Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Irrational economy

April 1, 2014

I am currently taking a MOOC on irrational behavior with Dan Ariely and my assignment was to solve a problem. I get to choose the problem, use the resources provided, and find a way to fix it. I thought I’d share my problem and my solution with you. I haven’t received my grades yet … so I’m interested to know what do you think of it, and how much would you give me, out of 9 points 🙂

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Having ideas is a problem we all face daily. It doesn’t matter if there are not enough ideas or not enough “good” ideas, the problem remains that everyone needs ideas daily.

Not having enough ideas, or not having the right idea can worry a person so much that goes beyond what keeps him/her productive (Frank, 2011). We need ideas to manage our time, to raise our kids, to use our limited resources. We need ideas to run our businesses, to stay connected, to feel alive. We need ideas to live by, to interpret our public policies, to impose fairness and figure out ways of making the impossible, possible (Surowiecki , 2012)

What if, hypothetically, we asked people about their intention to generate more ideas on a daily basis, Would that imply an increase in the probability of their subsequently engaging in that behavior? Would they actually produce more ideas?

In a number of experiments that asked participants about their intention to engage in various behaviors, they were more likely to engage in those behaviors than participants not asked (Levav & Fitzsimons, 2006).

In one of those experiments, participants found it easier to imagine themselves engaging in a behavior rather than to imagine someone else engage in that behavior (Experiment 1, p.208). I would add, who would admit of NOT having any ideas at all during any given day? Or that their colleagues have better or more ideas then they do?

In the second experiment, it was the framing of the question about intention that was the focal point; weather participants had intention to engage in a behavior (intent condition), the likelihood of not engaging in the behavior (negation condition), or likelihood of avoiding it (avoidance condition) (p.209). In such experiment, we expect similar results of people finding it much easier to either produce more ideas when intending it beforehand (intent condition) or avoid new ideas at all cost (avoidance condition). It would be similarly difficult to represent the negation condition of asking them what was the likelihood of not producing any ideas at all.

Therefore, as Levav and Fitzsimons (2012) clarified, we have evidence that “the simple act of stating one’s intent to engage in a behavior is associated with an increased likelihood of subsequently engaging in the behavior when it is easy to mentally represent or imagine” (p.211). This is good news for the hungry artists among us.


My suggested solution is creating situations in which we can exchange the use of money with producing ideas. What if we pay for some products and services with ideas, and not money. This would instantly shift the power from those with lots of money, to those with lots of ideas. It might also help shift us slightly from monetary market to a social one (Heyman & Ariely, 2004), making us happier (Quoidbach et al, 2010). Consider for example a local bakery that needs creative ideas in packaging, accounting, or using unique ingredients in different recipes. The experiments explained by Heyman and Ariely (2004) can shed some light on how to move our relationship with our baker slightly from pure monetary market into a social one. It’s important to keep those two methods of compensation distinct and not comparable so as not convert a social market into a monetary one by mistake. This could happen simply by converting the number of ideas into monetary expression or a “non-social extrinsic reward” (p.793), but to add it to a “package” option by offering products or services that are not listed in the menu of dollars at all (so as not to compare the number of ideas to a dollar sign). An example of this is: rather than stating the coffee price as either $2.50 or 10 marketing ideas, we offer the following menu:

  1. espresso for $2.50,
  2. espresso with almond croissants for $2.50 and 10 marketing
  3. espresso with caramel truffles for $2.50 and 10 ideas on using caramel in different recipes.


Please note that almond croissants and caramel truffles are NOT offered for any other price.


Any other ideas?



  • Frank, R. (2011, May 14). Why Worry? It’s Good For You. The New York Times.
  • Heyman, J., & Ariely, D. (2004). Effort for Payment: A Tale of Two Markets. Psychological Science, 15 (11), 787 – 793.
  • Levav, J., & Fitzsimons, G.J. (2006). When Questions Change Behavior: the Role of Ease of Representation. Psychological Science, 17 (3), 207 – 213.
  • Quoidbach, J., Dunn, E. W., Petrides, K.V., & Mikolajczak, M. (2010). Money Giveth, Money Taketh Away: The Dual Effect of Wealth on Happiness. Psychological Science, 21 (6), 759 – 763.
  • Surowiecki, J. (2012, June 4). The Fairness Trap. The New Yorker

Dubai Impact HUB ideation session

February 28, 2014

An ideation workshop took place during the opening night of Impact HUB Dubai on Jan 13, 2014. This workshop was only half an hour event organized to offer maximum flexibility for people coming in and out of the room yet gaining as much knowledge or experience on how to use their creativity in the workspace.

We started the workshop with a practice ideation session.  The first 3 people were able to generate 20 different uses for a normal single chair within 7 minutes. Gradually, the group expanded to 10-12 people. We listed a number of “problems” to solve and I’ve used 4 of the ideation tools explained in the previous post and each method went for approximately 5 minutes each. Some of those ideas are not as clear now as they were then when the owner explained them. You can interpret them the way you desire.

Feel free to add your notes or comment on which one had a better result for you or easier to implement.

Change the word

Problem statement: How to improve brand loyalty?

Further statements after changing the verb:

How to better brand loyalty

How to enhance brand loyalty

How to maximize brand loyalty

How to support brand loyalty

How to decrease brand loyalty (negative) – the ideas generated from this stream will be implemented in the opposite direction.

Ideas generated from “change the word” method (in no particular order):

  1. Make it personal
  2. Awards for staying
  3. Identity
  4. Variants
  5. A need as opposed to a want
  6. Change design
  7. Culture
  8. Giving back
  9. Re-import environmental trees, air, water
  10. Motivation
  11. Consistency in quality
  12. Marketing budget
  13. Break down in its elements
  14. Long life
  15. Quality
  16. Big market live
  17. Promote positive attitude to no-name product alternatives (opposite)
  18. Make it Untrusty (opposite)
  19. Harmful effect (opposite)
  20. Bad after-sale (opposite)
  21. Hurting your consumer (opposite)
  22. Bad example (opposite)
  23. Neglect (opposite)
  24. Bad customer service (opposite)
  25. Bad product (opposite)
  26. –unreadable post — 🙂

It was extremely easy for the group to come up with the negative aspects as we tend to see the problems in other products/services much easier than we see their positive sides. This is a great way to generate ideas on how to not do it. However, when stating the problem, it’s important as well to keep it in its negative term “how to harm” rather than “how not to harm” and then simply reverse the implementation of the idea

Tip to further explore this problem: Try changing the words brand, or loyalty, or both with other similar or related meaning and generate more ideas

Concept fan

Problem statement (1) How to get more hours in the day?


  1. Slow down
  2. No facebook
  3. Sleep less
  4. Multitask
  5. Meditate
  6. One spare
  7. Remove distraction
  8. Plan ahead
  9. Delegate
  10. Organize better
  11. Prioritize
  12. Quit your job
  13. Increase human interaction and face to face meeting
  14. Lessen tech dependency

Problem statement (2) Bigger picture: how to organize our time and lives better

  1. Check your Values
  2. Location
  3. Perspective
  4. Efficiency
  5. Family cooperation
  6. Nutrition
  7. Transportation
  8. Lifestyle habits
  9. Consumption pattern

Problem statement (3), branch of bigger picture: how to live in harmony with society

Problem statement (4), branch of bigger picture: how not to notice time

Problem statement (5), branch of bigger picture: how to create your legacy now

We came up with 23 ideas just by shifting our perspective once to see the problem from a bigger point of view. If we continued with the branches or making it even bigger, that would generate even more ideas and some would be extremely creative for our problem.

Put on a different hat

Problem statement: How to improve communication?

How would a  ……………….. improve communication?


How would a performing artist / actor improve communication?

  1. Humor
  2. Do the opposite of what you are known for
  3. Facial expression
  4. Body language
  5. Silence
  6. Sign language
  7. Tone of voice
  8. New language
  9. Movements
  10. Audible notes

How would a Bio Evolutionist improve communication?

11. Breed example animal / insect

12. Visual listing

13. Go outdoors

14. Releasing theorem

15. Communicating with farmers

16. Gardening

17. Time machine

18. Dress up clues

19. Tattoo breeding of evolution

How would a Formula 1 Driver improve communication?

20. Trainings / courses

  1. Visuals (photo)
  2. Take pictures of family life
  3. Sounds of tire engine and actions
  4. Intuition
  5. Signs
  6. Training
  7. Vibration
  8. Lights

University Professor

  1. Asking
  2. Showing interest
  3. Simplify technical jargon
  4. Write articles and publish
  5. Change way of speaking
  6. Relate explanations to need / practical expresses to theories in real life
  7. Be open
  8. Define the audience
  9. Simplify
  10. Encourage feedback
  11. Use technology
  12. Listen


  1. Visibility trips to farms
  2. Broadcast
  3. Transparency and more information
  4. Going out more
  5. Community
  6. Educate
  7. Engage
  8. Horns
  9. Party
  10. Follow the cows

This method was definitely a highlight as people learn how to use empathy to see their problem from someone else’s point of view (especially if that person has an occupation that we can barely pronounce :).

5 whys

How are we viewing our problem? From what perspective? How to make it more abstract? Less abstract? Ask “WHY” five times and ask “HOW” the same way, then decide at what point of abstraction do you want to generate your ideas.

Problem statement:

How do I overcome fear?

è In what ways can I overcome fear?


How do I become more free?

è In what ways do I become more free?


How to become happier?

è In what ways can we become happier?


How to return to our true nature?

è In what ways can we return to our true nature?


How to live better with others?

è In what ways can we live better with others?

Due to time limit, we were not able to generate ideas for this method but it was clear that each person needs to work on a different level of abstraction and their answers to this question “why” differs as much as their experience and knowledge. This method is best used individually and ideas will flow like river.

I hope those who were in the workshop can share their opinion about their preferred method, and if they used others from the previous post. And those who did not make it there, which method you think you can use the most?

Till next time,



February 11, 2013

A supplement to my previous post on disrupting education

Online Learning Insights

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”  Albert Einstein

A change of thinking is almost obligatory when considering the future of Higher Education. Last week was the final week of the MOOC Current/Future State of Higher Education (CHFE12); its overarching objective was to explore the influences and pressures facing universities today and to identify where higher education is headed. Numerous esteemed educators [including author and Georgia Tech’s  Richard Demillo and Vice Provost Joel Hartman of University of Central Florida] shared their knowledge, expertise, research, and in some cases predictions via webinars, to shed light on the conundrums within higher ed. The results are surprising, encouraging and telling of what educators need to do to adapt and be prepared.

In this post I’ll share my synopsis of the course by focusing on three areas of change…

View original post 1,048 more words


Disrupting our learning

February 11, 2013

The school system is instantly outdated. The very second the students memorize the information and enter it into the final exam, they forget it. And why shouldn’t they? They won’t use it anymore.

We turn knowledge into subjects, and systems into streams. We favor the linear over the complex and we seek clear-cut problems with right or wrong answers rather than offer ambiguous dilemmas with uncertain consequences to our decisions, thus enhancing our leadership skills. Basically, we create a fabricated world that is irrelevant to how we live our lives, use information or make decisions.

For the past century, this system worked fine as the industrial age favored the belt-educated factory workers. But now in the information age, where everything and everyone is connected, no specialization can work in silo from others, and no field of technology can ever succeed without depending on a number of other subjects, along with their own branches of learning, style, and discoveries. How else can we employ analogy across topics and deliver creative outcomes?

Texture of the school subject


Some colleges and universities have attempted to offer a solution using a multidisciplinary approach. You major in two or more subjects and you find connections to improve all. Yet, this approach is delivered the same way as the rest of the majors, by experts passing their teaching of their specific subject and students learning from a number of experts from different fields try to find or relate topics to each other. Thus the student may become multidisciplinary but the teachers themselves are not.

What if we can find a way to teach and learn in a multidisciplinary process? What would it look like? What if everyone in the room is both teaching and learning at the same time? Using their own colorful style and subject? What if we all are trying to learn our very own subject in a brand new way? Will still be experts after?

This is an attempt I’m trying to make.

By inviting a number of creative minds, each specialized in a different subject, they will teach and learn at the same time. The process will keep in mind the different learning styles (auditory, visually, and kinaesthetically), as well as use different tools borrowed from the creativity toolbox and design thinking. The results will be circulated for all interested, including followers of this blog.

To kick off this project, join me in a MOOC webinar (#cmc11) on February the 14th (12:00pm NY time, 9:00pm Dubai time) to talk about this very “subject”.

If you are in or near Dubai, UAE this month, give me a shout and join our event in the last week of February 2013. More on that to come soon.


Bringing facilitation into the classroom

February 22, 2012

The word facilitation comes from the Latin facilis, which means to make easy. While normally, facilitation is used in organizations and companies trying to figure out solutions to their problems, it is alos a skill, if applied correctly in a classroom environment will help students learn through self-discovery using techniques that encourage sharing group’s knowledge and experience. It is a learner-centered method of teaching. You share control with students and let them decide, with you, on the path the class should take.

Process vs. Content

The facilitator is the process expert, and not necessarily the master of knowledge; the one who’s responsible for keeping track of logistics, timing, idea flow, and group development.I say  not the master of knowledge because he or she normally would not concern themselves with providing information directly, but rather the group members’ involvement in learning all the data themselves. This position of neutrality must be understood and practiced by the teacher if the students’ potential is to be fully reached. And with a position title as “Instructor, Lecturer, or professor”, this is not always easy.

In an ideal classroom that uses the facilitative method, the content would be the subject matter, the facts, data, and background information are the responsibility of the students who have the freedom to decide to get more information, continue to work with what they have, or choose a different area to focus on. It will be their job to bring and study the material, put their thoughts in it, and make decisions on the subject matter. The teacher in such a class simply leads the process, guides the students through it, and brings to their attetion where to locate the information and which is the most important.

Personal Experience

Teaching studends about the principles of design and ordering in the Architecture Design Studios at the undergraudate level fits the profile of the environment that requires a facilitative teacher. The students were given a suggestion of a book that taught the basics, but they were free to bring other material. They learned about the subject and experimented in class on their new findings. There were no lectures per se, it was more like bringing all the information to the same table and sharing it. Every class had different information, material, and pictures to share. The basics were always visible to all. My role was certainly just to help them go through the design process, from understanding the situation, researching the facts, sketching out initial ideas, developing the promising ones, and finaly making decisions, all the while continuing on prototyping their solution to perfection. As you imagine, in such a studio, it’s easy to apply such a role, but what about “theory” classes?

With some imagination, one might be able to pull out a facilitator mode every now and then. By definition, these classes require an “expert” giving the informaiton and explaining the theories. But what if the students were required to pre-read before class? then perhaps the instructor can offer exercises for them to experiment with their newfound information straight away. What if they could be given contrasting or un-true facts?  This might be a good job for them to debate it in class and find the right answer.

Designing your course

Many educators make the mistake of thinking that their extensive knowledge makes them good at helping others learn. Although what you teach is a cornerstone for students at college, it will make little difference if you do not know how to engage the minds of your audience effectively. Words alone will not ensure transfer of knowledge to others. To really take advantage of student-led methods in teaching, be careful not to assume the role of “expert” automatically and continuously during the course. For active learning to happen, use activities that will force students to use their knowledge, skills, and abilities in passing their grades. With all the resources available at your fingertips, there is little reason for you to do all the work in stimulating learning. You want your students to think, discuss, feel, and act using as many senses as they can engage. Rather than giving them answers, provide the theory, tools, support, and an opportunity for them to resolve issues.

Anne Davidson writes in The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook about three levels of the process. First, process designs structure the whole facilitation or a major portion of it. This addresses the students’ purpose for taking the course, their goals after completing it, assignments and projects to assess their knowledge, etc. Methods are more specific processes used to move the group through a series of steps (for example using the Design Thinking or the Creative Problem Solving models). At the most micro level, tools represent discrete activities used within a method. To emphasize divergent and convergent tools for example, one can use brainstorming or card sorting, consecutively.

If you’re thinking of changing the format of your next class, try one of these methods:

Open ended questions: encourage input and feedback

Small group learning: form small groups to address parts of the problem

Teacher-led discussions: Use dialog to draw from the collective knowledge of students.

Group learning: When you need to get consensus or teach a theory

Team activities: Exercises, Games, Role plays all enhance class time

Peer Coaching: out-of-class practice or rehearsal can provide feedback.

Individual learning: out-of-class work to ensure the full value of the course is met

Participant teaching: Presetations are an excellent method of a practiced skill.

The above were examples adapted from Robert Lucas’s The Creative Training Idea Book. Take the time to choose appropriate learning techniques as you design your course. Mix up the format to provide variety, contrast, and stimulation for yourself and your learners. Most importantly, have fun with it.


Away and back

August 26, 2008

I have not been that contagious with my creativity in the past 6 months. My bad.

I’ve been quite busy with numerous things happening at the same time that i barely had time to scratch my head. My biggest accomplishment was finishing my 2 year masters program in one whopping year. In July I received my M.S. in Creativity and Change Leadership from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at the State University of New York – Buffalo College. At the same time I was working with United Way Toronto managing their youth leadership program (will write about it later on, keep reminding me). I also was lucky to have a 2 week vacation in Jordan. All that in addition to running a family with two children under the age of 5.

I know this is not an excuse, so it won’t be. I will be writing here more often about the wonders of creativity.

One of the things that stood in mind from my studies is the important and diverse role of the facilitator. I grew to appreciate this role in many ways. My teachers were an excellent example of accomplished facilitators and I also had the pleasure of working with different outsiders such as Blair Miller, Jonathan Vehar, and Russ Schoen. From them, I understood more about the role of this person who gets to direct the discussions in meetings and events.

The basic definition of the facilitator, as Bacal & Associates explain it is the individual “who’s job is to help to manage a process of information exchange. While and expert’s role is to offer advice, particularly about the content of a discussion, the facilitator’s role is to help with HOW the discussion is proceeding.

In short, the facilitator’s responsibility is to address the journey, rather than destination”.

In a way, the facilitator is greatly involved in the decision making process without really participating in it. That can be a very powerful tool if used rightly, can enhance the decision in the way the group arrived to it. But as in any other tool, if used wrongly, the facilitator can manipulate this journey and lead to a decision that will serve a particular group’s needs.

So what kind of sessions can the facilitator participate in?

Any session!

It doesn’t matter if it was creating a strategic plan or naming a product, communicating a vision or building an effective team. The right facilitator can make this experience a great success.

I will write more about this in the near future, for now, I’m late to work 🙂



workspace design and creativity in organizations.

January 12, 2008

Traditionally the workspace has been designed favouring one particular setting – offices or cubicles vs. open-plan space – and this pattern cannot accommodate the different phases of creativity. As a consequence, it is to be expected that offices offering hybrid infrastructure will become more popular in organizations, suggesting that if the firm is to invest resources in the creation of a dedicated innovation environment, then it is essential that the strategic intentions underpinning this space are explicit. In this sense, VanGundy persuades companies to design a creativity room specifically for this purpose and load it with materials, books, idea generation aids and group setting. Design firms such as IDEO also develop spaces that support visualization, exploration and inspiration through access to materials and artifacts. Another example is a space developed to improve and advance pharmaceutical products, as they provided a separate area with walls and floor filled with objects and models, bulletin boards, flat tabletops, drawers, cabinets, progress reports, sketches, computers with CAD, metal and wood workshops, competing products, props, wood and metal workshops, recording of previous sessions, bulletins displayed previous attempts, isolation from disturbance. Companies can add to this list by providing different layouts for the activities taken in the office; such as access to information and support, gathering zones and interaction areas for informal as well as formal meetings and sections and moving furniture for different thinking processes. Other organizations might want to adopt some guidelines to creativity and problem solving. A well known model developed by Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes is called the Creative Problem Solving (CPS). Supporters of this method use stages to move between steps. Those stages can be installed in the design blueprint and plan for rooms that can be called: The Clarification Chamber ® (CC), The Transformational Hall ® (TH) or the Implementation Lab ® (IL). (more on these room names soon)

As per the architectural design, while some design values are targeted at encouraging specific behaviours (i.e. futuristic, playful, minimalist, etc), the use of imagery can reinforce actions, i.e. triangular room for creative divergence. I am not suggesting constructing the building itself as triangular, as this might impede future changes to the place, but the use of temporary architecture has more to offer than meets the eye. Those installations can exist without a determinate function, because they are free to suggest uses rather than being governed by them, and because they are free to exist on sites inaccessible to permanent architecture. As in the unfinished, one can imagine new realities.

In conclusion, the essential meaning of the space is to allow emotions to surface in the work area to further enhance the performance of the occupants and not necessarily suppress them for productivity sake. Whether it is the movable walls that support small and big group sizes or the warm colors that contrast a high-stress environment, movable furniture that accommodate informal idea development, or the geometrical propositions that stimulate various expressions of movement, serious effort on understanding the effects of such atmosphere will stimulate creative behavior in the work environment.


you can read more about design issues and creativity by reading”Organizational creativity through space design” – 2008,Randah Taher.