SPARK Your Imagination

There’s a growing trend in America. A trend where the world of art and artists are collaborating with businesses and business leaders to generate a richer offering as well as a new perspective on creating healthier and stronger businesses. There is no better avenue for this thinking in St. Louis than the SPARK Conference hosted by COCAbiz at COCA.

I was honored to be able to perform the graphic recording of the event, for Sharon Price John’s morning presentation and for the evening’s Keynote address by John Maeda. Below is the large-scale graphic recording of the full day event of SPARK at COCA.

COCAbiz SPARK 2015 sm

Please check out the wonderful services and programming that COCAbiz has to offer by contacting Steve Knight at COCAbiz. Just follow the link and get creative with business solutions.

I Believe… My Purpose

Stop me if you heard this one before…

“I have a great idea for a…” or “No one else is doing this. It would be a great business…”

Like you, I have heard many of these lines over the past years from people who were thinking of starting a business or expanding an existing offering. Over time I have come to realize that potentials are not about a great idea or a gap in opportunities, rather it’s about the reason it’s important to do. So, the best question I can ask of them is this…

What’s the purpose?

Hint; ‘Purpose’ speaks to people. “Human to Human”

As Simon Sinek states, “Start with Why”. I believe the ‘Why’ will help identify the ‘Who’ if clearly defined and then possibly the ‘How.’ What you provide to support that ‘Why’ (your purpose/cause) could become your offering.

Once you determine to create, expand or even redesign your offering, map it out visually to make it a tangible plan, then heed some important advice that was shared with me. Seek out an outside professional to help you see beyond your framework to ensure that your purpose is clear and important enough to others as well to sustain growth and success.

Be a Cause, not just because.

When Is Innovation

What I have learned from observations.

Over the years I have graphic-recorded and facilitated many meetings and strategic ideation session where the topic of innovation arises. Recently, possibly due to the popularity of the idea, innovation constantly emerges as an answer to a problem.

‘In order for us to achieve (X Y Z) we must innovate, be innovative, or become innovative thinkers.’ 

The real challenge is not achieving innovation but what leads up to the innovation for, in my view, an innovation is not ever-present. I believe it does not happen throughout, but at as end moment proof of an endeavor. Innovation is the tangible outcome, not the intangible process.

A colleague far across the big pond, discussed this idea with me on many occasions. We both agree that innovation is originated from discontinuous thinking. It is an outgrowth of difference and not of continued progress. We do slightly divert from the definition however as I feel strongly that part of the misconception in public is the word use outside of its true definition and he sees that it is a bit more about being word semantics. In either case that you may lean-to, it still is an over-used term for everything new or different.

So much distortion has been created that “Innovation” has become a catch-all buzzword and has diluted its value and tense of the action. As I stated, innovation is a past tense word and here is why I think this. Please indulge my thinking for a moment. I will arrive at the importance of this statement shortly. Take a look below at a diagram (The Path To Innovation) I created for an online chat about innovation over a year ago.

Path of innovation

Notice the Path of Innovation flows along the process, but is not truly part of the process. It flows in the background. Above the Path of Innovation is the Path of Thinking. This path runs parallel yet changes slightly once through each node only diverted by an outside resource. The path is not continuous, yet the direction is. Only until both paths pass through “Measure” do we know if the idea is an innovation or that your idea has been proven innovative.

It is not until you measure and prove that the “Idea” is a valued concept can you initiate it into action. This action then has created an innovation or innovative method that changes an old process or product indicating the point of application or implementation is after the innovation has been proven valuable and is adopted. Innovation is then a historic action making an innovation a past tense thing.

Okay, so why all the nonsense of past and present tense of innovation? Simple, for the reason of clarity. Innovation is a thing proven not of an idea conceived. If no proof in action or value is present, something, be object, process or thinking can not be deemed an innovation. If proof dictates innovation, then innovative thinking is then merely creative thinking improperly categorized or misquoted. In essence, creative thinking is an intangible concept, and innovation, which is a proven (past tense), is the tangible product.

So, let’s use the proper words around innovation for the proper application, Creative Thinking, Systems Thinking and/or Happenstance can all lead to Innovation, but are not innovative or innovation of themselves, only something that is proven valuable can be stated as innovative or an innovation.

 

 

 

Midwest Businesses and GraphicRecording

In the past few months I have seen a dramatic rise in the request in information for graphic recording and visual translations. Is it because of some super clever marketing campaign or some incredibly smart social media gorilla stunt that has gone viral?  Not really. The increase appears to be sourced through the an increase in activities of both sketchnoters and graphic recorders pushing their work into main stream culture through social media channels and gaining local and national press.

Take a look at this news piece on CBS News about Sunni Brown and the business of doodling or this article in a local Business Journal which introduces the idea of graphic recording as a tool to improve daily work and general thinking. (Yes, it’s about me and graphic recording. A selfish plug, but then again, you’re already here.)

Yes, graphic recording is on the rise. Be it personal sketchnotes posted on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, or more graphic recorders sharing on LinkedIn and Twitter, the business world is taking notice and responding accordingly by Following, Liking, Pinning and Adding to professional networks. Graphic recording is becoming a business acceptable practice.

Even for myself, my various applications have become a point of conversation with prospects and clients within the financial community, healthcare and business consultants. Corporate strategic planning sessions are incorporating more visual recorders to meetings to add greater value and deeper retention of plans, conversations and general gatherings.

Why?

I can’t answer for the general population, but from my personal experience and conversations with those inquiring what it is that I do, a realization of the power of graphic recordings and conversation maps is becoming clearer. And with this clarity comes greater curiosity. Businesses are looking for stronger advantages in the market place and graphic recorders are helping them to see opportunities that once were unseen and intangible. They are beginning to see!

So, if you’re a business, organization or a start-up, connect with a graphic recorder and get your ideas, plans and thoughts drawn out and seen so you can move forward with a clear plan and a map to your future.

 

Were Neanderthals Better Strategist

In today’s world of high-tech, multiple channel communications and the sense of instant response are we doing ourselves an injustice by practicing poor strategic planning or at least the techniques we use because of shorter attention spans? I feel people are forsaking the potential of strong strategic planning skills because of the high pace electronic life we live in. Somehow we need to stop, take a breath, and reflect. Reflection is one pivotal aspect of strategic planning critical to success.

So, Neanderthals were better strategist, why do I think this, sort of? It’s simple; they used a tool to stay focused on their tasks and goals. They drew out their stories and strategies for the tribe to see and survive on the very walls were they lived. These cave wall drawings offered a focal point for reflection and refocusing. Everyone involved saw the story/plan and it allowed the tribe to work as one unified team. The history and goal were always in view and that’s the key to a strong strategic vision, keep it in sight.

Cave Walling

As a visual translator, I have illustrated many business, strategy and development plans for organizations and individuals. I’ve heard and seen a variety of ideas and approaches as different as the groups involved. In my experience, those who utilized a visual map or graphic recording from a strategy session have better alignment of their team and to the vision or strategy that was created. These types of visual translations or visual maps are very powerful tools for focus, alignment and guidance.

My suggestion to help refocus, maintain alignment or reflect on your strategy is to go Neanderthal with your plan. Draw it out and nail it to your cave wall (Boardroom) for all to see. By showcasing your strategic vision you and your team always have it in sight. Like a road map, everyone knows where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going.

With over 20 years working with businesses, I’ve come to realize the importance of this singular idea; when everyone is seeing the same vision, everyone begins moving in the same direction and eventually achieving success together. This idea inspired my motto, “The best plan is one seen by all.” So, my advice, step back and go Neanderthal with your vision.

 

An Occurrence of Innovation

I have written and drawn on this topic before and from my earlier post, it has driven some very interesting conversations with groups who focus on conditions and mechanics of creating an innovation and action of being innovative. This subject of innovation and being innovative is a very complex and multifaceted issue. It has created a major divide in the thinking by those misinformed, highly involved and extremely learned.

In my earlier post on this subject “A Path To Innovate”, I focused on a methodology or the thinking process and avoided any mechanical technique. I have no wish to add fuel to an already heated, blazing topic, yet I do want to add something to the topic. I would like to add a bit broader visual about the occurrence of innovation. In my earlier diagram, I focused on the change to the thinking process as part of achieving an innovation.

I realized, by taking a step back further, I could see how an occurrence of innovation evolves and comes into existence. This not a change to my previous post or the visual I created, rather an expansion or companion piece. If you had read the earlier post you will notice that there are similar elements in both, however the key additions are “Status Quo” and “Communicate.”

InnoOccurs

I challenged myself to understand why there is a need to drive an innovation. I realized that the “Status Quo” is only remains as affective as the environment allows. When change occurs around the set item, its “Status Quo”, a need grows from that environmental change. This stimulates the process that can promote the path to innovation, but does not guarantee that it will occur only that it should.

In the second stage which I have labelled “Ideate”, the need has grown to somewhat of a pain issue. The item no longer fulfills the function due to the changes around it. This creates an opportunity for some enhancement or the creation of something new to fulfill the growing need. It is this need that generates new ideas, solutions to resolve where the status quo no longer applies. Yet, this phase also does not ensure that an innovation will come to exist. only the idea that it could.

The last phase begins to bring the innovation to life. To “be” an innovation, it must have two parts to exist. First, it must be constructed and brought into existence, not merely an idea that could be, but an idea that is. The second part of this is that the idea must be communicated. For an innovation to take hold it must be constructed and allowed to be shared so others are aware of its existence.

When it comes to innovation, the easy part is identifying a need and having an idea to solve it. The hard part is actually making it happen and have others apply it. An innovative idea can not live inside a vacuum, it must be constructed and shared to truly become an innovation. So take that idea and make it the next innovation.

Have a great day, and an innovative future.