Demonstration Video on Design Thinking Ideation (How to Ideate to Innovate with AI and ChatGPT)

I’ve been learning about and exploring the powerful artificial intelligence tools lately and getting a sense for their impact on how we innovate and create. The three AI tools I use most often are from OpenAI but I also like MidJourney for generating images. I’ve recorded a demo video that shows how to get started with the text AI tools.

This “how to video” demonstrates how to get quickly and simply started with AI tools like ChatGPT to ideate and innovate. Get help starting from the “blank page” with many ideas. Creatively diverge and converge using popular ideation tools like SCAMPER, combination mashups, famous person catalysts, or new technology applications. Pose questions to get numerous ideas from the AI tool. Select and conceptualize the best ideas. Use these tools and techniques at the ideation stage of any design thinking framework. Let the AI help you to get many ideas or concepts you can start to develop, describe, and prototype. In this video we demonstrate using a number of example challenges, problems, or opportunities you might be able to relate to. Follow along and try the same activities or similar questions with your own challenge on the AI tools of your choice like ChatGPT or OpenAI Playground.

�Hairball� Thinking: Planting Plum Trees in Pyramids

This is a guest post by Harry Webne-Behrman. This article is adapted from his recent book, What Matters in This Moment: Leading Groups Through Uncertain Times.

One of my favorite books is Orbiting the Giant Hairball (1996), where author Gordon MacKenzie helps us focus on how to remain creative and innovative in the face of inexorable gravitational forces to get sucked into the conformity of the Hairball. Two of his examples come to mind here, one at the individual level and the other at the organizational level:

�What You Don�t See is What You Get�

MacKenzie describes a well-dressed man barking at a herd of cows to be more productive. He pictures himself a �Big Cheese,� and that his workers (the cows) are accountable to be at their work stations, constantly producing value that can be turned into profits. He fails to recognize that the seemingly �lazy� work of eating grass, digesting it, and allowing the process to unfold slowly actually results in what he sees as �productive� work, when they are attached to milking machines that capture milk. We all need time to contemplate, reflect more deeply, and gain creative inspiration that leads to those innovative, value-added ideas that truly serve our Purpose, whether defined in terms of customer demand or social improvements.

�The Pyramid and the Plum Tree�

In this example, MacKenzie envisions conversations occurring within two distinct types of businesses. In the Pyramid, �top management� can �see forever,� which fosters a sense of vision but makes them somewhat oblivious to the struggles lower on the pyramid. Working down, �middle management� is obsessed with competition for power within the organization, supervisors are focused on working their way up, and production staff at the base have little sense of what it�s like further up; they can only focus on discussions related to producing their share of the enterprise. Conversations reflect these perspectives: Those on top feel the urgency of increased production, those in the middle are pressured to motivate workers to produce more, and the workers below are unmotivated by their supervisors, crushed by the pressures from above.

In contrast, the Plum Tree organization has product creators and producers at the top of the tree (bearing fruit), with managers and supervisors operating as supportive branches of the tree. The �trunk” is top management, the eternally supportive structure that facilitates everything else that is life-affirming, productive, and nurturing of the workers. The �roots� of the plum tree are the cash flow that makes this all possible. Conversations reflect these perspectives, where middle managers and supervisors are asking producers, �What do you need?� and they reply, �We�ve got what we need: sunshine and air.��In conclusion, MacKenzie writes: �A Pyramid is a tomb while a Tree is an organism.�

Planting Plum Trees in Pyramids

Most of us work in Pyramid organizations, where hierarchy dictates access to power and the capacity to advance the creative innovations that nourish our souls. The key is to plant Plum Trees in Pyramids, bringing oases of life to sterile environments that we have been socialized to accept as normal. So how do we put these ideas into practice, all in service of to What Matters? I offer a simple strategy, applicable across many approaches to learning:

Question what you believe you already know: You might be saying, �Why would I question it? I already know it!� Precisely! You must bring an attitude of Humility and Curiosity to this question. If we practice actively questioning our assumptions, we develop greater rigor regarding the artificial fences we have built around ourselves. If we model such an attitude, we open creative pathways for others, as well.

Take stock of how you actually spend your time: A related idea from MacKenzie is to �follow our Bliss� when we contemplate our life�s work. If we follow our bliss, we cultivate energy to orbit the �hairball� that stifles our creativity. Where are there opportunities to inject Bliss into your work day? Shake up your routine. Experiment with different options and see what works. Take notes and make changes based upon actual results.

Journal your experiences: Then invite others to do the same and share what has been learned. It is likely that another person�s experience will be instructive to you, just as your story will open up new ways of thinking to someone else. These can be lunchtime or coffee break discussions, or may be more formalized if they generate useful improvements in working relationships through what is learned (such as through a community of practice).�As opportunities arise, integrate new practices and insights into your work routine.

Bring what is learned into formal meeting spaces: One key to sustaining our Plum Trees is to nurture them in formal Pyramid spaces. Integrate emerging goals and practices into performance management goals, strategic priorities, and project timelines. Modify formal management team meetings or project leader check-in sessions to allow creative interactions, and empower others to facilitate conversations in such ways. You can begin to influence the larger organizational conversation by creating such learning opportunities.

These steps won�t change the world, but they will improve how you walk in it.

A Reflection

  1. Where does the real productivity occur in your work? To what degree does it come from time to reflect and inspire creative ideas? Look at ways you can increase such time for yourself and for your work team.�
  2. Look at your organization, and the degree to which it reflects Pyramid or Plum Tree approaches to management. Where does it feel like a Tomb? Where does it feel like an Organism?�
  3. The entire concept of Orbiting is powerful: We often tell ourselves there is only the option to leave a stifling organization or remain and have our creative juices compromised by �reality.� To Orbit is to �follow your bliss,� as MacKenzie says. It is certainly possible to find elements of Bliss within your work space by erecting boundaries of protection, but it is also possible to do so in partnership with others, who also seek Bliss, through purposeful collaborations and changing the processes in which we work to respect that opportunity.�

What Matters in this Moment BookAbout the Author: Harry Webne-Behrman has served as a facilitator, consultant, educator, and mediator for over 40 years. Along with his wife, Lisa Webne-Behrman, he served as Senior Partner of Collaborative Initiative, Inc., a private consulting and mediation firm based in Madison, Wisconsin from 1991-2017, before moving to Ottawa, Canada, where he currently works and teaches. Harry has worked with hundreds of businesses, educational institutions, community groups and public agencies, helping address entrenched organizational and social issues. By consulting with leaders, facilitating large-scale deliberation and engagement processes, mediating interpersonal disputes, and offering educational programs that develop skills needed to address such challenges, Harry has earned a reputation as a valued resource and guide.

Innovative Facilitation, Storytelling, & Whiteboarding

We recently designed and facilitated a workshop on:

Storyfinding, Storymaking, and Storytelling

Session Description: In a virtual mini-retreat style experience for facilitators and leaders, you will be guided through collaborative reflection activities to help you find your own stories and then build them into something you can storytell in your own work. Please subscribe below to be emailed our collection of facilitation and storytelling resources.You can also learn more about an upcoming innovative facilitation retreat we will be offering for a small group to focus on transforming how you facilitate through realtime collaborative whiteboards and other innovative tools.

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Deep Leadership Reflection with Aaron Rodgers and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon

I watched a video conversation with Green Bay Packer Aaron Rodgers and musician Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. It was incredibly insightful! It’s almost like one of those great coffee shop conversations where you get to a new level of depth with a friend reflecting on your craft and yourself…and seeing connections between your fields and lives.

These two performers reflect on leadership, authenticity, creativity, their past and future story, inner work, spirituality, meaning, and many powerful topics that go beyond sports and music. It got deep! Give it a watch and let us know your insights. It looks like they share a lot more in common than just a Wisconsin connection.

I enjoyed the top comment on the YouTube video: “Whoever was responsible for the intersection of these two individuals at GQ, is a genius and should be treated as a national treasure.”

Mr. Rogers as Facilitator Leading his 10 Second Activity

I’ve gotten interested in learning about Mr. Rogers lately thanks to the wonderful documentary, “Won’t you be my Neighbor.” I’d also like to see the Tom Hanks “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” movie. I discovered that Mr. Rogers was a great activity designer and group facilitator!

In researching Mr. Rogers on YouTube, I noticed that during his acceptance speech for the 1997 Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award, he facilitated an activity with the audience…and ultimately the viewers at home. Give the video a watch (the activity begins around 1:33).

Here is the transcript that details the activity he facilitated.

1:33 “so many people have helped me to come to this night. Some of you are here, some are far away, some are even in heaven. All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take along with me 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life. 10 seconds of silence. I’ll watch the time.


Whomever you’ve been thinking about how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they’ve made.”

He also facilitated the same activity for his 1999 TV Hall of Fame induction speech. The beginning of the segment is worth watching with early Mr. Roger’s guest and inspirational Madison, Wisconsin native Jeff Erlanger — but if you’d like to skip ahead to the introduction of the 10 second activity, you can find it at about 4:10.

As you can see it was quite similar. He asked the audience to “spend just 10 seconds to think of some of those people who have loved us and wanted what was best for us in life. Those who have encouraged us to become who you are tonight.” It’s a powerful activity to do and see who comes into your mind for you as you reflect. I think Mr. Rogers would appreciate you spending 10 seconds to do it too. Taking the time to create and design a simple and reflective activity that you facilitate can live on. In this case, the audience at the venue did it, the live tv viewers did it, I did it over 20 years later when I found it on YouTube, and perhaps you just did it now. The effect can spread exponentially!

It looks like this was a high-impact activity that Mr. Rogers had in his toolkit as a leader, person of impact, and facilitator. What are some of your activities you can facilitate with others? What can you create or “prototype” to impact others?

Learning about Designer Frank Lloyd Wright

I learned the other week that one of the newly named UNESCO world heritage sites is three blocks away from me! This sent me down many rabbit holes of curiosity to learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright. My favorite sources were:

1. Ken Burns American Lives documentary

2. Looking at real estate listings of FLW homes for sale

3. Checking out FLW artifacts on EBay and other auction sites

4. Videos from the Guggenheim…especially the one showing his mile high skyscraper design which seemed like a creative autobiography

5. Interview video on YouTube with Mike Wallace from the 50s.

6. Visit to Monona Terrace with the excellent photo displays

7. Field Trip to Spring Green for the Taliesin highlights tour and also poking around the countryside to see other buildings he designed

Frank Lloyd Wright was quite the creative and productive designer…over 1000 designs with about half built. Some of his most famous buildings like the Guggenheim or our Monona Terrace here in Madison were designed when he was in his late 80s. I was most interested in the unique school of architecture he got going at his home in WI and AZ where students have to design and build a structure to stay in.

It’s fun to get curious about something and see how you can research it or learn about it in your own way.

Manager or Leader – Your Choice

This is a guest article to our site.

Most people wouldn’t think that there is a distinction between the role of a manager and that of a leader. It’s easy to understand why, as many of the best professionals can be both, assuming the scope of their managerial role allows it.


So, what exactly is the difference between a manager and a leader?


As many key thinkers in business have pointed out, the distinction is actually a rather large one, and it’s all to do with timeframes.


The key responsibilities of a manager


A manager, generally, is someone who is in charge of making the absolute most out of the short term. That’s what a good manager does: keep everything regarding the essential operations of a business running smoothly. This is an absolutely vital role, as without someone there to conduct the orchestra, very little music is going to get played.


The focus of someone in this role should revolve around the delivery of the short-term – those immediate goals, targets and tasks – as well as resolving problems and enforcing policies. They are the day-to-day delegators, and without things going well in the short term, there is no chance of anything working in the long term.


One way to understand the duties of a manager is to think of a kitchen. The last person on the line would usually spend their time assigning tasks, keeping everyone on time and ultimately, making sure that the end product leaving the window meets their standards. That’s a lot like the responsibility of a manger. They are overseeing the rest of the work that is being done to ensure it is all executed correctly and well, meeting the right goals and to the right policies.


However, just as the man at the end of the kitchen line might not have necessarily produced the menu, the manager may not necessarily have set the goals. This, of course, all depends on the individual set-up of that business. Generally speaking though, while a manager can be a leader, they are unlikely to also adopt this role.


The key responsibilities of a leader


While a manager generally looks over the short term, a leader oversees the long term. They are the people who set the vision for a company to follow for years to come. In other words, they write the menu.


In some businesses, as we’ve mentioned, there’s crossover. Often this is the case in smaller companies, where it is possible for one individual to be responsible for both the short- and long-term operations. However, as an organisation grows, the reality is that overseeing both the day-to-day ongoing and future strategies of a business simply becomes too much for one employee to undertake. Therefore, having separation in these roles is much more efficient.


That being said, many of the skills employed in both roles are very similar. Things like organisation, emotional intelligence, curiosity and a respect for the views of others are all vital for great managers and great leaders alike.


Criticisms of the role of managers can be common


Many seem to be confused and are in fact rather disparaging about the role of the manager. This usually stems from the fact that the differences between these two roles are largely debated. Some do appreciate the need for managers alongside leaders, such as Halelly Azulay, author of Employee Development on a Shoestring, whose thoughts on business leaders are expressed in an Me Learning article exploring communication and negotiation.


Others though – including many business journalists such as William Arruda, careers writer at Forbes and Natalie Walters of Business Insider – imply that being a manager is simply a failure in being good leader. To them, the title of manager seems to mean someone in charge who is not doing a very good job, or could be doing a better one. For example, in Arruda’s Forbes article, he says that “leaders are unique, managers copy”.


While being a leader may require more creativity and imaginative scope, to say that managers copy is a rather blunt way of looking at a difficult job. Besides, great managers are often very innovative. The fact that they are innovative in a rather more day-to-day manner – as opposed to being innovative in the sense of imagining and working towards a more distant goal – should not mean that their creative contributions are completely overlooked.


Walters of Business Insider has a similarly downward view on managers, stating that they see a problem, while leaders see an opportunity. In reality, some things are problems and others are opportunities: good managers and good leaders should be capable of recognising both.


However, despite these criticisms of managers, most agree that the main distinctions between the roles are their focuses on either the short or long term.


Understanding and appreciating the roles of both managers and leaders


There are two key reasons why the time distinction is the most useful lens to view these labels through. It seems to be the one commonality across people’s views on managers and leaders, and is also the one which is most in line with the reality of what most managers actually do.


A manager – at least in the case of most companies – doesn’t make the long-term decisions, and instead is the head of an office branch, as an example. While we appreciate that there is some fluidity in the meaning of these words, there doesn’t seem to be much value in simply talking down a role while it remains so vitally important throughout so many companies.


When it comes down to it, the work of managers and leaders need to complement one another. To say a manager is simply a bad leader is to fundamentally misinterpret their contribution to business. Showing respect to the authoritative positions in a company which fall below the senior level – which is generally where a manager’s role is considered to be – is something that can have a great deal of benefit for companies.


The Global Leadership Forecast, published by DDI, The Conference Board, and the EY has two conclusions very relevant to this discussion. Firstly, they show that organisations which extend development of high potential talent below the top positions are 4.2 times more likely to financially outperform those who don’t. To reiterate this importance, four out of ten tech leaders are failing the higher rate of any industry, with the high failure rate being believed to be hugely influenced by the fact that so little effort is put into leadership development.


At all levels, companies need to make more of an effort to develop leaders. Looking down on managers, who perform just as vital a role in the success of any company, is not only unhelpful, but a potentially costly mistake. Whether you want to be a manager, leader or both is your choice, but each has a vital role to play.


Top Online Innovation Training Courses and Workshops

Strategize, design, and innovate with these online workshops we’ve developed.

Innovation is the future, and we’re here to help. Innovation Learning provides online innovation training courses and programs to help you develop key fundamental innovation and leadership skills for your life and organization. Here are six workshops for you to try at every stage of the innovation process:

1. Leading and Facilitating Innovation

This program focuses on teaching you practical actions you can use to lead your organization and facilitate your team through. Through the workshop, you’ll complete 20+ activities that you can adapt and continue to use at your organization.

2. Entrepreneur Innovation

Are you an entrepreneur constantly looking for a way to grow your business and stand out from the competition? This online innovation training course will walk you step-by-step through the innovation process, with real examples used at every stage. Take these lessons and develop your own innovation project, such as designing a new product, service, or marketing strategy. Gain powerful insights into whatever problem you are working on.

3. Innovative Mindset

You’ll never move forward in your organization if you hold onto the old and never try to transform. To begin, you need to change your mindset and have the confidence to try new and different things in work and life. This online innovation course is designed to help you cultivate a mindset for innovation through awareness of your thinking as both an asset and a liability. You’ll learn techniques for changing your behavior to act quicker.

4. Systematic Innovation

This program is designed to facilitate individuals, groups, or companies through the idea development process. The workshops will teach you the innovation process, help you identify areas in your organization for innovation, and discuss how to best innovate within your company.

5. Starting Your Innovation Project

Are you looking to create or develop something meaningful this year? This program will help you discover where to start and will show you a process you can use to develop your innovative project. Through the design thinking framework, you’ll cultivate critical thinking skills necessary to create a new product, service, business, book, website, and more!

6. Learn to Innovate at Higher Levels

Our last online course will help you advance as a professional or as an entrepreneur. You’ll take your skills one step further by discovering activities designed to innovate at higher levels and gaining insights obtained from hundreds of prominent business leaders. What are you waiting for?

With these six online innovation training courses, you will be able to reflect, experiment, and adapt your processes in order to revolutionize your company’s products and services. You’ll develop skills that can be used in any industry at any time, and you’ll even be prepared to teach others how they can develop an innovative mindset as well!

Learn more on our innovation and design thinking resource blog.

How can you dream bigger and better?

I attended a Big Dream Gathering event recently where people elected to post their dreams to a wall. These dreams essentially encompassed their goals in life. Big things they wanted to realize. But I was shocked. Many of the dreams I saw were not really big dreams, or even admirable goals…but aspirations to mediocrity. Safe bets. These posts were dreams of University of Wisconsin students who chose to attend a Big Dream event. They were certainly qualified to be big dreamer (we all are) and they had already achieved a big dream by enrolling at a great institution like the University of Wisconsin in Madison, one of the country’s best places to live. Needless to say through, many of their dreams now were hardly as big.

The first dream I saw on the wall was to “help my friend get a job in Madison.” The dream sheet said that the friend is getting a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering. Should be pretty doable to get a job with that degree. The next dream was “to graduate.” Pretty doable…more than 85 percent do. The third I saw was the most alarming…”pass Math 222.” The dream wasn’t to get an A or even a B…but to pass. A grade of D would mean dream realized. These students can dream bigger. They have a lot greater potential than the dreams they elected to share. But what I was noticing was that many did not have a very long term view of their own lives…their dreams were things that could be realized within the year. Also, the dreams seemed too small to fail instead of too big to inspire. Plus, many of the dreams were not specific or unique…they were trying to hit the mean, be normal, do what everyone else does, and be a part of the herd.  But one thing we’ve definitely learned here in the state of Wisconsin: If you are just part of the herd, expect to get milked!

Later on in the evening, it occurred to me that many of these people had actually already realized big dreams. If you are accepted to and attend the University of Wisconsin, or any great university, that’s a big dream! That’s something you look back and take pride in your entire life going forward. From what I could see, many of these people who had achieved a laudable dream like this were already failing to continue dreaming big—to push the pedal to the metal and give their own vehicle some acceleration in life. No. Instead, they were shooting for the mean—to be normal.

I talked to a guy I met there, Kevin, who was achieving his dreams. He grew up on the southside of Chicago, loved microscopes as a kid, and wanted to be a scientist and fight cancer. So, as a student, he sent 200 inquiries for internships and got one. He dreamed big and took action…and he is. We talked about the kinds of dreams we saw posted on the wall and both agreed with the desire to “fit in” and be normal as well as the short term view that people had vs. the long term view or vision necessary for dreaming big dreams.

I am aware that a dream like “graduate from college” is actually a very big dream when compared to the population of the world. Less than 7% of people in this world do! The point is that, once you get to college and graduate from college, you need to keep dreaming…and dreaming big…and in our time of rapid change and acceleration..dreaming the things that may not even seem possible.

Also, I saw some of the BIG DREAMS were things I’d actually done…they seemed really big while I was a mediocre high school student in a small rural town, but while I was doing them they were easier than they seemed. Some of these students expressed their dreams to get a Ph.D., start a business, or reach one million people through their own work. And I’ve realized those dreams myself, for instance. This made me see that I can go bigger…and that the big things weren’t that big when you actually are doing them…they seemed big. AND, that I want to help people also achieve these dreams, dream bigger and better in their life, and take action towards those dreams. I am grateful to have learned the art of dreaming and achieving while I was in college. I hope others can also learn it at that critical stage. This event was a start but they need to seek on their own now.

Go wild. Some of the dreams I had require a medical breakthrough or new technology to be created…but at the rate of technology acceleration, this is quite possible and probable. So, we need to dream bigger and more unrealistically because reality is becoming unrealistic.

A motivational speaker that inspired me when I started my dreaming journey, Les Brown says, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” It’s OK to not achieve a big dream…but you will achieve more meaningful things on a journey to a big dream than if you didn’t have a dream or one so small achieving it is almost guaranteed. Some may not go for big dreams because they feel like they would need to achieve it. If they didn’t achieve it, it would be a failure. No, that’s not how this dreaming business works. Dreams not achieved are not failures because when you pursue a dream who end up oftentimes achieving something worthy (maybe different, but better than your original dream). You also learn new things you can apply in your next round of dreaming and doing.

What are some of your big dreams? Things that are BIG (maybe don’t even seem possible) and far out into the future. How about 5 years from now? 10 years? 20 years? With the acceleration of opportunities maybe your 20 year dream could be realized in 2 years? You never know unless you dream and do.

We need to learn how to dream bigger and better. How can your dreams leverage the best of you…your specific strengths, passionate interests, values, and what the world needs? Many of us were never taught how to dream for the future…much less how to strategically work toward realizing a big dream. How do you learn that? By doing it. Let’s do it now. Grab some paper, your favorite note-taking app on a mobile device (I like Google Keep), or your computer.

Take action to learn to be a bigger and better dreamer.
Start small. Take dreaming action now.

What is a thing you could do now to dream big? Here’s an idea. Spend 3 minutes with your eyes closed visualizing the future you want in 5 years. Describe that future vision in a note or draw it out on a sheet of paper.

Next, based on that future vision, write each specific dream that is a part of that future vision out on it’s own note or sheet of paper. Get specific and go big. What do you have now and what do you need to do?

Now, what is something you can do today, a tiny thing, to start momentum and action towards a big dream. Start small and take action again. What can you do today to move towards that dream? Do it. Dreaming and doing takes courage. Dreaming and doing with courage leads to more courage and more dreaming.

For now…just get started visualizing the future and dreaming big and specific! We go deeper into this process in our “design thinking your career for your life” online program. We’ve brought this program to universities across the country and I’m motivated to help more people (students and anyone) who can benefit from dreaming bigger and better! Our world needs this now more than ever.

Reflect on this…and let us know in the comments!

What do you think the state of big dreaming is today?
How have you learned how to dream bigger and better?
How can you be strategic with taking action on your dreams?

No Tech is the New Tech

No Tech is the New Tech

no tech is the new tech
“No tech is the new tech.”
– Darin Eich

What does this quote mean to you?

I’ve been thinking about this one for some time. When do we need no tech? Who needs no tech, and when?

In the world of innovation, the application and use of new technologies is a focus. Paradoxically, it seems like there is an emerging trend or interest now for “no technology” at important times from many people. This could be times when one needs to “disconnect,” or a focus on less “screen time” for kids, or teens becoming too addicted to their phones, or adults checking email or social media compulsively. Sometimes we need to go inward and not into a device.

There have been creative interventions to help people disconnect. These range from depositing your mobile devices into a “phone jail” before a class or meeting, or friends turning their phones screen side down during dinner and the first one to turn their device over has to pay the bill. Also, people have found success with not bringing their phone with them into their bedroom before bed to prevent social media scrolling while one should be sleeping. Others have gone so far as to uninstall Facebook from their phone. Some block off a certain amount of time in their schedule to read and respond to emails, instead of continuously.

If you are part of an organization looking to create the latest product or service for your customers…consider “no tech” as a new tech to work on applying. Many customers don’t want a solution with the latest technology or a chatbot…they want a solution with no technology powered by a human. So, in addition to many of the new technologies that can be benefical…add no tech to the list.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very interested in new technologies and their application. I just believe that “no tech” should be one of those technologies at times.