Category Archives: Exercise

Innovation with Big Companies

Source: HBR blog, Nov 2013

Studies show that efforts to stimulate intrapreneurship — entrepreneurship within an established company — more often than not fall flat. According to my current research at Harvard on innovation models in global companies across diverse sectors, these types of projects fail between 70% and 90% of the time. This should be a deeply troubling, motivating statistic. And it’s one that stems from a very human problem in most big organizations.

Since the 1990’s, however, more and more large companies have been outsourcing their intrapreneurial efforts. They pay upwards of $300K to $1 million to consultancy firms that conduct market analyses and in-depth need-finding, identify new opportunities, generate promising ideas, and, often, develop ideas into working prototypes. The client company then refines these concepts and prototypes and takes them to market.

Innovation consultancies tend to have a preferred methodology for working with their clients, such as human centered design (also called ‘design thinking,’ popularized by IDEO, Continuum, Frog Design and others), Lean Start-up, or analytical models used by large management consulting firms. Results from these business-to-business collaborations have at times been phenomenally successful, as was the case with the Bank of America Keep the Change program (IDEO) and the Swiffer (Continuum Innovation).

Surprising Facts about Your Brain

Source: Fast Company, Sep 2013

Your brain does creative work better when you’re tired.

Stress can change the size of your brain (and make it smaller).

It is literally impossible for our brains to multitask.

Naps improve your brain’s day-to-day performance.

Your vision trumps all other senses.

Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.

Pictures beat text as well, in part because reading is so inefficient for us. Our brain sees words as lots of tiny pictures, and we have to identify certain features in the letters to be able to read them. That takes time.

Introversion and extroversion come from different wiring in the brain.

We tend to like people who make mistakes more.

Meditation can rewire your brain for the better.

Exercise can reorganize the brain and boost your willpower.

You can make your brain think time is going slowly by doing new things.

Quirky MIT Professor Slocum

Source: MIT Technology Review, Sep 2013

Zany, quirky, enthusiastic.

There are many ways to describe the personal style of mechanical engineering professor Alexander Slocum. And he embraces them all. As a teacher and researcher, he uses what he calls his pinball-like focus and his passion for mechanical engineering to inspire students and tackle some of the biggest challenges in energy, medicine, and precision engineering. “I would probably be classified as ADHD++ because my mind moves so fast between so many different things,” he says. “But I also have the discipline to focus for hours when the right idea warrants it.

Exercise Works Magic

Source: Scientific American, Aug 2013




Zig Zag – Keith Sawyer

Excerpts from various readings:

… all of life is improvisational! Any time we deviate from a fixed plan, and we take an unexpected turn, we are improvising. And that, I believe, is the essence of the creative process: It’s never a straight path from idea to solution. Creativity is all about engaging in a process that moves you forward, even when you don’t know where you’re going. There are sudden new developments, unexpected failures that sometimes result in new thoughts that then lead down a different path. That’s why I titled the book “Zig Zag: The surprising path to greater creativity.” The “surprise” is that the path is really not very “path-like” at all. It’s more like wandering, almost as if you’re lost. But you have to trust that the process will eventually lead to a creative outcome.

Mike (and his research) taught me the importance of intrinsic motivation in creativity, and also the central role of “problem finding”—it’s so important to ask the right question, before you start working on creative ideas and solutions.

Make sure that your people have time in their schedule to work on new stuff and think of new things. If everyone is working overtime and having trouble meeting deadlines, it’s rare that they will generate radical new breakthrough ideas. All of the research shows that creativity requires some slack time. It doesn’t come for free, in other words!

Peter:  Time is a killer of many things in life, but certainly creativity is one of the more fragile commodities that is stifled by inadequate time.

The most significant finding to emerge from research about creativity, according to Keith Sawyer, a professor of education, psychology, and business at Washington University, is that it doesn’t come from a single, big flash of insight. Rather, the creative process happens via many small ideas throughout the day.

 “It only seems surprising and amazing because of the process they’ve gone through that allows them to put together these small ideas over time to result in something big and impressive at the end.”

“The idea you have at the beginning,” he said, “almost never turns out to be what you generate at the end. People who are engaged in creativity on a daily basis understand that and they welcome it, and they have figured out techniques to help them move more quickly and more successfully through that zigzag process. It’s really a matter of just learning what those habits are that will get you down the path.”

collaboration is almost always involved in the creative process.

The most important thing is to realize, number one, that you have the potential to be creative on a daily basis. …

The first step is asking good questions. A lot of us think that creativity is about coming up with the brilliant, insightful solution — but exceptional creators know that it’s almost more important to ask the right questions, to formulate the problem in a certain way. … When you question those assumptions, that’s when you start to think of better and more promising ways to formulate the problem.

It’s a way of shifting your mindset. Another set of techniques [has to do with] being aware of the world around you. There are so many cases throughout history where great new ideas came from just paying attention to what’s going on around you — those accidental discoveries, like penicillin. It’s that sort of being open to unexpected things that happen around you that’s so often associated with creative people.

The 7-minute Workout

Source: NYTimes, May 2013

“There’s very good evidence” that high-intensity interval training provides “many of the fitness benefits of prolonged endurance training but in much less time,” says Chris Jordan, the director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Fla., and co-author of the new article.

Work by scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and other institutions shows, for instance, that even a few minutes of training at an intensity approaching your maximum capacity produces molecular changes within muscles comparable to those of several hours of running or bike riding.

Interval training, though, requires intervals; the extremely intense activity must be intermingled with brief periods of recovery. In the program outlined by Mr. Jordan and his colleagues, this recovery is provided in part by a 10-second rest between exercises. But even more, he says, it’s accomplished by alternating an exercise that emphasizes the large muscles in the upper body with those in the lower body. During the intermezzo, the unexercised muscles have a moment to, metaphorically, catch their breath, which makes the order of the exercises important.

The exercises should be performed in rapid succession, allowing 30 seconds for each, while, throughout, the intensity hovers at about an 8 on a discomfort scale of 1 to 10, Mr. Jordan says. Those seven minutes should be, in a word, unpleasant. The upside is, after seven minutes, you’re done.