get the sense the clock in his mind is always ticking, the hours and
days barely able to contain a seemingly endless gallery of ideas and
projects, some of which have yet to be sketched onto the famous numbered
napkins on which all Rutan projects are born (SS1 was napkin number
started thinking what would a vehicle be like that could explore the
inside of a shipwreck? What would it need? ... After a few months of
doing a log of napking drawings, w came up with the idea of a
firbre-spooling vehicle that has its on on-board batteries. It was
very, very tiny, and there was probably four of five brand-new ideas in
the design of the vehicle. Three years and $ million later, we had two
of these guys build and we were ready to go to the Titanic to film Ghosts of the Abyss.
While in the last year Yahoo! inserted the napkin into its innovation process as seen below.
The lead-colored "What's possible?" is part of the napkin. This napkin was one of a million that I saw scattered around the Yahoo! cafeteria in Sunnyvale and on placards throughout the office spaces. While I don't know who came up with this internal campaign or the outcome, it certainly plays on the concept of napkins as idea enabler.
&lowast &lowast &lowast
In reading these articles (I have a shoe box full) one can't help but realize that the lowely napkin plays a seminal role in the creation of new innovation ideas.
But what is the role?
Simply, innovation ideas often emerge from little more than scribbles on a napkin as the stories tell you. But the napkin is simply a well-understood metaphor for a form of serendipitous collaboration wherein two or more people begin exploring a new thought and which, in the best of circumstances (framed napkins if you believe the Amazon story) results in an entirely novel idea.
Napkins help the shared idea to become more real to the creators -- as a capture device, as a shared space, as an artifact -- allowing them to further advance the dialogue and idea.
So what might this process of napkin-ing, or, shall we say, napkining entail?