inGenius: Creativity and Innovation

In inGenius, Tina Seelig (@tseelig) suggests that “there are opportunities for creative problem solving everywhere” and “everything you see is ripe for innovation.” She emphasizes that “the scientific method is clearly invaluable when you are trying to unlock the mysteries of the world,” but “you need a complementary set of tools and techniques — creative thinking — when you want to invent rather than discover.” She then elaborates the Innovation Engine, “a model, a shared vocabulary, and a set of tools” that foster creativity.

(click figure to enlarge)

The three parts [or factors] on the inside of your Innovation Engine are knowledge, imagination, and attitude:

  • Your knowledge provides the fuel for your imagination.
  • Your imagination is the catalyst for the transformation of knowledge into new ideas.
  • Your attitude is a spark that sets the Innovation Engine in motion.

This process is influenced by a myriad of factors in your environment, including your resources, habitat, and culture.

The three parts [or environmental factors] on the outside of your Innovation Engine are resources, habitat, and culture.

  • Resources are all the assets in your community.
  • Habitats are your local environments, including your home, school, or office.
  • Culture is the collective beliefs, values, and behaviors in your community.

Regarding imagination, the book describes it as “the ability to create something new” and explores reframing problems, connecting ideas, and challenging assumptions.

Regarding knowledge, the book explores the power of observation and emphasizes “the more you now about a particular topic, the more raw materials you have to work with”.

Regarding habitat, the book explores space, constraints, and incentives, and team dynamics and emphasizes “the habits we create are essentially an external manifestation of our imagination”.

Regarding attitude, the book describes it as a “mind-set [that] determines how you interpret and respond to situations” and explores the willingness to experiment and push through challenges to solve problems.

Regarding culture, the book emphasizes that “culture captures the ways in which groups of people perceive, interpret, and understand the world around them.”

All the parts of your Innovation Engine are inexorably connected and deeply influence one another.

  • Your attitude sparks your curiosity to acquire related knowledge.
  • Your knowledge fuels your imagination, allowing you to generate innovative ideas.
  • Your imagination catalyzes the creation of stimulating habitats, leveraging the resources in your environment.
  • These habitats, along with your attitude, influence the culture in your community.

All the parts are braided together. The inside of the engine is intertwined with the outside; and the factors on the inside and outside mirror [and influence] each other. By engaging all the parts of this engine, creativity is unleashed, leading to transformative change in individuals, teams, and organizations.

Regarding knowledge and resources, “the resources in your environment influence your knowledge, and your knowledge allows you to access the resources.”

Regarding imagination and habitat, “we create physical spaces that reflect the way we think, and in turn, those habitats influence our imagination.”

Regarding attitude and culture, “the culture in any community is essentially the collective attitudes of all those who live there.”

The Innovation Engine’s elegance is in how it interrelates the individual (knowledge, imagination, attitude) or collective and their context (community and environment) and offers a tool that not only fosters creativity and innovation, but can be used to explore a situation when there is a lack of creativity and innovation. That is, when there is a lack of creativity and innovation, consider if we are lacking knowledge, imagination, or just don’t have the “right” attitude. Then, consider if we are lacking resources, the “right” habitat, or the “right” culture. While always keeping the book’s recurring theme top of mind: “creativity is not just something you think about — it is something you do!”

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