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Jan 15
Innovation #4

In this post we will look at some techniques that are used to improve innovation, creativity and problem solving capability.

The first point I want to make is that overseas innovation models often don't work well here in Australia. One example being Open Innovation It isn't that the concept is flawed but rather how the Australian culture works. And as pointed out earlier, you can't solve a problem you don't understand. So let's look at Australia based on OECD statistics.

  • last for collaboration
  • last for public research commercialisation
  • average manager is at 30% of OECD average
  • bottom 1/8th for funding availability

And financially bankruptcy takes you out of the game so the USA start up models struggle to be able to operate here.

Yet we are ranked well for:

  • problem solving
  • creative thinking
  • innovation (when you factor out the collaboration component)

So the first point is that innovation on its own isn't enough. You also have to be able to execute the solution. So our struggle is that we don't partner well with each. We make great mavericks but need to be conscious that we need help with collaboration.

​So let's look at some of the ways people can improve collaboration and increase the outcomes from innovation.

Pair Programming

  • One programmer writes code
  • The other watches
  • One is in pure linear mode (the writer)
  • The other is free to move between linear and pattern matching mode (the observer)
  • As a team, they innovate as they go



Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning "change for the better" or "continuous improvement." It is a Japanese business philosophy regarding the processes that continuously improve operations and involve all employees. Kaizen sees improvement in productivity as a gradual and methodical process.

This is one of the techniques used for onboarding a new person.

  • The beginner is sent to just stand and watch what is happening
  • They watch for a long time
  • They get bored and tune out
  • Their linear mode goes offline and pattern matching takes over
  • And they come to an innate understanding of the system operating before them

So sometimes​ we need to put the logical part offline so the pattern matching part can come to the fore and we learn faster and better.

Innovation Spaces

You have to leave a space and mindset that anchors you to the linear mode when you are looking for a breakthrough. So here are some ways:

  • Go to a different part of the building
  • Or go outside and take a stroll
  • Henri Poincare (Mathematician) wrote everything he knew on paper and went for a walk, returning when he had the answer.
  • There is a reason high tech companies create aesthetic internal spaces and play areas - it provides opportunities for pattern breaking
  • It provides stimulation for innovation
  • As well as a healthy mindset
  • Most people feel better if they can see something green (a tree) - fully partitioned inner offices aren't good for innovation
  • Distracting your linear mode allows the pattern mode to engage with the problem
  • Talk it out with someone else, especially if you are an extrovert. It won't get you out of linear mode but will help you clarify your thinking. Sometimes they don't even need to listen if it is mostly for you to process.

It pays to understand your learning modality and personal preferences when selecting ways to help yourself innovate. Auditory learners will have the biggest challenge because sound is distracting so use headphones or ear buds. And don't listen to songs, use instrumental music, nature sounds, even noise.

The Innovation Formula

Dr Amantha Imber who founded Inventium wrote a very useful book called The Innovation Formula.


It's in my library. One of the big take aways for me in that book is that you can design your space to assist with innovation. Background noise levels is one of the areas to consider. Too quiet and you don't get stimulated, too noisy and you get too distracted and fatigued.

Dr Amantha Imber.jpg

She has also told here a story as a female founder, so if this topic interests you then I recommend checking that out at and she also hosts the podcast series How I Work


Ray Keefe

Successful Endeavours


Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.

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