Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some ideas on Innovation versus creative thinking

John Elkington at the 2006 SustainAbility Ltd ...Image via Wikipedia

In Wageningen I attended the launch of the Centre for Development Innovation (previously Wageningen International) with a talk by John Elkington, a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development. I enjoyed his definition of sustainable development: imagine the world in 2050 with 9 billion inhabitants and think back what decisions we should make now to make that world possible... He mentioned social enterpreneurs (and social intrapreneurs working within companies) as the key people to drive innovation. In his book they are called the 'unreasonable people'. Innovation often doesn't start within the system, but on the edges or outside the system.

I made me wonder about innovation and the way I use the term. It's probably become another fad word with many different meanings. In the innovation 2.0 group on LinkedIn there was a discussion about 7 months ago about the definition of innovation.
One person said: Innovation is the succesful introduction of an 'invention'. A bit the Willie Wortel definition of innovation I guess :). Someone else introduced the term 'social innovation'. And what's the difference between change en innovation? One definition shared was: Innovation differs from 'normal change' because a prevaling thinking pattern is disrupted.

My interest is not so much in innovative products and services but in stimulating professionals to continue innovating their thinking and not to get stuck in their thinking pattern. Maybe creative thinking is a better name for that. An example: this afternoon we played a game in which you have to guess. My daughter had to guess 'pyama's'. She got stuck because she mentioned all the clothes you put in daytime (shoes, sweater, socks) but forgot that you also put on clothes at night. She needed a hint to think about that and it was suddenly so logical for her. In Ethiopia I once did an exercise with a rope, which needs creative thinking to get the solution. One of the farmers was the first to find the solution- not the development workers. That's creative thinking if you don't stay within the limits. Creative thinking is not something you do on your own, but you rather need to be challenged.

In my painting class, there are various forms of painting that stimulate you to paint with a new perspective like:
  • Draw without looking at your paper, just look at the model
  • Use paper snippets in stead of paint
  • Paint in negative (make everything light dark and everything dark light)
  • Paint upside down
  • Use only lines for shading (form oriented)
  • Draw with a ruler (teaches you the direction of lines)
  • Rotate your drawings and work on somebody else's drawings
A nice toolkit with forms to stimulate this kind of creative thinking (in Dutch) is Samen vernieuwen in de praktijk by Verdonschot, Keursten and van Rooij. Full of techniques and methods to stimulate creative thinking. (also for reasonable people :).

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alan said...

enjoyed your Message especially the list of drawing/creating exercises. Some I had never seen before.


Unknown said...

Thanks Joitske, it's always so interesting to read your posts!

Unknown said...

Thanks Joitske, it's always so interesting to read your posts!

Joitske said...

Hi Michael, thanks for the compliment!

Sjon van 't Hof said...

Thanks Joitske for pointing out the book "The power of unreasonable people" by John Elkington. Over the course of 2009 the rising importance of social entrepreneurship in an international development context started dawning on me.

Joitske said...

Hi Sjon, didn't read it myself- if you read it, let me know whether it's worthwhile!