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Happiness and Innovation Work for Google, Honda and Others.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on March 8, 2006

There are insights and then there are blinding insights and IDEO’s Diego Rodriquez has a truly brilliant insight in his column on the relationship between happiness and innovation.

Diego builds on the concept of “flow,” that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi put forth. Flow is the state of happiness you enter when, as Diego says, “the complexity of the thing you’re doing just outstrips your ability to get it done.” Too much complexity and you are overwhelmed. Too little and you are bored. If organizations get it right, you can optimize innovation by offering people work that balances clear, achievable goals that challenges them and “ignites the fires of creativity that lie within us all,” as Diego puts it. Call it serious play. Check out Diego’s kind of play—Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Google, Honda, 3M and other companies are using serious play to innovate. Indeed, in sports, getting into the “zone” is critical to competition and winning. The flow, the zone, even the “force” of Star Wars. I like viewing innovation that way.

But can button-down corporate execs used to Six Sigma regimentation learn to play? Can they learn to harness the flow? Will the force be with them? That’s the competitive question of the decade, isn’t it?

Reader Comments


March 13, 2006 4:11 PM

Similar concept to the Atkinson Aspiration Model as outlined by Chet Karrass in his book 'The Negotiating Game' (1992 Revised Edition p.50)

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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