Learning More About Innovation From Tim Brown

Fans of Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO Corporation, will be pleased to know they can learn some new things from Brown – or at least obtain more insight into his thinking about creating a more innovative organization. Two new resources featuring Brown recently became available.

Brown is interviewed in the November 2008 issue of The McKinsey Quarterly in an article titled “Lessons from innovation’s front lines: An interview with IDEO’s CEO.” What I like about this inteview is that Brown gives some fairly straightforward answers to questions about how to achieve better innovation. For example, when asked to explain what gets in the way of innovation Brown answers “The biggest barrier is needing to know the answer before you get started. This often manifests itself as a desire to have proof that your idea is worthwhile before you actually start the project. This kills a lot of innovation.” I think this happens in libraries quite a bit where innovative ideas get shot down because librarians can’t prove that their idea is going to be a good or successful idea. If you read the article you’ll get a clearer picture of this.

If you think you can learn more from Brown about creativity and innovative by seeing and hearing what he can share – not just from reading his interview – then you are in luck. Now you can watch a 27-minute presentation by Brown on creativity and the link between it and play. TED recently posted a video of Brown giving a talk at a conference on serious play. This is a fun talk with Brown giving the audience a number of interesting participative activities – surely nothing you’ve tried at your library instruction sessions. He focuses on how play is used at IDEO to encourage creativity. The big challenge is getting adults to drop their fear of being judged by peers so they can be more spontaneous and playful. He also speaks about the idea of divergence and convergence. Designers at IDEO typically diverge and engage in play in order to discover new ideas and then converge in a more serious way with their team colleagues to apply their ideas to solutions. He boils the application of play for innovation to three things: 1) exploration – go for quantity of ideas and don’t worry about what works 2)build – use your hands to make something (prototypes) and 3) role play – put yourself in the shoes of your user.

I wonder if, based on Brown’s advice, we might not do better with our students if we could somehow encourage they to be playful when searching for information – which means trying new things and experimenting. While college students have long left behind their childhood creativity (more about this in the video) they are not yet that far removed from it.

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