#Plywords on Ideation :: Idea Implementation as Freedom :: DOMINIQUE HOWSE

The formation of thoughts and ideas can come easy to marginalized groups, because when boxed into corners, and, or forced into spaces of discomfort, the choice to create, and innovate is indecision; somewhat of an unspoken organic nature that is sustained by the desire to survive — to live a better life — to beat opposition — to overcome “the struggle”. Therefore, innovation and idea generation have always been (and still are) mandatory for many of us. And arguably, when the two concepts merge, they tend to feel more biological than “social reaction”. 

Amongst the many things that inspire and motivate me to do, there are equally just as many barricades to duck under, glass ceiling to shatter, and red tape to dismantle. Long before I had the language: “racial economic disparity”, “gender oppression”, “white supremacy” and “institutionalized racism”, I felt the definitions living and breathing inside of my community, throughout my schools, and within my world… every play in my book had to be about (not just) creating alternatives and solutions for some of the world’s most pressing issues, but intentionally fighting through systems of bias. My ideas have never had the privilege of just being ideas, alone. There has always been a consideration for someone, something, and somewhere outside of, and aside from, myself. 

I have never had the privilege or space to "just do it” — but we clearly created NIKE content and platforms time and time again…

So taking an idea from just an idea into implementation while fitting the profile of Sandra Bland is something else; and, or when your nephews dress like Trayvon Martin; and, or your parents are survivors of decades of racist policies and social constructs, that left them no choice but be public displays of victory, it becomes challenging to be…

And so, I don’t think this is an excuse, but more of an explanation as to why the Howse of Innovation has been a buried pot of gold, and yet, at the same time, the reason the Howse of Innovation - #ATL is happening this Spring…

Frankly, I woke up one day, and realized that my entire narrative is full of the same Spirit that led to Jazz as a genre; the organization of the Underground Railroad; the foundation for Jame’s Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time; and Tupac Amaru’s “Me Against the World” — at some point, my creation became what the Book of James outlines as “a walk of faith.” My work is a direct output of God’s vision for me. When I began to look at my work as a spiritual commitment that led to life, and liberation, my efforts shifted…

So, cheers to the abundant amount of discomfort that once stood as distraction, that thankfully and currently, are deemed as drivers for the Doer. 

'Driva Man’ and friends, we are here…

- Free’Dom



Dominque Howse is a recent Atlanta implant, and an award-winning social innovator and changemaker dedicated to generating social impact through highlighting the relationship between People Power and policy change. Howse holds an Executive MBA from Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, a M.S. in Urban Policy Analysis and Management from The New School, and a B.A. in Mass Communication from Jackson State University. With a professional background spanning across the United States and the Global South, her highlighted experience includes notable work in both public and private sectors; in education policy and practice, executive leadership, youth development, women's empowerment, lifestyle journalism and international community development

#Plywords on Ideation :: 3 Unspoken Truths About Generating New Ideas :: KEVIN JENNINGS

“You’re an idea guy.”

I’ve heard this statement for years now. It’s been used as both a sincere and backhanded compliment. As a result, I ran from the title ‘dreamer,’ but the truth is, I am one. In fact, when I was in college, one of my favorite social activities was to brainstorm ideas of potential businesses and nonprofits with friends. Then, we’d write each idea in notebooks I still have today.

Over time, I’ve encountered these three unspoken truths about generating ideas:

1. Ideation is an act, not a skill. It’s the sum of multiple skills.

Ideation is more like driving a car than it is lightning striking. Driving requires hand-eye coordination, motor skills, eyesight, knowledge of how to operate a vehicle, awareness of other vehicles, road signs, etc. Driving is the act of combining and using those skills to operate a car. Similarly, ideation is the composite of various soft skills:

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Self-awareness

  • Critical thinking

  • Problem solving

  • Empathy

  • Communication (which contains its own subset of skills such as listening, writing, body language, verbal communication,and physical communication)

Make ideation a muscle that operates from memory.

2. Ideation reveals the heart of the ideator.

Creativity was missing from the list. Why? By definition, creativity is the ability to create, which we all possess. Therefore, 1) we’re all creative and 2) creativity isn’t a roadblock to ideation. However, our belief in our creativity is.

It’s difficult for the mind to explore what the heart sees as impossibilities. Consequently, our limiting beliefs — insecurities, fears, lack of self-esteem — are the true roadblocks. I imagine a significant portion of us ideate in group settings, which typically further exposes and/or amplifies those same roadblocks.

What are we to make of this? Ideation is deeply personal. Our commitment to overcome ourselves and provide grace to others (when their issues surface) is a key to ideation.

3. Ideation is not innovation.

Novelty characterizes innovation. As Jason Dyba, the creative project manager for Passion Conferences, recently told me, “Ideation under the pressure of innovation is unnecessary.” It’s true. We often hunt for the new when better will do.

Better matters because life matters. Life is measured by the quality of our experiences, relationships, and contributions. Let’s create better quality experiences, relationships, and contributions for ourselves and others.

Ideation is a gateway to better.



#Plwords on Ideation :: Karyl Morin

Plywords on IDEATION by Karyl Morin

The future has to be imagined before it is created.  

How’s your imagination doing?  Awesome, Good, Fair, Barely There, Horrible.  Are you brave enough to avoid being consumed by maintaining and responding to prioritize breakthrough ideas, creativity and divergent thinking?  Better is possible.  No doubt, but first we must imagine what that better is.


It’s a word I love.  It’s a space I feel most at home within.  Some feel at home there, others prefer more convergent thinking.  Either way - we all need imagination time to fuel ideation.  The capacity for or act of forming or entertaining ideas.  

CREATIVE CAPITAL.  How’s yours?  Creative Capital is the capacity of a person, family or community to imagine and express new possibilities through creative activity.  This is a personal and civic asset that increases the effectiveness of individuals, the strength of families and the health of communities.  It is our imagination and original ideas applied toward a current need.


Here’s 4 practical ideas to fuel ideation:  1)  Listening and fresh eyes.  2) Leaving your typical surroundings and distractions.  3) Being with a diverse, enthusiastic group.  4)  Ditching the technology.  


Whether you are brainstorming solutions for talent recruit, addressing homelessness, or changing difficult transitions with a child, empathy is the place to begin.  Have you really listened to the person your organization is seeking to serve?  Have you asked your customers for direct feedback?  Do you have perspective other than your own.  Listening and empathy are the best fuel for productive ideation.  

Sister Corita Kent is a hero of mine, a bold artist and activist in the 60s who shared this rule:  “Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time.  They’re different processes.”  

Whether you are working alone or as a team, begin with divergent thinking before you switch gears to converge on an idea to move forward into prototyping.  Often times the most outlandish ideas, which might seem logical to rule out, will lead to a remarkably on point solution.  So don’t be THAT person that shuts down creative ideas in a meeting - just entertain ideas, humor the process, silence your hyper-responsible logic.  Give ideation it’s own space rather than gearing up the logic and shutting creativity down.

This is your world.  Create it or someone else will.

What if we?  Creativity and collaboration are at the core of who I am.  And yet, I still find myself pulled away from ideation and towards implementation. Why do we busy ourselves and leave aside our creative capital? Leaving out creativity, ideation and divergent thinking will prevent the breakthroughs, solutions and boldness we need for a better future.  


Karyl has creatively pursued talent development of youth for 20+ years with a collaborative spirit and a bent toward innovation.  She is a systems thinker, passionate about empowering individuals and organizations to discover and pursue their unique contribution to the world.  


#Plywords on Ideation :: KIMBERLY DANIEL

The spaces I help to create are never short of imaginative, innovative leaders who are full of ideas. These individuals are what I call “idea lovers.” But within this generative group of idea lovers, is a smaller subset of idea makers. Charles Lee, CEO of IDEATION shares, “…not all idea lovers make ideas come to life. Unlike idea lovers, idea makers are not satisfied with just having a great idea. They are committed to seeing their concepts actualized in the real world.”

As someone invested in my community, I would add that idea makers don’t execute their ideas for their idea sake. Instead, idea makers move their ideas from their imaginations into reality to create a solution for the greater good.

As a team member of DO GOOD X, I’ve journeyed alongside faith-rooted entrepreneurs who want to do good in the world. These entrepreneurs—idea lovers and makers—birth many ideas. But what is needed to help idea lovers turn an idea into a good idea? (We all know that all ideas aren’t necessarily good ideas.) And, how do we create a space that empowers and prepares these idea lovers to be idea makers for social good?

Here are three playful actions I’ve noticed that support these entrepreneurs in becoming idea makers for good.  

TOGETHER, idea makers dance, experiment and challenge.

Remember grade school dances? Peers stood against the wall waiting for the perfect opportunity to share their moves. Or they were scared out of their minds to move. The fun always began when a courageous person decided to get on the dance floor. And it became a party when others joined.

Idea makers thrive when they have a space to DANCE with other idea people. Last year, I experienced a group of 10 social entrepreneurs sourcing financial support, partnerships, product development, potential mentors and prospective investors just among themselves. This is the power of what can happen when you don’t hold the wall and you’re courageous enough to dance with others.

I’ve seen committed people test out their idea of a dance routine, wait for the crowd to respond and refine their moves based on reactions. Because the only way to be confident that an idea is a viable solution is to EXPERIMENT and prove it is a possible solution. Prototype, experiment and refine. Having the ability to experiment and fail soft in the midst of supportive, but honest peers is invaluable. Remember, most entrepreneurs succeed because of wisdom that surfaces through failure.

Varying levels of experienced dancers challenge themselves and others to do better. Idea makers need spaces to be challenged and to CHALLENGE one another. Is your idea ethical? Does your idea actually solve a problem? Are you “the one” to actually bring a particular idea to life? It’s through these types of questions from others that idea makers learn from alternative perspectives, innovation occurs and they think deeply about their commitment to their idea.

I prefaced this list with the word “together.” And that might be one of the most important elements to remember. An African Proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

So, dance and play with your ideas in community. Challenge yourself and other idea makers. It’s within conversation, collaboration and community with others that you and your idea will thrive…for the long run.


#Plywords on Ideation :: CHARLES LEE

Ideation isn’t satisfied with ideas alone. It seeks to create clarity and a pathway for actualization. It also cares enough to invest time and resources necessary to implement well. Ideation may embrace lean, but it doesn’t compromise mission.

Ideation can be both exciting and scary. It can stay surface and non-threatening or it can challenge us to question whether it’s even worth it. Ideation can provide life-shaping insights that change our future trajectory or sober us with reality that kills the “brilliant” idea we once thought we had.

Are you ready for this? I want to believe you are since you’re still reading this!

While there is no perfect way to ideate, the following is a helpful process that we’ve used and refined over the years while working with numerous brands in multiple industries that were committed to moving their ideas to execution. Please feel free to take some or all of the process/principles to create momentum around your ideas.

  1. Frame the Challenge – Taking time to articulate, document, and frame what the challenge you’re seeking to solve for is foundational but often overlooked. Jumping to a solution before understanding the context of the problem is premature. Ask yourself questions like “What is the real problem we’re trying to solve?” or “What is the real job to be done?”

  2. See the Unseen – All of us are driven by presuppositions and assumptions about our ideas. It is important to take time to identify some of these before working towards solutions. One of the ways to uncover biases may be to bring in others who think well, but don’t work in our space day to day. Allow them to ask “basic” clarifying questions about your mission and business model. You may also want to proactively go to events outside of your industry to see how others solve problems.

  3. Diverge Away – The main goal of this element in our process is to generate lots of diverging ideas. Yes, go ahead and write down all of the crazy thoughts you and your team have on potential solutions. Make it a rule at this point to never say “no” to any idea. Keep the time limited and go at it!

  4. Converge – Once you and your team have a ton of ideas, it’s time to converge through design thinking. The main objectives are to (1) identify common threads of thinking, (2) build upon each other’s ideas with clarify questions and/or by connecting existing ideas, and (3) vote as a team for one or two ideas that are desirable, feasible, and viable (i.e., Does it make business sense?).

  5. Prototype – One of the most practical ways to test out a solution is to prototype it. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate endeavor. Whether the prototype is digital, physical, or done through role playing (e.g., customer experience), the main goal is to uncover new insights that often only come once a prototype is in place. A good prototype, whether done internally or with existing customers, will force idea refinement and iteration.  

  6. Iterate Forward – Creating a culture committed to experimentation and iteration will continue to foster and accelerate innovation. It will take a few cycles to get a process going so stay patient and keep iterating forward.

As you work through this or any other ideation process, I’d recommend that you find someone who can help facilitate this work and keep you on track to implementation. Investing time and resources in ideation can increase and accelerate innovation while keeping you focused on the mission of your business or organization.

Dream Big. Start Small. Keep Moving.


Charles is the Founder & CEO at Ideation, an idea-making company that specializes in helping brands scale their business by effectively integrating their strategic plans into day-to-day implementation. He is also the author of Good Idea. Now What?: How to Move Ideas to Execution, a practical book designed to help people move ideas to implementation.





Ideation is the act of forming ideas. Its main purpose is to move ideas from conception to implementation.

#PlyWords on Justice from Jasmine Crowe

"Justice is when the law is applied according to way it was written, as the law is written to help  people on both sides of a case. As I sit and think about this more, sometimes justice is not when the offender is given a life sentence for a crime that they have committed, but it is when the person who has committed the crime gets the help he/she needs so that they won't commit that crime again.

I think that it's an injustice that tonight 42 million people are going to go to bed hungry including 13 million children and seven million seniors. All of this while we waste 72 billion pounds of good food every year. No one should ever have to decide if food is a necessity in their household, food should be a basic right, and Goodr is working to solve this problem.

In today's society people believe that justice is when the offender gets what they have coming to them. But true justice is about helping both the victim, victim's family or even the offender  heal the hurt. Too often justice is one-sided and not equal as it relates to race and class; it's simply unjust. True justice is something that is intended to help a person. Justice is not only about keeping the law, it is respect for the rights of others, fairness and equality of treatment, the common good; it is honesty and truth in our relationships. A contribution that we can all make is to speak up for what is right, be a voice for the voiceless and ensure that our lawmakers make laws that benefit everyone and not just the elite."

-Jasmine Crowe,


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#Plywords on Justice from Debbie Wells

A personal account from Debbie Wells, Founder of Reaching Beyond Bars:

"On November 14, 2007, my life was forever changed. I received a phone call stating that my 17-year-old son had been involved in a crime that would lead him to prison. Once detained and evaluated, he was diagnosed with having bi-polar and mild personality disorder and sent to serve out his sentence in a mental health prison. Although he faced many challenges while incarcerated, there was no greater challenge than when he walked out of the gates as a free man—he was given a gold envelope with no plan of action, no medication or prescription, no help and little hope. What was supposed to be his second chance, became just another sentence.

Although my son was now in the “free world,” he wasn’t free. He continued to wrestle with his mental illness. He faced many other challenges, such as finding housing, gaining employment, and securing reliable transportation. He feared that he'd never be able to establish a stable environment for he and his daughter.

We were not able to receive any assistance, forcing me to work through the roadblocks on my own.  It was then that I remembered the faces of those around me when I visited my son during his incarceration, realizing that they too, would someday face the same challenges my son had faced. In an attempt to change this harsh reality, Reaching Beyond Bars was created.

The mission of Reaching Beyond Bars is to give both youth and adults returning home the opportunity at a fair and just second chance by providing them with the necessary resources and tools to live a self-sustaining life. With the help of our volunteers, donors, and partnerships, all returning citizens can make real strides towards success.

They say Justice is blind, but is she also deaf.  In my work, the cries of the young, the old, the poor and mentally ill go unheard.  The world does not seem fair while evil still abounds, and so those oppressed petition God to intervene on their behalf.  Justice can hardly be found amongst those charged with ruling our nation with fairness and equity. Instead we seem to be bombarded by the “system” of plea bargaining, overburdened and overpopulated prisons, and an alarming number of wrongful convictions. In America today, data shows that only three percent of those charged with a federal crime will see a jury trial.  In fact, there was no jury trial for my son when they attempted to send him away on a 10-year mandatory sentence.  Where is/was the justice in that?  

In the United States, dozens of 13- and 14-year-old children have been sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole after being prosecuted as adults. A study by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has documented 73 cases where children 13 and 14 years of age have been condemned to death in prison. Almost all of these kids currently lack legal representation and in most of these cases the propriety and constitutionality of their extreme sentences have never been reviewed.   

Some may ask, “What can I do? This is too big for one person.” Trust me, it’s not a one person job.  It will take us all.  Our responsibility as a nation is to act justly which should inspire us to CONSTANTLY speak out against injustice in forums, with friends and family, organizations embedded in this work, social media, etc.  Over criminalization, especially in the US is a liberty issue. Every American should know if they are about to break the law, and have the right to choose not to break it. Because there are so many laws, many of which are so capricious, almost everyone is ignorant of these laws on some level. The laws in most cases, vary from state to state.  For example, my son was 17 and was charged with armed robbery but didn’t have a gun. This charge carries a minimum 10 year sentence because it’s considered one of the Georgia’s “7 Deadly Sins”.  I never remembered my children coming home from school studying such “sins”.  Before there is such harsh sentencing, we citizens should demand such “sins” or “laws” be taught to us, our children, teachers, and other educational institutions. How else are we to know? There is no magic repository listing ALL the laws of the land.  Even if there were, where would one begin given the vast number of them? Most of the time, we don’t know we’ve broken a law until the hand of “injustice” comes crushing down. I’m not advocating we let those who’ve broken the law get away with such things. However, there should be a just, fair, and equitable solution. Most importantly, we MUST get back to the platinum rule which supersedes the golden one and that’s Love as God loved, have mercy when it’s in your power to do otherwise, extend forgiveness daily. This is what justice looks like to me."

Debbie Wells, Reaching Beyond Bars


#Plywords on Justice from Chelsea Sabo

“I care about Justice.” “Social Justice is important to me.” “We need to fight for justice.” Justice is a word that we throw around a lot. A word that we hear in our culture often to describe our social bent and often to make ourselves look socially relevant or to try to prove to others that we aren’t selfish or racist or intolerant. But justice is so much more than a social phrase or a cause or act of awareness.

Justice is the very thing that determines the trajectory of our lives and lives of others around us. And justice is easy to agree with and to promote when it is affecting us positively or when it allows us to point out the flaws of another. But, justice is hard to swallow when we are on the receiving end of a hard outcome. I have been living in the world of child welfare for a few years now, and I can’t tell you the amount of times, I have said things like, “well, that is unjust,” or “I want justice in this case.” And sure, the juvenile court system is hard and frustrating, but can I really say that it was the court system itself that was so unjust? In searching for this answer, among many others, I have had to take a step back and evaluate.

Justice itself is honesty, truth, fairness, and rightness. But, I have also learned that justice is not created or destroyed by the laws that govern it, but rather by those writing, implementing, and interpreting that law. Systems themselves are not flawed, because protocol and procedures can’t carry character like those that implement them can. However, I find that it is easier to blame the system, a party or a group, instead of identifying my personal role in that justice and the roles others play as well.

Doesn’t it seem crazy that a young boy at 14 years old would be brought into the courtroom in shackles for shoplifting (unarmed), be called a delinquent as an excuse for his behavior, and then hear his own mother say she didn’t want him and didn’t care what happened to him? … he was escorted back out of the courtroom to return to jail and wait until someone figured out what to do with him at the Department of Family and Children Services. Doesn’t it seem crazy that the average stay for a child in foster care is 4 years, yet, often services aren’t put in place to help parents or children until they have been in care for 2 years? None of these things seem fair or right. But, there are laws that we use to “Cover our Butts” from lawsuits, and we rely on these laws instead of valuing people. Injustice to put it simply, is when one person’s life is valued over another. And that is never ok.

Adults are not more important than children. The rich are not more important than the poor. One race is not more important than another. And bad choices may define your consequences, but they should never define your value. So, do we really want justice? Are we serious when we say this? Because if we do, then that means that we want right consequences, while still giving equal value to each person. That means we have to change our perception of justice being “getting our own way,” to fighting for everyone to equally get what is best for them as a person. Children in foster care should have justice, which is the right to a loving family, to stability, to education, to doctors, and to safety. But, their biological parents should have justice too, which is their right to good rehab and treatment plans, good doctors, education and medications, jobs, and housing. Bringing big fancy houses and apartments and businesses and shopping to an area is wonderful, but not when it is at the expense of another. Anything that values one over another and pushes out those without resource, merely because of their lack, is unjust. So, if we truly want to see justice, we need to start with ourselves first, and question how we see the world and the privileges we enjoy daily.

-Chelsea Sabo, Founder of


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Justice: A Definition with Action

There are two questions that come to mind when I think about “justice.” The first is “What is justice?” and the second is “What does justice require of us?” As such a loaded word, it’s likely that each of our visions of justice is most prominently shaped by who we are, where we are from and the kind of work that we do in the world. So I’d like to offer a vision of justice that I adopted a few years ago when working as a gardener around the city of Atlanta.

It was 2011 and I was touring an urban farming professional development program in Stone Mountain, GA. As we strolled through the garden, a small and unassuming sign caught my eye. It read, “Pay attention to what works in the garden, because what works in the garden may one day work in the world.” Upon seeing these words, my next thought was, “Well, what works in the garden?” As a gardener, I learned that everything begins and ends with the soil. I learned that biodiversity is essential to the thriving of an ecosystem. I learned that there are seasons for everything, and that sometimes you have to prune really, really good things in order to make room for the very best. I learned that when trees release their leaves each fall, they are coating the ground so that the soil can replenish itself. I learned that plants, animals, mushrooms and more all work together for the thriving of the whole. They serve one another. And as a gardener, I had the distinct privilege of bearing witness to and participating the miraculous unfolding of thriving life.

When I think about justice, this is what it looks and feels like. It looks like a garden. It looks like diversity. It looks like thriving, beauty, abundance and joy. It’s a lofty vision. But it is also a worthy one. When I think about justice, I imagine the establishing of societies, systems, projects and businesses that contribute to the thriving of all, not just a few.

So, what does this kind of justice require of us? What does it take to get to this place? I propose to you that justice, the kind that is made of diversity and mutual thriving, demands at least four things:

  1. Self-giving. Reordering the world will take generosity from each of us. It will take generosity with our time, with our belief in one another and with our resources. No one can decide for you how much is the right amount to give, but I do know that true justice is costly to us all.

  2. Truth telling. Justice requires that we tell the truth. We have to tell the truth about who we are and about the stories, good and bad, that shape our individual and collective identity. In grappling with the truth honestly, we find common ground and we find the gaps that require more of our attention.

  3. Patience. This work takes time, mostly because change and true maturity take time. Have you ever seen a large and fruitful pecan tree grove? Or have you ever given thought to the number of years it takes for fruits trees to bear a harvest. In our fast-paced, convenience-addicted society, we lose the art of waiting for the things we long for the most. Justice is one of those things that we have to work for and wait for over a long period of time.

  4. Hope. Plywood People believes that better is possible. We believe that the future is good. We also believe that a good future won’t just happen, but it will come by way of our thoughtfulness and choices. Problem solving takes intentionality, and our actions towards a better future are outward displays of the hope that we carry inside.

So this is one vision for justice as well as some thoughts on what it takes to build a more just world. This week during #Plywords, we invite you to engage the various visions of justice that emerge from voices in our community. And when one of the visions compels you, ask yourself, “What would this require of me?” knowing that a good future is built when we give ourselves to that work.  


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