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The library of essays of Proakatemia

PRACTICING INNOVATION WITH FLIP SOLUTIONS OSK.



Kirjoittanut: Jemina Laitinen - tiimistä FLIP Solutions.

Esseen tyyppi: Akateeminen essee / 3 esseepistettä.
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Writers: Jemina Laitinen, Kamil Wojcik

This essay is describing selected methods and tools to boost creativity and innovativeness based on “LIFT-UP creativity and innovation workshop” by Bruno Poirier, published in 2014.
Flip Solutions utilized LIFT-UP workshop process and tested selected methods during its own training session as a part of the preparation for the final assignment of Proakatemia studies – 24h innovation challenge.

Bruno Poirier is the founder of LIFT-UP. The author is a creativity and transformation activist who strives to encourage courageous initiatives to reimagine how we live and work.

LIFT-UP is well described with three words, boostadopt, and elevate. Methods aim to boost creative capabilities, helps to adopt a positive mindset, elevate participants’ view of innovation and consider human and ecological sustainability from the very start.

Making a shift into the creative world is close to team working dynamics. Negativity, fear-based, atmosphere full of assumptions will deteriorate the team’s spirit. That leads to repetitive, linear industrial-like, and controlled work. While playful and imaginative environment creates more room to embrace a beginner’s mindset and try out a new way of approaching tasks, challenges, and problem-solving. The reality of a modern world is multi-layered and success is often defined by one’s ability to cooperate.

Companies too often focus only on profits and revenues instead of embracing deeper purpose and contribution to the greater good. For that purpose, entrepreneurs must adopt new ways of creative thinking. Bruno Poirier refers to a child for who life is one big blank sheet to draw on. Young human being observes and experiments constantly. Otherwise, it would be unable to develop. Just like a child, we need to keep developing ourselves to stay relevant in the modern world. People are more imaginative than they give themselves credit for, all it takes is just a little risk.

At the start of an essay 24h challenge has been mentioned. Yes, Flip Solutions is preparing for it, although it’s important to practice innovation due few different reasons as well.

Many organizations lack effective idea-generation processes, therefore it’s crucial to know how to deal with new ideas on the individual level and make the most out of them.

Problem-solving or just ideation sessions are often performed by people who are too close to the problem itself, which can cause a block of creative thinking and the ability to truly think outside of the box. Also, people who have been working with the problem too long or has been created the project themselves can also be easily too in love with their idea and therefore too afraid of bringing something crazy to the table or mixing it with something uncommon. Bring outsiders and crazy ideas.

 

Leader! Remember your role!

Innovation must be led. Teams can do wonders once members take ownership, receive credit for their work and their passion will keep the spark.

There is a good chance that things will go sideways – that’s ok. If one strives for true innovation, the leader of the process must assure open to failures environment – openness and flexibility. Everyone involved in innovation must feel part of the team, being part of something meaningful and working on a challenge are great motivation elements. This starts with simple things like acknowledging everyone’s presence, giving credit of trust in advance, and respecting others.

In our Innovation PAJA, we did not agree after all a leader for this time, since we had that few participants in the paja. However, we went through the leader’s role when leading innovation. A leader’s role is crucial for engaging and motivating people during the innovation process. Based on the Lift booklet and PowerPoint presentation in Paja, desired feelings and actions in the team during innovation are:

  • Ability to contribute to solving the problem
  • Their input will be taken into account
  • They are trusted and respected
  • They can personally benefit from the solution or it will help others

As the leader, the most important thing is to stay thankful, optimistic, and generous, especially during the ideating session. In the leadership position, own attitude and feelings play a huge role, because they affect the whole team. So, the leader’s role is to stay optimistic, trust the team, and spread a positive attitude and emotions in the team. It is kind of creating the space and atmosphere where everyone feels a positive way towards the task and feels that they can focus on their strengths.

It is also important to keep in mind that encouraging is important, but also challenging. That, how to play between encouraging and challenging is not that easy to execute especially if there is for example time pressure.

It helps when rules are clear, there are a few based on LIFT-UP workshop.

  1. Suspend judgment. Do not criticize, analyze or make negative comments about the ideas. In the start, every idea is great. There is another place for verification.
  2. Go for quantity. Go big, many ideas that seemingly don’t connect can have a positive impact on each other, therefore don’t be shy, write all of the ideas down and go for the quantity.
  3. Encourage wild ideas. Ideas that can be unattainable often contain valuable insights. Allow true out-of-the-box ideation and let thoughts flow.
  4. Build on the ideas of others. Ideas can take different forms in different minds, don’t be afraid of borrowing from others.
  5. Avoid long discussions. Everyone has their say, but let’s be polite and keep the ball rolling. Details later.
  6. Be spontaneous, intuitive, and visual. Use papers or memo notes, and draw and write down your ideas. It can be a sketch or a mind map. It helps.

It’s hard to innovate in theory therefore we picked an existing problem found in the city of Oulu.

The screenshot was taken to preserve the information, source: Click here

 

During Flip’s 4h training session we followed the steps:

Defining the problem

Defining the problem helped the team to understand what is a need by the customer and what task needed to be solved actually. Those steps are:

  1. Describe the current situation simply.
  2. Identify the main causes and consequences of the problem.
  3. Define scope and essential limitations.
  4. Identify your goals and measure of success.
  5. Formulate a good problem statement.

Defining the problem together and setting the problem statement helps the team to keep a solid line for innovating. Also, it helps to stay focused on essentials if the red line and core idea start to blur during the innovating process.

At the end of the Innovation PAJA, we noticed that we could have spent more time defining the problem and seeking information about the task, because in some point the need of the customer blurred a bit, and we started to focus too much on unnecessary matters. In the future, it would be valuable to write the problem statement somewhere to be visible as a reminder.

 

Empathy as a key tool for success

The empathy map was a very beneficial tool to use in our PAJA and it would be super helpful to use in any innovation task or problem in the future. We used one of our teammates to empathize with a role of a customer and have an interview with them. If there would be a chance, we could do it also by calling for an actual customer of course but also acting on the situation was a beneficial way to understand the customer.

The tool is good to keep in mind especially, if the given task or scene is not familiar to everyone in the team but it is also a good way to expand the own point of view of the task. For example, in our Innovation PAJA, the task was to solve the problem of the festival’s waste and rubbish problem, and some of our teammates hadn’t experienced any festivals ever in their life. So, it would be hard to understand the customer’s true needs and wishes about that kind of event, if there would not be that kind of practice for discussing with the customer. That practice gave us multiple different ideas for solutions and it was also fun.

Empathy map based on the interview with Festival participant.

Ideas based on the empathy map.

 

Creative thinking technique: Convention Smashing

We used the tool of Convention Smashing, which includes three parts: convention, disruption and re-invention. First, we listed all the conventions that are mandatory to succeed in the task. We called it the bare minimum for success.

In the disruption part, we systematically played with these conventions by disrupting and challenging them by thinking about how things could be implemented in a different way than they would be assumed. What things could be eliminated or removed? What things could be modified significantly? Can something do in a different order than we are used to and twist it the other way around?

After the disruption, we re-invented the situation and task with a new set of rules with ideas we innovate in a previous part. This tool was beneficial to open the mind to think outside of the box. It is very easy to stay in the boxed ideas and stay in the assumption that things need to be done in a certain way and they can be modified just a little or things needs to be solved by adding something. For example, we try to solve the challenge of food serving containers: What material would make them easy to recycle? Or should they all be biodegradable? Or should they be actual cutleries?

But what if there would not any serving containers?

This tool helped to open up the point of view and have an opportunity to think the new or opposite way. When we agreed to use this tool together, it was also agreed that the craziest ideas are also normal and we can go wild. Especially for people who stay easily at the safe option and it’s difficult to step out from realistic options, this tool is worth trying to step out from the box.

Ideas based on convention smashing technique.

 

How do you know which idea is worth trying..?

Clustering ideas with Impact/Ease of implementation matrix.

After innovation, we had tens of ideas. Note that we had only a couple of hours to get familiar with the tools and for using them, so we did not have a hundred different ideas. Also, we did not set any number on how many different ideas we want to have at the end of innovation. Anyway, we used the matrix to define the worthy ideas to try or get forward. That matrix considers the impact of the idea and also the ease of implementation. Going through our ideas within this matrix helped us to drop some ideas out by noticing that they cause too much effort to implement them or their impact is so little that they are not effective enough.

Clustering ideas by validation of impact and ease of implementation.

 

Highlighted things of Innovation PAJA

  • Defining the problem and task together helps everyone to engage in the task and have a common understanding of the topic and customer needs.

–> There could be more time used for defining the task and the problem to have an even deeper understanding of the problem. That would also help later when we needed to go back to clarify and remind us what the qualifications were.

  • An empathy map helps to understand the customer and their needs deeper way and also gives a wider point of view of the task. If a real customer or person from the target group is not available, a fake interview of one team member who is acting to be a customer is also a valuable way to use the empathy map.
  • Always remember the task and assignment! During the innovation process, it is super easy to forget the core of the task and take too many sideways, which takes unnecessary time from the actual problem-solving time. That brings us to the beginning to remind, us how important is to define the problem and make it a clear statement. It will help during the innovation.

If different tools are used during the innovation process, it might be easier to play with encouraging and challenging. When team members know that this is the tool for going crazy with wild ideas, it is clear to everyone. When the tool tells us to challenge or define worthy ideas, it is clear that it is time to be critical. That keeps everyone in the same state and the team stay in the same purpose together. It also increases everyone’s feeling of accountability.

 

If there is a need to get into innovation topics and different tools for innovation, this  PAJA model for going through many different tools in a short time was a great way for doing that. If there would have been a long time for every single tool, we could definitely spent more time and have a deeper analysis. However, this way we got the opportunity to see how different tools work and also have ideas about what are those tools we could use in our 24H challenge but also with any project which needs to have some spark in it.

 

Reference:

Poirier Bruno, 2014 Switzerland, “LIFT-UP creativity and innovation workshop”

PAJA on 20.4.2023 held by Kamil Wojik. Powerpoint presentation and dialogue.

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