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Minister of Creativity

Sick Sigma




200 Pixels
  200 Pixels by Jake
Quote of the month-
"Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!"
Dr. Seuss

Puzzles - They're good for the brain.

Difficulty: Easy
Can you circle exactly four of these numbers such that the total is twelve?

Difficulty: Very Hard
Below is a very special grid. Around each shaded number are 8 white squares.

However, each white square should have a number from 1 to 7. Once filled in, these 8 numbers will add up to the shaded number. In addition, once completed correctly, no row or column will contain a duplicate number within a white square. For example, the top row may be 5 6 4 2 3 1 7, etc.

This is BrainBashers™ most difficult puzzle, but is solvable without the aid of a computer.

Click for the answers...

Puzzles supplied by Brainbashers

Website of the month

What If? Hats

Available in 4 colors:
Mustard, Burnt Orange
Moss/Berry, Black/Stone

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Fanning the Creative Spirit Audio Book

Available as:

3 CD $18.95

MP3 download $11.95

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  Nuts & Bolts:
Creativity Central
St. Paul

Charlie Girsch
Maria Girsch

1111 Elway St.
Suite 609
St. Paul MN 55116-3236
ph 651.291.0745

Creativity Central

Ed Holahan
Jake More

5215 N. Ravenswood
Suite 307
Chicago, IL 60640
ph 773.293.4559
fax 773.293.4551

Creativity Central cNews
November 9, 2004
Volume 1, Issue 11

We hope you enjoyed reading this issue of Creativity Central cNews.

We'll bring you more exciting news from Creativity Central and our affiliates just one month from now on Tuesday, December 9, 2004.

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  Creativity Central Idea Blog
Creativity Central has placed an Idea Blog on our website. As we send out newsletters, we will be posting articles in the blog. We encourage you to post comments and/or critiques. This is a free forum to share thoughts on the articles we write. It can also be a place to just add ideas. The people who have access to this blog span the spectrum of experience, and can provide a much needed point-of-view shift.
  My Vote for The Ministry of Creativity and Innovation

by Charlie Girsch

I truly enjoyed Tom Tresser’s Creativity is America’s Greatest Renewable Energy Source in last month's cNews. He makes it clear that creativity is one of America’s true resources, “..a source that lies inside every individual and one that is renewable and endless ... and it should be a national priority.” He’s right on the money. Our government need not worry about those jobs going offshore. Rrather both parties should become proactive and heed Tom’s urging to appoint a “National Director Of Creativity” whose “job it will be to thoroughly ... extend this vital natural resource.”

For better or worse, we are an economy committed to growth. And, we have a consumer base demanding the best price. It’s an insatiable combination that can only be fed by a market dedicated to creativity and innovation. “Cheaper, better, faster” is the rant of our economy. “More” is the cry of the consumer. These two simple demands are cause enough to not worry about the “cheap fast follow” of offshore producers, but rather they are a call to invest in discovering “the next right answer” for a ravenous economy that yearns for novelty. We have the market and the resources. All that is needed is support for the power of the spirit of Creativity and Innovation that have been present since the first moments of this great democracy.
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  Sick Sigma part 1 of 2

Customer Focus Succumbs to Greed
by Charlie & Maria Girsch
Part One: The Cause

Our travels through corporate America reveal a growing tendency to abuse the venerable Total Quality Management philosophy and its second cousin Six Sigma. As in all human situations, a tool can be used for good OR evil. Sadly, for most practitioners, Six Sigma has been used to eliminate rather than enhance. The abusers have locked on to that part of the system where cost cutting is “the only right answer.

Human nature, sometimes dressed as greed, misuses the initiative in search of greater profits and personal wealth. Enron, Andersen, the tobacco industry et al, while demonstrating amazing levels of creativity and innovation, have left us dispossessed. In truth, Six Sigma’s strength is in cost cutting and improved quality. As such, it’s ability to build the top line is dubious which renders it questionable as a sustainable business strategy. The sad result is that its the most common appreciation is as a cost-cutting utility.

Two recent brainstorming efforts have us guessing about the positives of Six Sigma. Both a midwestern manufacturing company and a Canadian food processor were looking for ways to differentiate their production from that of the competition. In each case, the organization’s product had been reduced to a commodity. Their product was simply no longer unique!

In a world where everyone does the same things, everyone begins to look alike. After all, if you have misapplied Quality and Six Sigma in order to down or right size, if you have delivered “just in time”, if you have “moved your cheese” and gone to “fish camp,” you suddenly realize that all of your competitors have done exactly the same things. When that happens, you’ve gone full circle. The only ways left to differentiate are by product or promotion.

More and more we at Creativity Central are called upon to help a company invent a promotional effort to entice and/or reward clients and customers for choosing their commodity. Innovation falls to customer compensation instead of product innovation. Dan Wallace of Idea Food puts it this way: “In the absence of innovation, organizations have no other options than to rely on Six Sigma etc. to increase quality and reduce headcount. The nature of free market competition will eliminate firms that don’t do this. The irony is that without innovation, Six Sigma and friends will only slow down the death of a firm.”

It’s worth remembering as we enter this reflection that the purpose of the Quality Movement, and its various offshoots, was to provide jobs and bring prosperity to the community. It is further worthy to note that Quality founder W. Edwards Deming believed that "there should be a relationship between the salary of the person at the top and the one on the bottom." That simple concept would be a hard sell in the majority of organizations where Six Sigma enjoys its greatest and most passionate practice.
Leader Source’s Bill McCarthy opines that we succumb “because we place such a high value on quantifying.” Peter Block suggests that "It is easiest to change those things that are easiest to talk about. So we focus on structure, roles, responsibilities. We have intense discussions about innovative pay systems, self management strategies, and the elements of total quality management. (However) if there is no transformation inside each of us, all the structural change in the world will have no impact on our institutions." We would suggest that true transformation can only take place when there is a transition from “same old thinking” to the search for “the next right answer.”

It’s easy to understand the misuse of Six Sigma if you look at two key factors that influence decision making in a growth economy . Here’s what we mean.

The first is the commitment to continued earnings growth and profit that is required by our investment economy. Jack’s Welch’s “Grow or Die” urging summarizes the first of these factors. Jobs and prosperity go out the door as they are replaced by a commitment to growth---an addiction, if you will, which is most easily satisfied by reducing cost to insure profit. This dedication has moved both manufacturing and jobs to places where the “costs” are considerably lower. In truth, the American dream is an economy of growth. And realistically we have come to believe that there are only two ways to grow: you either eliminate the costs of doing business or acquire market share through acquisition or merger.

The second factor influencing our choices is more subtle. Many of our managers fall into the categories of “sustainers” and “modifiers” according to the Creatrix™ Profile offered by The Richard Byrd Company. It seems that these categories eschew the creative risk-taking necessary to generate new product or to launch the initiatives required to successfully differentiate. Since the upside of increasing revenue is almost unlimited, one would expect that there would be a greater value place on promoting managers focused on improvement.

(There is a true story of a midwestern Product Marketing Organization that developed a unique climbing device which is sold in large quantities through a “big box” retailer. A manufacturing facility was set up off shore in order to achieve a very attractive retail price. The far eastern government where the plant is located stipulates that the midwest Marketing Organization (that developed and sells the devices) must sign a contract commitment to keep the laborers’ wages below a certain threshold in order to insure a balance in the off shore’s economy! “Mr. Midwest” complies in order to maintain his business: he likes the profits. As a consumer, you like the price. And finally, his organization enjoys its bottom line. Yet, as a citizen you start to worry about the loss of both the manufacturing AND the jobs. This constant tug between average everyday people wanting—no, expecting---low prices, yet spouting invectives concerning the outsourcing that’s going on in our country is clearly the dilemma that’s making Six Sigma “Sick!” )

This second more seductive factor finds comfort in the realization that Six Sigma (and Quality before it) grew up in a world of numbers. Both were born of the efforts of statisticians. Number analysis isn’t bad in and of itself. Applying numbers to the world of manufacturing has certainly produced an amazing improvement to the benefit of the customer/consumer. The Six Sigma improvement methodology called DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. So far, so good.

For the first time since the beginning of the industrial age, manufacturers began to acquire data about their operations. The data was scoured to learn what wisdom it held or revealed about one’s systems and processes. Then, as problems and inefficiencies were discovered, the creative problem solving process was to be employed to create solutions. Look at the data; see what it tells you; change your perspective in order to let the unique aspects of the problem suggest new and viable solutions. That was the good news.

The bad news is that another group of statisticians, a.k.a. bean counters, found Six Sigma and began to MISapply its purpose and philosophy. Rather than use the power of innovation to improve, enhance, and reinvent, these practitioners chose the easy path of cost reduction in order to quickly arrive at a profit. Cost reduction became their “one right answer!” Thus you will hear stories like that of GE Capital, who after an enormously profitable year, announced a huge job reduction in order to reach even newer and better numbers in the next year.

Creativity and Innovation represent lateral not linear thinking---and that seems off-putting to some. So think of it this way. The Best Practices of lateral thinking can be formulaic in design. In other words, it is possible to open up one’s thinking in unusual and unexpected ways. Creativity Central’s no-fail Get Your Butt Fired™ technique, in a fun and productive process, invites out-of-the-ordinary thinking in order to grab outrageous possibilities that can be quickly reduced to practical solutions. We call it “going from the wacky to the workable,” and frankly, it never NOT works! There are literally hundreds of other formulas—and they are truly procedural formulas---which, when exercised by open engaged minds, can and do deliver innovation every time. The Creative Problem Solving method (CPS), which has been around innovation networks for years, is a process that works no matter the challenge. We have used it with clients to invent (or reinvent) everything from products to services to campaigns. It’s always a rewarding experience for our customers. We know this because we have always unabashedly offered a money-back guarantee, and all of our clients have felt they benefitted from the variety of Innovation techniques we shared with them.

Caveat Emptor. As you prepare to embrace the potential of creative, innovative thinking, be advised and carefully note that there is a penchant among the Six Sigma practitioners to embrace the highly systematized Russian Triz system. In a good and methodical way, Triz appeals to the statistical mentality. But like all things, good can be abused in order to produce innovation in a non-messy (read potentially non-innovative) manner. Continuously successful creativity is a lateral process. However, the very human desire (previously identified as greed when it’s pushed for cost reducing high returns) can now reappear seeking uniformity and comfort. Our humanness both embraces and abuses Triz’ “systems approach” in order to avoid the messy ambiguity of living without an answer in the moments it takes to discover the “next great right answer.”

There is hope. A handful of recent examples in our consumer society which demonstrate that product differentiation is possible without the long costly changes in systems that the “sustainers” and “modifiers” so dread. Dutch Boy paints and Round Up weed control have shown that simple yet dramatic innovations in packaging or delivery can differentiate their products in meaningful and profitable ways. Innovative product doesn’t always have to be rocket science!
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  Creativity Central Awards

It Doesn’t take a rocket scientist Award:

Creativity Central will hand over one genuine "What If?" hats to the reader who shows us the product or service that answers some big challenge by applying the simplest of solutions. Submit your entry for December

Thanks to Wayne Lindhom for this one. He's November's winner and will receive one of our "What If?" hats for spotting this bit of ingenuity.

Big Ass Fans makes huge fans – 6 feet diameter to 24 feet diameter range – that have many industrial applications like warehouses, loading docks, agricultural barns, etc. They took an established but quiet product, re-named it, and brought it to the forefront of their industry.

Stretchiest Stretch~ercise Award:

Creativity Central will award one fabulous Fanning the Creative Spirit book to the reader who provides us with a new (to us) Stretch~ercise™ that out-stretches the stretchiest of our little brain builders.
Submit your entry for December

If you don't know what a
Stretch~ercise™ is, then check it out

From Steve Dahlberg, General Manager, Creative Education Foundation

" - Imagination and ideas are the social capital that grows economies, integrates differences and changes individuals ... ideas can transform the world. There is a global urgency for deliberate creativity -- whether it's the 9/11 Commission citing the intelligence community's 'faliure of imagination,' the head of GE calling for innovation to enable continual corporate growth, a political pundit pointing out the 'war of ideas' between differing groups or an urban planner advocating for creative communities."

  © Creativity Central cNews, 2004 All rights reserved