An engineer who founded the popular bulletin board system PTT said that current working conditions in Taiwan, especially in the tech industry, stifle innovation.

“Once people are bogged down by work, they lose their creativity,” Tu said, pointing to the long hours, low wages and hierarchical structure at many Taiwanese companies that prevent people from having real life experiences which are the key to being inspired to create software.

Furthermore, Taiwan’s education system does not foster innovation, Tu said, saying that such a system emphasizes the right, standard answer instead of being more critical and asking questions.
Therefore, most of the engineers he has seen at local companies are rigid, afraid to voice their opinions and do whatever their bosses tell them to do.
Artificial intelligence could be Taiwan’s niche in the world

System innovations almost always involve rejecting the standard metrics as a first step in making a difference. When you measure the same metrics, you’re likely to create the same outcomes. But if you can see past the metrics to the results, it’s possible to change the status quo.
Seth Godin

Applicable to more than just measuring performance of your business ….

Gofor: Drones on Demand

Gofor provides drones on demand. Using the mobile app, you can task a drone to complete a variety of helpful tasks. Drones are summoned much like taxis in other popular service apps. Your desired task is either noted at the outset using presets, or customized using voice commands.

Just a concept, or a well produced gag, but an interesting look into what the future could hold.

Innovation through observation

With an eye for brushing up on pertinent literature, I am trying to reread some key books from my small library. Some like George Lakoff’s books are very valuable but so academic I wonder if I will ever get through them. Others from Donald Norman and Tom Kelly are full of ready to use practical tidbits that allow me to at least start talking about them in my practice. I’m going to try to share some of these tidbits (writing aids in memory and I need all the help I can get).
I have Tom Kelley’s latest book, The Ten Faces of Innovation, on order but his book that I do have, The Art of Innovation, is full all kinds of great ideas which have proven relevant to me in the past and now.
I do like to watch people. If I had a wish it would be to be able to be involved in more projects that allowed me to observe the way people live, work, and play. So interesting and so many insights to be found.

It’s a general principle of humankind. Scientists, industrialists, anthropologists, artists, and writers have understood this for centuries, and many entrepreneurs understand it intuitively.
Once you start observing carefully, all kinds of insights and opportunities can open up.
Sometimes-if you are lucky-you can find inspiration for innovation by observing yourself. In many parts of your life, you go through steps so mechanically. so unconsciously, that this is not possible. When you are off the beaten path, however, you are open to discovery: when you travel, especially overseas; when you rent an unfamiliar car; when you try a new sport or experience a new activity. AT those times, you are more open to ask the childlike “Why?” and “Why not?” questions that lead to innovation. … take notes about your impressions, reactions, and questions, Especially the problems, the things that bug you.
New ideas come from being seeing, smelling, hearing-bing there.
Focused observation can be a powerful source of innovation. As you observe people in their natural settings, you should not only look for the nuances of human behavior but also strive to infer motivation and emotion. Good, insightful observation combines careful watching with occasional well-chosen “why?” questions to get at the underlying psychology of a persons interactions with products and services.

Some of my most inspiring moments came when our daughter Catriona started to explore the environment around her. In our house at the time most of the storage was via wire storage shelving with all the heavy pots and pans sitting at the bottom. Instead of discouraging her from touching or playing with them, we used to sit every night on the kitchen floor with pots and pans and other kitchen tools in an effort to make music. Sitting with her I was able to see the limitations placed upon her by her physical development , how she compensated, and was still participated.
In short these nightly playtimes/observations led to a continuing interest in tangible interfaces, a masters thesis, and a number of projects since.
Basic observational research can lead to all kinds of insights and inspiration.
From Chapter 3, The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm
Tim Brown’s Blog on Design Thinking
Overview: Ethnography, Observational Research, and Narrative Inquiry
Observational Field Research
Research Methods Knowledge Base
Let the walls do the talking
Human Centered Design ToolKit

Collaboration is amplification

Learning and Working in the Collaborative Age: A New Model for the Workplace. Pixar University’s Randy Nelson explains what schools must do to prepare students for jobs in new media.
I don’t think the talk needs to be pidgeon holed to careers in new media but serves as a commentary for businesses, educators, and people in general. It’s an inspiring talk. Here are some somewhat key passages:

Make your partner look good … (which might be along the same train of thought as killing the devils advocate). Take a piece of work and don’t judge it … take the work and say, here is where I am starting, what can I do with this?
The core skill of innovators is error recovery, not failure avoidance.
Proof of Portfolio vs. promise of a resume.
Collaboration is amplification. The amplification you get by connecting a bunch of human beings .. who are listening to each other, interested in each other, bring separate depths to the problem, bring breadth that gives them interest in the entire solution, allows them to communicate on multiple different levels (in writing, in acting, in pictures/imagery) … in all those ways you get a high fidelity notion across a broad range of people.
Be interested, not interesting

The original video is located here.

Seven Secrets for Better Brainstorming

  1. Sharpen the focus
    Good brainstormers start with a well-honed statement of the problem. This can be as simple as a question. Edgy is better than fuzzy. The session will get off to a better start-and you can bring people back into the main topic more easily-if you have a well-articulated description of the problem at just the right level of specificity.

    We’ve also found that the best topic statements focus outward on a specific customer need or service enhancement rather than focusing inward on some organizational goal. On the other hand, a series of more specific, customer-focused brainstorms on topics like “How can we accelerate the time-to-first-result for customers searching via dial-up modems” could uncover innovations that might ultimately yield the competitive edge you are looking for.
  2. Playful rules
    Don’t start to critique or debate ideas. It can sap the energy of the session pretty quickly. You need a way to turn aside critiques without turning off the critiquers completely. At IDEO many of our conference rooms have brainstorming rules stenciled in six-inch-high letters on the walls, for example, “Go for quantity,” “Encourage wild ideas,” or “Be visual.” Not willing to mark up your walls?
  3. Number your ideas
    Numbering the ideas that bubble up in a brainstorm helps in two ways. First, it’s a tool to motivate the participants before and during the session (“Let’s try to get a hundred ideas before we leave the room”) or to gauge the fluency of a complete brainstorm. Second, it’s a great way to jump back and forth from idea to idea without lasing track of where you are.
  4. Build and jump
    Watch for chances to “build” and “jump.” High-energy brainstormers tend to follow a series of steep “power” curves, in which momentum builds slowly, then intensely, then starts to plateau. The best facilitators can nurture an emerging conversation with a light touch in the first phase and know enough to let ideas flow during the steep part of the ideation curve. It’s when energy fades on a line of discussion that the facilitator really earns his or her keep.

    Try building on an idea. Encourage another push or introduce a small variation. Or take a jump, either back to an earlier path you skipped by too quickly or forward to a completely new approach. Whatever you do, try to get into the next power curve and keep the energy up.
  5. The space remembers
    Write the flow of ideas down in a medium visible to the whole group. There are many emerging digital technologies for group work, but we have had great success with extremely low-tech tools like Sharpie markers, giant Post-its for the walls, and rolls of old-fashioned butchershop paper on the tables.

    Cover virtually every wall and flat surface with paper before the session starts. And you may find there’s a certain synergy in physically moving around the room writing down and sketching the ideas. As you rapidly capture the team’s ideas, make a mental note of ones that are worth coming back to during a build or a jump. When you return to the spot on the wall where that idea was captured, spatial memory will help people recapture the mind-set they had when the idea first emerged.
  6. Stretch your mental muscles
    People are busy. Time is short. Is it worthwhile to “burn” some time at the beginning of a brainstorm doing some form of group warm-up? Maybe. But that “maybe” rapidly becomes a “yes” in certain circumstances:

    • When the group has not worked together before
    • When most of the group doesn’t brainstorm frequently
    • When the group seems distracted by pressing but unrelated issues

    One type of warm-up we practice is a fast-paced word game simply to clear the mind (Zen practitioners call it “beginner’s mind”) and to get the team into a more outgoing mode. Another warm-up is to do some content-related homework.

  7. Get physical
    Good brainstormers are extremely visual. They include sketching, mind mapping, diagrams, and stick figures. You don’t have to be an artist to get your point across with a sketch or diagram. Leave your performance anxieties at the door and jump in with whatever visual tools you have available.

    But the best brainstormers often get physical. We move beyond two dimensions and push for three. The first way we do this is to bring in everything but the kitchen sink (and we’ve brought the sink, too, when it was relevant). The second way we get physical is to have materials on hand to build crude models of a concept: block, foam core, tubing, duct tape, whatever might be useful. The third physical approach is “bodystorming,” where we act out current behavior/usage patterns and see how they might be altered. We’ve bodystormed on products ranging from vending machines to car seats, where our skits and scenarios pointed to all kinds of opportunities for improvement.

Excerpted from Art of Innovation, Kelly, pg. 56-62.