Creative Problem Solving: Instigating Change

Incremental change is inevitable.

For something revolutionary to occur there needs to be some striking disaster or opportunity. How many organisations face that? To become more innovative and creative someone will need convincing that change is necessary and a move in this direction desirable, either to solve problems and develop an opportunity. Whatever is done will then require evidence of effectiveness.

A change of management and of ownership may lead to a company changing its name, but are the clients the same?

The modus operandi the same?

I’m reminded of the story of the company that made horseshoes at the turn of the century. What does it do? Become a mechanics shop or make the very best horseshoe in a diminishing market? How many blacksmiths survived the motorcar? Many became the garage on the edge of town.

What did it take to see that coming?

Intuition? Enthusiasm?

Thinking of metaphors.

How has an orchard adapted in the last thirty years? By developing new brands, and pears. By becoming an attraction and opening a shop. By diversifying. By taking the lead on selling a wide variety of ciders and peery, for example Middle Farm in East Sussex.

How have corporate video production companies coped?

They realised they were communications businesses and moved into web development. For a period video is back, but this already is shifting towards social platforms. More change? The survivors, for the most part, like Middle Farm, have diversified into eLearning, Websites, Events and now Social Media.

I wonder if competing universities are adding elearning to their mix making them more robust and competitive, as well as meeting student expectations, that, perish the thought (I believe it has been thought about) the OU should offer full-time residential courses?

Its what some people want, turning on a more intensive spell of studying in a residential school away from the distractions of home.

I can’t help but draw on lessons of Silicon Valley, the value of forming a creative or intellectual hub, after all this is how universities and university towns developed. Social Media doesn’t negate face to face interaction, indeed, research shows that it makes it more probable, that participants itch to meet up. In any case, I’ve seen it with my children, coming out of the classroom and straight onto a mobile device to continue conversations they were having.

If the creative activities are kept in house then these departments should model themselves on the creative agencies they aspire to be.

The Bank is a good example, talking of which a video created by CTN or Firehouse was made to show how Deutsche Bank radically changed office layout.

This is the spark that’s required.

For an organisations to be social online, it needs to operate in an environment that is ‘social’ and here the layout of a offices is fundamental.

Brighton Fuse (Part 2)

Free Clipart Images

Fascinating to attend the Miltos Petridis presentation hosted by Wired Sussex at the Skiff last night and in separate conversations to hear about Brighton Fuse.

On the one hand as a postgraduate student (Masters in Open & Distance Education: MAODE with the OU and the OU MBA module B822  ‘Creativity, Innovation & Change’) I am fascinated in how collaboration works (Engestrom’s Activity Theory is the model I like to use to illustrate how minds meld between people and teams to solve problems). As a web agency person (coming to Brighton in 2000 to join Worth Media) I understand the employer position too, indeed the agency I worked for blossomed from 9 to 50+ at this time.

With so may micro-companies though, is Brighton more like a cluster of artisans rather than the South Coast Silicon Valley? With Google and others conveniently located at Victoria is Brighton not a suburb of London? Indeed, corporate video production (my background) often sees companies with a production base in the regions and a sales office in London (Speakeasy and Two Four Productions come to mind).

The contribution made to Brighton life by the University of Brighton and University of Sussex is considerable; students stay on to live and work.

Where are venture capital funded labs?

A year with the OU Business School has give me some insight into Tertiary Education and distant and applied learning, though the model I would also draw upon in relation to Brighton Fuse is the School of Communication Arts (SCA) which provides art directors, copywriters and designers into the advertising world. As they would/will do when employed people are teamed up.

They work towards a job, via placements and real creative briefs (which they may receive payment for if developed).

A qualification is now offered, though I wondered if this is a mistake and a distraction? What counts is how the learning is applied. One of the best ways to learn is vicariously, from the periphery, as an apprentice or trainee ‘being there’. How can this be brought into the mix? Learning on the job? As an apprentice as they do in Germany? That working to pass exams and to meet academic assessment criteria can be very different to working on and completing a commercial project. Instead of a marked assignment might money made or saved be the measure?

At the SCA mentors come in from industry, including many of the heavy weights from the likes of BBH and Saatchi.

It is a hybrid studio, part of the working world but distinct from it. There is talk though of moving their base from Vauxhall to Soho next year so that industry people can simply ‘drop in’. There is no use of webcasting which is a lost opportunity and common place in industry both from the desk and from boardrooms.

For electronic arts, I wonder if this team of two ought to be a team of three, that a visualiser working with a copywriter needs a programmer in order to develop ideas with this ‘third dimension’.

The analogy I would use is a band that requires a drummer, bass player and lead guitar/singer.

During the course of the evening having spoken to several people from Brighton University I realised there is a fourth requirement: the entrepreneur i.e. the band’s manager?

This is based on the view that ideas come to fruition through commercial exploitation by an entrepreneur (in may experience someone who sells well, who understands that a fresh idea will turn heads and open doors). The mindset of the innovator and the entrepreneur are very different too.

All in all, this calls for collaboration, team working, acknowledgement of gaps in our own knowledge that our only filled not by gravitating forever to like-minds, but to different minds with complementary skills. A micro-business of one is surely not a business at all. Might 3 be a minimum?

In this respect both The Skiff and The Works sound like valuable places to mix and through proximity and serendipity make things happen.

Mentoring students is two way, not exploitative, but a way to formulate and refresh thinking. Academics benefit from the interaction with their students while those in business benefit from a combination of being challenged and perhaps being reminded of how playful business can be.

Brighton Fuse (Part 1)


Event at the Skiff 29th March 2012 hosted by Wired Sussex introducing the New Head of School at Computing, Mathematics & Engineering at Brighton University

 Introduced by Phil Jones from Wired Sussex.

Value of Brighton and Sussex Universities to the sector

Wired Sussex (the host) supports the Skiff which is now used by 100 freelancers. (Another freelancer venue is ‘The  Works’)

Miltosh Petridis, New Head of School, Computing, Maths & Engineering

 Brighton University. From University of Greenwich. Interested in Artificial Intelligence. i.e. ‘machines doing clever things’ with very large amounts of data. For example, tracking stuff coming in and out of warehouses and using algorithms to identify patterns in email conversations and social media threads. Fascinating conversation on social media and the algorithms used to moderate or sift conversations, whether you are GCHQ or The FT.

‘Most of the time, rather than innovation, we just remember and do what we did before so a machine can be taught how to do the search to make sure something is done in an innovative way’.

Finding real problems from companies

e.g. Experience of finding a different way to recast wheels was used to fix a software problem.

School of Engineering, Mathematics, digital media and computing brought together as the boundaries blur this is appropriate. Finding ways for the hardware and software to work together. New course in mobile computer engineering. Creating multidisciplinary teams.

(See hand out or Brighton university website)

155 members of staff

1500 students.

£9.5m  brought in to the university and £2m to the department.

29 externally funded projects.

+CPD income £140k that we want to grow.

Helping people in industry to push the boundaries.

  • Want more direct interaction with companies.
  • Want to expand into digital media and product design.
  • Needs to move with the times and move with Brighton.

Universities tend to thrive in times of recession.

  • Our graduates will be those who in due course bring wealth creation.
  • A lot of our alumni are staying in the area.
  • In three years’ time creating very employable graduates who are wanted by Brighton.
  • A degree is for life.
  • Brighton Digital from Wired Sussex research is made up of very many micro-companies.


  • Collaborative microsystem.
  • Lots of freelancers.
  • Difficult to find the
  • Skills in niche areas.


  • Want more ‘fine-grained collisions’, sandwich courses and internships for example.
  • E.g. sandwich course put one speaker into Virgin at Crawley.
  • Employ graduates through the SIT programme at Wired Sussex.


  • Freelance because they have the experience or because they can’t get work?
  • Want freelancers to have experience having worked in industry.
  • Understand what works already like WordPress etc.: being able to apply themselves to a project
  • (Self–reliance and common sense).


  • ex Disney, ex Black Rock studio, had 60 people cherry pick from the best
  • Internationally. Worked with uni to go in for certain refresher courses. No
  • Freelancer mode, so get them in, train them up and keep them. Now @GoBo, ex Black Rock, to build a studio around graduate talent.
  • E.g. Disney and entertainment.
  • So TV and film onto same interactive platforms. May take the very best from a games course. Otherwise maths.
  • Attracted to the continental academy.

‘What we are calling clouds a few years ago used to be mainframes’. Miltos Petredis

For £9,000 the graduate with a 1st as well as the one with a 2nd hopes to get a job from it. Up the required grades from students coming in.

A deal with companies that they will have a job for a year or two from which they can grow.

Try telling a student to go on a sandwich course that they have to be a student for another year, yet they are more likely to get a 1st and a job. But they need to hear it from the horse’s mouth, from businesses and students.

Brighton Fuse with both universities


  • Many companies are a one man band with a brand.
  • A big sector of lots of small players.
  • Can they be offered small term projects?
  • Need for more practical knowledge, how to work collaboratively on open source for example.
  • With a music degree working in a small team.
  • Yahoo as a multiple set of five people units.
  • NB At Masters level you will reflect on it. For example through case studies.
  • People learn from mistakes.
  • A business learns by repeating what it gets right.
  • You learn by other people’s stories.
  • Apprenticeships.
  • Being mentored.
  • Creating a
  • Sense of accomplishment over a week.


  • From Design UB, industry to be able to say what it wants in Preston Barracks.
  • Our research is hidden.
  • Nothing on the website.
  • Lowsy at commercialising it. Vs clinging to IP, spending money on it and getting nowhere.
  • Physical co-location (staff and students)
  • Get research out
  • Commercialisation


  • Studio with creative … At Carnegie Melon
  • ITP in New York doing computer art

‘I’ve got hundreds of solutions but not enough problems’. Miltos Petredis

Art for the sake of teaching?

By setting out to teach you risk killing the joy for the subject or the risk that comes from a piece of controversial art.

If you set out to create art, lessons can be drawn from it.

This is of course disingenuous as this supposes that an artist has by chance created a piece of art that is of value when teaching, let’s say ‘health and safety around a swimming pool’ or the early Greek philosophers. From a teaching point of view I think it is worth looking around to see where art can help, a piece from Shakespeare, an evocative painting, even a novel or film. For example, some of books by Stephen Pressfield are used to ‘teach’ Greek History. I would recommend ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ for an introduction to the First World War. I’d even call on HGWells to introduce advertising as his novel Tono Bungay appears to preempt the likes of global brands like Coca-Cola.

Follies that try to teach and fail to either impress on an artistic level or to teach?

The contents of the Millenium Dome. Art that inspires and can teach? The Angel of the North. Hockney’s current RA Exhibition. Many of the cartoons of Steven Appleby.

Art can also be incorporated into teaching, for example, the increasing willingness of bands to allow their songs to be used in training and teaching videos.

Art inspires; inspiration is motivational. A motivated students wants to learn.

This inspires me to buy Brushes APP for the iPhone and iPad then purchase a stylus and go out and capture my soul.

What the Scandinavians know about children’s literature

With Mariella Fostrup

I liked the comment from Professor Maria Nikolajeva when she quoted Leonard Helsing as saying ‘all pedagogical art is bad art, but all good art is pedagogical’. So if you write a children’s book from the point of view of creating good literature the learning will come naturally.


Getting more than you’d expect from WordPress.

An evening in the Lanes at the Skiff. 

This is Silicon Valley on the south coast of England. This was a Word Up.

Chris Harding from ‘More Than’ and memorial headstones insurance.

I’ve missed all of this, the casual, bright and open vibrancy of Brighton. Where else in on a Tuesday night do get beer, cake and good crack while talking shop?

Never in Milton Keynes.

Chris used a great analogy on bike riding with all kinds of sensors.

He monitors his performance when road racing to deal with the boredom and to understand what the training is doing for him. His joy is Mountain Bike riding.  Without analytics you don’t know a blog’s performance.

Set some KPIs before you start.

Yoast plugin

Clicktale – add in WordPress

Go squared

NB unique visitors

Dwell time now down to 5 seconds
Page impressions – eyes on a page
Bounce rate people leaving within 10 seconds

Keep key content above the fold to disclose as much as possible in the first 250 words.

Find out what people are saying

Reciprocal feedback
Fill yourself in slowly
Like at pub
Weave them in gently

Find niche for yourself

It is very much like a play
Hejaz a degree in theatre

Persona profiling

Real or people you have made up.

When you are writing a piece of content bare them in mind.

Translation packages for WordPress

How to avoid the stale

Recycle posts

Information arch

All in WordPress SEO pack

Use inbound writer

Re Resolving and Google

Your content is you currency

Our memory of how to do things is tied to the situation in which it was learnt

‘The now well attested implication’, writes Jane Henry in the B822 ‘Creativity, Cognition & Development’ handbook (p74) ‘is that knowledge is situated and does not transfer easily’.

This has significant implication on how we learn, the reasons why we learn (or have to be taught), how we are tested formerly in an assessment or exam, and critically, how what we have learnt is applied.

A Level 3 Coaching course I am taking with the ASA relies on too much theory (rushed workshops in meetings rooms in leisure centres, but note poolside). We submit assignments. These are handwritten into forms. Marking takes months and plagiarism is rife. Whilst how we are taught and how we are tested match, there is little correlation to what we do poolside with athletes. It is neither applied nor situated.

Lawyers live by the written word; I can see that reading, writing and exams suit how they will act in practice.

What about elearning? Or mlearning? Learning online, whether from a desk or a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) has the potential to take the lesson into the situation where this knowledge is required. Swimming coaching and teaching ought to be be taught ‘just in time’ with bitesize learning before and after (even during) swimming sessions.

There are many training situations where the lesson is best taught, as if by a supervisor shadowing an apprentice in the workplace.  In this way the lesson taught is associated with the problem that is being dealt with as it arises.

If I study everything online, at a screen, typing at a QWERTY keyboard I should be assessed in the same way, which in the MAODE is exactly what happens: I type out assignments and upload them for marking. I get the ‘paper’ back a file with annotations.

Coming to the end of B822 I find myself having to pick up a pen. The prospect is that I will be tested, old school, writing three essays in three hours into a blank workbook.