Monthly Archives: September 2013

“Challenging” the start of Creativity for Transformational Innovation


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Image found at

The process of Transformational Innovation requires the use of creativity tools that provide concise and focused steps to understand the starting direction. Establishing this starting point is essential for the efficiency of any idea constructing toolset.  For Innovation and Creativity to be successful, the path we start down needs to be clear, concise and contain focused steps.  In many cases having a good start accounts for half of the battle, and it occurs before we even start an actual idea creating session.

In other words the preparation and development of the Problem, Focus or, “Need Statement” must contain specific elements. Edward De Bono calls them Area (where) and Purpose (why) focuses. But with “Wicked Problems” that contain contradictions and assumptions requires dissecting into pieces or levels.

Functional mapping and Systems analysis requires moving from the Super-System, to System, to Sub System and then looking at that in the perspective or state of the past, present and the future. As you can see getting the idea session ready to start can require preparation up from to understand the correct direction to move forward.

Steve Swann gives us a great start to pulling at the pieces required by asking having you follow three steps – the first step is to answer the following questions:

  • who does it affect / does not affect.
  • what does it affect / does not affect.
  • how does it affect / does not affect.
  • when is it a problem / is not a problem.
  • where is it a problem / is not a problem.

The second step is to understand the state or the level that your problem exists at as illustrated in the figure below from

Image found at

Image found at

The third and final step is to re-state the problem by combining the current state problem with the desired state. But this does not get to the “WHY”. To get to that you need to use a tool called the Ladder of Abstraction. The ladder works by starting with a Need Statement and asking two key questions:

“Why?” or “Why else?” or “What’s stopping you?” or “What else is stopping you?”

You branch the original focus statement in both directions as long as it makes sense and restate the problem at that level. Another way to engage in this divergence process of dissecting the starting point can be to use. This tool is a mental whetstone, capable of sharpening, refining, focusing the most powerful tool at the thinker’s disposal. Their own minds, which exponentially adds to their impact on the value stream.

One final comment is that sometimes the focus, problem or need statement needs to be phrased in a more serendipitous manner. It may need to have something included inside it that asks us to achieve greatness, to find new ideas focused on novelty and originality. A way to accomplish this is to “Challenge” your teams with a cognitive provocation. Examples of this can be formulated by stating “we a challenging you to…..”

  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that allow us to reduce costs by 10%
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that improve functionality
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that increase safety by 5%
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that reduce parts and simplify the design
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that increase performance by 20%

The simple process of creating and using what I call a Challenge Statement allows you to quickly formulate a desired or future state condition without placing any preconceived bias or paradigm blinders on.  These can also be fun and crazy but at the same time quite impactful. Remember John F. Kennedy’s challenge. On May 25, 1961, he stood in front of Congress to deliver a special message on “urgent national needs.” He asked for an additional $7 billion to $9 billion over the next five years for the space program, proclaiming that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

A message that inspired us to achieve an incredible series of events constructed by thousands of people creating ideas based upon a Challenge Statement. Maybe it’s time for us to establish 5 new STEM challenges for society such as:

  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that allow us to recycle every households trash by an additional 10% by the year 2015.
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that reduce the carbon footprint of each person by 5% each year.
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that allow us to reduce the amount of gasoline or petroleum required for each car by 20% in the next 3 years.
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that increase the literacy of everyone in the United States by 5% over the next 5 years.
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that allow Sustainable Leadership training and mentoring for young adults to learn and implement by the time the time they graduate from college and enter the workforce.

These 5 grand “Challenges” can be used to help us as a society move forward in a positive direction now and in the future. So who’s willing to take a challenge and run with it to create truly Transformational Innovation..?




Is your IQ holding you back…or are you holding your IQ back?


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Recent British and American psychologists have found that being broke impedes brainpower as much as staying awake all night or losing 8 to13 IQ points. This research, published in the journal Science, suggests poverty feeds on itself by consuming “mental bandwidth”.

Typically an average Intelligence Quotient  (IQ) test results in a range of 90-110 points with a score of 100 as the median for most people.  A persons score below 70 is a possible indication of developmental delays related to intelligence. But what does this really mean..?

Intelligence measured in this type of test is an indication of our mental capacity for how well we process information and our ability to retrieve it. The authors propose that “being poor can impair cognitive functioning, which hinders an individual’s ability to make good decisions and can cause further poverty.”

The problem with this type of grand research is that terms such as poor, poverty and a clear description of what types of mental bandwidth impacted do not seem to be provided. While it is recognized that the challenges of financial poverty and being poor could distress people and prevent challenges to positive conditioning reflected in a positive mental attitude (PMA). The mental message that nothing good can happen or that stresses associated with socioeconomic situations are not real, are just wrong.

IQ tests don’t measure creativity, emotional sensitivity, social competence and many other skills that fall under the general description of “intelligence”.  In other words a person with average intelligence can be exceptionally creative. Your IQ typically does not change over your lifetime so how can we make the argument that an arbitrary measurement of intelligence could be holding us back.

I think that suggesting that any group of people being more likely to make mistakes, and bad decisions that amplify or perpetuate financial woes should be an indication of a need for basic education and skills enhancement or training in these areas.

In one of the research studies, half of the participants were first asked to think about what they would do if their car broke down and the repair cost $1,500 – designed to kick off worries about money. It was proposed that among these people that performance dipped significantly.

Increasing the mental bandwidth for people in poverty can be accomplished by a change in how we think positively. The old adage that the glass is either half full or half empty has been replace with a new one where the glass is considered ½ full of water and ½ full of air – a stronger positive way to look at things. Additionally how we characterize people with financial challenges (in poverty or poor) in social economic personal tone can have a tremendous impact. If people are seen by others as having the mental capacity, bandwidth and opportunity to increase the financial status we typically find that opportunities are available. If we suggest that nothing good can happen and impose negative conditioning it is likely that we could see the social intelligence of any group to drop.

If I was the CEO of a major company and identified that a specific department was having problems making the right decisions the recommendations for them would be to follow the 7 Steps to Better Decisions proposed by Catherine Price.

1. Identify your goal.
As David Welch, PhD, professor of political science at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and author of Decisions, Decisions: The Art of Effective Decision Making, explains, “People who aren’t self-reflective are going to end up making bad decisions because they don’t really know what they want in the first place.” Before you switch jobs, ask yourself: Do I really want a different career? Or do I just want a different boss? Don’t make a decision based on the wrong problem.

2. Eliminate choices by setting standards.
If you’re trying to buy a digital camera, list the features you’ll actually use. Any camera that has them is therefore good enough for you; ignore anything fancier. Speaking of which…

3. Don’t worry about finding the “best.”
How good you feel about your decisions is usually more important than how good they are objectively.

4. Be aware of biases.
They can lead smart people to make dumb decisions. For example: We hate to lose more than we like to win, which can result in behavior such as holding on to a tanking stock instead of accepting a loss. We remember vivid examples better than facts, which is why plane crashes stick in our heads more than statistics on air safety. And we’re susceptible to how information is framed—a “cash discount” is more appealing than “no credit card surcharge.” Keeping these biases in mind can help you think clearly.

5. Try not to rush.
People tend to make poorer choices when they’re in a bad mood or under a lot of stress. When facing a complex decision, use your conscious brain to gather the information you need, and then take a break. Go for a walk. Spend a half hour meditating. Take a nap. Have a beer. The idea is to give your unconscious mind some time to do its work. The decision you make afterward is more likely to be the right (or at least a perfectly acceptable) one.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
When possible, eliminate the need for decisions by establishing rules for yourself. You will go to yoga every weekend. You will not have more than two glasses of wine. You will buy whatever toilet paper is on sale.

7. Do a postgame analysis.
After each decision you make, ask yourself how you felt afterward and what about the experience you can apply in the future.

From the May 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.

Too often the discussion is reduce to good thinking versus bad thinking or right thinking versus wrong thinking when making decisions. The discussions should be directed more importantly into “How” did they make decisions, and sharing “What” they learn from them.



The author


Prof. Novate

Dale S. Deardorff ( is the director of innovation and strategic thinking with The Rocky Peak Leadership Center. He is a self proclaimed innovation futurist with a focus on systemic and process based innovation methods involving individual, group and organizational creativity thinking tools and processes. He designed and implemented innovation and creativity workshops, tools and enterprise idea programs.

Oliver Sacks Book Covers, art by Cardon Webb