Category: Innovation

05
Sep

Think Like A Tourist: Do You See or Notice?

Photo by opensource.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4639590640/

Photo by opensource.com
https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4639590640/

This summer, we’ve been traveling on our “design pilgrimage” as we call it.

I brought several books on the trip with me to give structure to my thoughts and writing. One was Experiences in Visual Thinking by Robert H. McKim, the classic how-to manual for anyone who wants to sharpen his or her creative visual thinking skills.

These are the methods of approaching any problem or situation using subconscious and conscious types of thinking. Visual thinking is a multifaceted skill and approach to any problem we have to solve on any given day.

We’re all born with the ability to harness our imagination, and we think most of our waking lives, but as McKim sees it, schooling, habits, thinking patterns and work life get in the way. We think broadly and unproductively. We believe the way we think about one situation applies to most other problems or assignments.

When I was a university teaching assistant, we new teachers had several sessions of training to prepare us for working with students and the various ways people think and learn. Most academics are logical and linear thinkers, but that’s merely a slice of the learning personalities in the world.

In one particularly useful session, the trainer was a professor and researcher who used neuroscience in his teaching methods. He said that all of one’s thinking life could be reduced to patterns we used in the grocery store (before Amazon, obviously!). The way we thought and acted on our thoughts in the store was the organizational patterns or thinking blueprint we probably applied to everything else in our lives, including university assignments. Some people are spiral thinkers, he said, they go in the middle and work their way out, with or without a list. Others work from the sides going up and down the aisles.

He gave us this information as a way to help us teach and empathize with students. Everyone uses patterns in their thinking and we apply them to most aspects of our lives. Raising our awareness about the types of thinking, he wanted us to understand that just because someone doesn’t take what we think to be logical notes it doesn’t mean they’re not absorbing and using the lecture content meaningfully.

We approach our design problems in similar ways to our approach to the grocery store and McKim’s tool kit remains valuable for all of us visual solutions people.

The pivot for thinking takes place as we look at our world. Using McKim here, seeing is what most people do; perceiving is what most successful visual thinkers do.

What’s the difference between perceiving and seeing?

Seeing

Seeing is looking at the world and our surroundings as is. We use and apply thinking blueprint and go about our day solving problems or creating solutions. We look at an assignment or problem. We research what others say about it and come up with solutions. It’s practical, efficient and reliable. This is often called deductive thinking. It means you apply general observations about the world to particular problems.

But, seeing as a thinking tools is rarely innovative.

Perceiving

Perceiving, on the other hand, is active with multiple steps and involves all of what McKim calls “operations” in our brains. Here are some key facts about the process of perception:

  • Active and ‘down below.’ Let’s say you are given a creative brief with an assignment. Perceiving would involve looking at the problem, researching and talking to others. Perceiving problem solving means sitting with the assignment and walking away, shifting the process to ‘down below’ into the unconscious layers of brain activity, anfr letting the mind work through the assignment for some time without using the conscious mind.
  • Integrates past ideas. Perceiving blends the past with the new assignment. Let’s say your assignment involves coming up with new ways to drive interest in a company’s new product, say men’s socks. Because you’ve worked on many, many projects with the assignment of driving awareness, you know the tried-and-true steps. But wait, you’ve also seen stellar and creative work done in financial services lately that raised awareness about products, too. While not the same product, they had similar market problems and they tried x, y or z. Integrative thinking brings in other experiments to your problem and sees what works.
  • Connects dissimilar topics. Perceiving is making mental leaps and combining with other areas. Let’s say you have a passion for travel and you read lots about the best surfing in world, which you know is in far-flung places like Taghazout, Morocco, Bundaran, Ireland or Tofino, British Columbia. You know this topic, and you’ve stuffed lots of details in your brain over the years.This “stuff” comes in handy when you are thinking about travel and surf and your sock assignment. You’ve looked at the sales figures, the average consumer and you’ve got a stack in your drawer at home and the office. You realize that connecting the socks that fold easily can be found in the dark easily and are made of breathing micro-fibers with travel and these often unheard-of places could breathe new market life for the socks, and make the client very happy.

That’s perceiving — seeing the world in a new way. Utilizing your brain’s functions and harnessing your creative powers.

So what’s your take on the world around you? Do you see or perceive?

— Kate Canada Obregon

29
Aug

How Danish Design Infuses Into Everyday Life

Scan 2In our last post, we talked about the connections we saw between geography and design thinking. The city of Christiana in the middle of Copenhagen seems to embody the thinking and problem-solving skills any designer needs. It functions as a mini-city and its early founders wanted to experiment with the best way to combine design and urban planning with living off the grid. At least the 1970s version of off the grid.

 In this post, we’re going to pare down our thinking and talk about Danish Design. Specifically, how their design thinking is infused with their art and how they spend their days.

 The ingredient in their version of design thinking seems to be empathy.

Empathetic design is not just decoration. It’s a powerfully blended combination of art and purpose, beauty and functionality. It’s an orchestration, a deep understanding of how people interact with their worlds; how the body best sits in a chair, how lighting best distributes in a room and how toys stimulate the brain.

On a less grand scale, design thinking infuses Scandinavian and Danish Design.

The Danes are renowned designers because they are design thinkers. They invest energy and time into what an object, idea or concept or thing will do for people, how it will interact with people’s everyday lives. How we are drawn to objects and ideas. Design in this way is problem-solving and empathy. Whether it’s a chair, lamp, clothes, art, buildings, machinery and technology—the problem-solver designer wants to make our lives better, more comfortable and interesting.

 

Poul Henningsen's PH Artichoke Light

Poul Henningsen’s PH Artichoke Light

The iconic Danish chairs or lighting that we love here in the States could have been made less beautiful and quirky, but why would we want to settle for a chair that may look good but makes our back hurt by noon? We love these objects because they marry style and function, utility and beauty.

And why not merge style into function and in the process make people happy about sitting in a chair during a long, boring meeting? For the winter light-deprived Danes, the Poul Henningsen’s PH Artichoke gently fractures light into smaller bits that envelope the room in warmth.

From this perspective, design inserts itself into people’s everyday world, quietly and respectfully. Designers want to live with us, so they think about how objects or ideas will burrow into the habits and routines of our lives.

chair

 

 

 

 

lights

 

 

 

 

 

Scan 3

22
Aug

Think Like A Tourist: Deconstructing Danish Design

The island of Christiana situated in Copenhagen.

The island of Christiana situated in Copenhagen.

We headed out this summer for what call our Oishii design expedition. These trips help us to refresh, shift perspective, and perfect our practice. Around the office we ask everyone to “Think Like A Tourist” and purposeful travel is the best way to realize our recognizably lofty ambitions.

Going out and exploring is not simply about seeing what others are doing, although that’s always useful and fun. These trips are for us, about immersing ourselves in how other cultures think and work and create. So this summer we packed up and headed to Denmark, one of the centers of iconic Scandinavian design.

Design is everywhere in Denmark and Copenhagen; it infuses daily life, and not just architecture, industrial design, furniture or fashion. For well over 300 years, Denmark has been universally recognized for design and craftsmanship. And we are familiar with the modern designs of Bang & Olufsen, Kaare Klint, Arne Jacobsen and the Jans J. Wegner chairs. For us, we wanted to experience and understand the power behind Danish design, and capture thinking in action. We wanted to spend time in Bregade and the Design Museum and wander the city.

It became clear quickly to us that the power of Danish design is what happens before an object becomes physical and real.

Danish design captures a thought process, long before the iconic lamp, chair or building takes shape. Like good design thinkers, Danes create things for people, to use and maybe make their lives better and more comfortable. And fun, too. Perhaps it’s the history of Denmark; they endure long winters with only a sliver of sun, the many fjords and waterways cutting cold into bare skin. This is design thinking, solving our problems with a solution that brings light and air into routines. After all, that is what the best design is, problem solving on a grand and neverending scale.

You see design thinking obviously in architecture and urban planning. One example is a “city” in the middle of Copenhagen called Christiana. It’s not a “city”; it’s more of an urbane modern commune smack dab in the middle of a bustling metropolis. In this “city space” on a fjord, was once a 700-year-old military barracks. The Danish government was in the process of abandoning the property in 1971 when locals quickly marched in. They set up a semi-autonomous city with housing, public services and a public garden and architecture codes. They called in celebrated graffiti artists to paint murals, they set up food markets and industry. Lots of thought and experimentation has gone into all facets of the garrison-city, what the early founders wanted residents to experience.

The flag of Christiana.

The flag of Christiana.

 

 

 

Welcome and well-placed firewood

Welcome and well-placed firewood

Entering the gate into Christiana.

Entering the gate into Christiana.

 

The fjord looking onto the bridge. Note the new architecture emerging in the background.

The fjord looking onto the bridge. Note the new architecture emerging in the background.

 

 

 

A typical “vacation” house on the island. All houses must adhere to strict regulations.

A typical “vacation” house on the island. All houses must adhere to strict regulations.

 

01
Aug

It’s Summer: Daydream!

DaydreamSummer months are ideal occasions for creative ideation. As work colleagues go on holiday, and frenzied schedules relax, there are more chances for what I call unstructured creative work — ideation time without overly planned, organized and managed schedules. It’s the time to daydream, wander and to get bored. Yes, that’s right, get bored for a creative purpose.

Creativity — whether in the science, design or agency worlds — demands freedom to play and wander, and our over-scheduled and hectic daily routines don’t leave room for deep, creative work. What we know of as “aha” moments happen because you’ve just connected lots of seemingly unrelated dots that have been steeping in your unconscious over time. Think of it this way: Suddenly, the science exhibit you’re viewing brings to mind the Transformers movie you just saw and that blends with a song you heard a few weeks ago at a party. And, “aha,” seemingly out of nowhere, you came up with the perfect idea for tomorrow morning’s data visualization presentation.

That’s creativity. Taking seemingly unrelated things and combining them together to make something new. The creative process is a complex orchestration and neuroscientists are only beginning to map out the relationship between creativity and the unconscious. We do know that for the most creative and productive minds, incubation takes time and involves several steps and processes.

In a recent article in the Atlantic, researcher Nancy Andreasen studied the most “prolific” writers to see if she could see patterns and processes in highly productive minds. Andreasen found that the most productive creatives ideate, prepare and incubate. In other words, they work, ponder and engage their curiosity and produce. They’ve got room to roam and they use it cleverly.

But, as we understand from experience, the unconscious process and its strengths don’t always fit into standardized work schedules, and, in fact, many people and companies hold negative opinions, judgments and associations with daydreaming, the vital element in the creative incubation process. Sometimes, people are judged as unproductive or lazy when they don’t seem to be hitting a mark; when they aren’t relentlessly “producing” heaps of “things.”

That’s because we live in a culture that defines creativity by metrics and outputs. Fortunately, this notion is changing as pioneers of the unconscious, like neuroscientist Scott Barry Kaufman, are studying the activities of the brain where creativity emerges, and in the process, are challenging conventional notions about daydreaming and slackers who want to take a nap after lunch.

But even as science helps to evolve our understanding and relationship with our generative powers of innovation, convergent thinking and originality is elusive. In the abstract, we love it, admire it and try to fit it into schedules. But in the practical sense, sometimes we just have to give ourselves a little flexibility to go off schedule and zone out with our thoughts for a while. So, take advantage of the long warm days and empty quiet offices, and give yourself some space to ruminate.

It’s summer. Go daydream!

18
Jul

Vacation/Vocation: 5 Tips to Bring Back from Your Summer Break

Image courtesy of bookhangoversbb.blogspot.com

Image courtesy of bookhangoversbb.blogspot.com

Summer is in full swing, and that’s got us thinking about beaches and barbecues and made us realize how differently we approach our time off than we do our daily work lives. And maybe we shouldn’t. Whether you’ve already enjoyed a nice long break, are planning a two-week getaway or just a weekend staycation, there are plenty of ways we approach our time off that would be beneficial to bring back to the office. Here’s a look at five ways you can bring your vacation mindset back to the workplace and make it work for you.

1. Digital Detox

According to a recent research project by IAB Real View, 52% of people say they prefer to check their smartphones during downtime rather than be left alone with their thoughts. This figure might sound low for those of us accustomed to reaching for our phones every time we break away from our laptops, but think about the last time you went on vacation. You probably didn’t spend the entire time with your face buried in Facebook. Studies have shown that high social media usage, especially time spent on Facebook, is linked with lower life satisfaction and productivity loss. Need an extra hand weaning yourself off the “Likes”? Sites like 99 Days of Freedom offer a little extra encouragement and structure for those looking to keep their selfies to themselves.

2. Reconnect with Colleagues

Vacation dinners call to mind long, conversation-fueled feasts over good bottles of wine with family and friends. Why not bring that mindset back to the boardroom? No, we’re not saying get tipsy with your CFO, but why not catch up with one of your colleagues over coffee or take your mentor out to a good meal? Researchers recently discovered that our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, actually gets a boost of the “love hormone” oxytocin when they share a meal. Plus, getting out of the office environment, and, if you’re following step 1, leaving your phone in your pocket or purse, allows you to give the other person your undivided attention, helping to force or strengthen important workplace bonds.

3. Seek Out Advice

We’ve looked at the benefits of approaching your own city as an outsider in our Think Like a Tourist series, but going on vacation is a chance to see it in action. When we’re visiting another city, we tend to take recommendations and ask the advice of others; in fact, we will seek it out. Even if we’ve been to a place before, we want a local’s perspective. So, why not do this in your daily life as well? Ask your art director where she’s getting her latest inspiration, or check in with your business development rep to get his insight on a new client. Getting out of your comfort zone can help you see the world, and maybe even do your job, through a new, exciting lens.

4. Recharge Your Mind, Body and Soul

Whether it’s booking a massage or sitting by the beach to read a good book, when we’re on vacation, we always seem to take time for ourselves, doing mood-boosting and stress-relieving activities. We’ve previously talked about how mindful thinking and meditation can give you a cognitive workout and make you a better multi-tasker, but even just taking a 15-minute break to walk outside and get some sunshine can help you better focus on work.

5. The Endless Vacation Day

Doesn’t it seem like we often do more in one day on a vacation than in a week back home? If you’re in another city or country and don’t know when (or if) you’ll be returning, suddenly even the most notorious procrastinators and worst planners are able to prioritize what they really want to see and do to make the day count. Part of this is because negative feelings or perceptions of situations can wipe out our self-control and ability to think and plan clearly. By focusing on things that are important to us, we’re better able to tackle that task, thus boosting our mood to start the next. So, next time you’re feeling like you can’t get it all done, imagine your vacation self and pick the one, two or three most important tasks for you to do today and focus on those.

Just as there are endless ways to spend your vacation, there are endless ways to bring what you’ve learned back home with you. What are your favorite ways to keep your vacation mindset for the rest of the year?

 

20
Jun

If You’ve Never Experienced Creative Nirvana, Go See Robert Rodriguez Speak Live

Robert RodriguezIf Robert Rodriguez is off your radar and like many, you don’t know what he does, that’s okay. You can look him up now and thank me later. He’s a fearless leader, passionate creative and dedicated family man (similar to our own Oishii Creative Founder, Ish).

Now that I’ve secured my employment, we can continue.

Lucky for you (and me), Oishii was a creative partner for the PromaxBDA Conference this year and of the few speaking engagements I experienced, Robert was one of them.

Here are my favorite quotes:

“Don’t look at what other people are doing. Think of what you’re doing as completely fresh, because if you imitate, you’re dead.”

“If you work creatively, there’s no wrong way.”

“I never stop being creative. I don’t say, ‘okay, time to sit down and come up with ideas.’”

“When you want to do something creative, you have to reduce your list of ‘I’ needs.”

“If you cannot get in a system that already exists, create your own system.”

So here’s my advice: consider hearing Robert speak in person if you ever have an opportunity. The guy is simply an inspiration. It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, he will undoubtedly inspire that creative part of you.

— Carlos Penny, Oishii Head of Business Development

 

27
May

Think Like A Freaky Tourist

Think Like A FreakA few nights ago, we enjoyed taking in the new Freakonomics book with authors Steven Levit and Stephen Dubner.  The latest incarnation of their Freaky franchise, Think Like a Freak debuts this week at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. For us in the creative industries, the popularity of thinking differently is a welcome addition to our thinking toolkit.

With their usual witticism and insight, Levit and Dubner offer more observations into the ways we rely on habits and unconscious incentives when making decisions and solving problems. Often we don’t critically think through our own thinking process, say Levit and Dubner. We don’t recognize our selfish motives when thinking and taking action; we shy away from asking for help and we stand on the shoulders of conventional wisdom to solve problems.

As we continue our Think Like A Tourist series, I want to bring an older voice into our ongoing conversation about creativity, Mr. George Orwell.

Orwell was a writer obsessed with clear thinking and writing. In his famous essay Politics and the English Language, Orwell took issue with jargon and complex writing styles. He disliked glossy or shimmery writing, because as he saw it, such writing lacked lucid thinking. In Politics and the English Language, he pressed writers to write less and think more. He wanted writers as artists to take a step outside their craft and evaluate how they make art. In this way, Orwell wasn’t necessarily interested in helping writers become great writers so much as he wanted writers and artists to be rigorous thinkers. As he rightly saw it, writers and artists have responsibilities to their craft and audiences. Readers need to read something that challenges their habits and stretches their ways of looking at the world. He wanted audiences and writers to use their minds and exceed each other’s expectations.

Orwell’s aspirations are applicable for us in the creative industries. Our work lives are framed by trends, reports, data, thought leadership, research findings, insights and even the five-paragraph executive summary. These pieces of conventional wisdom are the beacons of our craft, giving direction to our solutions and shaping the direction for our clients’ next launch.

More than thinking like a freak, Orwell reminds us to always take a few steps back before we write, draw and do. Pay attention to the words we use, the phrases we toss about in meetings, and the goals we give our teams.

Who feeds you the language, phrases, terms and conventional wisdom everyday?

 

16
May

Why Ad Agency-Created Products Fail

Why Agencies Fail_Mona Lisa

We read a recent Fast Co.Create piece by Leif Abraham, partner at Prehype, a New York-based venture development firm creating new digital products and companies together with startups and bigger corporations. In “Spike and Die: Why Products Created By Ad Agencies Fail,” he argues that the current culture and agency business models just aren’t conducive to real product innovation. Namely, that agencies trying to do product work typically treat the production of an app or product in the same way they treat the production of a TV spot.

Abraham says this has two effects:

1. It’s a torch relay

Just like in a TV production, each person finishes his or her work first, before the next one starts. That means the designer completely designs the app before the developer even starts to code anything. Though this can sometimes work, it also bears some risks, such as the developer finding mistakes in the design at a very late phase in the process.

2. An ad agency is not set up to maintain

In a campaign process, people are used to making some thing, put it out there and then never touch it again. This does not work with products, because they need on-going maintenance and a dedicated team to further develop it and deliver support.

As a result, product-like launches coming out of agencies don’t have long-term plans — or budgets — in place to maintain and sustain them.

Abraham further offers a few suggestions for how an agency could become a real player in the world of product innovation. Agencies should treat product development more like the founding of a new company — acting like a startup — versus treating it like another project. This inevitably marries the creation process with the business side of things. And both agency and client are equally invested in the long-term success of the product. To quote Abraham, “…if, as an agency, you believe in and enforce the rule of ‘my success is your success,’ you will have an interest in things running efficiently as possible.”

His other point is something that we at Oishii Creative are very passionate about, and have written on extensively, which is building company culture. Some of our best ideas come from fostering an open and collaborative environment; what we like to call “generative workspaces.” When your team feels excited about building a company — and not just a product — then ultimately, they’ll also feel incentivized and committed to the other aspects of the business.

As our VP Kate Canada Obregon recently wrote on The Agency Post, people like to work in open office spaces, or ones that promote a collaborative spirit, because they feel connected to the company’s organizational mission and to their fellow office mates. It’s about creating community within the office, and ultimately, the effects of this virtuous cycle translate into your output as a company, whether that’s launching a new product or a new TV campaign.

A vibrant and generative company culture takes the long-view for clients and projects. This isn’t always easy because it’s not a matter of providing short-term fixes or campaigns to fill holes. It’s about coming up with innovations that work seamlessly and consistently across platforms. This kind of generative culture asks more of staff and creative resources than replicating the status quo. It means working harder and longer on projects that hopefully, many are willing to do. Because what it really comes down to is thinking and creating with the future in mind, and always finding ways to partner and deliver for clients.

12
May

Think Like A Tourist Series: Think Like A Situationist

Situationist

Creation is a radical act. Whether you create ideas, services or products, all of us who lead and guide creators are obliged to see the world differently every day.

And we generate ideas through a combination of processes and our neuro-circuitry; our mind’s abilities and internal ways of thinking. Think of it as the merging of our work environment, culture and peers with our brain’s capabilities. Whether we are charged with realizing the strategic brand direction or an app or product launch, we must create and realize something new. We’d like to think the entire process is within our control, but it isn’t. Creativity is not an amorphous activity out of our reach, either.

Philosopher and avant-garde cultural critic Raoul Vaneigem observed that creativity is often the obedient offspring to business, productivity and typical measurements of success. Vaneigem was one of the founders of the Situationist movement, a French group of artists, poets and philosophers who looked to art and specifically, the avant-garde movements to instigate societal change. Vaneigem and his fellow artists believed art and art techniques could make people see the world in new ways, just as they learned to represent reality with point on the brush, a dabble of paint or unfamiliar lines. For our purposes, Vaneigem‘s observations are useful because he calls out the reviving power of creative thinking. He believed that art could not be contained or utilized in commercial activities because artists’ contributions outweighed measurement. As he saw it, “you can’t limit the power of bedlam in the logical ‘spin cycle’ of work-a-day world.”  And while we know business and art are mutually dependent upon each other — deeply intertwined even — it’s worth bearing in mind his elegiac defense of creative minds as the driver of success, growth and innovation.

Vaneigem wanted us to always be vigilant to the ways we leaders either judge quickly or dismiss the radical new idea, its creator and his/her new way of looking at things. Following his way of thinking like a Situationist can awaken a feeling of liberation and adventure, which is crucial to the work that we do within the creative industries.

 

Image courtesy of Brictz.com

18
Apr

Generative Spaces: The Effects of an Open Office Floor Plan

Image via The Agency Post

Image via The Agency Post

Our VP, Kate Canada Obregon, recently wrote a guest blog post for The Agency Post sharing Five Tips for Making Your Office A Creative Space, but where did the idea for an open office floor plan come from?

In her latest article for The Agency Post, she discusses The Effects of an Open Office Floor Plan:

Here are some excerpts:

“…one of the office features we often mistakenly attribute to startups is the open office plan. We tend to equate this setup with the startup attitude of free-flowing space, an open atmosphere and equality of space. But for 60 years, the open office floorplan has been both the standard and ideal for office design. Mirroring economic changes since the 1950s and into the 1990s, architects have designed work environments for the booming “knowledge industries,” spaces where people create and produce ideas as part of their company bottom lines.

Symbolically speaking, people like to work in open office spaces, because they report feeling connected to the company’s organizational mission and to their fellow office mates. These spaces do well at creating “communities.” And while the research shows that intangible benefits are apparent, studies conducted by organizational psychologists on large corporations show mixed results on measures of productivity. Workers in open plan offices complain most often about noise, loss of privacy and constant distraction.

We cannot create without other people. We are social animals. Some philosophers and scientists argue that physical and sensorial evocative environments act like our scaffolding into the world, giving us humans opportunities to deepen our brain activity and expand into the world. When building an environment that supports and amplifies creativity, though, it’s important to keep in mind that the best solution usually isn’t an open floor plan.

Creative spaces require different setups for different mindsets: fun areas for unconscious processing; reflexive spaces where minimal thinking can go on, and reflective spaces wherein people must go beyond superficial thinking to find those kernels of creative thinking.


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