Flat Shadow Icon PowerPoint Template

It’s Friday again, and here’s another Friday Freebie…  This one was originally for a friend who’s starting a new graphic design company that she hopes will be innovative and creative.  She’s really into primary colours, though and so went for option B which is also flat shadow, but looks very different.  Anyway, long story short, you get option A for free to use as you will.

You can download the freebie here.

Enjoy!  Hope you find it useful!

+Alesandra Blakeston


Innovation and fast cars

I saw a great post this weekend, “How we fly: Aircraft as Career Metaphors” by Venkat and it got me thinking about Innovation programs.  How does your innovation program handle behind the wheel?  Do you have a couple of Lamborghinis in your innovation garage, or are you a Herbie fan?  Is speed important to you, the way your program appears on the outside or are you more concerned with long term results?

Incidentally, my personal view is that you need a fleet of vehicles – no one size fits all!  That being said, what vehicles would you budget for?

+Alesandra Blakeston

Lamborghinis: You have one or two superstars in your innovation garage.  They have speed and agility, but lack capacity and are expensive to run
Tanks: You have a couple of heavy hitter teams that have won some major battles, but unfortunately the rest of your teams are following behind on foot
Public Transportation: You have a fleet of fast moving buses that build consensus, take everyone along for the ride and create real momentum
Herbie: You are the proud owner of an award winning innovation program.  Not only do you win the race with style and panache, you add unique value
Rolls Royce: Your program is beautiful to look at, but can’t keep up in this era of change as fast as change. Lacks capacity, speed and agility
Police Service: Are you constantly trying to enforce your innovation program, making sure that everyone follows the rules?
Police Service: Are you busy enforcing the rules in your program?  Your vehicles are fast, and ready for action, but do your teams want to be involved?
Sixties hippy van:  Seen as far fatched and out there, you have the capability to bring others along,
Sixties hippy van: A bit out there, you have the capability to bring others along, but somehow the message isn’t being accepted by all. It’s slow and not agile
Motorbike: Fast and agile, the bikes can go off road as well as weaving through dense traffic.
Motorbike: Fast. agile and powerful, bikes can go off road or weave through dense traffic.  Unfortunately, they also lack capacity & have a tendency to crash
Ford Focus: Fast, easy to park and agile, so why doesn’t everyone buy one?  Are they distinctive?  Do they add unique value?  Can they build consensus?


What is innovation?

I’ve been in my current role for 10 months now and have learned a lot about innovation as a result. One thing that I have noticed, is that there are many different definitions out there for innovation.  DBD International has one definition in the slideshare below, which really caught my eye.  Not only is it a great example of animation, it tells a great story and defines innovation easily and quickly!

Do you see the dots that other’s don’t see?

How would you define innovation?

+Alesandra Blakeston

Who am I: Innovation Program Manager

A few weeks ago the communication department of the company I work for posted a soundbite video of me and how I’ve moved to the United States. This week, they are posting a video on what I do in terms of innovation.  You can watch it on YouTube below.  Hope you like it!


+Alesandra Blakeston

Thinking about the box

I spent most of the weekend with the phrase “think outside the box” lodged somewhere in my prefrontal cortex.  Then, while looking for inspirational pictures for a presentation, I came across the perfect picture by pomalowana on deviantart


I also saw this infographic on Fast Company, showing the daily routines of famous creative people throughout history.  One thing that immediately sprung to mind was that a lot of them incorporated walking into their daily routine to help them think!  That, combined with the nicer weather outside made me want to start hiking again.  In fact, even thinking about hiking got my mind working again.  A change in routine, a change in your location, all of it helps to get your mind out of the pattern it was stuck in.  Are you in a box right now?

Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?  A.A. Milne

+Alesandra Blakeston


5 apps to help your creativity

I must admit I don’t know where I would be without my iPad.  It’s ridiculous, but there it is.  Everything important in my life is on there, so it should come as no surprise that I even have creativity apps to help me in my role as an Innovation Program Manager.  What apps do I use, I hear you ask?  In no particular order, here are my top 5:

oflow 2Thinking differently – Oflow by Tanner Christensen

Created to help you get unstuck anytime, oflow is the only app of its kind to offer hundreds of proven creativity techniques on both iPhone and iPad.

This app is designed to help kick start your thinking when it gets stuck in a rut.  I particularly like the “Focus on the Process” tool, which helps me to challenge the status quo more, the “Forget about Perfection” tool and the “Fake It” tool.

The app has over 150 tips / tools to help get the creative juices flowing and you can even simply shake the iPad / iPhone to see a new tip / tool.  It is integrated with Evernote as well, which really helps when you want to share your work between your iPad and your work laptop!

Note: I also use Creative Whack Pack by Creative Think with similar results



mind toolsManagement / Productivity Tools – Mind tools by MindTools.com

Learn more than 100 management, business and personal productivity skills from the MindTools.com toolkit. Build useful skills whenever you have a spare moment.

Skill types include leadership, team management, strategy, problem solving, decision-making, project management, time management and personal productivity, stress management, communication, creativity and career development.

Whilst not strictly a creativity tool, this app has a lot to offer and I use it a lot.  It helps me to track the various projects I have ongoing as well as teach me new tools to use.  I particularly like the short summaries which give the bare bones for improving a set skill.  Of course, there is a search function as well if there is a specific tool you want to use.  I love the leadership section as well as the project management section.


innovateNews app – Innovate by Geoff Zoeckler

Looking to spark some creativity or need some inspiration for a new idea? Scroll through this app to connect quickly with some of the world’s best innovation articles, conversations, videos, and news reports. All information is updated in real time as the information is published.

Combines blog feeds from several sources: Braden Kelley’s Innovation, SEEK company, TED videos and podcasts, Accidental Creative podcasts, Innovation conversations on twitter and articles from Business week and Fast Company all in the same app!  It’s my go to source for all things innovation on the web and often brings me the news first!



Idea SketchDiagrams & Mind Mapping – Idea Sketch by Nosleep Software

Idea Sketch lets you easily draw a diagram – mind map, concept map, or flow chart – and convert it to a text outline, and vice versa. You can use Idea Sketch for anything, such as brainstorming new ideas, illustrating concepts, making lists and outlines, planning presentations, creating organizational charts, and more!

I love this app.  Whilst I also love Paper by 53, iA Writer and of course iDraw, Idea Sketch can convert text from other apps and import it into Idea Sketch to create an idea automatically.  It is really simple to create mind maps as well as flow charts and outlines.  Finally, all of my ideas can be uploaded from here to DropBox or my SkyDrive.  I’ve also played with Grafio Lite, which is quite similar.

screen568x568 (1)


123D SculptPrototyping ideas – 123D Sculpt by Autodesk

The most fun you can have sculpting without getting your hands dirty!

I adore this app.  It has a multitude of features for the advanced users and for the novices, you can start with the existing library of creatures, humans, vehicles etc.  You then push and pull and paint to make the sculpture you want.  It is loads of fun!  I particularly like the fact that you can take snapshots and so create animated movies, which can then be uploaded to YouTube.  The images are even transparent.  Also by Autodesk are 123D Catch, 123D Creature 123D Design and 123D Make.


What do you think?  Are there any other apps that you use for creativity?

+Alesandra Blakeston

Creativity and doodling

As a child I was always doodling in class.  I distinctly remember one teacher telling me I had a very creative mind just after telling me to stop doodling and to get on with my work.  I’m sure everyone has done it at some point. At first glance, it’s a trivial waste of time. But upon closer examination, those squiggles, drawings of animals or tiny sketches of the boss as the Wile E Coyote seem to have some value.  As it turns out, doodling can help you to be creative and innovative!  By doodling, you can:

  • Use visual language to accurately represent a concept or conversation
  • Rapid sketch and prototype ideas within a group
  • Simplify and display complex information
  • Build plans
  • Have fun

Tracking content using imagery, colour, word pictures and typography can change the way you understand information and also dramatically increase your level of knowledge and retention.  I often use a game called “Draw the challenge” where every member of the team has to draw their understanding of the problem / challenge using symbols and sketches.  It’s fun and it gets the members of the team who are highly visual engaged.  Unfortunately, many adults need to relearn this skill. Kids, it seems, have it right.



image taken from http://theurbanpasture.files.wordpress.com/

George Washington, Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison, Ronald Reagan and Vladimir Nabokov were all doodlers. Bill Gates and Frank Gehry are among today’s active doodlers.  You can see some great examples here.

Psychologist Jackie Andrade of the University of Plymouth in England found that people who doodle remember 29 percent more than those who do not.  Andrade suggested that when people doodle, they don’t daydream.  You can be looking directly at a teacher or speaker, appearing to hang on every word, but your mind is miles away.  Doodling, on the other hand, forces the brain to keep working and not daydream.

If you’ve never heard of Sunni Brown or the Doodle Institute, I suggest you have a look.  You can also download the first free chapter of the Doodle Institute’s new book “Discovery Doodle’s the first chapter” by Alicia Diane Durand.  It covers the basics of doodling and will help to get you started in your creativity games.

Images courtesy of Doodle Institute.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hope it helps

+Alesandra Blakeston


Improv to improve your listening skills

I was asked this week for some improvisation exercises that would help to build listening skills and prepare the participants to build on each other’s ideas in the planned creative ideation. While I have lots of exercises in my back pocket as it were, finding ones that haven’t already been used on the team, is no easy matter. In effect I had to creatively brainstorm for exercises for a creative brainstorming session!

Here are the ones I came up with:

Warm up: Knife Baby Angry Cat


All participants should walk around the room.  Ask one participant to pantomime throwing a knife, ninja-style, to another participant.  They should make a swooshing sound as the knife is thrown.  That participant catches the knife and throws it to another participant.

Once that goes well, add a pantomimed baby to the mix.  The baby must be thrown very carefully.  Give the baby a sound that is clearly distinguished from the knife.

If that goes well, add in an angry cat. Again with a distinct sound and a distinct throwing style.

Feel free to add other objects but make sure throwing style and sound are different.  The participants themselves can come up with things to throw.

The rules:

  1. Everyone must keep walking around.
  2. There must be eye contact between the thrower and the catcher before the knife is thrown: it should be very clear who is supposed to catch the knife.  The same applies to the baby and cat.
  3. There should not be more than 3-4 seconds between throws.  If someone hesitates, you start again.
  4. The game builds the idea of being present in the moment, trust, and having fun.

Listening skills: three things


Ask the participants to stand in a circle.  The first participant (to your left) must point to someone else in the circle and say a phrase that starts with “Name three things…”  for example:

Name three things in your bathroom

Name three things you do in the morning

Name three things you love

The person who was pointed to must then say the three things that they were asked for.  Once they’ve named three things, they then point to someone else and say a new phrase.

The rules:

  1. You cannot say anything that anyone has said before.  For example if someone says hair brush, and that is one of the three things you want to say, you must say tool with bristles for keeping the top of my head tidy.  You cannot say either “hair” or “brush”.  This means you have to listen to what everyone is saying.
  2. When someone repeats a word we laugh and start again.
  3. Each statement must also be different and shouldn’t be similar.  For example, if someone says name three things in your bathroom, and you said name three things in your bedroom, we would stop, laugh and start again.
  4. The idea is to have fun, to listen, be present in the moment and don’t worry about failing.

Listening skills and Trust: Mime me


Before the session, prepare some index cards with situations and actions written on them.  For example,

A beach on the south of France, participant must build a sand castle

A football stadium, participant must referee a football game

A frozen lake in Alaska, participant must catch a fish

Put the participants into groups of two.  Ask one of each pair to come and get an index card.  Without showing it to their partner, they must get the other person (the mime) to do what is on the card.  They cannot tell them what is on the card, instead, they must direct the person’s actions until they are doing the action.  In the last example, they might tell the person to shiver (it’s cold in Alaska).  They might tell them to cast their arm backwards or to sit down… You get the idea.

The rules:

  1. The mime cannot speak, they can only follow the instructions.
  2. The game is done when the mime appears to be doing exactly what is on the card.  At that point, the second person goes to get a new index card and the roles are reversed.
  3. The first person cannot touch the mime, or do the action for them.  They must stand still, giving direction with their words only.
  4. Builds trust within the pairs, creative thinking and listening skills.

Building skills: The gunslingers

04-the-good-the-bad-and-the-uglyPick three participants at random – these are your gunslingers.  The 3 players, form a line. The other participants provide questions or problems for which they need advice. The 3 players provide good, bad, and really bad advice.  The facilitator chooses who from the “audience” needs advice.

The rules:

  1. Each form of advice, good, bad and ugly should build on the previous piece of advice.
  2. Good advice must be good.
  3. Bad advice must be bad.
  4. If the bad advice is really bad, then the ugly advice should be even worse.
  5. If the advice given doesn’t build or is not worse than the last, the gunslinger is replaced by the person who needed advice.
  6. If someone is really good at the game, the facilitator reserves the right to replace them after 5 turns anyway.
  7. Let’s the team have fun by listening and building on each other’s ideas.  The worse the advice the better!

Well what do you think?  Have you used these games before?  Do you have any others that you could share?

+Alesandra Blakeston

Leading Innovative Change – George Couros

Loved this presentation by George Couros: Leading innovative change on SlideShare.net

I really appreciated the letter to Santa:

Santa letter

And this quote by Atul Gawande:

new normsWhat did you like?

+Alesandra Blakeston