Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Keeping the Flow ...

I answered a call by Chuck Frey of Innovation Tools late last year for comments on what "What is the most important lesson you learned regarding innovation during 2008?"

The following was my answer ...

I think the biggest lesson I have learned goes back to a search for creativity while maximizing productivity. It often seems as if ideas and thoughts do not follow any set pattern and will come up at any time and within any context. Over the years, I have always gone back to moments like that to try and discern what may or may not impede the "flow," the elusive state where thoughts seem to just gel and come together with a singularity, at that point one may feel a touch of genius and relief to know the moment was caught.

Catching the ideas has always been the goal of my work with software and computers to make the flow as unobtrusive as possible. I started with mind mapping systems. I primarily rely on MindManager 8 and XMIND for their complete feature set and export capability. The ability to quickly record ideas and reorganize them at will is the key to flow as sometimes in midstream a thought takes a different path and ideas must be rearranged. These two programs allow you to mobilize a thought or task at the drop of a hat. Speed and ease of use are key to capturing the moment and a naturally intuitive interface is the element that allows that. I like to change formats and colors once the initial inputs are drawn as visual cues, they have an ability to create more pathways that are not necessarily evident when one first puts ideas to "paper."

I also use a Tablet PC and a new program by Microsoft Research called Inkseine. It was created as a strictly pen-based application that would tie web research and other information into your drawings. I have done full presentations on the fly with this wonderfully agile tool. Included in InkSeine is a "camera" to allow you to embed anything and everything to key you into visual cues.

Once I get things the way I want, the ability to export to Word then comes into play as I formalize the paper/presentation by normal means. Being able to conceptualize from a visual standpoint allows you to flesh out the details. This is the distillation of years of tinkering and this year I have put it to use multiple times with great success.

-- Alan Yoshioka, ENVIRtrade, Inc.

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