't naturally camouflage ourselves, we can only exist in certain climates. So, the human species has evolved to be creative, and in fact, that's what has helped us to sustain ourselves over time," says Puccio.

Design it out

Some of us, of course, are still going to be more creative than others.

Example #1: David Ludwig.

He's a celebrated classical composer and a member of the composition faculty at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, one of the nation's top schools. He's the type of guy who gets inspiration for melodies walking around the grocery store. But even with all of his innate ability, Ludwig is completely on board with the idea that creativity can be thought of as a skill to hone, and that understanding constraints and attributes is crucial to creating something new and useful.

"We start out very often with a commission," he says, "and what I do is, I start making my own constraints. What is the piece about? What motivates it? Why is it meaningful? Then we go from there. We start with the biggest questions first, and go to the smallest."

Ludwig says he often gets his students thinking about how best to approach creation of a new work by using a simple exercise.

"If I gave you an assignment and said draw a house...on a piece of paper. The first thing you would do, the first thing anyone has ever done when I've asked them to do that, is they start with the box and the roof. The frame. Always the frame. No one starts with the window and the TV in the living room in the background. No one starts with the little chimney with the smoke coming out of it.

"That is [an] unhindered, creative act. An unconscious creative act and we naturally put limitations on ourselves."

Or, put another way, "We can't order everything on the menu when we really create something. We have to really design it out."

But what about just letting your mind wonder? Everyone can point to those random Eureka! moments, either in their work or personal life, when greatness strikes without any effort.

Professor Schrift says he does occasionally get pushback from people who argue the best ideas come when they aren't pressing for one.

"If for some people, jumping on the trampoline and listening to strange music works? Keep doing that," he says with a laugh. "But having said that, we offer another tool. We can't always take a passive approach and wait for us to get this 'aha moment' in the shower."

 

This interview first aired on WHYY'S The Pulse.

 

Can you learn to be more creative?

by Todd Bookman (with permission)

 

ROMFirst, a definition.

"So my definition would be, in order for a certain idea to be creative, it must possess two major components. One, it has to be new, novel, something we haven't seen before," says Rom Schrift, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

"But it also has to be useful. So, if it is just something new, but doesn't offer any benefit, it is not necessarily a creative idea."

This semester, nearly 300 students are learning how to crank out more creative ideas in Schrift's class titled "Creativity: Idea Generation & the Systematic Approach for Creativity." It's part of a growing field that treats problem solving as an academic discipline, complete with competing theories for what approaches produce the best results.

A page from Dr. Seuss

During lectures, Schrift bounces around the classroom, white sleeves rolled, preaching the gospel of creative thought. But if you think his mantra is as simple as 'think outside the box,' it turns out it is the exact opposite.

"The problem with this phrase is that, in most situations, we don't know what the box is," says Schrift. "What is the box? If we cannot define the box, how can we think outside of the box?"

According to Schrift, the core of learning to be creative is recognizing what the box actually is. What are the components and structures that make up the problem you are trying to solve, and what tools or attributes are at your disposal? Knowing what these constraints are, he argues, makes it easier to produce creative solutions.

"Actually inside the box, there are a lot of opportunities, and most of the creative ideas, if anything, they come from inside the box."

Schrift uses an example from none other than Dr. Seuss to make his point.

"Dr. Seuss and a friend had a discussion about the shortcomings of using books to teach first graders how to read. And so his friend gave him a bet," he says.

The challenge was simple: there were 350 unique words that first graders were expected to understand, and Seuss was to write a book using just 225 of them, and nothing more. Those, says Schrift, are his constraints.

"He used these constraints, right? He could not use any words, but there was a specific bank of words, and he came up with The Cat in a Hat.

"His publishers saw this, they said, interesting...let's have another bet, another challenge, and he challenged Dr. Seuss to write another book using only 50 words, and he wrote Green Eggs and Ham."

"You could argue, sure, Dr. Seuss is an extremely creative individual, and I agree, but there is something about imposing these constraints that maybe helped him be more creative. And this is kind of the approach we are teaching."

Creativity on demand

Schrift's class isn't exactly Wharton's version of "Rocks for Jocks." During the semester, students learn different methods for approaching creativity with head scratching titles such as "The Attribute Dependency Template" and the "Task Unification and Closure Principle." There's a hefty reading list, as well as a major group project where students take on a real-world problem in partnership with a major company.

"I think I'm definitely more creative than I was before because I just can just think about it in a different way," says Nicole Granet, a senior majoring in management. "I don't feel like I need to just close my eyes, listen to some relaxing music, maybe something will come to me. I feel like I'm much more in control of being able to produce these ideas that can really make a big change...sort of be 'creative on demand.'"

Granet is starting a job in consulting after she graduates, where, ideally, she'll help companies be more productive, and creativity 'on demand' will definitely be an asset.

Gerard Puccio hears from employers all the time about how much they value that type of skillset. Puccio directs Buffalo State's International Center for Studies in Creativity, which, in the late 1960s, became the first school in the country to offer classes on the subject.

He says the discipline has evolved over the years as the challenges we face have become more complex.

"Life has become much more complicated, and as a result, we need to enhance the level of complexity of our own thinking, to be able to deal better with complex problems...problems that don't have easy answers," says Puccio.

He adds that many of these creative skills are actually innate, and perhaps just need a little coaxing.

"It is a human characteristic. It is the reason why we've survived through the millennia. It is because...our competitive advantage is creative thinking. We are not the fastest, we can't fly, we don't naturally camouflage ourselves, we can only exist in certain climates. So, the human species has evolved to be creative, and in fact, that's what has helped us to sustain ourselves over time," says Puccio.

Design it out

Some of us, of course, are still going to be more creative than others.

Example #1: David Ludwig.

He's a celebrated classical composer and a member of the composition faculty at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, one of the nation's top schools. He's the type of guy who gets inspiration for melodies walking around the grocery store. But even with all of his innate ability, Ludwig is completely on board with the idea that creativity can be thought of as a skill to hone, and that understanding constraints and attributes is crucial to creating something new and useful.

"We start out very often with a commission," he says, "and what I do is, I start making my own constraints. What is the piece about? What motivates it? Why is it meaningful? Then we go from there. We start with the biggest questions first, and go to the smallest."

Ludwig says he often gets his students thinking about how best to approach creation of a new work by using a simple exercise.

"If I gave you an assignment and said draw a house...on a piece of paper. The first thing you would do, the first thing anyone has ever done when I've asked them to do that, is they start with the box and the roof. The frame. Always the frame. No one starts with the window and the TV in the living room in the background. No one starts with the little chimney with the smoke coming out of it.

"That is [an] unhindered, creative act. An unconscious creative act and we naturally put limitations on ourselves."

Or, put another way, "We can't order everything on the menu when we really create something. We have to really design it out."

But what about just letting your mind wonder? Everyone can point to those random Eureka! moments, either in their work or personal life, when greatness strikes without any effort.

Professor Schrift says he does occasionally get pushback from people who argue the best ideas come when they aren't pressing for one.

"If for some people, jumping on the trampoline and listening to strange music works? Keep doing that," he says with a laugh. "But having said that, we offer another tool. We can't always take a passive approach and wait for us to get this 'aha moment' in the shower."

 

This interview first aired on WHYY'S The Pulse.