Creativity in Business — Dell

“Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.” – Robert E. Franken, Human Motivation

And Dell has indeed come up with alternatives and ideas that are useful in solving problems for users and the company itself.

Biggest creative alternative: Broke up with Wall Street (went private)

Creative ideas: Dell XPS 13 (notebook), Dell Venue 8 7000 Tablet. Received seven Consumer Electronic Show (CES) awards for PC and tablet products.

And all of this from a company that was losing market share in the PC world in 2013.

The XPS 13 is without a doubt one of the most innovative products to come out of Dell in recent memory and it offers a glimpse into what the “New Dell” has been up to over the past year since they’ve gone private and their 2013 strategy change. The company is really pushing the envelope of what is possible with current technologies and is managing to do so with very high quality materials and build quality, enabling them to compete with the likes of Apple for premium consumer products.

Dell Hits Home Runs at CES 2015, Patrick Moorhead,





Thinking in Boxes is not the Problem

A few weeks ago, I went to a presentation in which the speaker made a good case for using a term other than “elevator pitch.”

Now, I’m reading a book that tells us why we should be “thinking in new boxes” instead of “outside the box.” Why doesn’t the term “thinking outside the box” work? Well, because…

You can’t think or make decisions, let alone create new ideas (or recognize a good idea when you see one), without using a range of mental models to simplify things.

Thinking in New Boxes, Luc De Brabandere and Alan Iny

The thing is, we need boxes or mental models. So it’s not thinking inside boxes that corrodes creative thinking abilities, it’s the boxes that we use. To generate new ideas, you need to create a new mindset. Start by recognizing your current boxes and then begin doubting and investigating them.

Here’s an example. Recently, I have seen people using old mental models in order to have financial stability in their lives. The people in question are freelancers who are not happy with the monetary ups and downs of the freelance life. Their solution is to give up freelancing for a “real job” because the “real job” will give them the stability they seek.

When I hear this, I tell them about people I know who had “stable” jobs one day and were unemployed the next. Some get my point, others don’t.

The ones who don’t are tied to their old mental model that says that working for a company equals stability. But these days, forces that don’t even seem to have a direct impact on your company can lead to layoffs. And the result can be much more devastating than doing the financial planning that freelancers need to do. That’s because freelancers know they have to stay on their toes, but employees sitting in a nice, cushy place with a job that they think is safe tend not to make provisions for when that job is gone. How secure is that?

These freelancers need to create a new mindset or box. Maybe one that recognizes that one has to create their own financial stability instead of depending on companies to do it for them. Maybe one that recognizes that:

…the world is demonstrably more volatile, with more uncertainty and more possibilities.

Thinking in New Boxes, Luc De Brabandere and Alan Iny

And maybe if these freelancers are relying on companies to get the business that creates work for them, maybe their new box  should embrace taking total control and generating their own customer base. And when one starts thinking this way, the possibilities are endless.











Could Walking Improve Your Next Brainstorming Session?

photo-4I’ve always known that when I’m working, and stuck, and then get up and start walking, I end up coming back to my desk full of ideas. In fact, because I’ve noticed this to be true, I walk with a notebook and pen, so that I can capture my thoughts.

But in the past, I’ve had a hard time convincing some managers people that I’m not goofing off when I take my walks. These managers people seem to place more value on those who sit at there desk all day looking at a certain social media site or playing solitude.

Hopefully, as of a few days ago, this perception of my walks, and those of people like me, has changed because a scientific study has shown that walking does indeed increase creativity.

The Scientific Proof

For almost every student, creativity increased substantially when they walked. Most were able to generate about 60 percent more uses for an object, and the ideas were both “novel and appropriate,” Dr. Oppezzo writes in her study, which was published this month (April, 2014) in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. (Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking)

Want to Be More Creative? Take a Walk by Gretchen Reynolds,

But what’s even better about this study is that is shows that I might not have to capture my thoughts right then and there on paper. You see I’ve always thought that when my ideas came up, they were somewhat like a dream. You have to capture there and then or else when you wake up, or return to your desk, things might become fuzzy and you may totally forget the ideas you generated. But the study has shown that the effects of walking linger even when you return to you desk.

But the practical import of that finding would seem to be negligible, if creativity were to increase only while someone was walking. Most of us cannot conduct brainstorming sessions on treadmills. So Dr. Oppezzo next tested whether the effects lingered after a walk had ended. She had another group of students sit for two consecutive sessions of test-taking and subsequently walk for about eight minutes while tossing out ideas for object re-use, then sit and repeat the test.

Again, walking markedly improved people’s ability to generate creative ideas, even when they sat down after the walk. In that case, the volunteers who had walked produced significantly more and subjectively better ideas than in their pre-exercise testing period.

Want to Be More Creative? Take a Walk by Gretchen Reynolds,

So walking not only helps you generate ideas while you’re walking, it also helps you generate creative ideas when you return to your desk.

Implications for Business

Managers, let your people walk. Create a supportive atmosphere for those who get up from their desk and walk throughout the day when they are trying to generate ideas. These people are not goofing off. Walking allows them to be much more productive then they would be sitting at their desk.

Brainstorming facilitators, let your participants walk. What do people usually do during brainstorming sessions? They sit. Maybe, just maybe, they should walk. Okay, it may be hard to hold a brainstorming session while people are walking in a park, but what about having them take a walk before the session. Or even walk around the room while they are shouting out their ideas. Would walking around the room work? According to the study, it would.

Finally, to examine another real-world implication of walking and creativity, Dr. Oppezzo moved portions of the experiment outdoors. “Most people would probably guess that walking outside should be much better for creativity” than pacing inside a drab office. But surprisingly, her study undermined that assumption. When volunteers strolled Stanford’s pleasant, leafy campus for about eight minutes, they generated more creative ideas than when they sat either inside or outside for the same length of time. But they were not noticeably more creative as a result of their plein-air walk than when they subsequently walked on an indoor treadmill, facing a blank wall.

“It really seems that it’s the walking that matters,” in terms of spurring creativity, Dr. Oppezzo said, and not the setting.

Want to Be More Creative? Take a Walk by Gretchen Reynolds,

This is something that I’ve never thought of doing before, but I’m definitely going to try. Why don’t you give it a try, too. Let me know how it goes.





How Those Who Find It Hard to Sit and Do Nothing Can Move Towards Mindful Meditation

I started doing yoga years ago, and even though I enjoyed it, I almost gave up. Why? Because everyone kept on telling me that the more I did the more flexible I would become. Still, I did yoga class after yoga class and I still didn’t feel myself getting that much more flexible. And then, one day, I had a teacher who said that some people, like runners (me), just weren’t that flexible and we just had to do the best we could do. Ok, that wasn’t exactly what she said, but whatever it was made be feel that I wasn’t doing something “wrong” that was keep me from being a human pretzel. It was just how my body was made.

Mindful meditation is a bit like that for me, as well. I figured that it was just something I would never be able to do because thoughts were always popping into my head. But the thing is — that’s okay. Noticing that they are there is part of being mindful. So instead if giving  up and saying, this isn’t for me, you need to acknowledge these thoughts and  return to focusing on your breathing.

In practicing mindful meditation, I’ve found that it’s best to start small. A recent article in Time (That Art of Being Mindful) suggested sitting cross-legged and focusing on your breathing for 10 minutes a day and building from there. To tell you the truth, 10 minutes is still a bit long for me at this point.

If you’re like me, and find it hard to sit still for 10 minutes, I think the key is to just start. Even if it is 3 minutes a day, that is more than you were doing before. Then build from there. I haven’t made it to 10 uninterrupted minutes a day, but I do find myself taking time to focus on my breathing,

The article also gave 3 mindful tips. The first is to wear a watch, the idea being you won’t look at your phone so much and be distracted by what you see, or can do, there. I always wear a watch and that is one of the reasons I do.

The second one is no phones in bed. I would take that further and say in the bedroom — unless you’re on call or something like that and have to always have your phone nearby. The idea behind this is that you should be fully awake before you look at any devices.

The third, which I know works, is to get into nature. It’s kind of hard to do that and not find yourself observing your surroundings, unless you’re texting or talking on your phone, that is.


Design Thinking in Business — Lego

Lego recently ran a billboard advertising campaign that I saw in Europe showing children finding creative ways to play with their colored bricks. One child used them to make flowers that were “planted” in a window box. Another let their Lego figures parachute out of the window using their mother’s bras as parachutes. The tag line was something like you can’t get mad at your kids for being creative (unfortunately, I don’t have the actual text so this is not exact). When children saw the ads, their eyes sparkled and they would actually stop and point it out to each other and their parents, who responded in kind.

A few years ago Lego was having problems making such connections with its core customers because, in an attempt to remain competitive in the world of electronic games, it had jumped to the incorrect conclusion that kids weren’t interested in plastic bricks because they didn’t have the time or patience for them. Based on this assumption, Lego started creating toys that looked cool, but took less time, and creativity, to put together. Not only were kids losing interest, but so were their parents who had bought Lego toys for their kids out of feeling of nostalgia.

How did the company manage to turn this trend around? By realizing that it needed to understand what “play” meant to its users — children.

He (CEO Jorgen Vig Knudstorp) realized that Lego needed to better understand the phenomenon of play. What is children’s experience when they play, what do they desire from it, and how could Lego serve that need?”

To find out, the company embedded researchers with families in the United States and Germany. The researchers spent months collecting data, interviewing parents and children, creating photo and video diaries, shopping with families, and studying toy shops…key insights began to emerge. Among them was that children play to escape their overly orchestrated lives and to hone a skill.

An Anthropologist Walks Into A Bar | Harvard Business Review, March 2014

I’m willing to bet that market data analytics and even focus groups would not have provided this insight. In fact such data may have helped mislead the company in the first place.

You can listen to what people say, sure.

But you will be far more effective if you listen to what people do.

Seth Godin

The fall and rise of Lego shows the importance of getting out there and understanding your customer. I think this is especially important to remember in the age of Big Data. Yes, numbers can provide support, but they can mislead and when it comes to customer behavior, they certainly don’t tell the entire story.

In reading the HBR article, here are a couple of new words, at least for me, I came across:

Phenomenology: The study of how people experience life (Starbucks really got this right when it comes to coffee)

Sensemaking: “A non=linear process that reveals the often subtle and unconscious motivations informing customer behavior that can lead to insights that enable transformations in product development, organizational culture, and even corporate strategy. “ An Anthropologist Walks Into A Bar | Harvard Business Review, March 2014

Can Sameness Make You Stand Out

For the last few week, fashion bloggers haven’t been able to stop talking about normcore.

…(not) a particular look but a general attitude: embracing sameness deliberately as a new way of being cool, rather than striving for “difference” or “authenticity.” In fashion, though, this manifests itself in ardently ordinary clothes. Mall clothes. Blank clothes. The kind of dad-brand non-style you might have once associated with Jerry Seinfeld, but transposed on a Cooper Union student with William Gibson glasses.

Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion | | The Cut

In looking looking at pictures of the normcore attire and reading what people have to say about it, I couldn’t help but think of how creative people dress.

Have you noticed that fashion designers, artists, and make-up artists tend to dress in rather basic clothes or always look the same (think Karl Lagerfeld)? There’s an artist I know who I’ve only seen wearing white shirts and jeans. And moving over to the world of “hard-core” business think of how Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg dress(ed). And did you see what Pharrell  Williams wore to the Grammies? He got ripped, but I think he knows more than your average member of the fashion police force realized at the time. All of these people are all  (were) creative people  (or people who think outside of the box) and they dress in a very ordinary way or are  (were) always seen wearing the same thing.

Now the way these people dress can be  related to branding (my friend Karl) or actually embracing sameness as a new way of being cool (Pharrell Williams). Still I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a connection between creativity and decision making, and wearing the same basic clothes every day.

As it turns out, I could be on to something.

…Others do it to be more efficient.

Take Albert Einstein. It has been reported that the famous physicist bought several versions of the same grey suit because he didn’t want to waste brainpower on choosing an outfit each morning. Now—decades later—President Obama does the same.

Michael Lewis wrote in a recent Vanity Fair article:

You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” [Obama] said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions.

Steve Jobs Always Dressed Exactly the Same. Here’s Who Else Does |

The world is filled with a profound number of choices, but studies show that having fewer–not more–choices may be the path to greater happiness. Few places provide a greater opportunity for strategically eliminating choice than our clothing.

Want to Simplify Your Life? Try A Uniform | Life Edited

My experience shows all of this to be true. Give me too many choices and I shut down (or walk away). Since I’ve started simplifying things, I’ve noticed my creativity awakening and my problem solving skills improving. Why? Because my mind isn’t distracted by stuff that at the end of the day really isn’t important.

When I was young, and living with my parents who took care of my basic needs of food and shelter, there was room for playing with extraneous stuff and my creativity. Now that I’m responsible for all of the above, the extraneous stuff needs to go to make room for creativity and problem solving.  And in reality, people don’t really notice your appearance as much as you think they do. Go from long to short hair or dye it and people may notice that something is different, but won’t be able to pinpoint it.

Most people just don’t care that much about what we’re wearing. In my experience, people will notice if our clothes aren’t clean, if they’re falling apart or if they are majorly out-of-date. They’ll notice if what we’re wearing is well made or fits us well. But people won’t care if the nice, clean, stylish thing we wore on Monday is the same nice, clean, stylish thing we wore on Friday.

Want to Simplify Your Life? Try A Uniform | Life Edited

My next step is trying to find my uniform. Although I think I already know what it is. I still need the courage to part from other pieces of clothing that are creating interference.

Some say normcore is just another fashion trend. But for creatives and anyone who takes decision making seriously, I think it, or at least the idea of wearing their uniform of choice, is here to stay.

Creativity in Business — Chanel

If this Chanel show was genius, it’s not only for everything I just narrated to you (and let’s not even start talking about the hours of work to achieve that) and for this celebration / critique of consumerism, but it’s also because, if right now, fashion shows are a communication event then this one must have exploded any standard. The number of tweets and Instagrams went litteraly crazy. Chanel Explosion N°128616. 🙂

Chanel Shopping Center | Garance Dore

Chanel’s venues have become more and more creative of late, but this one takes the cake. It’s the story of making connections. Of not allowing thoughts of “Maybe that’s a bad idea,” or “Maybe they won’t like it,” to get in the way.

I first saw it here: Chanel Fall | Winter 2014

And read more about it here: Chanel Shopping Center