It‘s usually in a moment of feeling blocked or stalled that there’s a fierce temptation to seize the nearest reasonable solution. This is when we need a tolerance for ambiguity. It means staying in uncertainty, or staying with the question, despite the discomfort of not knowing the answer, or not knowing where we’re headed. It requires relinquishing control – even though a solution isn’t always guaranteed – to make room for new and emerging connections to crystalize into a clear direction.
The KI method depends on a unique skill that scientists may be unaccustomed to: deferring judgment. It is the capacity to set aside your opinions temporarily and accept a new or odd idea and take the time to develop it before dismissing it. If you can overlook the flaws of a suggestion and play with it for a while, it might lead to a novel and useful idea. This is the cornerstone of divergent thinking. And it happens to be the first rule of improv: Say Yes.
Scarcity can be a major driver for innovation. A bleak economy can thrust companies, organizations, universities – and entire countries – into an austerity mode. In the context of a changing economy when it seems everything has to be faster, better and cheaper, there’s a type of innovator who’s thriving: the jugaad innovator. Jugaad is a Hindi word that translates not only to a noun – it’s a fix, a work-around, an innovative solution – but it also encompasses an entire spirit of resourcefulness and resilience.
Where you meet sets the mood for your meeting, which is why the space matters. Put people in the same old meeting room and the chances of getting the same old output are pretty good. If it’s a big open room with an inviting seating plan around round tables, with long walls of white paper ready to receive hundreds of ideas, it sets an entirely different tone. If you want to make room for innovation, you have to make the room the kind of place that will invite it.
Group work can be clunky and cumbersome. You have to spend longer clarifying the objectives, aligning resources and getting people on board. Sometimes, it can seem nearly impossible to achieve the consensus necessary to advance within a task. Groups are a powerful mechanism to produce innovative solutions, but getting to that product can be arduous, particularly if it’s not well facilitated.
Deviance has an important place in the innovative process. We don’t challenge norms without a little (or a lot) of deviant thinking. And the single best way to discourage inventive, out-of-the-box deviance is to prohibit disagreement and probing questions. We need a little clarifying, critical judgment now and then. The trick is to cultivate a culture of occasional and appropriate contrariness that is productive.
So much depends on getting the right people in the room. A workshop designed to produce innovative outcome can fail – even with the perfect agenda design and the most astute facilitators – if the people who’ve been assembled don’t have the right spirit and motivation to help it succeed. But how do you get the right minds in the right place?
A subtle shift in language provokes our thinking and makes our brain more nimble. Instead of complaining about what doesn’t work or isn’t happening, the problem posed as a question starts a chain reaction that ignites our curiosity. We realise it’s not so much about naming the problem, it’s more about wondering what are all the problems embedded in the challenge and what are all the ways to address it.
The playful gizmos and gadgets we bring along help make the conference room look less sterile and corporate, but the toys are not just for show. If you’re a tactile person, being able to squeeze a rubber ball, or twist the beads of a wooden wand, fumble with a Rubik’s cube or stack tiny colored magnets into small mountains can actually aide the fluidity of your thinking. While your hands are fidgeting, new things can pop into your mind.
The alchemy that results in a successful workshop depends on starting with the right ingredients. We have found that one of the most important of these elements is the people who are invited to attend. Here’s are a few tips on recognizing the best — and less-than-ideal candidates for a creative team science workshop.
The KI process depends on people with diverse research backgrounds coming together, getting to know one another and exchanging novel ideas. But, sometimes getting the most out of group thinking and new ideas means individuals need to take time in solitude to let these ideas sort themselves out.
What happens when diverse groups of researchers are forced to catalyse and collide and collaborate? Questions arise that wouldn’t otherwise have been posed, and partnerships form between people from very different scientific disciplines. That’s what often makes the output of Sandpits (aka Ideas Labs) unique and innovative