More by Paul Reali…

Most of my commentary can now be found at Hope to see you there!

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Reinventing…how we read?

This might be the most fascinating innovation I’ve seen…maybe ever.

If you’ve tried reading on your smartphone, or ever tried to read faster, or perhaps if (like almost all of us) you’ve never thought that there might be a better way to read, then you must see this.

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A vision of the future…in basketball

If creativity begins with having a vision of the future, then that provides sufficient leeway for me to use this space to make a “you heard it here first” proclamation about college basketball.

Ready? The next head basketball coach at Duke University will be Shaka Smart.

Ever since attracting attention a few years back as the head coach of March Madness Cinderella Virginia Commonwealth University, Smart is the target each year for schools looking for a coaching upgrade. Smart has so far resisted every attempt to pry him from VCU, including reportedly refusing to even speak to one of the nation’s premier programs, UCLA. Again this season, amid rumors he’s going to Marquette University, Smart has said: I’m staying here.

So, when might he actually leave? There’s always the chance that he’ll stay his entire career at VCU, but no one actually thinks so. If he hasn’t left yet, and not for the likes of UCLA, then when, and for where?

My answer: he’s waiting for Duke, the number one coaching job in the college basketball universe. You know, except for the unenviable task of following Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K said this week he’ll coach for at least the next five years.

Shaka Smart is 36. He can wait.

And my money is on this: Duke is exactly what he’s waiting for.

Just remember, you heard it here first.

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Emily Dickenson on…the power of an idea?


The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly—and true—
But let a Splinter swerve—
‘Twere easier for You—

To put a Current back—
When Floods have slit the Hills—
And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves—
And trodden out the Mills—


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Dear Apple: Have you thought about appliances?

I hate my microwave oven.

If you were to take a stab at guessing why I hate my microwave oven, you might come up with “missing features,” or “how it heats,” or “that worthless popcorn button.” But it’s none of those things. I hate my new microwave because of my old microwave, and how this one isn’t that one, but should be.

So let me explain.

I had the perfect microwave oven, made by GE. The buttons were sensible, the build was solid, the cooking was even. I have used microwaves (my mother has one) that I couldn’t quite figure out entirely, such as how to set the power level. My old microwave allowed me to change the power level at any time by simply pressing “Power Level” and then a digit, such as 8, for 80 percent, even while the microwave was running. I did this all the time. Press, say, 3 for three minutes, and it starts running. Then, Power Level > 8 for 80 percent.

When it died, I replaced it with the same model, a few years newer. Same model number, same size, same price. When Apple does this, you get a more advanced device at the same price. When GE does it, apparently, you get a lesser device.

Or, more to the point, I now have a lesser device.

Skimping here and there, the build is less solid. The sensible buttons were altered just enough to be less sensible. Now, I can only set the power level before I start cooking and after I have selected the cook time. This means that if I wish to heat something for 2 minutes at 80%, I can’t press the (nice) express cook “3″ button (three minutes with one press) and then press Power Level > 8. No. I have to press: Cook Time > 3 > 0 > 0 >Power Level > 8 > Start.

Boo hoo, you say, poor Paul has to press seven buttons instead of three. In response to your lack of sympathy, three points.

First, why take features away? Why downgrade the product?  This is a later version of an existing product. Technology advances. Why give the customer less? How much money could that change actually have saved? That, coupled with the cheaper overall build, which I feel and hear every time I open and close the door, just reminds me every time I use it how I got a bad deal from GE on this.

Second, why make it harder to do something, rather than easier? The express buttons make the product easier to use; the power level quirk makes it harder to use, because one can’t use them together.

Third, it’s not seven versus three, it’s 700 versus 300, or 7000 versus 3000. I use 80% power almost all the time. I find that food heats more evenly on 80% power.

The moral of the story: I doubt my next microwave oven will be made by Apple, but you can bet it’s not going to be made by GE, either.

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New Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?

Auld land syne, in this old Scottish tune that we sing heartily each new year, means “old long ago,” or more generally, “the good old days.” It seems to be asking: should we forget about what’s past? Should we turn our attention always forward?

Innovators, Scottish and otherwise, stand always in this place. How can we create the future if we cling to the past? I think the answer is this: we create the future while being mindful and respectful of the past. What’s past is prologue, Shakespeare wrote. The past contains countless lessons, stories of successes and failures, both ours and those of others. The past created our present, and we create the future only out of the “adjacent possible,” the opportunities that are possible just beyond where we are now, and only because we are where we are now.

What are you going to create this year?

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LinkedIn: “Creative” is a buzzword that must be excised

I received this automated email last week from LinkedIn. If “creative” is a buzzword rather than an actual characteristic, then what, pray tell, should we who are creative call ourselves?

Creative as Buzzword

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Four Ways to Nurture a Creative Staff

Friend, colleague, and fellow creative Amy Frazier and I were the SMEs (subject matter experts) for this short piece, “Four Ways to Nurture a Creative Staff,” published by the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth.

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Not Innovation…Not Even Close

The Affordable Care Act might represent an innovative approach to health insurance, but the federal website that provides the entry point is surely not. has its nice touches. It has a clean design, sharp fonts, and clear language (mostly). On the other hand, there are unforgivable problems. First of all, the underlying database appears to be unreliable. Sometimes—enough so that I know it wasn’t me—I had to answer the same question multiple times, since the database either failed to store my original answer, or the form I was editing failed to display the edited answer.

Sometime later, after I had exited with the application partially filled, I returned to find that half of my work was gone. Later still, I received an email telling me that there was a message for me, and to log in to retrieve it. I logged in, but there is no place to pick up any kind of message. These are not high-traffic issues; these are programming mistakes.

The biggest problem is this: the understandably-linear nature of the initial application is retained even when editing the answers later. The result is this: if you make a change to an early question, the system steps you back through all the questions that follow it. When I did this, Most of my previous answers were retained and I had only to click “Save and Continue.” But why did I have to do even that? I understand that some questions have dependencies, but the system should be programmed to know what the dependencies are, and ask me only about those things that might have changed. That wouldn’t require programming innovation, just using best practices.

I’m not certain that any innovation was required in building Perhaps all it needed was adherence to programming and interface design standards. But it fails to clear even that low bar.

Millions of people who do not now have access to affordable (or any) health insurance will now have it available…if, in fact, anyone can actually sign up for it. If the numbers that are released in November are disappointing, it won’t be a reflection on the Affordable Care Act; it will be a reflection of the incompetence, negligence, and failure of the company that created it.

In the business of creativity and innovation we like to say that we have to accept failure and mistakes as a necessary by-product. But this is not an innovation failure. It’s a flat-out, no-excuses failure. The people behind it should be ashamed, publicly excoriated, fired, barred from any additional federal contracts, and sued. For starters.

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Cast Iron Creativity?

I try not to get political here, but this week’s government shutdown makes me wonder if there’s a creativity connection. Well: since one divergent thinking tool is to connect two things together and see what pops out, let’s try it.

Comfort with ambiguity. There seems to be some consensus in the media that the far-right Republican members of the House of Representatives (dubbed by the Washington Post as “cast iron conservatives”) do not have a vision or plan for how this standoff comes out. Creativity requires comfort with ambiguity, but not knowing how things turn out is not the same as not having a clear vision of what you wish to achieve. Here’s a question that might be asked: what’s the future vision and how might we actually get there?

How might we. Creativity is an affirmative process which seeks solutions. It could be said that the cast irons are seeking a solution, but it appears that they have already decided what the solution is (that is, the full appeal of the Affordable Care Act). They are, perhaps, engaging in the creative act of asking “how might we achieve that,” but it’s also clear that they are attempting to do this with a very limited “we.”

Tolerance for risk. It is common to say that entrepreneurs (one type of creative person) has a high tolerance for risk. All creatives accept risk: risk that they will fail, risk that their creative product will not be accepted, and so forth. The cast irons must have enormous capacity for risk: risk of losing, risk of being blamed, risk of losing their seats. I’ve long said that smart entrepreneurs are risk minimizers: they take actions to reduce their exposure, such as studying the market they are entering, having cash reserves, having Plans B and C and D, being flexible, knowing the total sunk cost, etc. Perhaps the cast irons have found ways to reduce their risk, say, by coming from a safe, pro-Republican election district. Perhaps they have done a kind of calculus that measures the cost of losing. And, certainly they must be willing to fail.

Falling in love with something. The late creativity legend E. Paul Torrance said “don’t be afraid to fall in love with something.” It may be that the cast irons are in love with their vision of smaller government, fewer entitlements, and so forth. The flip side, however, is the danger of being so in love with an idea that one can’t see the reality of the situation. It may be a beautiful image that the President and the Senate will capitulate, that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed, that America will be “saved,” that the cast irons will be heroes. It may also be a dream that has no future, regardless of the creativity skills applied to it.


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