Creativity, Innovation, and Change (CIC) course experience & summary

Experience

Beginning of September, I took “Creativity, Innovation, and Change” course by Penn State University from Coursera.org. This course covers various topics, especially focused on creativity and innovation in total 8 weeks. According to the professors, there are over 100,000 students enrolled this course from all over the world. We had three professors with different backgrounds and experience. The course, as name suggested, covers various techniques and tools to help me to become better at creativity. One interesting thing was that there are two types of creative style : Innovative, Adaptive (part of week 1 assignment). I found myself a moderate adaptive style. This means I apply my creativity from the situation that I am familiar with. Resource can be found here. Workload was not too heavy. Average 3-4 hours per week was good enough for me. This course offers different path with different goals in their mind. Course Info. Below techniques are posted as exercise from the course and I put the content for my own usage.

Idea Generation Techniques

  • Brainstorming Techniques : Various brainstorming techniques explained.
  • Random Stimuli : Participants use free association in connection with a random word or image to generate new ideas.
  • SCAMPER : SCAMPER = Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to different use, Eliminate, Reverse. Participants use a set of directed questions to help evolve an existing product, service, or solution into one that is more ideal.
  • Morphological Matrix : An existing product or system is broken into parts/functions. Various ways of achieving each part or function are identified and then (re)combined to create new forms of the product or system.
  • Brainwriting 6-3-5 : Brainwriting 6-3-5 is a modified form of classic brainstorming that encourages equal participation from all team members using written rather than verbal idea generation. There are many varieties, but the general process is that all ideas are recorded by the individual who thought of them. They are then passed on to the next person, who uses them as a trigger for their own ideas. Clearly, this is a group technique.
  • Concept Tree : A concept tree or concept fan starts with an idea and uses that idea to identify concepts, or connecting points, from which alternative ideas can be derived. This is more of an individual technique, but a group could develop a concept tree together in stages.
  • Superheroes : Superheroes is a fantasy-based version of Role Storming and is similar to other boundary-stretching techniques such as Exaggeration and Reversals. Participants pretend to be a fictional (or real) super-hero (Superman, the Incredible Hulk, Batman, James Bond, Wonder Woman, Sherlock Holmes, etc.) and use their ‘super’ characteristics to trigger and develop ideas. This technique could be applied individually or in a group.
  • Spare Diamonds : When we start a new Venture, we often find that we are short on resources: money, knowledge, equipment, people contacts, and many other items.  Our first tendency is sometimes to seek as much funding as possible, in order to help our ideas move forward.  And sometimes funding is important.  And yet, there are many other resources right in front of us as well … resources that we miss.  For each of the following categories, try to list 1 to 5 “Spare Diamonds” that might be of great service or use in your Venture:
    • friends. Do any have particular skills that could help you?
    • interns. Is there “excess skill” looking for experience?
    • space. Do you have excess space at home, in the office, or elsewhere?
    • land. Is there park land or side-walk space you might be able to use, just for asking?
    • tools. Have an extra shovel, power saw, portable cement mixer, computer, radio?
    • transportation. Have a mostly-un-used car? Bicycle?
    • internet. Is there an open web site you can access?
    • knowledge. Do you have useful, but un-used, knowledge?
    • other items. Have frequent flyer miles? Coupons? Lumber?

How can you apply these and other “spare diamonds” to a Venture?  Remember, it is often more difficult to find “spare money” lying around.  However, these other diamonds often lie un-unused, until someone sees a need for them – that is often the magic of creativity!  Find value where others do not.

Instructions:

Step 1: First, you need to record some ideas! Choose a particular day and a particular time period in which to record them. It could be 15 minutes on a Tuesday, or an hour on Saturday morning, or the 2-hour train ride to a business meeting, or an entire weekend! If you can, choose several different days and times to record your ideas, so you can see how your ideas vary under different circumstances. For whichever times you’ve chosen, record your ideas in some concrete way – write them down, tweet them, leave a voice mail, send an email, use a voice recorder, or draw a picture … whatever works for you!

Step 2: Now, we’d like you to measure your ideas using the 4+ metrics listed below. It’s important to remember that you are NOT judging your ideas in this exercise. The point is to observe and measure your ideas in different ways, so you can decide for yourself how you want to improve them. So, start here:

Quantity: How many ideas did you generate each time?

Variety: How different are the ideas from each other? (You might use a simple Likert scale for this – e.g., very similar, moderately similar, moderately different, very different).

Novelty: What kind of novelty do your ideas represent? Are they more adaptively creative (i.e., ideas that refine, polish, or tune up something) or more innovatively creative (i.e., ideas that reframe, reconfigure, or dismantle something) – or do you have some of both?

Efficiency: How efficient are your ideas in terms of implementation? Can they be put into practice right away using things that already exist, or will new systems or infrastructure be needed before they can be realized?

Your Choice! What other ways can you measure your ideas? Choose other metrics that you think are meaningful and apply them to your ideas as well.

  • Planning for Action

Introduction:

Once you have something you want to implement, it can be intimidating to figure out where to begin – what to do first, second, third, and so on. In this exercise, we’re going to show you one way to get started. The general idea is to prioritize your action steps using short, medium, and long term thinking – and then to build some structure around your expectations for each action step. Speaking of action … let’s get started!

Instructions:

Step 1: Identify. Identify the specific idea or solution that you want to implement. It could be and idea you generated in this course, or it may be another solution that you have in mind.

Step 2: List. Generate a list of action steps that will be needed to bring your solution to life. Don’t worry about making this list absolutely complete or putting the action steps in precise order. Just do your best to identify key actions that will need to be taken. You can always add more action steps later!

Step 3: Define. Determine what “short”, “medium”, and “long” term mean in the context of your situation. For example, short term to a research scientist might be 1 year, medium term may be a decade, and long term may be 50 years. For a teacher, short term might be at the end of the current instructional unit, medium term might be the end of the semester, and long term might be the end of the school year. For a parent, short term might mean a few hours, medium term might mean the end of the week, and long term might mean the end of the month. Be clear about what you mean by short, medium, and long term before sorting your action steps.

Step 4: Sort. Now, sort your actions using the following phrase: “What I see myself doing in the short term is …” Make this specific by replacing “in the short term” with whatever you have decided is “short term” for you. Identify all the steps from your initial list that fit with this phrase. Now, move to your personal definition of medium term and repeat the process: “What I see myself doing in the medium term is …” Then move to your long term action steps. Add more action steps as needed along the way. To jump-start your efforts, be sure to include at least one short-term action that can take place in the next 24 hours.

IMPORTANT: As you move through this process, WRITE DOWN YOUR ACTION STEPS! Action steps are just like all ideas: if you write them down, you are more likely to do them.

Step 5: Order. Now, take the action steps in each category (short, medium, and long term) and see if you can put them in order from soonest to latest, or from least to most important – whatever makes sense for your solution. Compare across categories to make things consistent.

Step 6: Own. For each action step in each category, write down these details:

a. Who is responsible? – Is this an action you must take yourself, or do you need someone else to do it for you? If you need help with this step, who will help you?

b. Target dates – Begin and End dates for the action step. When will you start and finish it?

c. End product/Measurement – How will you know when the step is complete? How will you measure success?

d. Status – Finally, identify a way to keep track of the status of each action step. Is it completed? Partially done? Just started? Update this information regularly, so you can see your plans moving forward, even if progress is slow.

  • CENTER : CENTER is an acronym that stands for Character, Entrepreneurship, owNership, Tenacity, Excellence, and Relationship. There is not “one big secret” to success. Rather, learn the system that enables “ordinary people” to have extraordinary victories, with self, family, work, and community.

Exercise Introduction

Previously, I mentioned that one of the villains of pursuing your passions and purposes, is busy-ness. My friend Brian Cunningham, a highly accomplished entrepreneur who lives near Washington DC, introduced me to a version of a “Life Ring. This is a document that forces you to focus, by stating “I am _____” on a single sheet of paper.

When I made my first draft of my Life Ring, I had more than 20 ovals on it! I came to realize that I was trying to make everything a priority, like bolding every letter in a book. Trying to do too many items, splintering our time and energy into too many bins, is what I see from most of the students and professionals with whom I interact. Who doesn’t have too many things to do?

In my own case, with time I made the hard decisions to stop doing certain items at work, halt leadership roles in some organizations I was part of, and decline various invitations and offers. I made the decision to say a “big YES” to those few items in which I would invest most heavily. I pruned the vine. My effort in life is higher than it has ever been, and now that the effort is focused on roughly one third the items, my impact has increased, by my own measure.

Having a few bullets under each oval heading can also be helpful. First, by clarifying detail within each category, I can paint a more clear picture of what I am doing. Furthermore, the wisdom in sticking with the 1-page Life Ring is that each morning, I can review it and refocus. Because I am able to fit only 3 or 4 short bullets under each heading in the Life Ring, I must choose what to do, and what to exclude, in clear ways.

Exercise Instruction

Draw your Life Ring. You can use the template above, or create your own template. Focus on roughly 5-9 major life arenas where you will invest your time, with self, family, work, and community (SFWC). Put your “master in the middle”; this is the primary driving force behind all your decisions – and in every life, there can only be one master. If you try to have more than one master, eventually your Life will intersect events so that you have an “identity quake”, and must choose your primary master. Under each arena bubble, list those most important habits that you will commit to each day or each week. This is not simply a “to do list”, but a list of habits. When the Life Ring has a clear “master in the middle”, 5-9 arenas, and a short list of habits under each arena, it is complete.

Purpose: Focus your effort

Drawing and continually asserting a Life Ring is a powerful way to focus. Following Miller’s “magic number 7, plus or minus 2”, having 5 to 9 major arenas, each summarized in a bubble around the center, and then add a few sub-bullets, that still fit on 1 page. This is likely as much as you can focus your mind around.

Summary

I’ve learned various ways of idea generating techniques throughout this course. This course offers fun exercises and definitely I can use techniques at my work and outside of work. Highly recommend to anyone who are interested in generating new ideas and wants to be creative.

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