2012 Ding! in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys have prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog.

This year I posted 64 articles, growing the total archive of this blog to 236 posts.

The blog had 41,000 views in 2012. Weird that it was a round number, and that I was 41 in 2012.

I hope you enjoyed reading my musings in 2012 and that you’ll like what I post in 2013 even more.

My most popular blog was:

Invented 100 years ago in 1912

But my favourite was:

The creative secret of the transition


Click here to see more crazy stats… 

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

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Can a paperclip save the world?


Can a paperclip save the world? Probably not.. but wait a minute…

Perhaps it’s because the paperclip is such a simple and yet ingenious, ubiquitous artefact that it’s used as a trigger to start thinking more creatively (well, by me anyway).

The first patent for a bent wire paperclip was awarded in the United States to Samuel B. Fay, in 1867. This clip was originally intended primarily for attaching tickets to fabric. His doesn’t resemble the familiar object we know today. That was invented in the 1870s in Britain by the Gem Manufacturing Company (and is still known technically as the Gem Paperclip) although no patent was filed, leading to many later claims and variation on the classic design.

So here’s the task:

How many non-uses of a paper-clip can you think of? Things you cannot use a paperclip for.

Most people find this quite hard which shows they are not fluid at activating the right side of their brain. This is a lateral thinking task because you have to get off the track of thinking of actual uses of a paper-clip. This tests how random you can be.

The task is actually quite easy since there are actually very few sensible uses of a paper-clip. You can use one to clip paper together (obviously) and you can use one to eject stuck CDs from computers. But not much else. So almost anything else will do, except people find it so, so difficult.

Here are a few examples:

You can’t fly to the moon on a paper-clip. You can’t marry a paper-clip. You can’t use a paper-clip to teach snails quantum physics.

One of the reasons people freeze up and can’t think of anything, especially in groups, is that someone has said something clever, witty or particlularly good so now they have to compete with that. This doesn’t help. When generating ideas you do not and can not compete with anyone, it’ll modify how you think and shut down your creative process. The point is not to outdo one another or try to be funny or clever. The point is to come up with ideas. You ned to be influenced and riff off what others come up with because ideas comes from other ideas.

So what else?

You cannot use a paper-clip to solve world poverty…. hang on, perhaps you can. If we do this…. and this… and suddenly a brave new idea has been found that changes the world. And all because judgemental thinking such as ‘that won’t work, that’s stupid’ has been turned off. Try it yourself.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Thinking out of the box… but how did we get in it?


Commodore VIC 20

This can’t break its programming. You can.

Society has such an outmoded view of creativity. At best it’s a necessary evil, at worst it’s a waste of time.

If you don’t believe me, go and have a look at your primary national curriculum for schools and do a text search for creative thinking and see what comes up.

It’s a rhetorical question: why do we hold back from our creative potential? Because we were trained to. We were programmed to think we were good or bad at this or that and we’ve been running those programmes ever since.

Here’s proof. If someone asked you to do a drawing today, would your first reaction be, ‘whoopee!’? Or would it be one of fear and embarrassment? Ok, maybe you’re the exception, but most people would react in fear. Let’s remind ourselves why.

Let’s go back to being age 6, 7, 8 or 9. The teacher says we’re going to do a drawing. Can you think of anything more exciting? A drawing! It’s pure joy. We’re going to draw… an elephant. So we get going. Mine’s looking ok. But I’m not sure, so I look over at someone else’s which prompts a line of executable programming code from the teacher:

“Don’t copy!” the teacher barks.

So we’re programmed not to look at other people’s ideas. We don’t look to see what other people are up to. We don’t know what our competitors are up to so we can’t do better than them. We fear our ideas will be stolen so we hide them and never improve them. But paradoxically we fear that everyone else is better than us which undermines our confidence, but we can never look to see the truth because our programme stops us from finding out.

John turns to me to ask me something. This prompts the second line of code:

“Stop taking! Do your own work!” .

So we’re programmed not to discuss our ideas to brainstorm them with others. From now on we work in isolation and waste time re-inventing the wheel. We waste time making the same mistakes that others could have helped us with. We get stuck and don’t ask for help. We think that originality is better than collaboration and elaboration and never fully develop our ideas. We begin to doubt ourselves and what we’re capable of. We turn into perfectionists who never finish anything.

Then the teacher comes over and looks at my drawing. “That’s pretty good” she says.

Suddenly I’m programmed with a positive mind virus. It takes over my subroutine, re-calibrating my system with this logical argument.

Teacher is correct.
Teacher says I am good at drawing.
I am good at drawing.

Because she’s the authority figure, what she says must be true. Fast forward from that moment, a year, a decade, thirty years, and the programme is still running. Here I am. I can draw and I know it.

Then she looks at John’s. “Ha ha! What’s that supposed to be? It hasn’t even got a trunk.” She shows it to the class and they all laugh.

Teacher is correct.
Teacher says I am no good at drawing.
I am no good at drawing.

“She’s right. I can’t draw.” thinks John and he runs the further algorithm:

I cannot draw.
Drawing results in embarrassment.
Do not draw.

If we fast forward thirty years, not only does John actively avoid drawing, to avoid further embarrassment, he’s re-calibrated it as frivolous and irrelevant. Just to be safe, he’s lumped in all creativity with it, his software now labelling himself as ‘not a creative person.’

When I was seven I won a painting competition. The best in the village. I won £4.50. I bought a toy telescope with it. But was my painting really that great? If I showed it to you now would it really be that good today? Was it noticeably better than the 2nd place painting? Probably not much better. It probably wasn’t that much better than the worst painting. The painting is of course irrelevant. It’s the fact that I was programmed as a painter that counts.

Can we take credit for what we’re good at (or think we’re good at) today? We can certainly take credit for what we’re not good at.

Did we have talent that was encouraged and developed? Or were were programmed, sometimes randomly, sometimes arbitrarily? Have those programmes stuck, making us think we’re good at (or not good at) something?

The reason so many of us can’t ‘think outside the box’ is because we were forced into that air-tight box all those years ago and we’ve remained there ever since. That’s not really  ood enough. We need to do better. We need to break that programming.

I dare you to do it.

Make a list of the ordinary things you’re not good at. My guess is it will include some of the following: drawing, writing essays, maths, mental arithmetic, memory, sport, geography, finance, cooking, DIY, public speaking, selling…

These are all base-level skills that require little or no talent. They just require confidence and practice.

Pick one, and practice it. Seek the extra bit of training if needed to crack it, and break your programming.

You are not a color home computer loaded with a Beginners All Symbolic Instruction Code operating system and a flashing cursor awaiting instruction on what to do. You are a self-determining creative being. You need to start acting like one. We all do.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Innovation is not welcome: a warning to creatives


Man shruggingInnovation is the process of making something better, or doing something better. It’s applied creativity. In some small way, almost everything could be made better. There are plenty of things that are crying out to be made better. Innovation is certainly needed. But it is not always welcome.

People don’t like change. They say they do, but they don’t. They don’t like things that are different and they certainly don’t like people who are different. This is a double blow to creative people like you because not only are creative people the ones who drive change by doing different things, they are also different themselves. They may even look, sound and act different to normal people. Normal people don’t like that.

This is a warning to creatives: you and your ideas are not welcome around normal people.

Who do you think you are getting ideas above your station? You’re paid to do a job, not to think. You’re paid to keep the status quo, not to upset the applecart. You’re paid to continue the ideals of the company, not to modify them (even if it makes them better).

Trying to get a new job? Who wants a troublemaker? Who wants a loose canon on deck? Who wants someone who’s multi-disciplined? They have a coat peg here for a job description, not an evolving mind. (If you don’t believe me on this, just check out any job advert and you’ll see that from a cleaner to an executive, the job description involves things that must be done, not things that could be thought.)

Trying to start you’re own business? You’ve got to stand out from the crowd to be seen, but if you stand out too much you may look flakey. If you look too exciting and fun you may be thought of as flighty and not serious (but of course if you look too ordinary you won’t be seen at all).

Most inventions and developments took ages and ages for the normals to catch on. The herd are too frightened to try anything new so they wait to see what everyone else does first.

If you’re too innovative, they often can’t even see what you’re offering, it is simply invisible to them, they can’t compute it. You remember that story about the ships coming over the horizon to the shores of South America for the first time? The story goes, that the natives, not ever having seen a ship, couldn’t see it. This is of course a load of hyperbole, it’s more likely that they simply explained it away and initially just ignored the phenomenon. Something like that anyway.

My favourite example of this is the Beatles 7th album in 1966, Revolver. It is now cited by all the experts as probably the most innovative rock LP ever recorded, certainly the most influential LP of the 1960s and definitely better than the one everyone usually thinks is better, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

But what happened on its release was unusual. It went to number one, obviously, but the critics of the day couldn’t review it. They couldn’t review it because it was too innovative to review. You can get hold of these reviews today and read them for yourself. They didn’t have the literary skill to properly describe what they were listening to. Even people you’d expect more from such as Ray Davies from the Kinks said he ‘didn’t get it’.

It took the listening public a year to ‘get it’ by which time the Beatles had released a less innovative LP, Sgt. Pepper, which was lapped up as the greatest human artifact every created in history. But they weren’t really praising Sgt. Pepper (they thought they were), they were praising Revolver, which had finally stretched the audience to be able to listen to rock music. All rock journalism changed that year, along with everything else in culture. Revolver was just too advanced in 1966.

Now, that was just a record we’re talking about and not really very important, but the same problem can happen with your new products, your new services and even your new ideas: if they are too innovative people just aren’t ready for them. They just won’t ‘get them’.

I’ve spoken in front of the wrong audiences many times. They didn’t get my topic of creative thinking. They didn’t get my guitar. They didn’t like my purple suit. They didn’t like my mad hair. It was too much. They just didn’t ‘get it’.

So what do I do? Unlike the Beatles, I can’t rely on my popular cultural icon status to be able to release Revolver onto an unsuspecting public. I did get a haircut. But I have to either dumb my message and approach down to an acceptable level or find a different audience, one that is ready. One or the other.

I suspect that you have a great new product or service and yet you can’t get anyone to take it up. I bet you have a great new idea but are struggling to find people to ‘get it’.

My guess is that, because it’s you, and I know you’re one of these ‘creative types’, it’s probably not because what you’ve got isn’t any good. It’s probably because what you’ve got is TOO good. Too good to be true and just too different.

I’m not in a position to offer advice. (I’m in the position to buy a new suit). But if I were to give advice, perhaps it would be this: keep looking for ways to find your audience. They’re not going to be down the street. They’re not going to be coincidentally in the next conference or networking event you rock up to. You’ll probably find, like me, that they’ll be 3% of your audience hidden in every batch of normals you come across. Our challenge is to increase those odds by being more strategic.

The other thing you could try would be to stop being so darn clever and knuckle down to be mediocre and boring just like everyone else. Play it safe and sound, that’s best.

But I can’t imagine you can do that anymore than I can. We just don’t have ‘being ordinary’ in us, do we?

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Is creativity a form of madness?


People have been asking my opinion on this article and the research behind it. So here it is.

Creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness’

Are creative people ‘mad’? Is creativity a ‘madness’? Or do they mean that we had all better watch out, because if you’re one of those creative types, you’re probably going to go mad and be depressed, and if you try to ‘get creative’ you may even end up killing yourself.

This is, of course, not what the researchers are saying.

“Lead researcher Dr Simon Kyaga said the findings suggested disorders should be viewed in a new light and that certain traits might be beneficial or desirable.

For example, the restrictive and intense interests of someone with autism and the manic drive of a person with bipolar disorder might provide the necessary focus and determination for genius and creativity.

Similarly, the disordered thoughts associated with schizophrenia might spark the all-important originality element of a masterpiece.”

The fact that lots of famous authors killed themselves, or were depressed, proves little as there are plenty of authors who are happy and still alive. There’s a tendency with statistics to point to the conclusion you want to make.

For me, the danger with the popular media view on this topic is that creativity and mental illness are portrayed as interchangeable. Beth Murphy of the mental health charity Mind agrees, “It is important that we do not romanticise people with mental health problems, who are too often portrayed as struggling creative geniuses”

And by the same token, we shouldn’t label creative people as ‘mad’.

I’ve been introduced on stage as being “totally bonkers, off the wall and crazy mad” which wasn’t really very helpful when all I was really doing was being interesting and entertaining in a unique way, with a guitar. It just shows how totally boring the other speakers on the bill must have been.

The media also often gets cause and effect confused. It may be that a ‘mental illness’ such as bipolar disorder helps an individual in a creative role to be more productive and creative OR it could mean that someone with bipolar disorder seeks out a role in a creative industry. Either way, we may find a higher proportion of people with bipolar disorder in a creative role. It says nothing about a disorder being necessary for that role. However, the research showed that someone working in a creative role is no more likely to have a mental disorder than anyone else, thus nullifying the commonly held inference and making this paragraph, like most journalism on the topic, void.

Here’s another article that makes me a bit cross:

Creative minds ‘mimic schizophrenia’

Which of course is not true. It’s not true because creativity is such a vast human endeavour and schizophrenia is an invented term to label certain types of mental illness conditions. We might as well say “Oranges mimic Tuesdays”. Except that would be totally mad.

It’s not the research that I’m questioning here, but the inferences that are being made.

I think we need to be more careful about the definition of what ‘mental illness’ is. If someone’s condition serves them, supports their work, is part of who they are and causes no long-term internal distress, then I don’t see why the medical profession, the media or anyone else has the right to call a person as having a ‘disorder’ when all they really are, is different.

If someone is suffering and in pain and can’t function in a way that serves them, then that’s a problem, obviously, and treatment may be needed. But if they’re suffering solely because of the way society has labeled them, treats them and doesn’t accommodate them, then that’s wrong.

In an age of political correctness, has society’s prejudice not been eradicated at all but instead changed its style? Has it moved from it being acceptable to discriminate out of malice or fun to discriminating by labelling anything different from a normal standard as being a ‘disorder’ and looking down elitist normal noses with pity at the poor disordered sick people.

It would make more sense if we found someone who was totally boring, who had created nothing, contributed nothing, who had lived a dull life – to be labelled as ‘mentally ill’. I’d say that person was really sick and in need of treatment.

It’s the creative people who innovate, who invent, who drive the human race forward with their discoveries, that save lives, that enrich souls. And for what? So that dull people, who never look up from looking at their shuffling feet can moan that jumping safely from the edge of space is a waste of a Sunday evening when they could have been watching the X-Factor results.

John Lennon once said that “everything is the opposite of what it is” which sounds like a nonsense statement until you think about how often it appears to be true…

If to be creative, I had to drink from the cup of madness and risk insanity, rather than become a norm, a drone, whose life’s purpose was only to remain within the accepted parameters of ordinariness – I’d drink deeply, and accept the highs and the lows as a price worth paying for a life worth living.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Is this you: Too many ideas?


Too many ideasMost of my creativity work is involved with helping people and businesses come up with more and better ideas for their work, their lives, their businesses, to help them innovate, develop new products or new ways of working.

But sometimes I hear this: “but I don’t have a problem coming up with ideas. My problem is I just have too many and don’t don’t which to implement.”

Is this you?

From time to time, it’s certainly me. I have two finished feature film scripts, ideas for three other films, ideas for four novels, twenty finished short stories, hundreds of songs that need recording, dozens of recorded songs that need uploading to iTunes, three business ideas for Dragon’s Den, three big marketing ideas for my own business, three non-fiction books three-quarters finished, ideas for three more non-fiction books, ideas for three public events and three ideas for some big corporations that could innovate their businesses.

That’s quite plainly too much to work on today. Too much to work on this week. I couldn’t get all that lot done in a month and the fact that some of those ideas have been hanging around for ten years tells me a decade isn’t even going to crack it.

It’s obvious that I have too many ideas to do before 2022. If I could work on them all full time, maybe I’d break the back of the to-do list by Christmas 2014, or perhaps not.

Because let’s face it, developing and working on speculative ideas can never really be our full-time role. Most of the time we have to get the donkey work done, the bread and butter, sort out family life, keep the wolf from the door, pay the bills, work for the Man, please the boss, firefight, ambulance chase, deal with people, manage stuff and generally ‘get on’. Only a lucky few have the luxury to sit back and pick and choose from their creative list or religiously work through every single idea one by one without distraction.

So is it simply a question of time management, of project management and the old chestnut, goal setting?

Partly.

Those are topics well described (by me in the past and loads of others). Here’s a summary: Prioritise your projects, break ‘em down into bite sized chunks and do a little bit of work on them each day. That’s goal setting. Not much more to be said really.

But does that solve the problem?

No really, no.

Because goal setting, time and project management only work when you know what you’re supposed to be doing. The reason people don’t achieve their dreams (or even get the most humble of tasks done like reading the papers or having a break) is not through lack of time management or not having goal setting techniques.

Could it be because all of those wonderful ideas we have, we know, deep down that they’re not really that great after-all, or would require far too much time and effort to transform into a good idea worth making sacrifices for?

To put it simply, we’re right back at the start, if we admit it. We actually have lots and lots of pretty average ideas and a few very poor ones. The reason we don’t know which to choose is because none of them excites us, ignites our passions or gives that shudder of a thrill as if buried treasure has been found.

The fact of asking the question, ‘which idea should I pursue’ gives us a clue that perhaps we need to be more creative still; take the present batch of ideas as practice for coming up with something worth pursuing. If you were asking ‘which girl or boy should I marry?’ and had to weigh up the pros and cons of a group of men of women, it probably means that you haven’t found the right person just yet. It’s the same with ‘the big idea’.

Why should there be a ‘big idea’ you may ask? Because we know perfectly well that we can’t do everything. We know perfectly well that we haven’t got the time. We know perfectly well that multitasking produces multiple average results.

We know from everyone who has ever been successful that they concentrated on one thing at a time, to get it right, to power it, to complete it.

So the next time you hear someone saying ‘I’ve got so many ideas, I don’t know which to focus on’ tell them they’re just not being creative enough. And that includes me if you catch me at it too.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

The creative secret of the transition


bubblesCreativity happens in the cusps, on the skin, at the interface of transition.

Nothing much happens in the lazy heat of mid-summer or the bleak cold of mid-winter. It is in the spring of new life and in the cold air of autumn when the light changes to darkness when the moment for creativity has come.

It is the precipice between waking and sleep – the hiding place of inspiration and secret ideas.

Have a look at soap bubbles, bubbling together on the water’s surface in your bath. The bubble itself is empty; the structure and the strength is the interface between the bubbles. And as above, so below and so within – the soap bubble is a model of the universe, exactly half way in size between a galaxy cluster and an atom. Both contain vast empty space, with their stars and nebulae, or their electron shells, forming the structure, the pattern, between which is only empty space.

Life began on that cusp. On the sulphuric vents in the deep sea, the interface between earth and water. The first cells emerged by evolving a polarisation of hydrophobes and hydrophiles, by creating a unit that rejected water within and faced it without, forming a spherical cusp. Life evolved in the oceans in the interface between the cold dark of the depths and the golden warm light of Sol. It found it’s place between the wet sea and the dry land, between the dusty hot land and the cool clear skies. Each interfacial transition moved the process we call life onto new heights of adventure, excitement and advancement.

Humanity evolved on the interfaces too. Between hand and rock. Between body and mind. Between mind and spirit.

And so it is with ideas.

Ideas are born exactly half way between what was and what will be.

Transition is our moment of artistry. When old ways are understood so well that they can be implemented unconsciously, we can begin to work with new ways that are so unknown they still have the excitement of discovery and experiment. The two become fused together for a brief time – confidence and uncertainty, hope and fear.

Transition is our moment of destiny. It is standing on a solid foundation and then taking that first step off into the brink of the unknowable. It is where things happen, where genius is forged, where kingdoms are born.

But it is also a place of terror, of frustration and despair, as every artist knows. As every inventor knows. As every entrepreneur knows. The night is the darkest just before the dawn.

But the transition is not the place to stop and rest. We are only ever passing through. It’s not the place to retreat from, that only leads to boredom, self-parody, repetition and stagnation. It is the springboard to our future.

The transition can only ever be a passing place, a moment, a touchpoint. Then there is new work to be done, to fulfill the potential of what the transition promised. The world becomes flat again, processes continue again, production begins again on the new plane. That is until he next moment of transition when the dice is thrown once more, the rule book ripped up again and when the new ways have themselves become the old ways as we face the next transition.

Once more we find ourselves on the precipice, the cusp, the edge of infinity, with only the one certainty, that change is certain. The circle continues.

But do not fear, this moment will too pass. The sun will rise again and the dreams we had upon waking will become our reality once again as we deliver from the transition our most creative expressive ideas.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Click here to learn about Ayd’s Ideastorm workshops.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Brainstorming doesn’t work


Is it time to start thinking of ideas generation in a different way and sacrifice the sacred cows of old? Should we admit what people have known for sometime, that so-called traditional brainstorming doesn’t work?

Ideastorm, brainstorming, ideas generation, training workshopIf brainstorming is simply dumping a bunch of people in a boardroom and expect them to suddenly ‘get creative’ and come up with some amazing ideas then it’s no wonder it fails.

There are two key elements of the classic brainstorm that we want to examine and challenge here and they’re both wrapped up together:

  • Brainstorming is a group activity
  • There should be no judgmental, critical or negative attitudes in the meeting.

So lets get stuck in on some clear and simple facts on the matter: Firstly, let’s admit that it’s individuals who think of ideas, not groups. But we all know from personal experience that one of the things that can inspire an individual to think of a great idea is being in a group. But it has to be the right group.

…Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, has summarized the science: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.”

– Johan Lehrer in the New Yorker, January 2012

Large groups or groups that contain political or power plays will not work. People will feel inhibited or too much pressure to perform or conform. All those things ruin the creative process in the mind.

This is why the original brainstorming condition is to have no negative or judgmental attitudes in the meeting. This is the main mantra of idea generation practitioners because most people are so lacking in confidence in their own creativity that one harsh comment will shut them down.

But there’s another reason to get the group dynamic right. Think about yourself for a moment. It’s really annoying to be in a group that doesn’t ‘get’ where you’re coming from or doesn’t let you speak. They might not have the inside track on the issues or they may not be as engaged in the theme as you are. They may not listen to your valuable insight, preferring the sound of their own voices. In any large group there’s bound to be some arrogance or envy and let’s face it, people you don’t like or don’t get on with.

This leads us to that brainstorming rule. The only way to deal with this problem is to level the playing field by bringing in the ‘don’t be rude and don’t be negative’ instruction. It creates the democracy to allow everyone equal say and have equal value. Sounds good in principle but in practice something else happens.

Research has been done that ‘proves’ that by not having debate, criticism and argument, a soft and fluffy nice meeting is manifested where too many diverse ideas are generated that cause ‘cognitive fixation’ . The mind gets blocked and fixated on those multitude of ideas and fails to break out into something innovative. Everyone is too busy being nice.

Too many organisations are running their sessions under these wrong conditions. They may have too many people, too many of the same type of people or too many disparate people.

By fixating on the democratisation of creativity are we mixing up the different types of contributions that individuals and groups can bring?

Perhaps we expect too much from an ‘idea’ meeting. Do we expect great original idea after great original idea? Perhaps what we should be aiming for is smaller quantum jumps from ideas put forward. Perhaps the role of a group is to fiddle with ideas put forward by individuals, who have already made intuitive leaps, and to improve those ideas?

Throughout history, groups and teams have out-performed individuals in the elaboration, expression, development and manifestation of an idea. Yes, an individual may be remembered as the one who ‘thought of it’, the the combined group mind always improves and builds on it.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney ink drawingWith the Beatles the main ideas generating group for their songwriting was John Lennon and Paul McCartney, working together to create all those hits. So here we have a brainstorming group of just two. They didn’t even let George in on the songwriting meetings, he and Ringo would have to wait until the songs were more or less finished and presented to the group to arrange and embellish.

But Lennon and McCartney didn’t run a ‘let’s be nice to each other’s views’ songwriting brainstorm. It’s well documented that their differences and disagreements would cause arguments and fights. And yet it was these differences that made them great (and the same differences would eventually pull them apart).

We have the stereotypes of McCartney singing the optimistic, “It’s getting better all the time” and Lennon add the sardonic, cynical, “couldn’t get no worse”.

They’d do that with each other, face to face, opposite each other with guitars. With McCartney being left handed they would have appeared as if looking into a mirror.

Paul would sing, “She was just seventeen, you know what I mean” and John would stop and say, “I LOVE that!”. In Hey Jude, Paul sings a line he was unhappy with, “the movement you need is on your shoulder” and John retorted, “don’t change it, that’s the best bit!”.

We now know that although all those Lennon-McCartney songs were credited as equal compositions, they were nearly all instigated by one of the pair first and then worked up afterwards, together, then further developed with the other members of their team.

Paul McCartney may have thought of the ‘idea’ for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. But it was the team of the four Beatles, their producer and engineers that embellished, elaborated, enhanced and manifested that idea into the record.

This should be our new model for brainstorming (or Ideastorming as I call it). Here are the new guidelines:

  • get a small group of two to five people who you trust. Could you bare to be stuck with them in traffic for eight hours? Could you bare to be stranded overnight with them?
  • each prime mover puts forward their ideas and the others help to change, embellish, enhance or reject them as an evolving debate.

Can it really be that simple? Actually yes. The secret to making brainstorming work was not to leave your brain at the door. All along we should have been using a healthy dose of common sense and realise that no strict formula or rules of ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do this’ has any place in creativity.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Click here to learn about Ayd’s Ideastorm workshops.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Does it all go back in the box?


Kenny Harris at PSA 2011We don’t get long to play the game and when the game is over, it all goes back in the box.

I was reminded of our mortality this month when I heard the shocking news that one of my speaker friends had suddenly died, aged 53. He would have been, just like the rest of us, right in the middle of plans, worries, fun, business, family life. Then suddenly he had to quit the game.

It all goes back in the box.

I had my own particular affinity with Kenny Harris because not only did he speak about creativity, (as I do), but was a great stand up comedian (as I’m not, but wish I was). I had the good fortune to attend his workshops as well as share the platform with him on occasion as well as catching up at various speaker events over the past seven years.

And where the shock of his sudden passing was so upsetting, it was met with an enormous outpouring of love was astonishing. He was Fellow of the Professional Speaking Association and the Association of Marketing, both high accolades, as well as being a notable name on the comedy circuit and business community, especially in Scotland, a lot of people felt the loss quite deeply. 350 people attended his funeral. There were numerous obituaries in various media.

When someone dies we’re obviously sad for them and their family. But the emotion that creates our own tears comes from our own loss, our own lack of power, our own fears. We’re sad for the perceived loss of the future he’ll never have and that we’ll never share. It made me think, as we should all think every once in a while: Am I making a worthwhile contribution? Where am I at in the game of life?

I’m sad for his family. I’m sad he didn’t write the book I was always teasing him to get on with, “yeah, yeah, I know..” he’d say. We had the title: ‘We Can Be Heroes’ – the same as one of his keynote speeches. I’m sad I never did get back up to Scotland to do the joint events we’d mentioned.

When the game is over it all goes back in the box…

One day, all my stuff will have to go back in the box. But it’ll have to be a blumin’ great big box as I keep everything. I collect everything, even other people’s stuff. I’ve got the video I shot of Kenny at event we did together and I’ve got fifty plus photographs of him I took from various events he performed at where I was the event photographer.

So does it all go back in the box?

Kenny’s website is still here. His Facebook and Twitter accounts are still here. And people are still posting to them. The outpouring of love and memories are still here.

I can see him in my mind’s eye, his odd black and white hair (he said his mother was from East Kilbride and his father was a badger). I can still hear his voice, the slow, persuasive conversational stream of consciousness way he spoke, in that soft Glasgow accent. At first glance he didn’t necessarily deliver great oration, he simply got up on stage and had a one-to-one chat with everyone. (But that actually IS great oration).

His approach to creativity was contained in the name of his business, Headsurf.

From his website:

“Headsurfing™ is an exciting, energising approach to “Fluid Thinking for Solid Results” – allowing anyone to be more creative

H (Humour), E (Environment) and A (Attitude) are the “cultural conditions” necessary for productive creative thinking.

D is Defining the problem.

S is Speedthinking – generating ideas under pressure.

U stands for Unconnecting from the problem.

R represents Reframing the problem.

And F is for Following Through on your ideas.

These behaviours and techniques can be taught to anyone who needs to think more creatively and more productively – either through training programmes, or by booking a speaker for your next event. Simply click on the “Contact Kenny” button.”

Simply click on the button… How many of us wished that button still worked. When Alan Stevens, one of Kenny’s close friends, was organising Kenny’s funeral, he actually pressed the speed-dial button on his phone to call Kenny for advice. I nearly did the same when I had the idea of performing a selection of David Bowie songs at a recent Speakers event in memory of him.

I compiled a medley of appropriate songs. The 40th anniversary of the release of Ziggy Stardust had been our last conversation, a week or so before his death. He’d have loved it I know and yet again I can hear his voice, “what about Changes, why didn’t you work that in? Where’s Life on Mars? Or Ashes to Ashes?” and I’d say, “it wasn’t working Kenny, and anyway I’ve only got ten minutes…”

When the game is over it all goes back in the box…

Some of the playing pieces may have been packed away. But Kenny scribbled all over the board that we’re all still playing on. There’s no escaping that.

It’s usually called ‘legacy’, the bit that doesn’t fit back in the box.

Try as we might to shove it all back in, the legacy that Kenny has left has meant that we can’t get the lid back on that box, he stuffed it too full…

Kenny Harris tribute

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

You can see my musical tribute to Kenny here.

The modified lyrics are (to the tunes of The Jean Genie, Rebel Rebel, Ziggy Stardust, Starman, Space Oddity and Heroes:

A small Ken Kenny from East Kilbride
Sneaked out of Glasgow, nowhere to hide
Trained as a lawman, but that was no fun
Started Marketing Store, went on the run

Ken Kenny, does the Headsurf
Ken Kenny, a master of mirth
He’s outrageous, has a joke for us all
Ken Kenny, having a ball

Your audience thought they had yer
Didn’t know if you were man or a badger
Hey you, your hair’s all right
Hey you, let’s have a drink tonight

They’d put you down, you’d say they’re wrong
There’s no debate you haven’t won

Rebel rebel, you were the best
Rebel rebel, count ourselves blessed
Rebel rebel, how could we know?
Hey badger, we’ll miss you so

Kenny made us laugh, always the best after dinner
One time he took it too far, upset the Americans
Made it up in the bar
Always the special man, we were all in Kenny’s band

Then I couldn’t believe it
Taken from us far to soon
Lets’ raise a beer to remind us
Of our fellow friend, miss him to the end
Kenny made us laugh.


Are we all, in fact, in a ‘Creative Industry’?


Creativity is often related almost exclusively with the so-called ‘arts’. When I say ‘creative industries’ you don’t think of a firm of solicitors do you? You’d probably think of a web design company, film company, animation studio, graphic design or music related business. Why is that?

With the concept of creativity we generally have to admit it must mean you have to actually ‘make’ something. I often use the broader term to ‘manifest’ something, i.e. the act of creation ‘brings something into existence’ something that wasn’t previously there.

This is clearly true of all the so-called ‘creative industries’. They use their creativity to manifest websites, films, animations, designs, pieces of music and so on.

But a baked bean factory ‘manifests’ something too, tins of baked beans. A car plant manifests something too, so too does a construction company. So why aren’t these firms labelled ‘creative industries’ as well?

Part of the reason is that in general, what they create, make or manifest is perceived as a commodity. So we may think the graphic designer or photographer is the artist, the ‘creative’, if you like, but the printer who actually makes their design into a printed artifact is not.

So it seems we have two stages here: creative conception (design, writing, making music etc) and the creative construction (printing, recording etc).

I would say it’s wrong to say that one was artistry and the other not. It would be wrong to say one was technical and the other not. Both types have specific skills and particular tools. You could even say both have particular talents. Compare a musician to the recording engineer for example. Are not both creative, one conceptually, one corporally.

We’ll think of the designer of the car as being creative of course but we don’t rate the construction and manufacture on a production line as being creative at all. We might give a little creative credit to the artisan who stitches the fabrics and leather by hand for the seats, but even that’ll be given a little grudgingly.

We often view craftspeople and artisans differently from artists as if the craftsperson makes repeated works, or makes money from what they make they’re somehow not ‘an artist’. They are of course both creative. The artist may be more of a creative conceptualist and the artisan more of a creative constructualist.

Let’s go back to business models and look at the next part of the chain within all industries; the service part. These are the vital parts of a business that make everything happen: sales, people and resources management, marketing, accounts and law. (Some of these are labelled as ‘professionals’ which is a bit outdated, and perhaps even patronising to both those who do it and those who don’t. There’s nothing un-professional about good sales or good design that’s better than a good accountant or good solicitor.)

These service based roles may not actively manifest an end creation by their own hands but they enable more end manifestations to happen. They enable the factory to mass produce goods. They enable the creation of increased wealth. They are necessary for scale. So why aren’t these service roles also labelled as creative? T

They should be. They are the Creative Continuators. They make the creativity of the artists and artisans go further and achieve more.

Here’s a summary of the component roles with our newly defined creative industries:

• The creative conceptualists

• The creative constructionists

• The creative continuationists

A modern example of a company within a previously designated non-creative industry yet is intrinsically linked with creativity is Apple Inc. They manufacture stuff. We can be gushingly romantic and point out that their products are often works or art (the original iMac from 1997 was actually exhibited as such).

But let’s face it, in reality they make mass manufactured stuff, no different to an attractive poster print, no different to a nice car, not really any different to a nice beaked bean tin.

But we do see that company in a different light. We do see them as a creative company, even if the computer, hi-fi or mobile communications industries that they work within are not ones we’d traditionally label as ‘creative industries’.

It’s because Apple have realised that they are indeed a creative industries business and that every part of that business contains highly creative people, whether they’re working in software development, manufacture, design, retail, marketing or whatever.

The big question is – does you business need to do the same?

What creative roles do you actually employ and do you treat them as such (or do you stick to the 19th Century industrialist model of management and worker drones?)

What role do YOU fulfill and where do you sit in the 21st Century’s ‘creative industries’?

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com