JUNE 4th 2013 (Recap): Innovation Feng Shui

In this event a discussion was held on utilizing interactivity at both a small scale and a large scale to help better progress. In the end the miscommunication caused by a lack of interactivity was cited as the reason innovation does not progress as well as it should.

On June 4th, the Silicon Valley Innovation Institute (SVII) help an event titled Innovation Feng Shui: Fueling Innovation through Interactivity. The event was hosted by Cogswell Polytechnical College in their auditorium, called the Dragon’s Den by its students and staff. This venue was chosen to allow multiple unique setups to be experimented with in the pursuit of a more engaging conversation. The purpose of the event was to discuss how we can encourage better communication through more freeform rules of engagement and through seating.

The event was attended by about 40 people, and at least half of the guests got a chance to jump into the conversation in some significant way. We enabled this by putting a “camp fire” in the middle of the darkened room with the attendees in a circle around it. This essentially put everyone on equal standing in the discussion and allowed people to feel more comfortable joining the conversation at any time.

The event was kicked off by a raw food presentation by raw food chef Jillian Love, who brought a selection of food all made from raw and vegan ingredients, including ice cream, chips with some dip, and salad. We then moved on to the main section of the event: the group discussion of interactivity and innovation.

Our discussion leader, Howard Lieberman opened the conversation by explaining the mindset behind the event’s setup, and asking for input on it. The group chimed in by endorsing the setup and structure—appreciating the capacity for a more fluid discussion. They additionally observed that the camp fire setup seemed reminiscent of ancient human gatherings where stories were shared and culture and connection was developed. This form of group communication is a form which is underused in modern society, in spite of how natural it is for us.

The conversation then moved on to the actual meaning of feng shui (a phrase used in the title of the event). An attendee pointed out that the origin of the word feng shui was the Chinese words for “wind” and “water”, as a metaphor for being in harmony with one’s environment. Additionally, there was much discussion on how being in harmony with one’s environment is important in not just group discussions, but most aspects of our lives, and just as importantly, our businesses.

After defining feng shui, we moved into discussing the broader topic of innovation and how it can be improved through fresh concepts like interactivity. One of our featured conversation instigators, Don Grayson, then pointed out that a many cities have the word “innovation” in their mission statement without really putting much effort into actually being innovative, as if the word is used just because people think it sounds good. Similarly, almost any organization will say that it wants to innovate, but many of those do not follow through, because of the sacrifices involved in achieving innovation.

At this point, someone pointed out that not all innovation is good. Innovation is just doing something in a new way, and it can be beneficial or harmful. Some changes actually lead to lesser efficiency or consistency, especially when the other is being pursued (e.g. you make a change pursuing efficiency, which leads to more failures, and vice versa). On a broader scale, even if an innovation is good for an individual or a company, it may still be bad for society, with unforeseen (or ignored) consequences outside of entity making the change. One example given was the “optimization” of the use of animal by-products in our food.

Moving into an even larger scope—governments and countries–one attendee brought up how Singapore was able to successfully achieve social innovation under a strong and controversial leader who imposed societal changes authoritatively. These changes have definitely been beneficial for Singapore, but at the same time, there is a question of whether their methods of achieving them were the best way. China is doing something similar in trying to modernize its country by incentivizing cities to be centers of innovation and technology. While China has the capacity to be more innovative than Singapore because of the size of the country, they also have a harder time changing the whole country, because of the vastness of its territory and population. In addition there was the concern of whether or not Singapore’s model will properly scale in China.

With so many problems in the world, someone asked, how can we actually get things done, citing the lack of proper communication that often happens. Somebody else pointed out that the problem is not that people aren’t talk, but that many aren’t listening, possibly being trapped in their own “bubble” of acceptable information. The way to fix this, perhaps, is not through more frequent communication, but through more efficient and interactive communication.

JUNE 4th 2013: Innovation Feng Shui

Fueling Entrepreneurship Through Interactivity

Can you have an engaging conversation with the back of someone’s head? How about the backs of 50 heads? How do you arrange groups of people in a physical environment for maximum interactivity, connection, and effectiveness in content capture and iteration? Whether you are an entrepreneur, incubator, community leader, or innovation advocate of another denomination, we all have a desire to initiate change, and to be active participants in the cultivation of new ideas rather than passive recipients of information.

In this event, we will be performing a group experiment in the arrangement of people in space to uncover the hidden ways that those arrangements affect our communication. With that as a starting point, we will then move on to the related areas of, How to groups of people effectively communicate in general? (whether they are a company, community, movement, etc). And how can groups of people be effectively organized to accomplish their goals as a group?

Come be a part of inventing the “feng shui” behind communities of powerful communicators.

This free event will be capped to 50 participants.

Attendance is FREE (while seats are available)!

Refreshments will be provided by Raw Food Chef, Jillian Love!(http://www.jillianlove.com/Home.html)

Optional: Bring a lamp or light source to use in collaboratively constructing our environment.

This event will take place at:  

The Dragon’s Den (Cogswell College)
1175 Bordeaux Dr
Sunnyvale, CA 94089

Our conversation will be led by these key conversation instigators…

Gary Entwistle
Gary Entwistle of the Next Institute

Gary Entwistle, MBA 

Gary Entwistle is a skilled training and development practitioner with firsthand knowledge of management and supervision.  During the past thirty years, he has provided leadership coaching and development to thousands of managers. He is a Senior Learning Advisor for The Next Institute and Executive-In-Residence for the Banff Leadership Institute, Alberta, Canada.

Gary recently had the opportunity to practice what he preaches. A client asked him to implement his recommendations to turn the failing business around. He worked as General Manager to restore the business to profitability; to develop policies, procedures, and practices; and to strengthen management at all levels.

Don Grayson of GHG and Associates

Don Grayson, PhD

A licensed psychologist, Don has maintained an organizational psychology consulting practice since 1981. From 1981 – 1987 he was a Senior Consultant and a top performer for RHR International, Inc, the largest organization of consulting psychologists. Since 1987 he has maintained his own independent consulting practice.

He was a contributing author in “Coaching for Leadership – How the World’s Greatest Coaches Help Leaders Learn”. The chapter was cited in Coaching and Mentoring: How to Develop Top Talent and Achieve Stronger Performance in the Harvard Business Essentials, Harvard Business School Press. Grayson is a principle consultant at GHG and Associates.

Bret Sweet, Assistant Professor, Entrepreneurship

Bret Sweet, Assistant Professor, Entrepreneurship

Mr. Sweet is Cogswell’s first Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, following his work in launching the College’s Entrepreneurship program in 2010. He continues to develop Cogswell’s entrepreneurship curriculum and teaches a variety of entrepreneurship courses. He is certified by the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), and has taught business building strategies to thousands of Bay Area low-income youths and their families. From 2003-2007, Mr. Sweet was the lead entrepreneurship instructor at BUILD, which provides entrepreneurship education to high school students in low-income areas boasts an excellent college acceptance rate for its seniors. His activities have garnered him a host of accolades, including the NFTE’s prestigious Teacher of the Year Award in 2004 and a speaking engagement at the 2012 NAACP National Convention. Mr. Sweet’s background is as an entrepreneurial musician, music promoter and restaurateur. He received a B.A. in Television and Radio Production from San Francisco State University and an MBA from the University of San Francisco.

Dr. Deborah Snyder, Chief Academic Officer & Provost

Dr. Deborah Snyder, Chief Academic Officer & Provost

“Dr. Snyder has a long history of higher education experience and was a pioneer in the adoption of online platforms in learning. Previously, Snyder served as senior vice provost for academic programs at Strayer University in Washington, D.C. and is author of The New Traditionals and e-Marketing Basics. The New Traditionals examined adult learners – those 25 and over – who comprise the majority of enrollees in higher education. She has been published in numerous education and marketing journals and has presented at several high-profile conferences.

MAY 15th 2013 (Recap): Persuasive Game Technology

This event took a look into the pros and cons of game design and how it could be applied not only to inspire others, but also how the same process could be used in other industries. While Games can inspire others this does not necessarily mean productivity.

On Wednesday May 15th, the SVII community got together to discuss the topic of “persuasive game technology”–specifically, what design techniques that were originally developed for making games can be cross applied to other products and areas to make them better

Margarita Quihuis and Chris Bennett of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab
Margarita Quihuis and Chris Bennett of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab

We had a panel discussion led by Margarita Quihuis of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab. She was joined by game designers Chris Bennett, also of the Persuasive Technology Lab, Andrew Mayer of Digital Entertainment Strategies, and Albert Chen, assistant professor of game design at Cogswell College–and by venture capitalist Stephanie Spong of Moksa Ventures. The event was held at the Palo Alto offices of Sheppard Mullin LLP.

Sheppard Mullin

They started with the question of what causes people to take any sort of action. Quihuis presented a behavior model created by BJ Fogg, which says that people take action when they experience the right combination of motivation, ability, and trigger.

When there is a reasonably high amount of motivation and ability, that is when someone is most likely to take a specific action, and the trigger is the thing that brings the action to mind. Of course, if the action is fairly easy, then there doesn’t have to be much motivation for them to still do it. Likewise, if they are highly motivated, then they will probably do it whether it’s easy or not (as long as it’s possible), but the combination of high motivation and high ability is most likely to get the most people to do something.

The food was generously provided by Sheppard Mullin
The food was generously provided by Sheppard Mullin

From a social movement point of view, this has implications on how you try to guide a movement. If you know that your audience is already highly motivated, then you should focus on helping them to have the ability to do something about it. If your audience already has the ability to do what you want them to do, then you should focus on helping them to be motivated. If you know that they are already motivated and have the ability to create change, then the area you should focus on is probably increasing the amount of triggers that will remind them to do what they already want to do (and can do).

From there, they went on to address some basics of game design psychology. Different activities give our brains chemicals (neurotransmitters) that the brains like for different reasons, but the nice thing about game design (and by extension, the design of anything) is that those activities (or emulations of them) can be built into games to give the brain the chemicals that it wants. This is the reason that games can be so enjoyable–and addictive.

Margarita Quihuis, Chris Bennett, and Albert Chen (Cogswell College)
Margarita Quihuis, Chris Bennett, and Albert Chen (Cogswell College)

As an important side-note, it should be said here (though it goes without saying) that the power acquired through the knowledge of game design should be wielded carefully. As Albert Chen said, “It’s like the old Spiderman quote: ‘With great power…comes great responsibility.’” Game play taps into many basic human needs (story-telling, adventure, challenge, meaning, continuity, etc), so game designers over time learned a lot about human behavior through how people interacted with their games. This knowledge (power) can be used for good, for greed, or for evil (to be perfectly honest).

The main neurotransmitters that we’re talking about here are norepinephrine, epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline), oxytocin, and serotonin. Norepinephrine is released through the acquisition of knowledge, solving of puzzles, etc; epinephrine through competition and adventure; oxytocin through social connection; and serotonin through finding order, right and wrong, and purpose. Throughout history, these chemicals have been released and sought for through human endeavors and social interactions. With the invention of immersive games, they could all be acquired in the same place, which is rather a dangerous situation. (See above warning.)

But you don’t have to stop with acknowledging the dangers of game design. This great power also has the potential for motivating people to do good for themselves and others. Not only that, but it the power to motivate large groups of people this way. Those are the grandiose ideals of design which are easy to articulate but probably a lot harder to actually implement. However, there are also smaller good things which can be accomplished through game design.

Stephanie Spong of Moksa Ventures
Stephanie Spong of Moksa Ventures

One important aspect of game design which can be fairly easily incorporated into the design of other products is the idea of core loops. In game design, a core loop is something that the player does over and over again in the game (a small self-contained sequence that can be learned quickly but provides continual satisfaction for the player). In designing other products or systems, such a structure can be used to help motivate people to come back over and over, like they do for games that they love.

Two companies that exemplify the effective use of this design pattern are Starbucks and Facebook. Starbucks is designed to make you want to come everyday, make it a habit. This way, they get a permanent customer and the everyday customer feels like his day is missing something if he doesn’t visit Starbucks that day. Likewise, Facebook is designed to be a multiple times a day habit. The loop is that you go to the website, look at the new things on the news feed and perhaps read some connected things that leads you to. Then you come back again 20 to 30 minutes later.

The Facebook loop provides one with all four of the brain chemicals mentioned earlier. When you read the news feed, you learn new things (norepinephrine), you feel connected to your friends (oxytocin), you may play a game or engage in debate (epinephrine), and your sense of order is satisfied by the regular rhythm of coming back. This is not to say that hyper-frequent Facebook visiting is healthy; but because of our brains habits, it at least feels healthy and good at the time.

The Starbucks loop has similar brain rewards–plus, of course, caffeine, which is another chemical it likes (though the human body can’t produce it like it does the neurotransmitters).

Andrew Mayer of Digital Entertainment Strategies
Andrew Mayer of Digital Entertainment Strategies

One of the idea posed by the panel was that game design allows companies to be “post-scientific” about their data collection, because they can collect data about what in their games people like more (and therefore play more) without needing to know why it works (thus the “post-scientific”). But this was also disputed, because it was pointed out that such a mind-set leaves a company vulnerable when a certain technique stops working. If the company didn’t know why it worked in the first place, then they will have no idea how to modify it if the need arises.

When using game design techniques to modify behaviors, whether it is of an individual or a group, Quihuis stressed that it is important for whatever goal you are pursuing to be “crunchy,” which is a word that is used to mean “tightly defined and able to be measured.” In other words, the goal has to be fairly concrete. For example, if there is a company that would like to help it’s employees stay in better shape, it needs a goal that can be measured, like, “we would like 90% of our employees to take a 20 minute walk every day.” When a goal is framed in concrete and measurable terms, then it can be tracked and you know how effective your strategies are in taking you toward that goal.

And now, for a not so subtle parting salvo
And now, for a not so subtle parting salvo