In a previous blog I introduced Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats technique. The simple approach that encourages parallel thinking within a group or team environment has been useful in solving complex problems but can also increase productivity in meetings where decisions need to be made. Unfortunately, the tool is not used widely because many people don’t feel comfortable in using the technique (could be due to a number of reasons) or they don’t value the tool’s ability to deliver enhanced outcomes.

Having used the tool for over two decades I have seen the power of parallel thinking in a meeting environment. Unfortunately, I have also seen the tool challenged by a number of senior managers who don’t support the use of the tool because they don’t believe in it. The key to experiencing the power of the tool is to start using it and developing a deeper understanding of the power of the Six Thinking Hats. The best approach for applying the tool is to firstly understand the sequence of the coloured hats to use.

When I used the Six Thinking Hats in a workshop to work on the global problem of “Declining supply of petroleum fossil fuels” I used the following sequence of coloured hats and associated questions:

When considering a specific problem or topic it is best to start with the WHITE hat as this allows all the background information to be presented and documented. Once the problem or topic is fully defined then the RED hat is used to ask participants how they feel about the problem or situation. Participants’ feelings are documented. The general tendency for a proportion of people in a meeting, at this stage, is to present the negative aspects of the problem or situation, however in this process I like to encourage the use of the YELLOW hat to capture the positive aspects of the problem or situation from all participants. Sometimes we can identify the positive elements of a problem or issue. This step is then followed with the BLACK hat when everyone considers the negative aspects of the problem or situation. The BLACK hat is then followed by the GREEN hat where everyone is encouraged to use creative thinking to overcome the negative issues but also develop new alternatives to solving the problems or resolving the situation. I then encourage the use of the RED hat again to gauge the feelings of participants after considering the problem or issue. Generally, most participants who were previously concerned about the problem or situation now feel more positive after having gone through the process of using the different hats. Finally, it is always appropriate to use the BLUE hat as this allows participants to develop conclusions or to evaluate and summarise the solutions to move forward on the issue or problem. The BLUE hat also provides process control to ensure the right technique or approach was used by participants. If a solution or resolution was not identified then another approach or process would be suggested as more appropriate in solving the problem.

An example using the six thinking hats to solve the problem “Declining supply of petroleum fossil fuels” can be found below (summary extract of the workshop).

Dr John Kapeleris

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The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” – Jean Piaget

A few years ago I was invited to speak at a local primary school about future careers and new technologies. The school gave me a tour of some of the classrooms and I noticed  that Year 1 and 2 classes had Edward De Bono’s Six Thinkings Hats on a large poster on the wall. I was surprised and delighted that the school was teaching the Six Thinking Hats process to primary school children. However I quickly discovered that beyond Year 2 the Six Thinking Hats posters had disappeared from the later year classes.

I am a great advocate and believer that creative thinking as well as critical thinking and other types of thinking should be taught in our schools at an early age. However, we continue to develop new standardised curricula the same way we always have done but expect new outcomes. There must be a better way. I believe we should continue to teach creative thinking in our schools (primary and secondary) in an attempt to develop students with both the lateral and rational thinking styles.

I found the following video on “Changing Education Paradigms” very challenging and informative.

What are your thoughts on our education system?

Dr John Kapeleris

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Creativity is the ability or aptitude by which individuals or groups generate or conceive new ideas, or adapt existing concepts into new principles. Many ideas have led to successful businesses and innovations. For example, these ideas may be a new solution to a problem, a new business model, a new method or a new product concept. By stimulating the creative process within individuals, new ideas and concepts can be generated that can lead to the achievement of new innovations.

The creative process was first described by Graham Wallas back in 1926. He proposed a systematic model that usually follows a sequence of phases: preparation; incubation; illumination; and implementation. However, we find today that many people do not have the interest or inclination to develop their creative thinking capacity. They feel more comfortable with their analytical or logical thinking.

Creative thinking (or divergent thinking) provides the means to generate new ideas and the identification of new opportunities. However, once ideas are generated they must be captured, screened, evaluated and finally implemented, which takes significant effort. This is reflected in the statement made by Thomas Edison that, “Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”

So what can we do to develop our creative abilities that will contribute to competitive advantage for ourselves and our organisation? Following I have outlined ten ways to enhance and stimulate your creativity:

  1. Connect with people. Creativity is about people therefore you need to expand your networks through LinkedIn, facebook and twitter and develop creative communities and social networks that can provide creative inspiration. You could also seek a mentor or join a mastermind group with like-minded individuals. A great way of engaging people in the workplace to become more creative is to establish a creativity club.
  2. Take control of your workspace. Create an environment that is conducive to creative thinking e.g. this could involve setting up a den with a large mahogany desk, a library and a soft leather chair, or it could be a quiet and relaxing retreat to read and think quietly without interruptions
  3. Learn new creativity tools and techniques. This can be done through self education or through courses and online resources. You can also attend seminars and workshops on creativity, and become familiar with a selection of creativity tools and techniques that you can begin to implement and use (e.g. brainstorming, mindmapping, Six Thinking Hats, Why-why-why, SCAMPER, random word, force field analysis, creative visualization, synectics, morphological analysis, imagination, intuition)
  4. Expand your mind through reading. Reading articles and publications on creativity and innovation will help you to better understand the topics and the power the knowledge can bring when applied to your personal and business life. You should also read references on  personal development and topics that may be unrelated to your own interests.
  5. Engage in fun and humour. Engaging in brain games and puzzles is one way of stimultaing your creative abilities, however, engaging in outdoor activities, such as bike riding and walking can also have a positive effect. You could also attend sporting events, comedy shows or other live performances. Watching your favorite DVD movies can also create an escape for creative imagination.
  6. Stimulate your artistic flair. Take up the arts through drawing, painting, music or drama. I don’t mean become the next music star or Leonardo da Vinci; just set aside some time to engage with the arts.
  7. Visit inspiring places. Museums and art galleries provide an excellent environment to stimulate creativity and learning. Visiting awe-inspiring locations of interest around the world, such as the Louvre, Tuscany, ancient Greek locations or the Great Pyramids can also stimulate creative thinking. A simple relaxing holiday location at a beach resort is also a great way to free your mind and think creatively.
  8. Understand and utilise the power of your subconscious. Take advantage of the alpha dynamic state and its positive influence on your thinking abilities, or the power of creative visualization to enhance your creative abilities.
  9. Think on paper. Escape from the current dominance of the digital environment by keeping a journal, an ideas notebook, or just grab a pen and paper and write down the problems you want to solve, or the opportunities you want to develop. You can also apply creative thinking techniques and creative problem solving processes on paper.
  10. Convert ideas into action. One of the most rewarding activities is to take the ideas you have captured, develop them further and implement them to achieve successful outcomes.

You don’t need to try all ten suggestions above. The important thing is to make a commitment to enhancing your creative thinking abilities by taking action and trying a few of the suggestions. Dan Pink author of a Whole New Mind, stated, “Left brain thinking gets you the job, right brain thinking gets you the promotion“.

Dr John Kapeleris

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The “butterfly effect” refers to the idea that a small flap of a butterfly’s wings in one location could set off a chain of events in the atmosphere that could lead to large scale alterations or consequences, such as a tornado, in another location. The butterfly effect concept relates to the sensitive dependence on initial conditions as applied to chaos theory. In simple terms this means that a small change or activity in one location within a complex system results in large effects or consequences in another location or situation. Chaos theory is used to study the behaviour of dynamic and complex systems such as the weather, the changing landscape, the environment, medicine and biological evolution.

The concept of the “butterfly effect” can also be applied to our work and personal lives to provide insights about:

  • Considering how everything is interconnected
  • Understanding the law of cause and effect
  • Knowing the impact of the choices and decisions you make
  • Accepting the results you create
  • Achieving significant outcomes through small actions

Your personal and business life is part of a larger network of connections. You generally find that an action made (or not made) in life can have multiple influences and effects. For example, in the recent Brisbane, Australia flood, if water was released from the dams progressively as the dam levels were rising, could this have avoided the flood that Brisbane experienced? Related to this observation is the law of cause and effect which states that for every action there is an effect or reaction. In other words, “You reap what you sow”.

Your pathway in life and the decisions you make can also create ripples in life just like a “butterfly effect”. We are continuously faced with decisions that we have to make in life. The decisions could relate to education, career, lifestyle, personal development, opportunity and investment, that can change your pathway to higher prosperity. Of course making the wrong decisions could lead to a negative outcome. These inflection points in your life path will create your future destiny. You therefore have the option to influence your own destiny or allow your destiny to be dictated by external influences. In summary, “The decisions we make and the action we take today will determine our future results and outcomes”.

To achieve significant outcomes you need to reduce activities into small manageable tasks that require action. By mastering each of the small actions and disciplines, you build momentum that allows you to achieve the bigger outcomes that are linked to the actions.

A simple approach that can be implemented to achieve results is outlined below:

  1. Goals – Set your S.M.A.R.T. goals and objectives.
  2. Beliefs and Emotion – Establish a positive mindset and remove any limiting beliefs.
  3. Decision – Develop a plan of activities and tasks by making the right decision. Take into account all the impacts and influences the decision will produce.
  4. Action – Take small incremental and disciplined actions based on the activities and sub-tasks that you document in your plan.
  5. Results – Achieve the results and successful outcomes that you deserve.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Creative Hothouses Part 2

March 7th, 2011 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Creativity - (6 Comments)

A colleague asked me to provide further information on history’s “Creative Hothouses”, such as ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence, the creative communities of the Parisian cafes and salons (early 1900s) and the German Bauhaus (1919-1933). Following is a summary of history’s creative hothouses.

Ancient Athens

The Athenians during the Golden Age of Greece (500 – 300 BC), created forms of history, mathematics, democracy, political science, philosophy, drama, architecture and sculpture, that continue to influence our world today. The hothouse of Athens was able to fuse a number of cultural domains into distinctive forms such as buildings, literature and politics. Thousands of years later the achievements of Athens played a crucial role in inspiring the Renaissance.

European Renaissance

The Renaissance Period (1300 to 1600), particularly in Florence, was characterised as the age of exploration with an emergence of new knowledge that influenced art and science. The knowledge from the ancient Greco-Roman period, that had lay dormant for a millennium, suddenly gained a renewed interest that further influenced the explosion of art and science. Advances in a number of industries occurred, including, travel, metallurgy, optics, ballistics, construction and agriculture. An exponential growth of wealth and knowledge also drove the emergence of the nation-state, each with its increased military power. The legacy created by the Renaissance Period was in the form of art. Life-like oil paintings and sculptures, the use of perspective, and the design of visually inspiring architecture was developed during the Renaissance.

The Parisian Cafes and Salons

During the early twentieth century, following the Paris World Fair in 1900, an industrial boom occurred in Europe and the United States, bringing new technological developments such as the horseless carriage, the wireless radio, widespread use of the telephone, and the proliferation of electric light bulbs. It was also the time when Albert Einstein published his first paper on the Theory of Relativity. During the early 1900s the Parisian cafes were social hubs fuelled by coffee, wine, and creative passion, where people would meet in an environment conducive to sharing mutually stimulating ideas and conversations. Gertrude Stein’s apartment also became one of the significant hothouses in Paris in the 1920s, with gatherings every Saturday night (salons) and visits throughout the week. Stein collected paintings of notable artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Braque before they became famous. The apartment became a salon of creativity where artists, poets and writers (Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Ernest Hemingway and Thornton Wilder to name a few) came together to share their experiences and fuel creative inspiration through the process of osmosis.

German Bauhaus

The German Bauhaus (1919-1933) under the leadership of Walter Gropius provided a workshop experience for architecture, sculpture, art and design. It also became the creative hub that bridged art and business where new creations could be transformed into products for the market. It brought together the cultural and physical landscapes to develop and stimulate students through transfering the skills of the masters. Many students then became masters teaching their learnings and experiences to future students. In 1934 when the Nazis declared all modern art to be ‘un-German”, the Bauhaus moved to Chicago where it became the New Bauhaus and later the Institute of Design.

Common Characteristics

The hothouses in history had a number of characteristics that were common, particularly the ability to accomplish the following (extracted from “The Hothouse Effect”):

  1. Sustain a high level of innovative creativity for a significant period of time
  2. Draw on the knowledge and innovation of the broader cultural community to which it belonged
  3. Spawn geniuses whose achievements climax the work of many other practitioners at all levels of achievements
  4. Establish a new paradigm, that is, a new way of doing things that informs its creative products and establishes new principles, procedures and standards.
  5. Achieve wide recognition and establish a lasting legacy to which future generations continually return to emulate.

It may also be interesting to study some of the more modern creative hothouses, such as Silicon Valley, and learn how intellectual exchanges led, in this example, to the development of the “dot.com boom”.

You may also know of other creative hothouses, local regional or national, that you would like to share.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Daniel Pink quoted in one of his presentations, “Left brain thinking gets you the job, right brain thinking gets you the promotion“. Since we are living in a ‘conceptual world’ through the impact of the digital economy we need to use both our analytical left brain but also our creative right brain. However, many of us struggle to develop our creative right brains because our educational system focuses on analysis, critical thinking, and facts and figures.

A key driver of business growth and development is the ability to nurture the intellectual capital in organizations (that is, the employees, their tacit knowledge, skills and experience). One critical success factor is to enhance creativity in people and subsequently in the organization by creating a “Hothouse Effect”. Dr Barton Kunstler author of the The Hothouse Effect describes a number of ways to intensify creativity in your organization using secrets from history’s most creative communities. The book describes common characteristics of history’s “Creative Hothouses”, including ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence, the creative communities of the Parisian salons (early 1900’s) and the German Bauhaus (1919-1933).

Following is a summary of the ‘Four Dimensions of the Hothouse Effect’. Learnings, observations, behaviours and processes from the creative hothouses  are outlined that can be applied to the modern organization to stimulate new thinking, creativity, innovation and breakthrough ideas.

I. Values/Mission.

  1. Values drive organizational goals, strategies and operations and should be ‘lived’ by employees throughout the work environment both explicitly and implicitly.
  2. The organization should support the creative expression of individuals and utilize their knowledge to solve problems and capitalize opportunities.
  3. Employees are driven by the vital impact and meaning they create for other individuals, organizations and society.
  4. Highly creative groups challenge assumptions and conduct in-depth research to gain a better understanding of the situation or problem.
  5. The organization’s mission aspires to universal application in the market.

II. Ideas/Exchange.

  1. The organization provides recognition and respect for thinkers and the products of thought.
  2. Create a system to facilitate the circulation and flow of ideas throughout the organization.
  3. Intellectual exchange inputs into the evolution of organizational culture.
  4. Employees tap into the expertise across disciplines and teams, and utilize other fields of knowledge.
  5. Mentoring relationships are cultivated throughout the organization.
  6. Hubs of creativity are encouraged which proliferate throughout the organization.
  7. The organization continually analyzes the impact of core technologies on all aspects of operations, development and strategy.

III. Perception/Learning

  1. The organization encourages and actively promotes education for all employees.
  2. Employees have access to tools and problem-solving methodologies to perform their work and deliver services to clients.
  3. Perception-based methods are implemented into the employees’ daily work lives.
  4. Creativity training is provided to employees to better understand the creative process, consisting of immersion, incubation and illumination.
  5. The organization and its employees maintain an open mind to external opportunities, networks and collaborations.
  6. Employees are encouraged to enhance their mental operations through various activities, including ‘thinking about thinking‘ and “design thinking’.

IV. Social/Play

  1. The organization has a strong business model that provides the resources and structure to encourage and support creative activity.
  2. The organization continues to develop its future leaders.
  3. Crises draw employees together and release hidden reserves of energy and creative inspiration.
  4. Playing with ideas, information and material encourages experimentation and removes the fear of failure.
  5. Social activities are planned imaginatively and promote social interaction and rapport.

The knowledge and practical approaches are available for any organization seeking a competitive advantage in this interconnected global arena. The challenge lies in the commitment and implementation strategy.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Leonardo da Vinci is remembered by most as an artist with realistic paintings such as the famous Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, that dominated the Renaissance period. However, when you study the life of Leonardo da Vinci you uncover more than just the artist. You find a multidimensional person who contributed to art, science, medicine, engineering, the military, town planning and politics.

Leonardo da Vinci was born in Vinci in 1452. His father was a notary in Florence and his mother a 16 yr old servant girl. He grew up in his grandfather’s vineyard and orchard overlooking the valley of the River Arno. In his early years Leonardo was educated by the local priest, asking many questions and challenged the existing beliefs of the time.

Leonardo eventually moved to the bustling city of Florence, which was a key city of the Renaissance period. He studied as an apprentice in the studio of Andrea del Verrochio where he worked on various art projects. Leonardo da Vinci worked with like-minded people to learn his trade, and share knowledge and technical skills, including drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, metal working, plaster casting, leather working, mechanics and carpentry, as well as the artistic skills of drawing, painting, sculpting and modelling. Leonardo made a significant contribution to refining the art of realism and the use of linear perspective. Leonardo was asked to complete one of Verrochio’s paintings and when Verrochio viewed what Leonardo had completed, he was astounded at the high level of detail and realism that Leonardo achieved. Verrochio had vowed that from that moment on he himself would not paint again. It is clear from the painting below the artistic contribution that Leonardo had made (the detail in the image of the left angel and the distinctive rocky background).

The Renaissance period followed the Middle Ages and began around the 1400s. The period was dominated by learning, discovery and inquiry. Ancient Greek and Roman knowledge was revisited and revised from the perspective of the Renaissance period. One of the key movements during this time was the transformation of two-dimensional Middle Age art to a three-dimensional perspective, creating a sense of realism in artwork. Furthermore, the Renaissance period spawned new discoveries in art, science and adventure. For example, new lands were discovered by Christopher Columbus (1942) during this time.

From an early age Leonardo began to draw and record his thoughts on paper. He kept numerous notebooks of his drawings, designs and observations. He also recorded a number of questions and then tried to answer them as part of his quest for knowledge and understanding. One of Leonardo’s peculiarities was writing many  of his notebook entries  in mirror image (reverse text) demonstrating superior spacial skills. It has been postulated that he wrote many entries in reverse to try to hide some of his notes, thoughts and ideas from prying eyes, or simply because he wanted to prevent smudging as he was mainly left-handed (although he was also ambidextrous).

Leonardo displayed certain distinct characteristics common amongst creative people, including:

  • Curious and open-minded
  • Challenged assumptions and sought the truth
  • Optimistic
  • Tolerant of ambiguity
  • Comfortable with imagination and intuition
  • Viewed problems as opportunities
  • Persevered and didn’t give up easily
Michael Gelb in his book “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci” identified seven principles demonstrated by Leonardo da Vinci:
  1. Curiosity
  2. Demonstration
  3. Sensing
  4. Ambiguity
  5. Whole-Brain Thinking (art and science)
  6. Physical Being
  7. Interconnectedness

Leonardo utilised the seven principles to achieve a number of outcomes. For example, in 1502 he worked as a military engineer for Cesare Borgia the son of Pope Alexander VI at a time where many Italian city-states were always at war. Leonardo’s job was to design new devices to better kill the enemy. He also came up with ways to remove, redirect or poison enemy water supplies.

Leonardo also identified and recorded a number of observations in his journals, and designed a number of inventions before their time:

  • 40 yrs before Copernicus – wrote that the earth is not the centre of the universe
  • 60 yrs before Galileo – large magnifying lens to view the moon
  • 200 yrs before Newton – theory of gravitation
  • 400 yrs before – concept of flight, parachute, helicopter, submarine, tanks, recoil-less gun and other inventions

By studying Leonardo da Vinci we find that we can identify a number of learnings from his life that we can adopt in our personal and working life, including:

  • Be curious and open-minded – a wealth of opportunities emerge when our mind is prepared to be open to ideas and curious about our surroundings
  • Ask questions to solve problems – asking “Why?” is a great way to solve problems by finding the root cause or causes
  • Capture ideas and experiences in a journal – thinking on paper by keeping a journal is a great way of expressing your internal creative spirit
  • Balance art and science – get the best of both worlds through reading and creative activities
  • Harmonize body and mind – use whole brain thinking techniques by stimulating and reprogramming your subconscious mind
  • Appreciate nature and our surroundings – enjoy and protect our world by considering the implications of increasing waste and carbon emissions
  • Set goals and aspirations – ensure you set SMART goals that are backed by action to create successful outcomes
  • Create a harmonious work-life balance – both work and play are important for humans, therefore ensure that your work and personal life are integrated and balanced

To continuous learning and creative inspiration!

Dr John Kapeleris

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We are faced with problems and challenges in our work and personal lives, daily. A problem occurs when a present state is unsatisfactory and we wish to change the present state to a more desirable state. The model of a problem is outlined below:


However, finding the appropriate solution path is not always easy and straight forward, requiring a number of different options and meandering pathways, as represented by the diagram below:

A number of different approaches and processes have been documented to solve problems. However, in addition to the process, the right mindset (attitude) is also required for successful problem solving. A simple problem solving process, involving a sequence of steps, was presented by Herbert Simon in 1978 and is outlined below:

The process begins with the realisation that an undesirable state (problem) exists which needs to be analyzed and defined. The next step, design, involves the development of potential solutions to solve the problem. This step is followed by selecting the most suitable solution to the problem and implementing the solution. Finally, a review activity is undertaken to ensure that the solution implemented was effective in solving the problem.

A more detailed Rational Problem Solving process was described by Kepner and Tregoe in 1981 and involved nine discrete steps, as outlined in the diagram below:

Although it became widely used as a rational and systematic approach to problem solving, it did not incorporate creative thinking tools or approaches to solve more complex problems. Having used a number of different problem solving processes, I developed a novel six step Creative Problem Solving process in 1996 that combines a number of creative and analytical tools with a rational approach to problem solving. The process is summarised in the table below:

I also developed a Problem Solving Worksheet that can be used with the above six step Creative Problem Solving process. By using the approach outlined above I have found that both simple and complex problems can be resolved with minimal effort, but at the same time achieve effective and long-term solutions.

Dr John Kapeleris

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In my previous company Panbio Ltd, one of the key success factors of the company was embedding innovation across the whole organisation and not limited to the R&D Department alone. One of the initiatives that I implemented to drive innovation in the organisation was the establishment of a Creativity Club. The main objective of the creativity club was to stimulate creative thinking in individuals and encourage the use of creative thinking tools to come up with new ideas, and to solve problems in the organisation and for our customers.

The original objectives that we brainstormed at our first creativity club at Panbio are outlined below:

The format and structure of the creativity club included the following:

  1. The creativity club was open to all employees of the organisation. Everyone was invited to deliver presentations, and to share their knowledge and experiences.
  2. The creativity club was held either at lunchtime or before work (lunch and breakfast were provided which was a great attraction for employees).
  3. The agenda of each meeting consisted of the following:
    1. Ice-breaker – each participant would be asked to describe a creative experience or reading since the last meeting (those participants that could not describe a creative experience would be asked to tell a joke – right brain thinking)
    2. Formal presentation – a theme was chosen as a focus of each creativity club including: Introduction to Creative Thinking, Serendipity vs Synchronicity, Idea Management, Creativity Tools, Imagination, Innovation case studies (3M, Dupont, Lotus Corporation, Ideo etc), Creative Problem Solving, Intuition, Chaos Theory, etc
    3. Informal discussion – this session included open discussion about the specific topic presented and the practical application of the learnings from the presentation
    4. Action planning – the creativity club concluded with the recording of action plans that each participant could take back to their department or functional area and implement
  4. The creativity club was modelled on the Dupont OZ Creative Thinking Network and the Parisian Salons (creative communities) of the 1920’s. The creativity club included a number of games and puzzles to stimulate the creative juices of participants. It also provided a fun environment conducive to the sharing of knowledge and ideas that could be further developed or implemented. A database was set up within the Knowledge Management system of the organisation to capture and record the presentations, knowledge, ideas, learnings, discussions and action plans arising from the creativity club.

The creativity club at Panbio also spawned the development of Creative Problem Solving Hit Teams. These teams consisted of cross-functional team members that would work on solving problems both inside and outside the organisation. When an internal functional area or an external customer could not solve a particular problem then a Creative Problem Solving Hit Team was deployed. The cross-functional nature of the team allowed a wider range of skill-sets to be incorporated in the team, providing a diverse perspective when investigating each problem. The team included people directly involved with the problem but also people who had never been exposed to the problem. Team members were also equipped with a variety of creative problem solving tools and resources. These teams became so effective that we started to provide this service beyond our existing clients and domain areas of expertise.

Enjoy!

Dr John Kapeleris

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“Invention refers to new concepts or products derived from an individual’s ideas or from scientific research. Innovation, on the other hand, is the commercialization of the invention itself” – Daniel Scocco

The words invention and innovation are sometimes used interchangeably. However, they are quite distinct, although not mutually exclusive. An invention is a new creation, device or process, derived from an individual’s ideas or from scientific research, while an innovation is the practical application or commercialization of a new idea or concept (it could be an invention) into something of value in the marketplace, whether it is a new product, process or organizational system. The creation or development of the invention alone does not translate to an innovation. The invention must create value for it to become a successful innovation. We find that many inventions that are patented do not result in successful innovations in the market, in society, in the community or in an organization.

Both invention and innovation begin with a creative process. A curious and open mind, that identifies an opportunity or makes a discovery, is the basis of developing an invention or an innovation. Inventors such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison and Shunpei Yamazaki have created a number of new inventions, but only a percentage of these have been successfully commercialized. For example, Leonardo da Vinci was a great inventor but he did not commercialize any of his inventions (e.g. the parachute, personal flying wing, military tank etc). Some of his inventions were successfully commercialized by others hundreds of years later.

 

It can be argued that the iPod is an innovation rather than just an invention, because it includes an innovative operating system, pleasing aesthetics, ease of use and a link to the online iTunes software providing value through a complete user experience. The early MP3 players, however, were simply inventions, some of which later became succesful innovations.

I have often wondered what have been the “Top 10 Inventions” of all time. Particularly inventions that have become significant innovations adding enormous value to humans and society. Following is my list of the top 10 inventions of all time (OK, maybe twelve):

  1. Steam engine
  2. Printing press
  3. Light bulb
  4. Telephone
  5. E=mc²
  6. Automobile/Airplane
  7. Penicillin
  8. Transistor/silicon chip
  9. Computers
  10. Laser

What are your “Top 10 Inventions” of all time?

Dr John Kapeleris

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