On creative project ideas and bedtime stories – Nurturing creativity and cultivating it

nurturing creative project ideas at an young age

It was a busy day. As I drove down the road during one of those errand trips, I heard the local radio channel go boom with this question, ‘Did Stephen King narrate bedtime horror stories to his children?’ The radio jockey further asks the reasons for our ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I sat bewildered. Stephen King is a very popular and celebrated author who is known for his work on horror stories, fantasy, and science fiction. I did not know the answer nor  I could  say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question.

I thought about it the next day. It hit me as a father. I had narrated hundreds and hundreds of bedtime stories to my kid daughter. My daughter is quite demanding at that.

Many times, I had run out of stories. Sometimes I concoct and make it up and sometimes my kid daughter insists that I retell the stories. I later found out that each time you repeat the story, kids start seeing it in a new angle. They reinterpret the stories and the characters.

Each time they hear, they see a new meaning in it and their imagination has no bounds. It lays the seed of creativity in them. What happens without saying is that you are effectively collaborating with your kids for their development and it is fulfilling for you as well.

I later researched and found out that, two of Stephen King’s children have become authors.

Creativity is something that we need to nourish it from a very young age.

You can read more on generating creative project ideas from out blog post, 24 simple approaches for generating new ideas in the workplace

The below presentation slides summarize it.

Even within an organization, nourishing creativity and cultivating it is a skill. We are all waiting for the next big idea and a potential break through. We cannot afford to look at it as counterproductive to productivity and control.

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Smart But Reluctant: How To Encourage Your Employees To Share Their Knowledge

Encourage employees to share knowledge

It’s not easy to create an office environment where knowledge sharing is a common practice.

One of the most common barriers to sharing knowledge is fear of rejection. If employees think that their ideas will be rejected, they are far less likely to share them. Another problem that inhibits knowledge sharing at the workplace is the hierarchical structure prevalent in many office environments.

Now that you know what the two biggest obstacles to knowledge sharing are, here are 7 tips to help you encourage employees to share their knowledge with others and build an open environment for knowledge exchange that will drive innovation.

1. Learn what’s their passion

It is common for employees to have their most and least favorite parts of a job. There may be areas about which they feel especially passionate and excited. Identify these areas and find a way for employees to spend more of their energy there. You will be rewarded with a higher quality of work and potential pathways for knowledge sharing. For example, a successful social media manager may be able to share their methodology that will benefit other areas of your marketing department.

2. Provide knowledge sharing tools

Knowledge sharing is about creating a specific culture that encourages open communication, and you’ll need specific tools to support that.

For example, you can use a social intranet such as Igloo or Honey that will serve as a platform where employees communicate and exchange information. Slack is an interesting option as well. Even though it doesn’t describe its services as intranet, it contains communication and file-sharing features that are similar to good intranet products.

You can also use a Kanban tool to help employees share knowledge about their workflow process. Kanban is a type of a workflow system that helps to organize tasks into buckets that represent different stages of a process (or example “prototype”, “in development”, or “completed”). Kanbanize and Atlassian offer Kanban tools that were created with organizational needs in mind. Helping employees see what their colleagues are working on will increase transparency in your team but also give your employees greater knowledge about the project’s progress and needs.

Consider tools that will help your team create a knowledge base that can be shared with everyone at the company. A note-taking tool like Evernote is a good investment – when inspiration strikes your employees on the go, they can simply jot down a note in their Evernote app and share it with their coworkers instantly.

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6 best books on social collaboration – A recommended reading list

books on social collaboration

The moment we hear the term ‘social collaboration’ what comes to our mind is people interacting and sharing to achieve common goals. That is correct.  But little do we understand that this simple behavior has deep roots in the very survival and evolution of the human species.

Not withstanding, the Twitter wars of  our world leaders.

Social collaboration is multi disciplinary in nature and involves in good measure, disciplines as diverse as Sociology, Cognitive Psychology, Computers, Mathematics and Ethnography to name a few.

In most of the cases it is viewed from an enterprise perspective, but we should not forget that our immediate surroundings, the environment where we live and work and our upbringing have a huge impact in the way we interact and share with others. There is diversity.

Needless to say that it is the social behavior that we exhibit in our personal lives is what we bring it to our professional lives as well. How much of this diversity is respected and accepted as part of an inclusive development within an organization and the society at large remains to be seen.

I have always emphasized that social collaboration is art as well as science. The following books give us a good starting point to understand as well as a first hand account of the experiences of thought leaders and examples from industry practitioners.  Just like in other fields, to excel in it we need to practice it.

Please excuse me. I have not provided direct links to the book author’s site nor to any online store. Lets do our bit on the online search.

Book 1: Social collaboration for Dummies

This book cannot be understated. Dummies as a book brand with its various titles and subject topics provides for simple reading with friendly instructions. The book series serves as a great reference book for starters and learners. It has around 2500 titles under its kitty.

‘Social collaboration for dummies’ written by David Carr details how social collaboration and social networking can be applied and put in place within an organization context for achieving organizational goals. Specifically, it looks at

1. How to introduce social collaboration practices in workplaces.
2. How to transform an organization into a social business.
3. The book also presents case studies and best practice examples of adopting social collaboration and creating a learning environment.

This is a good book for anyone looking to understand how social collaboration can be used to enhance productivity, innovation and creativity within the workplace.

Book 2: The social life of information

The book is written by John Seely and Paul Duguid. John Seely was the former chief scientist at Xerox corporation and Paul Duguid is the professor at UC Berkerly school of information.

The book argues that increased digitization cannot necessarily give us a better future. Organizations need to rethink the how information is shared within organizations and not follow the tunnel vision methodologies of the technology enthusiasts.

This book gives us a solid grounding as to how information needs to be managed, shared and the business practices that need to be followed in a business context. Though it is written in the year 2000, the principles stand relevant even today.

Harvard University reprinted it in 2002. Undoubtedly one of the best books for social collaboration.

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Scientific collaboration wins the 2017 Nobel peace prize for Physics

integration-scientific collaboration

The 2017 Nobel peace prize for Physics was awarded to 3 scientists in the United states.  Rainer Weiss from MIT and Kip Thorne and Barry Barish both from Caltech won the prize for their scientific discovery of ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves.

This discovery validated Einstein’s theory of relativity ( E=MC2     expresses that mass and energy are the same physical entity and can be interchanged).

The theory of relativity suggested that matter and energy would warp the very structure of space-time. The warp would happen in the same way an ‘air pillow’ sags when an infant rests its head on it while asleep.  Interesting.

Black hole - ripples of waves
Black hole – ripples of waves

This phenomenon would stretch space-time, expand and collapse it forming black holes making it so dense that even light cannot escape it. The motion of these black holes as the universe expands in space-time would send ripples of gravitational waves into space.

What was more interesting for me was the question in Newyork times “Why did they win?”  Well the question “How did they win?”  Would be much more interesting sans the ‘Astrophysics’ part.

Well the scientists were the ‘brain child’ behind the organization called LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational –wave Observatory).  In fact, LIGO was also the scientific instrument for the detection gravitational waves.

LIGO was a scientific collaborative organization comprising of a thousand researchers from around the globe who analyzed data, designed materials, and co-authored hundreds of scientific papers on the research area.

IndiGO is the consortium of Indian gravitational physicists. IndiGO is the Indian partner to the LIGO laboratory in USA for planning and setting up the LIGO-India project.

The LIGO laboratory has scientific collaboration with its other advanced LIGO partners in UK, Germany and Australia and also with the US National science foundation.  Together they provide hardware and designs for setting up the Indian operations of LIGO.

Current trends in scientific collaboration

Most of us have a scientific temper.  We are so curious at times that we keep watching television channels for interesting science stories and snippets.   It is not for the reason that they would affect our immediate lives but somehow we are glued.

You will surprised to know according to a research report from Physics org. the number of multiple author science papers have been doubled internationally from 1990 to 2015.  It has grown from 10 % to 25%. Moreover, 58 more countries have participated in scientific research contribution since then.

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Here is why Retail chain stores and coffee bars are better than traditional R&D

coffee cup and collaboration skills

Cheers to  #National coffee day ; Drinking coffee is good for your heart and lowers the risk of cognitive decline.

This is the third part in the series on the Best practices for social collaboration.  You can find part 1 and Part 2 here.

Please find few more

Create a system, which is not too loose or not too rigid

One of the best ways for improvisation is to create a system, which is not too loose nor too rigid.  Something, which is at the edge of chaos.  To know more, please read our blog post on ‘Social collaboration’ at the edge of chaos here.  The essence is in the usage of ‘semi structures’ as Brown and Eisenhardt point out.  You can request for a research report at Research gate.  A structure, which is not too rigid and yet flexible enough to create a change even at the last moment.

There are very few such global organizations, which can boast of such intelligent semi-structures.  Titan is one among them.

There is a need for critical balance for problem solving at the edge of chaos.  For example, the design process at Titan is not structured and the designers had the freedom to improvise and change plans even at the very last moment.

Processes need to be flexible to change in response to an unforeseen development should it happen. Something called ‘opportunistic planning’ as cognitive scientist Barbara Hayes Roth calls it. We will discuss more on ‘Opportunistic planning’ in our upcoming posts.

The company has built coffee shops everywhere, an increasing trend we have been seeing lately where people communicate and interact with each other.

Another company called cruising has successfully developed cross-pollination of projects – where everybody borrows ideas from everybody.

Managing momentary knowledge

We know that any knowledge that we create is momentary.  It lasts for a very short time.  Research points that to be successful we need to spread those expertise, improvements, and small innovations as quickly as possible to the rest of the organization.

A good example is the retail chain stores.  The retail chain stores succeed at scaling up quite fast.

Now how is it done ?

Tiny improvisations done at a small activity in one corner of the store is quickly spread to the rest of the functions.  If the improvisations benefit their customer and operations, it is quickly spread to other company outlets and franchises.  They will adopt it immediately so much for their collaboration skills.

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Poking fun and a collective sense of identity is important for social networks in workplaces

Social networks in workplaces

Converting tacit to explicit knowledge and providing context to information are two important areas, which are often overlooked when using social networks in workplaces.

The use of social media and social networking has become part of our daily lives as consumers. We use social media in myriad different ways from daily interactions, conversations to sharing pictures and videos.

From a personal point of view, social media keeps us entertained as consumers. But when it comes to a professional setting, the question that comes to our mind is that, is social media viewed in the same way from an organizational context as well?

We use the word ‘Social networks’ and ‘Social media’ interchangeably in this article. A detailed explanation on the difference between the two is found on this resource page.

Benefits of  social platform in workplaces

There are inherent benefits of using social networks in workplaces.

There are various sources and the Internet is replete with the of-repeated benefits of community building and collaboration. Often, the nitty-gritty’s of what actually works and makes the usage of social media worthwhile isn’t discussed often from an employee perspective.

Employees have a different perspective from the management of the company on the usage of social media. Employees love the spirit of community.

Active usage of social media within the work environment nurtures a sharing community. It is through this community that employees like to discuss their problems and issues and seek solutions. Social capital is built through such interactions. Social capital is needed for a strong bond among colleagues and employees within a team to get the work done.

A good article from our blog discusses the important benefits of social networks in workplaces. The article is all about viewing social media from an employee perspective.

In a study conducted by a firm called Dynamic markets, 74% of employees said that the two biggest benefits of social networks in workplaces is

1. Gaining knowledge to solve problems at work.

2. having a collaborative team spirit among employees.

Social media has always been about building a community.

But in the workplaces, the management would be more happy to see it as a form of collaboration among employees. The word ‘collaboration’ rings bells as it brings results and profits.  And this is the very reason why the social media software in big corporates are called ‘social collaboration’.

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The Human brain helps us to make intelligent decisions in everyday life social networks

pre-frontal cortex makes intelligent decisions

The Human brain helps us to unravel the complexity of the social networks.  It can spontaneously access information and help us make intelligent decisions and appropriate responses for acceptable social outcomes.

In a recent research paper published in  ‘Nature – Human behavior’ author Carolyn Parkinson of the University of California talks about how the brain seems to encode the messages we send when meeting familiar people and their position in the social network.  This may not seem like a breakthrough immediately but then the author says this has implications in the way of how we can use this information to understand an individual’s standing in the social network.

In addition, this research can help behavioral studies on how our knowledge of a person’s social standing in a social network can make changes in our attention, empathy, and trust on that person. The brain region where this information is recorded is the higher order pre-frontal cortex and there is a spontaneous access to it.

We interact with many individuals on a daily basis.  Keeping track of our acquaintances and our relationships with others is no mean task.  Sometimes our friends and relatives will have second degree and third degree relationships with their friends and relatives.  It becomes complex as we go on extending the chain.  Now in this complexity, tracking our own relationships and the extended relationships we have with others (not in a sense of self-interest) requires some degree of understanding the relationships.

The question is can the brain in its natural state help us?

Yes, says the research conducted by Carolyn Parkinson of University of California.  Thanks to the Mo Costandi of Scientific American to bring this information to light.

FMRI on 21 MBA Students

Parkinson and her colleagues from Dartmouth College surveyed 275 first year MBA students.  In the survey, the questions where directed specifically towards their social habits.  It included how they preferred mingling with the crowd and with whom they preferred to hang around with and visit their homes.  Their preference in attending social events and so on.

They measured the responses in three different ways.  The first one looked at the ‘degrees of separation‘ from one another.  The second one looked at ‘their closeness to well-connected individuals’ in the social network” and the third ‘the extent of their closeness with aloof individuals’.

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Benefits of Social collaboration in workplaces

benefits of social collaboration

In the recent years, there has been a lot written about social collaboration within organizations. Both employees and managers within workplaces can realize enormous benefits through social collaboration.

The benefits of social collaboration go beyond the obvious oft-repeated ones like social interaction among employees and community building.  The benefits have positive business impact and the primary among them is the enhanced knowledge, and information employees gain for collaborative problem solving.

What is social collaboration in workplaces?

Now having said that, we can ask the question, what is social collaboration in workplaces?

Social collaboration in workplace is all about a group of people interacting and sharing information to achieve common goals. Such collaborative processes finds acceptance in a natural ubiquitous medium like the corporate intranet space, where Information and ideas disseminate quite fast.

The concept of ‘social collaboration’ although not new, emphasizes the fact that ‘ideas are all around us’ we need to be open enough to see them.  No one-person need to have all the expertise in the world to solve the problems.  People do not operate in silos.  When they join and collectively add their thought processes and ideas, it is bound to value add to the entire process and probably turn it to a newer direction which would have been not so obvious if they (people) were on their own.

Social collaboration in workplaces is also known by with the word ‘Enterprise networking’ and is associated with software tools called ‘corporate social networks’ or ‘Corporate social media’.

Benefits of social collaboration leading to positive business impact

Many Fortune 100 companies like IBM and Intel have been at the forefront adopting corporate social networks within their organizations.  From an organizational perspective the benefits are many and they all have positive business impact in the workplaces.


The following lists some of the benefits of social collaboration in workplaces.

  1. Context to information
  2. Iteration of ideas leading to innovation
  3. Building social capital among employees

We will look at them one by one.

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Want to Build a Culture of Innovation? Give Your Employees More Autonomy

culture of innovation

What kind of workplaces promote innovation?

You can expect employees to drive innovation in environments where there are fewer bureaucratic restraints and many opportunities for calculated risk. Innovation can only happen with a well-structured management system in place. Otherwise, experimentation can become too risky and great ideas might not get implemented.

In a survey by McKinsey, 94% of senior executives said that it’s the people and corporate culture that drive innovation.

Hierarchical structures where the decision-maker is difficult to reach and the decision-making process is not transparent do not foster innovation. That’s why employees need a degree of autonomy to execute actions and set their innovation goals.

Employee autonomy and accountability are the foundation for innovation.

These two values provide the essential framework that supports the innovation process among employees. An autonomous workplace gives individuals and teams ownership of their ideas and grants them the freedom to make key decisions.

Here are 5 tips to help you build a culture of innovation that gives your employees more autonomy.

Explain the ‘why’ behind the goal

The first step for managers who want to instill a greater autonomy among their employees is to explain why the goal assigned to the team has value. Most often, managers tell their employees what they need to do, failing to explain why it’s important or how it fits into the larger picture.

It’s hard to commit to a goal if you don’t see why it’s a good idea in the first place. The value of the goal might not be as obvious to your team as it is to you. So make sure to explain the ‘why’ behind the goal and help employees understand how their actions contribute to the overarching goals of the organization.

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