This post is a tribute for one of the most important tools for exploring ideas: Napkins.
Ideas sometimes emerge during family or friend reunions at restaurants, bars or even while you are alone just taking a coffee and napkins are the ideal companions.

The author Dan Roam has even written two books whose titles allude to napkin's role in idea generation and transmission: "The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures" and "Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-On Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures". I haven't read them, but if someone has give me your opinion.

My theory is (besides just having a napkin available right there while having lunch) that there is something about our perception of "unimportance" and "wastefulness" of a napkin that allows us to feel free to sketch and explore unstop without inhibitions. It is definitely different than the feeling of using a white sheet of paper which can impose some kind of structure and value. Napkins fold and unfold easily with no definite format; they even tear as paradigms also should; you can use different napkins or sections for different ideas; what is commonly used to clean your mouth and hands can also clear you head; and you can save them or throw them away without remorse (use eco-friendly napkins by the way).

Napkins also invite others to collaborate. I've had idea sessions with friends who ask for my opinion on some new product or business and when writing my ideas while explaining, they feel free to draw, write on top or add new things on my napkin, something I think they wouldn't do if I had a neat white sheet presentation with well organized ideas. It is as if the napkin and the informality of the session "allows" this type of interaction freedom. It also makes them feel integrated to the very beginning of the idea generation process, which is good in combating the Not-invented-here syndrome, specially if you are giving new ideas to an entrepreneur who already conceived something of his own in his mind. Personally, I also feel it gives the impression you have good top of the mind ideas that you can transmit anywhere with whatever available resources you have.

Some group creative-sessions and techniques involve the use of color Post-its to transmit and organize new ideas which preserve these feelings of informality and versatility. Still, napkins in a restaurant work better for an intimate planning rather than a group session. I've had friends telling me afterwards: "Can I keep the napkin?" which I find really funny as the once disposable napkin is now something of great value to treasure.


Here are some innovation related quotes I like and hope to keep adding new ones:

"If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough." - Mario Andretti

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." - Alan Kay

"You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take." - Wayne Gretzky

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." - John Steinbeck

"Never be too exited with innovation alone. Only get excited when you know how to link innovation through performace, strategy and a commercial model. Because that's where the money is." First Lesson of Blue Ocean, Reneé Mauborgne

"The future is already here—it's just unevenly distributed." Sci-fi writer William Gibson.

“If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.” - Woody Allen

"I make more mistakes than anyone else I know, and sooner or later, I patent most of them." - Thomas Edison

“Innovation! One cannot be forever innovating. I want to create classics.” - Coco Chanel

"The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow." - Rupert Murdoch

"Test fast, fail fast, adjust fast." - Tom Peters

"If you go into a bar in most places in America and even say the word poetry, you'll probably get beaten up. But poetry is a really strong, beautiful form to me, and a lot of innovation in language comes from poetry." - Jim Jarmusch

"Innovation is creativity with a job to do." - John Emmerling

"When all think alike, then no one is thinking." — Walter Lippman

"There is only one thing stronger than all the armies of the world: and that is an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo

"There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns." - Edward de Bono

"Doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results, is the definition of crazy." -Unknown

"Without the playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable." -Carl Jung

"If I had asked the public what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." - Henry Ford

"The things we fear most in organizations—fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances - are the primary sources of creativity." - Margaret J. Wheatley

"You don't understand anything unless you understand there are at least 3 ways." - M. Minskey

"Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction." — Picasso

"In every work of genius, we recognize our once rejected thoughts." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most." - Fyodor Dostoevsky

"The world really boils down to two kinds of people: those that see shapes in cloud formations, and those that just see clouds." - Danzai Pace

"As the births of living creatures, at first, are ill-shapen: so are all Innovations, which are the births of time." -Francis Bacon

"He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator." -Francis Bacon

"Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it." - Steve Jobs

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." - Howard Aiken

"Obviously everyone wants to be successful, but I want to be looked back on as being very innovative, very trusted and ethical and ultimately making a big difference in the world."
- Sergey Brin

"The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential. - Steve Ballmer

"The lifeblood of our business is that R&D spend. There's nothing that flows through a pipe or down a wire or anything else. We have to continuously create new innovation that lets people do something they didn't think they could do the day before." - Steve Ballmer

"It's not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It's because we dare not venture that they are difficult." - Seneca

"Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity." - Michael Porter (just good because of WHO said it)

"We are always saying to ourself.. we have to innovate. We got to come up with that breakthrough. In fact, the way software works.. so long as you are using your existing software.. you don't pay us anything at all. So we're only paid for breakthroughs." - Bill Gates

"Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. The act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth." - Peter Drucker (just good because of WHO said it)

"If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Recruitments in Tamaulipas

I often check out innovation job postings in different web pages since they show the market’s interest on the theme. Yesterday I saw a job posting at OCC Mundial that caught my attention due to recent news.

This week 145 (and counting) dead bodies have been found in “narco fosas” (pits where drug cartels bury their victims) at San Fernando, Tamaulipas, a small town whose most important characteristic is being the intersection towards Matamoros and Reynosa, two of the most important northern cities in the state, and sadly, two of the most damaged by drug-war violence. Government has said that the dead bodies were people trying to cross the border towards US that were caught by cartels to force their “recruitment” or die. Tamaulipas is one of the three states that has more violence and less governmental control.

What has been disturbing and controversial about the news, besides the quantity of dead bodies, is that before the findings there had only been 1 previous report of a person missing, out of 145 known victims. Omnibus de México, a transportation company, just today reported that they had 5 missing buses in San Fernando. Their report comes AFTER the body findings. HOW COME THEY SAID NOTHING BEFORE??? Families of the victims are already thinking of suing the transportation company which, on top of everything, has no insurance on kidnapping and violence, just accidents. Other transportation companies have made no public comments or statements on the problem but have stopped providing services towards San Fernando and limiting others in Tamaulipas.

The job posting I saw yesterday, as shown in the printscreen, is looking for a “Continuous Improvement and Innovation Coordinator” for Transportes Tamaulipas SA de CV (Grupo Senda), a bus company in North Mexico whose own name makes reference to the state where the violent news happened. I couldn’t stop thinking about the challenges a job such as this one could have after the recent events. What innovations could win back user confidence and security? I started to ideate forms of preventing high-way violence through communication technology or security controls inside buses, but the truth is it is a complex problem to deal with. What measures would you implement without provoking more violence to your company?

While drug cartels are kidnapping and killing people out of buses for recruitment in Tamaulipas, Tamaulipas’ bus companies are recruiting employees for innovation. Talk about ideas needed!