Category: Design Thinking

3 Easy Ways to Exercise Your Brain’s Creativity ᔥ

While on summer vacation, try honing your creativity in these 3 easy ways as pointed out by Balder Onarheim of the Copenhagen Institute of Neurocreativity: you can have creativity without innovation, but you can’t have innovation without creativity!

BY NATALIE NIXON Director of the Strategic Design MBA at Philadelphia University and Principal of Figure 8 Thinking, LLC

I met Balder Onarheim earlier this summer during a trip to Copenhagen. We found some simpatico based on our mutual interests in helping organizations optimize creativity.

Balder, please explain your background and what the Copenhagen Institute of Neurocreativity is.

I’m actually trained as an officer in the Norwegian army, but later I took a master degree in industrial design (at and then a PhD on creativity. Most of my career I’ve worked with medical equipment design and enhancing creativity–in organizations, projects and ultimately in individuals. The Copenhagen Institute of Neurocreativity, or just CINC as we like to call it, is an institute I founded together with a neurobiologist, Morten Friis-Olivarius who happens to have a PhD on creativity and is very interested in enhancing creativity in individuals. It is a privately owned cross-institutional institute devoted to rigorous scientific study of the neurobiology of creativity, and to disseminate this knowledge to individuals and organisations.

So, how does it all work?Why did you start CINC and what is its mission? 

Whoa, that’s a long story! It all started with Morten Friis-Olivarius, the fore-mentioned neurobiologist, and myself catching an interest in how to do applied neurocreativity, based on his work on the neurobiology of creativity. We then designed a creativity training program for individuals, which we tested at different universities around the world for some years. This resulted in a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

This generated a lot of positive feedback, both locally and internationally, and since we felt that the type of research and dissemination we wanted to do in relation to neurocreativity didn’t really fit in any of the existing institutions we were working for at the time, we decided to start our own place.

The institute works as an umbrella for for various researchers and consultants engaged with the neuroscience of creativity, and both for doing research projects together and for working with private clients. The funding for the institute currently comes from our consulting work.

What are key ways that people can practice optimizing their creativity?

The most important thing we can do as individuals is to challenge our (physically) established thought patterns. Our brain has a very logical way of working, and that is very helpful most of the time, but we also get lazy in terms of challenging this local way of reasoning. We can fight this laziness in two different ways, either by working on actual creative problem solving or by simply training our ability to reach ‘random’ associations. I give these 3 specific examples in my TEDx talk:
1- Constant Practice! For example, over the next 2 weeks when brushing your teeth, think of as many random words as possible associated with the toothbrush. How random were the words? At first it may feel challenging to do this, but over time you’ll get better at it.

2- Sleep On It Think of a problem before you go to sleep- but don’t try to solve it! Just fall asleep. Chances are you will dream–and when you awake write down all that you remember, no matter how far fetched the ideas seem. You may have dreamt of an idea that can assist in your problem solving.

3- Random Prompts Many people do not realize that Wikipedia has a “random article” tab on the far left side. Let’s say you look up “trees”, and when you click on the “random article” tab an article on “MV Dittisham Princess” pops up. See what sorts of associations you can make between trees and this passenger vessel!

Nice! Why is it important that companies, as well as individuals, begin to integrate creativity in a more robust way into their operations and culture?

It is widely accepted that most companies are dependent on continuous innovation to survive, and creativity lies at the core of being innovative. And while there are a lot of ways to enhance creativity in an organization with the purpose of increasing the chance for innovation, we find it most rational to start with the individuals in the organization. You can have creativity without innovation, but you can’t have innovation without creativity. And you can have a creative employee in an uncreative organization (at least for some time), but you most definitely can’t have a creative organization without creative employees!

Really interesting distinction! 

How is CINC’s value proposition distinctive from other companies we see focused on creativity?

Very simple–we offer creativity training based on actually explaining what creativity is, based on our own, and other researchers’, scientific (not pseudoscientific) studies of creativity! The explanatory model we use is based on a neuropsychological and neurobiological understanding of creativity, and to our knowledge there are no other companies in the world doing the same.

The academic literature acknowledges that a sound understanding of creativity is at the core of successful creativity training. We see a lot of other companies offering creativity courses and consultancy solely based on personal experience or basic assumptions such as ‘painting expressive art will release your creativity’. Our goal is not to prove that painting is not an effective way to train creativity, but as scientists we have to base our work on what we know. There are a few other companies globally offering more scientifically based creativity training, but not based on neurocreativity.

Cool- do you have any closing thoughts?

I think one of the biggest misunderstandings about creativity in business is that it is something fuzzy and uncontrollable… that it is only about ‘getting the good idea’ at the beginning of a process. Creativity is a crucial component in any type of problem solving. It may be a secretary coming up with a new archiving system, or a production engineer optimising an injection mould to save 0.2 seconds per unit produced. Creativity is not something mystical reserved for ‘the creatives’ in front-end R&D departments.

You can follow Balder on Twitter @baldero.

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9 Phrases Smart People Never Use In Conversation ᔥ

By: , Jul 13, 2015

We’ve all said things that people interpreted much differently than we thought they would. These seemingly benign comments lead to the awful feeling that only comes when you’ve planted your foot firmly into your mouth.

Verbal slip-ups often occur because we say things without knowledge of the subtle implications they carry. Understanding these implications requires social awareness—the ability to pick up on the emotions and experiences of other people.

TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence (EQ) of more than a million people and discovered that social awareness is a skill in which many of us are lacking.

We lack social awareness because we’re so focused on what we’re going to say next—and how what other people are saying affects us—that we completely lose sight of other people.

This is a problem because people are complicated. You can’t hope to understand someone until you focus all of your attention in his or her direction.

The beauty of social awareness is that a few simple adjustments to what you say can vastly improve your relationships with other people.

To that end, there are some phrases that emotionally intelligent people are careful to avoid in casual conversation. The following phrases are nine of the worst offenders. You should avoid them at all costs.

1. “You look tired.”

Tired people are incredibly unappealing—they have droopy eyes and messy hair, they have trouble concentrating, and they’re as grouchy as they come. Telling someone he looks tired implies all of the above and then some.

Instead, say: “Is everything okay?” Most people ask if someone is tired because they’re intending to be helpful (they want to know if the other person is okay). Instead of assuming someone’s disposition, just ask. This way, he can open up and share. More importantly, he will see you as concerned instead of rude.

2. “Wow, you’ve lost a ton of weight!”

Once again, a well-meaning comment—in this case a compliment—creates the impression that you’re being critical. Telling someone that she has lost a lot of weight suggests that she used to look fat or unattractive.

Instead, say: “You look fantastic.” This one is an easy fix. Instead of comparing how she looks now to how she used to look, just compliment her for looking great. It takes the past right out of the picture.

3. “You were too good for her anyway.”

When someone severs ties with a relationship of any type, personal or professional, this comment implies he has bad taste and made a poor choice in the first place.

Instead, say: “Her loss!” This provides the same enthusiastic support and optimism without any implied criticism.

4. “You always…” or “You never…”

No one always or never does anything. People don’t see themselves as one-dimensional, so you shouldn’t attempt to define them as such. These phrases make people defensive and closed off to your message, which is a really bad thing because you likely use these phrases when you have something important to discuss.

Instead, say: Simply point out what the other person did that’s a problem for you. Stick to the facts. If the frequency of the behavior is an issue, you can always say, “It seems like you do this often.” or “You do this often enough for me to notice.”

5. “You look great for your age.”

Using “for your” as a qualifier always comes across as condescending and rude. No one wants to be smart for an athlete or in good shape relative to other people who are also knocking on death’s door. People simply want to be smart and fit.

Instead, say: “You look great.” This one is another easy fix. Genuine compliments don’t need qualifiers.

6. “As I said before…”

We all forget things from time to time. This phrase makes it sound as if you’re insulted at having to repeat yourself, which is hard on the recipient (someone who is genuinely interested in hearing your perspective). Getting insulted over having to repeat yourself suggests that either you’re insecure or you think you’re better than everyone else (or both!). Few people who use this phrase actually feel this way.

Instead, say: When you say it again, see what you can do to convey the message in a clearer and more interesting manner. This way they’ll remember what you said.

7. “Good luck.”

This is a subtle one. It certainly isn’t the end of the world if you wish someone good luck, but you can do better because this phrase implies that they need luck to succeed.

Instead, say: “I know you have what it takes.” This is better than wishing her luck because suggesting that she has the skills needed to succeed provides a huge boost of confidence. You’ll stand out from everyone else who simply wishes her luck.

8. “It’s up to you.” or “Whatever you want.” 

While you may be indifferent to the question, your opinion is important to the person asking (or else he wouldn’t have asked you in the first place).

Instead, say: “I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but a couple things to consider are…” When you offer an opinion (even without choosing a side), it shows that you care about the person asking.

9. “Well, at least I’ve never ___.”

This phrase is an aggressive way to shift attention away from your mistake by pointing out an old, likely irrelevant mistake the other person made (and one you should have forgiven her for by now).

Instead, say: “I’m sorry.” Owning up to your mistake is the best way to bring the discussion to a more rational, calm place so that you can work things out. Admitting guilt is an amazing way to prevent escalation.

Bringing It All Together

In everyday conversation, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Try these suggestions out, and you’ll be amazed at the positive response you get.

What other phrases should people avoid? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

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“While friends might make you happy, teammates help you get things done” ᔥ

Stop Using Employee Friendships to Measure Engagement

AUGUST 07, 2015

Here’s a question that has been touted by human resources consultants and practitioners for the better part of two decades as an important way to measure employee engagement: “Do you have a best friend at work?” While a principal of the polling organization Gallup, I prominently defended and helped popularize the concept.

But, over the past half-decade, I’ve grown increasingly skeptical about the utility of “best friend” metrics. First, because I believe organizations are incapable of manufacturing or improving such intimate personal connections and, second, because subsequent research has shown other (more easily influenced) factors to be more important drivers of engagement and performance.

Should businesses care if their employees have healthy relationships? Sure. They serve as a source of positive emotion and support and can enhance productivity. Should they get involved in them? No. Friendships, by their very nature, arise naturally, not as part of a corporate initiative. Team-building exercises can, of course, allow people to get to know each other better, enhancing cohesion and understanding. But they don’t make everyone friends. No amount of organizational orchestration can foster those more personal bonds.

What’s more, according to our data, friendship ranks well below collaboration, teamwork, and coworker abilities for maintaining employee commitment and intensity. In fact, when all four of these issues are analyzed together relative to employees’ commitment to the company and intensity on the job, the effect of friendships is so weak it sometimes is not even statistically significant. The data say clearly: “If you want the most from me, give me talented colleagues and some key collaborators, and give us conditions that foster teamwork. If we become friends, that’s great, but not crucial.”

The reason is simple: While friends might make you happy, teammates help you get things done. In a head-to-head match-up between the statements “I have good friends at my current job” and “I have many strong working relationships at my job,” the latter is a much better predictor of employees’ customer focus, innovative thinking, motivation to work hard, pride in their organizations and intention to stay in their jobs.

So if you’re a leader (or a pollster) looking to measure and boost engagement on your team and in your company, forget about friendship. Instead, concentrate on the aspects of work more powerful for performance today: individuality, pay fairness, transparency, meaning, future prospects, leadership opportunities, recognition, corporate culture, freedom from fear, teamwork, and personal accomplishment. Rather than inquiring about “best friends,” decision-makers should ask questions such as:

  • Do managers support each employee as a unique individual?
  • Is pay fair, if not generous?
  • Are leaders transparent?
  • Is there a clear mission and do employees feel a strong connection to it?
  • What paths do people have to advancement?
  • Do more junior people sometimes get to take charge?
  • Are employees well recognized?
  • Is this a cool place to work?
  • Do people feel energized or fearful?
  • How well do colleagues work together?
  • How often do people feel a sense of accomplishment?

We’ve found that the answers to these questions are not only highly correlated to strong engagement and performance, they’re also ones that you have the power to control. Each is well within the company’s jurisdiction — subject to the quality of leadership and managing — and not personally intrusive. No employee will balk about whether issues such as pay, work/life balance, or unified team objectives are part of a company strategy session. And should the job come to an end, no one expects those aspects to continue in the same way as would a friendship, which — it turns out — really wasn’t all that important to the business anyway.

Rodd Wagner is a New York Times bestselling author, employee engagement practice leader for BI WORLDWIDE, and a former principal of Gallup. His most recent book is Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They’re Real People (McGraw-Hill, April 2015).

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Shibuya Mexicano

Nora hace una curaduría de contenidos que vale mucho la pena detenerse a leer. Esta entrada de su blog no es excepción.


En la ciudad de Tokio, Japón existe un cruce peatonal de la zona de Shibuya, famoso por la gran cantidad de gente que lo usa, hay muchos videos en You tube en que muestran a la masa de gente cruzando al momento de señalar el verde en los semáforos.

En el centro de la Ciudad de México no nos quedamos atrás, este video muestra el cruce de el Eje Central y Reforma que colindan con La Torre latinoamericana y el Palacio de Bellas Artes un sábado veraniego del 2015.

Atención: No se pierdan al disfrazado de jirafa.

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Jobs said the following in an interview for PBS’ ‘One Last Thing’ documentary:

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

The Crazy Ones
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

“Think Different” 1997 Apple Campaign

Here’s a link to the ad:

#thinkdifferent #idocare4design #fedehndz

How the world could better fight obesity ᔥmckinsey

November 2014 | byRichard Dobbs, Corinne Sawers, Fraser Thompson, James Manyika, Jonathan Woetzel, Peter Child, Sorcha McKenna, and Angela Spatharou


Obesity is a critical global issue that requires a comprehensive, international intervention strategy. More than 2.1 billion people—nearly 30 percent of the global population—are overweight or obese.1 That’s almost two and a half times the number of adults and children who are undernourished. Obesity is responsible for about 5 percent of all deaths a year worldwide, and its global economic impact amounts to roughly $2 trillion annually, or 2.8 percent of global GDP—nearly equivalent to the global impact of smoking or of armed violence, war, and terrorism.


Implementing an Obesity Abatement Program

MGI’s Richard Dobbs and Corinne Sawers discuss how a holistic strategy, using a number of interventions, could reverse rising rates of obesity around the world.

And the problem—which is preventable—is rapidly getting worse. If the prevalence of obesity continues on its current trajectory, almost half of the world’s adult population will be overweight or obese by 2030.

Much of the global debate on this issue has become polarized and sometimes deeply antagonistic. Obesity is a complex, systemic issue with no single or simple solution. The global discord surrounding how to move forward underscores the need for integrated assessments of potential solutions. Lack of progress on these fronts is obstructing efforts to address rising rates of obesity.

A new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) discussion paper, Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis, seeks to overcome these hurdles by offering an independent view on the components of a potential strategy. MGI has studied 74 interventions (in 18 areas) that are being discussed or piloted somewhere around the world to address obesity, including subsidized school meals for all, calorie and nutrition labeling, restrictions on advertising high-calorie food and drinks, and public-health campaigns. We found sufficient data on 44 of these interventions, in 16 areas.

Although the research offers an initial economic analysis of obesity, our analysis is by no means complete. Rather, we see our work on a potential program to address obesity as the equivalent of the maps used by 16th-century navigators. Some islands were missing and some continents misshapen in these maps, but they were still helpful to the sailors of that era. We are sure that we have missed some interventions and over- or underestimated the impact of others. But we hope that our work will be a useful guide and a starting point for efforts in the years to come, as we and others develop this analysis and gradually compile a more comprehensive evidence base on this topic.

We have focused on understanding what it takes to address obesity by changing the energy balance of individuals through adjustments in eating habits or physical activity. However, some important questions we have not yet addressed require considerable further research. These questions include the role of different nutrients in affecting satiety hormones and metabolism, as well as the relationship between the gut microbiome and obesity. As more clarity develops in these research areas, we look forward to the emergence of important insights about which interventions are likely to work and how to integrate them into an antiobesity drive.

The main findings of this discussion paper include:

  • Existing evidence indicates that no single intervention is likely to have a significant overall impact. A systemic, sustained portfolio of initiatives, delivered at scale, is needed to reverse the health burden. Almost all the identified interventions (exhibit) are cost effective for society—savings on healthcare costs and higher productivity could outweigh the direct investment required by the intervention when assessed over the full lifetime of the target population. In the United Kingdom, for instance, such a program could reverse rising obesity, saving the National Health Service about $1.2 billion a year.
  • Education and personal responsibility are critical elements of any program aiming to reduce obesity, but they are not sufficient on their own. Other required interventions rely less on conscious choices by individuals and more on changes to the environment and societal norms. They include reducing default portion sizes, changing marketing practices, and restructuring urban and education environments to facilitate physical activities.
  • No individual sector in society can address obesity on its own—not governments, retailers, consumer-goods companies, restaurants, employers, media organizations, educators, healthcare providers, or individuals. Capturing the full potential impact requires engagement from as many sectors as possible. Successful precedents suggest that a combination of top-down corporate and government interventions, together with bottom-up community-led ones, will be required to change public-health outcomes. Moreover, some kind of coordination will probably be required to capture potentially high-impact industry interventions, since any first mover faces market-share risks.
  • Implementing an obesity-abatement program on the required scale will not be easy. We see four imperatives: (1) as many interventions as possible should be deployed at scale and delivered effectively by the full range of sectors in society; (2) understanding how to align incentives and build cooperation will be critical to success; (3) there should not be an undue focus on prioritizing interventions, as this can hamper constructive action; and (4) while investment in research should continue, society should also engage in trial and error, particularly where risks are low.


Cost-effective interventions to reduce obesity in the United Kingdom include controlling portion sizes and reducing the availability of high-calorie foods.

The evidence base on the clinical and behavioral interventions to reduce obesity is far from complete, and ongoing investment in research is an imperative. However, in many cases this requirement is proving a barrier to action. It need not be so. Rather than wait for perfect proof of what works, we should experiment with solutions, especially in the many areas where interventions are low risk. We have enough knowledge to do more.

About the authors

Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel are directors of the McKinsey Global Institute, where Corinne Sawers is a fellow and Fraser Thompson is a senior fellow; Peter Child is a director in McKinsey’s London office; Sorcha McKenna is a principal in the Dublin office; and Angela Spatharou is a principal in the Mexico City office.

James March: What Don Quixote Teaches Us About Leadership | Stanford Graduate School of Business

“We live in a world that emphasizes realistic expectations and clear successes. Quixote had neither,” narrates James March in his 2003 film, Passion and Discipline: Don Quixote’s Lessons for Leadership. “But through failure after failure, he persists in his vision and his commitment. He persists because he knows who he is.” A scholar discusses literature, power, and “the two most important things to know about innovation.”