Insight Inspired Innovation: Notes from CPSI

Last week I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI, pronounced sip-see, for short). The conferences is in its 58th year of delivering engaging, hands-on learning about how to use creative thinking to tackle complex challenges and develop innovative solutions. I have attended for the past 6 years, often presenting and always learning new tools and techniques for facilitating creative collaboration. Here I will highlight a few insightful and inspiring events for me and share a bit about the workshop I gave.

The incredible lineup of keynote speakers this year included one of my longtime creativity crushes, Teresa Amabile, the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School who spoke about her new book, The Progress Principle. It offers an insightful peek into the challenge of management and motivation based upon research with 12,000 diary entries provided by 238 employees in 7 companies. For those interested, this downloadable daily diary tool allows you to conduct an autoethnographic inquiry into your own inner work life. For me it inspired new thinking about the impact of culture on corporate innovation efforts, specifically the gap that can exist between what a manager believes an employee needs and what that employee actually needs (and may not even realize).

I was captivated by John Hunter, an educator who uses the World Peace Game to teach fourth grade students about the complexities of world peace. A complex simulation that separates children into four countries and continually bombards them with challenges that are political, economic, cultural, environmental, etc. Without any coaching or intervention from the teacher, the students must try to win the game, e.g. raise the net worth of each country and avoid war. And they do it, over and over and over. Hunter helps these children develop communication and collaboration skills that enable them to resolve conflict, embrace compromise and honor diversity. Who would have thought that 9 year olds are capable of solving the most complex and wicked problems of our day? You can watch his acclaimed TED talk here. I was inspired both as a parent and an innovator about the kinds of facilitative techniques we can use to empower stakeholders to solve complex challenges in ways we may have never imagined possible.

I offered a workshop called Insight Inspired Innovation: How to use research as creative fuel. Attendees came from diverse contexts with varying experiences in research and creative problem solving processes so we had some rich discussions about language and process. The slides from the presentation are below.


During the workshop attendees used simulated insights about the organizational challenges of integrating insights into ideation activities to brainstorm new approaches.The key opportunity questions were:

How might we allow people to easily access insights?

How might we enable people to ideate together regardless of time or location?

How might we keep the human touch in communication?

This was, admittedly, a rather recursive activity. They used insights to ideate about ways to help people ideate with insights. My hope was for them to walk away both with new knowledge from the presentation and some new ideas for how to utilize insights creatively. In a little over 10 minutes these 3 groups came up with nearly 100 ideas that they captured on sticky notes. After a quick convergence each group presented their favorites. I’ve culled through all of those sticky notes and pulled out just a few to share (with their permission). If you’re looking to activate research within your organization, you just might find some gems in here.

  • “Opposites attract” idea buddies
  • Have ideation slumber parties, lock-ins, sock hops-
  • Insights become part of my screensaver
  • Live Suzy [a consumer/research participant] for a day
  • Make a bedtime/sleeptime listening CD
  • Ideation cruise
  • Insights suit, makes them personal
  • Insights speed dating
  • Diary rooms
  • Ideation signaled by a “bat signal”
  • Insights karaoke
  • Twitter brainstorm
  • Make a graphic novel of the insights
  • Pay the children to repeat them to their parents



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