Orienting a Project to Innovation

5/4/1999 Version

This is an article about innovation. If you haven't already, please first read about composing a joint Project Description. While a project done for a course can achieve the educational objectives even if it has a limited scope, there are many reasons to work toward a grand objective. The first of many is simply that intellectual labor is the only significant capital resource needed to begin something new that is computer based.

Questioning Status Quo, Innovating

Government, Business & Education Tech Expo News, May/June 1997

Improving Creating in the Workplace By Max M. Feibelman, CEO, M C Cubed, Inc.

After receiving his B.S. from Texas A & M, the author attended West Point, served 21 years in the USAF, flying P-51's and P-47's until returning stateside to continue his technical training, achieving the rand of Lieutenant Colonel and an MA from MIT. A missile pioneer, he retired in 1967 from the Pentagon Airstaff where he served as Executive Officer for Strategic and Defense Forces, DCS/R&D.
Now Feibelman keeps busy with his own consulting firm in new product evelopment and marketing, as well as heading Nulle and Voyd Enterprises, which produces such products such products Pure Dehydrated Water, Evacuated Air, Hen's Teeth and UFO and Bigfoot Welcome mats.
He has authored several books, including the "DOD Technical Manual for the MKIV/2c, Horn, Shoe" which has won him a cult following in the military.
He has also appeared in films, television, radio and commercials, and at least in part attributes his success in life to following the advice of World War II hero General Jimmy Doolittle who once told him to "never lose your sense of humor."

Are we approaching a "mental meltdown" on the information superhighway from high-speed technological progress? Are we so engrossed in applying the various systems and procedures of business or government as usual that we loose sight of a thing called happiness? Being a happy person should not be construed as not being a serious or productive person.

A touch of proper humor in the workplace can soften the atmosphere and, for some, inspire creative thinking. Isn't it true that when someone tells you a joke your head buzzes in an effort to return their favor with your own joke? If your superior created a "brain storm session" every now and then, wouldn't you be pleased to participate and offer your thoughts? Two heads are said to be better than one, perhaps with the exception of belligerent Siamese twins.

The important point is for government and business leaders to inspire their staff members to think in original terms. Must we always rely on reading what others have said, watching what others have done and then copy them within the parameters of only proven solutions, well established policies and regulations? Many good things that we do in our work are obviously the prior creations of others. But where does the conformist mentality fit in as time passes, certain procedures become obsolete and constructive improvements are truly needed?

The answer lies in the creativity of the individual. There are those who simply do what is required. Resistant to change, they seldom (if ever) question anything and even less often have suggestions for a better way of doing them. The easy way is to copy, when permissible, what someone else has already done. To these individuals, the idea of building a better mouse trap seems insurmountable. While that may be good news for mice, it does not contribute to success in business nor does it promote more effective government.

Many years ago, while shopping with my dear friend, Bill Dana, on Christmas Eve, the frustrations of last minute shopping forced me to remark, "Next year I'm giving Absolutely Nothing." Bill replied, "And that will be made by Null and Void." Out of this fun and friendly banter was eventually born "Nulle and Voyd Enterprises, The House Where Nothing Really Matters" and of course its hugely successful product "Absolutely Nothing".

A 12 page humorous booklet packaged in a clear plastic box sized for the insertion of a business card, companies gave "Absolutely Nothing" to their customers. It was a giveaway that was remembered and appreciated far longer than a pen or keychain would have been. Humor is not only inspirational, it helps humans connect and interact.

When I travel, I take several changes of my engraved "Strange Name Tags" with me. You would be amazed at the nice new contacts you can make with a strange name tag like: 'Designated Official', 'N. Cognito', 'A. Nonymous' or just 'Name Tag'. 'Authorized Personnel' is also very impressive. Can you guess who comes up to me to comment on them? That's right; the really nice people capable of creative contribution.

Over the past eighteen years I've developed some thirty-nine unique gifts. Many of these prove the important point of this article. They are fun. They are original. They help people loosen up and give their brain a pick-me-up. Many are very cheap to manufacture and therefore cost effective. All have one thing in common: no one else thought of such things, or if they did, something prevented them from marching forward with the notion.

I conclude with these recommendations:

1. Whoever said there is nothing new under the sun did not look hard enough. Encourage your staff members to think constructively. Foster an environment that is open to creative suggestion. Hold periodic "Brainstorming" meetings to remind them that you're serious about this.

2. Look at your counterparts in other businesses/organizations. Are they doing something really different? If they are, see if you can out-do them; if they aren't get a jump on them by coming up with some great plan, policy or product first.

3. Don't expect an outside agency or consultant to be so brilliant that they can solve all your problems. Most are no different from you, they just happen to be in that business. You and your staff really know your organization's strengths and weaknesses better than they assume that you're smart and creative enough to be a cohesive team.

4. Government agencies in particular should not be chained to a degree of inflexibility which limits their ability to create good will with their workers and the public they serve. If cutting red tape makes their function more user friendly and efficient, then create sensible ways to do just that.

5. Finally, remember that everything can be improved upon, innovation can be found in the imagination aisle of the brain, and few things are more valuable than a little cheap humor when it comes to sparkling creative thinking.

You can email Max at or call M C Cubed, Inc.: 818-995-4936