You Can’t Get to Novelty if You Focus on Ideas

You can’t get to novelty if you focus on ideas. That is our big take away from facilitating an innovation and creativity workshop at Montclair Design Week 2021 last night - Other Worlds are Possible.

It was really insightful and uplifting — there was a great group of people — thank you Hannah Gorman, Elizabeth Rich, Sharon Waters, Petia Morozov, Max Lauter, Altarik Banks — and everyone else who joined us and made the evening special. It is always so wonderful to be collaborating with others who are bringing so much to the table.

We ran through a number of fun and challenging exercises and then unpacked them over a glass of wine and ended by delving into the book.

We set up this workshop specifically to explore how we can tackle and pivot away from solution thinking (jumping to answers before inventing the problem), and the conflation of creativity with ideation. Our hope was that we could provide a powerful experience of this problem and an equally powerful experience of an alternative.

We got there — by the end the discussion organically revealed the problems and limitations of sticky note world and ideation-heavy models of innovation.
Here are a few of the great takeaways from the discussion:

  1. Begin Anywhere – just start — where you begin is not where you will end up — trust the process.
  2. The process is key — invent one that fosters qualitative novelty (not widgets and sticky notes)
  3. Perfection is the enemy of Innovation – Constraints eliminate the striving for perfection. Well designed constraints block the ideology that everything we do and make has to be the answer. Constraints or negative rules allow us to follow what presents itself (the unintended) without judgement or label.
  4. Collectives over competition. Innovation is not a zero-sum game. We are forming open spaces where materials, people, bodies, and events can all speak and be heard in action. Innovation is an opportunity to unify and engage the problems we love.
  5. The goal of innovation is not to directly get to a novel idea (solution or product) — it is to invent/discover a portal that opens a novel pathway that leads via multiple leaping swerves to the emergence of a novel world which you then progressively enlarge (and in this activity/space new ideas, values, concepts, tools, and systems emerge).

Our worlds expanded by meeting new collaborators — we're waking up today, reflecting on last night, writing these words, and really looking forward to what comes next -- Thank you all for joining us and making other worlds possible!

on What Is Innovation, and How to Innovate

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