Brainstorming and Innovation – Not Really Working Anymore

Well, I have a pretty large personal library with more than 3 dozen books on innovation. It’s amazing how they all read about the same and all have nearly the same advice, especially when it comes to the ‘art of brainstorming’. Still, due to all the new social norms being taught in college these days, where every question asked of a professor, no matter how stupid, is met with; “Great question,” and then followed by the nauseating improper English; “okay so… ” followed by a regurgitated answer – it’s causing the same nonsense in brainstorming sessions.

The only chance today of a brainstorming session coming up with a brilliant original solution would be to have someone in the group who is already a creative genius who can speak up, defend their concept against politically correct and status quo bias and personally persuade the group to yield to their idea. Still, this type of person is a true ‘Thought Leader’ and a legitimate thought leader hardly needs a brainstorming group or any group for that matter in the first place.

Brainstorming isn’t working anymore for innovation, and you can get better creativity from a YouTube Cat Video these days. Corporate R&D Departments aren’t producing much either considering the huge sums of money they spend on the innovative process. Those who predict the future so they can see into the looking glass aren’t much better using their methodologies.

Innovation for the Future and Future Prediction

Let’s take the Futurists of the World Future Society (WFS) as an interesting case study. The WFS has seminars to teach you how to think like a Futurist, symposiums with special emphasis on trend projections and innovation. Isn’t it interesting how all the members of the WFS are always on the same page, and how their predictions are nearly always incorrect (90% of the time)? Why is this? Maybe it’s because when you teach people to think a certain way, they lose the creative edge or ability to do high-level original thought, as you are confine their thought process to logical thinkin?g (left brain thinking) when the students who wish to focus on innovation need to be both left and right brain thinkers.

How are we going to get back to an America that is robust in original thinking and overflowing with new ideas – a nation that is so innovative that we can’t even hold back the rapid changes of our society and civilization? How can we lead the world into the future if we can’t even innovate our way out of plastic bags? Please consider all this and think on it.

Innovation: Food Is The Next Frontier

The world is far from perfect and many challenges are clamoring to be solved. A problem that should be the number one priority is food-waste management.

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization report, one-third of food produced for human consumption is wasted. That amounts to a huge 1.3 billion tonnes per year. On the other side as per the Food Aid Foundation, 795 million people go hungry and undernourished. That comes to 12.9% of the world population.

When we talk about innovation and changing the status quo, can these glaring numbers be ignored?

The distance between the produce and the consumers is a prime reason behind a considerable amount of food wastage. Agriculture is a rural activity and requires open farms for cultivating the crops. But consumers are clustered in cities.

Sometimes crop yield must travel 1000s of kilometers before arriving at the retail shelves. Food is a perishable item and a significant portion becomes unfit for consumption before reaching the destination. Refrigerated vehicles was an excellent innovation to deal with this problem. But refrigeration in movement is a costly proposition and not affordable for developing and third-world countries. Ironically, they need it the most.

To solve this issue, startups are shifting farm activities closer to the consumers.

Innovative Solution 1: Hydroponics

We always assumed that farming needs land and open farms. But 21st-century startups are challenging this assumption. They are using hydroponics farming which doesn’t need soil.

These indoor hydroponic farms are established closer to the city centers. The nutrients are fed to the developing crop through trickling water rich with nourishment. That’s why the name, hydroponics. In the total absence of sunlight, the light is provided by LED bulbs.

This technique requires only a fraction of water, about 5% compared to the traditional farming methods. Startups companies like ‘Aerofarm’ and ‘Plenty’ are also using technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data science to enhance productivity and the crop yield. These crops are also healthier and enriched with more nutrition.

Innovative Solution 2: Food Tracking

Many times food takes more time to reach the destination than planned. it can be due to vehicle failure, bad weather, or even local strikes and other reasons.

Hydroponics is in its early days. Its share in the world food today is minuscule. A large amount of crops and foods perish in the transit. To solve this problem, the innovators are applying Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, or RFID technology.

This technology is used for tracking apparel inventory in the fashion industry. Airlines use these RFID tags to track luggage. Now it is adapted to track the food in inventory and transit.

With RFID tags we know where the food is. We can decide if it will reach the destination in consumable form or not. If the transit takes a longer time then planned, food journey may be curtailed. The food can be sold in the local grocery markets at a reduced cost, or we can share it with the needy people.

Innovation Solution 3: Robin Hood Army.

Not all food problems can be solved by technology alone. We need the heart too. And that’s where Robin Hood Army, headquartered in Delhi India shines.

They connect excess food in restaurants and the hungry people in close localities. It is a nonprofit organization, run by volunteers. Mostly students. Robin Hood Army is present in over 100 cities in India.

Conclusion:

We can say, finally, food-waste is under the radar now and entrepreneurs are working hard, pushing the boundaries to solve this acute problem.

Corporate Innovation – What Happened?

In the real world outside of academia, we have the same problem where corporate employees are discouraged from thinking, trained to do things exactly as per the employee manual, BMPs (best management practices) of industry, or directions from their bosses, yet their bosses are doing the same thing? Is anyone – even the C-suite or board of directors thinking anymore? Are they busy copying marketing campaigns, business strategies, and processes of their competitors too – apparently so, which is fairly obvious reading trade journals and following industry associations.

In fact, many industry associations (bureaucratic status quo) have training courses for people in the industry – but that just means once everyone is trained – every company is going around the same track at the same speed with the same horsepower, and same rules as everyone else. Welcome to the human rat race – looks more like NASCAR than revolutionary innovation or great leaps of technology. How can you or your company win if you just copy what everyone else is doing, or attempting to do? How can your company come up with a breakthrough or the next new thing?

We Americans complain when China and others rip-off our intellectual property, and yet, what are we doing to ourselves? Doesn’t anyone think anymore? Every time I turn around I see the same thing. What happened to American Innovation, creative problem solving, and that ‘can do attitude’ that when there is a will, we will find a way? We see only a few corporations thinking anymore or pushing the envelope? Why?

Do we have too many confining rules and regulations? Are too many companies worried about lawsuits or pull-backs in shareholder’s equity, stock price and quarterly profits? Are there too many class action lawyers ready to strike – keeping companies from taking risks? Are companies too concerned with boycotts enabled by political correctness in our evolving society – be careful not to offend anyone – be safe, don’t rock the boat?

Is it all of these things mentioned above, plus the slow mind-numbing indoctrination of media, academia and the inherent ever pervasive government indoctrination? Perhaps, but what’s the underlining cause. Humans are not getting less intelligent. IQ scores have been rising for a 100-years. Could social media have a part in this problem I’ve observed? Some say social media has helped innovation – has it really? It seems that faster communication would increase original thought and make everyone a little more innovative – but it hasn’t. It appears it is dummying down our society more than it is helping foster creative minds and turning us all into innovators.