Design and Innovation with Arnold Wasserman

Arnold Wasserman is the man behind The Idea Factory. I discovered him thanks to a recent interview by Joan Badger and Ben Hazzard for their SMARTBoard Lessons Podcast.

Wasserman echoes Sir Ken Robinson in saying that we all come hard wired to be creative, and we then teach that feature right out of our children as they progress through school.

In discussing his company’s work with Singapore’s education system, Wasserman asks how we go about reintroducing our two hemispheres to one another, and concludes that we need to figure out how to use the ideas of K-6 education in the upper grades. He says:

“The brain knows how to be creative and the mind gets in its way.”

In other words, as we get older (and more “educated”) the mind encounters enough information that it begins to put a harness on the brain, stifling it from using ideas that do not mesh with the reality to which the mind has been exposed.

Wasserman references Google’s 80/20 rule as a way to nurture innovation. The rule states that employees can spend twenty percent of their time focused on their own ideas. This allows “the mind to get out of the way of the brain.”

“The Learning Journey” is a method that his company uses to “get the mind out of the way of the brain” by shakings things up. He suggests that to innovate it helps to see how innovation is working in other fields in order to understand how innovation works, in general, as opposed to within a specific field.

Wasserman’s tips to discover the principles of innovation:
First – see how it is done in other fields
Then – try to solve a problem in yet another field, completely different from your own (the proverbial “sandbox”)
Now – translate this to your field

The main reason for getting out of your comfort zone and exploring a completely different field, where you then have to solve a problem, is that “expertise is the killer of innovation.” The more you know about your own field, the more difficult it is to innovate. What is required is to “think back into the company from the minds of those outside it.”

This last bit reminds me of teaching. It is said that the best way to learn something is to have to teach it, and I agree with this concept. However, sometimes if you know a thing too well, it becomes very difficult to think back into the learning from the mind of someone who is struggling to learn that very thing. Yet more food for thought for educators on summer break.


4 thoughts on “Design and Innovation with Arnold Wasserman

  1. Pingback: Figures » Blog Archive » Project Profile: That information is personal

  2. synapsesensations Post author

    HI Patricia,

    In rereading your comment, I’m just wondering if your subconscious actually engages the use of your right brain. I have come to the conclusion that while we may tend towards one type of thinking over another, our whole brain does get involved in the act, though we may not always be aware when this happens. Perhaps it’s when you are least “thinking” about something that the rest of your brain has the opportunity to jump in.

    I also am inclined to believe that it is good exercise for the brain to get it firing on as many neurons as possible, or to use your words, on both hemispheres. Especially as we get older, the more we can challenge ourselves with novel and stimulating activities, the better it is for our overall brain health.


  3. Patricia Burnham

    I love the “all neurons firing.” But I am not sure that I want the halves of my brain reconnected with each other. Since I am almost entirely left brained, I want that hemisphere to work well, process information, and allow my subconscious to solve problems. The subconscious is what solves problems and creates text. The steps are: 1. Input information. 2. Then do something else, preferably routine like driving or sleeping. 3. And the answers or text pop to the surface of the mind like magic. (Or like one of those black glass balls where you shake it and turn it over and sayings appear under the glass) All I want for the right half is to be able to utilize it for a few graphic skills like photography when I need to do them myself instead of recruiting a right brained person to do them for me. So what you really want to teach folks is to do their best with their dominant brain half, and gain enough control of the weaker half to use it competently when it is needed.

  4. Pingback: SMARTBoard Lessons Podcast » Blog Archive » SMARTBoard Lessons 132: Learning From & With Students

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