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Assumptions of Innovation

Posted by Schuhbox Mar 26, 2017


                                                        © Walt Disney Studios



Innovation is Magic…Right?


In the short animated film, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mickey Mouse assumed the role of the sorcerer’s apprentice. The introduction to the film told the story of an apprentice who, being ambitious and bright, decided he would start practicing the Sorcerer’s best magic formulas before learning how to control them.


One day the sorcerer asked his apprentice to carry water to fill a cauldron. The apprentice had a brilliant idea to use the sorcerer’s magic to bring a broom to life to carry the water for him. At first, everything worked out great, however the apprentice forgot the spell that would stop the broom from carrying the water. He soon discovered that he had started something he couldn’t predict and things quickly got out of control.


It seems many companies today think that innovation is magic. To be honest when companies use emerging technologies correctly in their product development, the results can seem magical. Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, some companies believe that if they just use the magic of innovation to create the next generation of products it will solve all of their problems. However, as the apprentice discovered if you don’t have a good understanding of innovation things can quickly get out of control. Before a company jumps feet first into innovation, the organization should be aware of the assumptions about innovation and drawbacks.  For example, according to Doblin, research shows that less than 4 percent of innovation projects succeed. Why are the failure rates so high?


96 % of Innovation Projects Fail


With a failure rate of 96 percent it should be apparent that very few organizations know how to make the process of innovation a reliable and repeatable practice. “More often than not, companies that stumble in their conquest of innovation have failed to adopt practices that encourage collaborative ideation and development,” according to an article by Deloitte University Press entitled “How to Innovate the Silicon Valley Way”  I believe one of the key reasons companies fail has to do with their assumptions of innovation.


The 4 Assumptions of Innovation


There are a lot of assumptions that people have surrounding innovation but for this article I would like to discuss four basic assumptions put forth by Vijay Kumar in his book 101 Design Methods:


  1. Innovation as it is currently practiced is good enough.
  2. Innovation is for executives.
  3. Innovation is for practitioners.
  4. “Innovation Planning” is an oxymoron.


Innovation as It is Currently Practiced is Good Enough


Kumar suggests that, innovation as it is currently practiced is good enough, is a common assumption and the reality of the situation is that, “current innovation practices don’t reliably deliver breakthroughs.” I believe this has to do with the way companies approach the product development process. More often than not our current processes are designed to provide incremental features to existing products. Those processes break down when companies attempt to explore innovative solutions to undefined needs in rapidly changing marketplaces. Due to the ambiguous nature of opportunities in emerging marketplaces; existing tools need to be evaluated based on the need that is trying to be fulfilled. In short, if the only tool you have in your tool belt is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.


Innovation is for Executives


Another assumption is that innovation is for executives. This assumption relates to the commonly held belief that executives are primarily responsible for the strategy and direction a company takes therefore they must own innovation initiatives as well. In truth, I have found it is the people doing the day-to-day work that often develop innovative ideas with the products they are developing. However, as Kumar states, “they need structures and processes to help them plan and define innovation.” When a team has made the decision to move forward on an innovative initiative, it must be defined with a well thought out plan on how to bring the product to the market place.


Innovation is for Practitioners


While the seed of innovative ideas often resides with the marketers, designers, researchers and engineers that develop the products for a company; to be successful practitioners must work with executives. According to Kumar, “The designers and technologist developing new offerings must not only know how to innovate on a tactical level, they must also comprehend the strategic objectives and wider implications of their work.” For a product to be truly innovative in an emerging marketplace, practitioners and executives must both have an understanding of the strategic and tactical business decisions. They must work together to develop a plan.


“Innovation Planning” is an Oxymoron


Product development often involves documents detailing the business requirements, specifications and objectives outlining the scope, measures and criteria of success. The commonly held belief that innovative products are produced purely out of “out-of-box thinking” which leads to the final assumption of “innovation planning” is an oxymoron. Very few companies can afford to invest large amounts of time and money without a measure of control. For companies to be innovative, they must develop new and structured approaches.


Innovation isn’t magic, it’s a discipline. Asking a product team to be innovative without having the proper tools and processes in place will more than likely result in failure. In the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mickey Mouse was able to get the broom started to carry water but didn’t have a plan in place for the broom to stop. When the broom filled the cauldron to capacity and it began to overflow, the apprentice thought he could stop the broom by chopping the broom into pieces. His effort failed and he only created more instances of the broom which then proceeded to fill the cauldron further escalating the problem.


The apprentice was saved only through the intervention of the Sorcerer. The lesson learned is that before you move forward on an innovative initiative have a plan or you may find yourself in the position of having to hire an expensive expert to clean up the mess. As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” 


Quite a few years ago I wrote an article about Timeline secrets in version 5 of Captivate: Tiny Timeline Tidbits

Since the change in the UI with Captivate 8, the default (newbie) User Interface minimizes the Timeline panel, which is a pity IMO. Some of the questions I read on social media and forums, are at least partially due to that decision to hide the Timeline:

  • 'I want to get rid of the timeline, don't need it at all'
    (user thinking that Captivate is just a Powerpoint clone).


  • 'Why is the timeline not showing the whole project, so user unfriendly'  
    (user supposing Captivate is a mini video application)

  • 'Why do I see all the objects on the slide, even when the playhead is in a part where some objects shouldn't be visible, not intuitive' 
    (user with  an Animation background)

For those reasons I suspect it is "Time" to refurbish that old article, to explain the ins and outs of the Timeline panel with its latest additions like CPVC-projects and -slides, Effect Timelines, Drag&Drop, etc.

The Timeline panel, in close collaboration with the Timing Properties panel is at the core of the Captivate application. Personally I'm persuaded that it should be a top priority in the skillset of any Captivate developer, whatever its level.

Since I cannot offer you a 'digestive' (limoncello, grappa, schnapps, single malt...) I will split up this (important) subject in several articles. At this moment you are reading the introduction. Four more posts will treat topics: 'Timeline in a cpvc-project', 'Timelines in a cptx-project', 'Why/how to pause a timeline?' and 'Color coding and Shortcut keys for Timelines'.

Why do you need a Timeline?

Many users talk about the output of a Captivate project as being 'a movie'. Although this is only completely true when the Captivate file is published to mp4 - a video format, the word 'movie' indicates well that Captivate is related to video applications like Premiere Pro and After Effects.

No one will doubt the importance of 'time' for video. A movie has a playhead, which moves at a certain speed. That speed is usually indicated by the term 'frames per second', or FPS.

Frames remind me always of the traditional way of producing cartoon movies: each frame, drawn by a graphic artist, was slightly different from the previous and the next frame. By playing those frames at a certain speed,  movement could be simulated: the slowness of our eye/brain makes it possible to see fluid movements from those frames.

Captivate has two types of 'raw' (editor mode) files: the cptx-files (slide-based) and the cpvc-files (less-known, Video Demo files). Both types have a Timeline panel but with some differences, as I will try to explain in the second and third posts. Let us start with those features that can common to the Timeline in any Captivate project.


Common features

You can either read the following text, or discover this interactive Captivate movie (scroll to the first image which is clickable).

Some items are available in all Timeline panels: for cptx and cpvc projects:

  1. Contrary to some video or animation applications, the Timeline ruler in Captivate is always in Time units (seconds), cannot be changed to frames (look at the horizontal ruler in the top of the Timeline panel). The smallest increment in the timeline is 0,1 seconds. With a default rate of 30FPS (which can be changed) 0,1seconds = 3 frames
  2. The Playhead is represented by a red rectangle. When you use the play button in the control panel (see 4), you'll see its movements. You can also drag the Playhead to a certain position on the timeline. The size of the rectangle is bit different between a cptx and a cpvc project as you can see in the screenshot.

  3. In the first column of the panel, on top you find the Eye button, and each track (horizontal line in the panel) in the Timeline has a (blue, filled with orange) dot under this button. See the screenshots:
    When clicking the Eye button on top of the column, all objects in all tracks will be hidden on the stage. This is only meant for editing reasons, it will not affect the published course.To hide items after publishing you need to click that 'other' Eye button in the Properties panel of the objects (hidden in Output). When clicking on a dot under the Eye button, next to a track, all objects on that track will be hidden. In the exampled on the screenshot, the second tracks from the top have been hidden.

  4. Next to the Eye button is a Lock button, also with dots next to each track. When you click the button itself all objects on all tracks will be locked: not available for selection nor for editing properties. However, if you click a dot next to a track, there are two states. On the first click only size and position will be locked. In that state you can still select /style the objects. The blue Lock icon is surrounded by 4 arrows, as you can see in the screenshot: for the cpvc it is the track immediately above the Video/Audio track, for the cptx project the uppermost timeline. Clicking twice on a dot results in full lock: no selecting/editing is possible. This is the case for the uppermost Objects track in the cpvc-screenshot and for the image I_topics in the cptx project. Watch the different look of the lock icons.

  5. The Control panel at the bottom of the first column (see screenshot above) has the classical (video) buttons:  'Move Playhead to start', 'Stop', 'Play', 'Move Playhead to the end'. Play and Stop can also be activated with the space bar if the timeline panel is active.
    Warning: Play Slide under the button Preview has the same function as Play in this control panel. Although it is under the Preview button it is NOT a preview at all! It is just meant to be used for editing, will not show how the slide will look after publishing. This is a common misunderstanding.
    The last button on the control panel: 'Audio' is a toggle, will mute/unmute Audio when watching using the Play button. Like the Eye button, this will not affect audio when publishing. The state of this button will apply to all open projects.

  6. In the second column at the same vertical position as the control panel described under 6 and the horizontal scrollbar, you'll find 4 tiny icons in all normal slides (they have no sense for the Master slide which has no real duration)
    1. Hourglass icon: indicates the location of the playhead from the start of the track; its tooltip is 'Elapsed Time'; this indicator is always available, even when no track nor object is selected.
    2. Vertical line + right arrow (Selected Start Time) will only have a value when a video clip or a static object is selected; it will indicate the start time of the selected video/object. In the screenshot the Smartshape on top is selected.
    3. Vertical line + right arrow + vertical line (Selected duration) will show the duration of the selected clip/object, is only available when a video/object is selected on a track.
    4. Chrono icon: Total duration of the slide

      The Zoom slider to the right of this total duration,  allows the timeline to zoom in/out.


When trying to help Captivate users, I often bump into confusion between themes and templates. Same confusion can be found in many training schedules and books. There has been a lot of evolution in Captivate since versions, slowly but steadily. Those are not the big hype features that were emphasized everywhere. My blog fans know that I often appreciate more the hidden gems, which help any developer to save time and frustration. This article will explain how I am creating custom Themes, and also why I am using Templates a lot less than in earlier versions of Captivate (before version 6).

Theme versus Template

The goal of a Captivate theme is to keep a consistent design throughout your project. It can be 'applied' to any project, even after creation. Although most themes will be created for a certain resolution, when designed carefully it is not necessary to apply it only to projects with the same resolution. When you apply a well designed theme to a project, the 'look' will change immediately and you'll not have to edit the design a lot afterwards. A theme is saved in a file with extension cptm. You can have themes for a normal (blank)  or for a responsive theme. Captivate 8 and 9 both have several themes in the box, most of them being responsive themes. They show up as thumbnails when you click on the Big Button 'Themes'. Those Captivate themes are stored in the Public Documents, under the subfolder 'Layouts' of the 'eLearning Assets', at the same level as the Theme Colors palettes.

You can store custom themes in this folder or wherever you want. The Thumbnails view (under Themes button) has a Browse button which allows you to navigate to any folder. I will mostly save a custom theme in the project folder when working for a client. But you see in the screenshot that I have a custom theme (CP8Theme) in the default folder. That folder is a copy of the original Layouts folder in the Gallery under the Captivate installation folder. If you ever have messed up one of the themes in the Public documents, you can restore it from that original folder. If you delete the whole Layouts folder in the Public documents, while Captivate is closed, on restarting the application a new copy of the original folder will be installed in the Public documents (see also my article: Keep your Customisation).

To save a theme you need to use the Themes menu, not the big button 'Themes'. Use the option 'Save Theme as' if you started from an existing Captivate theme.

A template in Captivate has to be chosen before you create a project. You have to use the option File, New Project, Project from Template. This means that a template needs to have exact the same resolution as you want for your project. As for a theme, there is a difference between a template for a responsive, and one for a normal (blank) project. A template file has the extension cptl. When you create a project from a template, it will get the normal extension cptx. You can edit a template, and that will the only reason why you would save it again as a cptl. It is also possible to create a template from a normal cptx-file with the option 'File, Save As'. There is no 'reserved' folder for templates, Captivate has no included 'templates'. The term is often wrongly used: most Captivate 'templates' that you can find on the web, are just cptx-projects, not templates in the Captivate language.

When a template is saved, the used theme, preferences etc are saved with the template. However you can always apply another theme later on.

Components of a Theme

It is rather important to know what exactly will be saved in a custom theme. . Remember: if you ever want to use that theme in a responsive project, be sure to create the theme in such a project. I will list up the components in the logical sequence to be followed when editing or creating a custom theme :

1. Theme colors palette

The start point for design consistency in a project is guaranteed by the consequent use of a Theme, which starts with the creation of a palette with 10 colors that will be used for object styles, master slides, skin, and within learning interactions. I have written some articles about the creation of a Theme colors palette:  Colorful 2015  and   Theme Colors. Beware: it is no longer possible to save an ASE file with Adobe Color (as described in the first article): that means that the Swatch Manager is not very useful anymore. My recommendation is to ignore the Swatch Manager and focus on the Theme Colors Palette, which is available in any Color Dialog box.

When saving a theme (using the Themes menu), the used theme colors palette will be saved with the same name. In the mentioned articles you'll find a way to save a theme colors palette independently from a theme as well. The saved document is a XML-file.

2. Object Styles - Object Style Manager

Most design-oriented applications have a work flow for creation and use of styles (Word, InDesign, Framemaker). All experts and good trainers will tell you to use styles, and to avoid overridden styles. Captivate is no exception in that world: it has a great Object Style Manager to be found under the Edit menu (or by using the the shortcut key SHIFT-F7). Object styles can be saved individually, have the extension cps, only useful in case you want to export/import such an individual style. In most use cases you'll save all the object styles necessary for a project in a custom theme, no need to export/import styles anymore as was the case before themes appeared in Captivate.


If you are working on a responsive theme: first define the breakpoint views you want in the theme, before launching the Object Style Manager. In the styles you will be able to define the look for the breakpoints that are available in the project.

Make some decisions about which objects you'll be using in the theme as well. Just an example: if you prefer using shapes instead of captions for feedback messages, capture messages etc you do not need to change all the caption styles. A similar situation exists for normal buttons vs shape buttons.


Some tips:

  • Use only colors from the palette defined in Step 1.
  • Do not hesitate to change one of the (grayed out) styles between brackets [Default...]. You can overwrite those styles, since you are working on a custom theme. Those are the styles that will be applied immediately when you insert an object. Another approach is to clone a style and set it as Default style. The problem is that you'll end up with tons of custom styles, which makes selecting the proper style in dropdown lists not easier. That is why I always change existing default styles.
  • For buttons: the InBuilt states Rollover and Down are available together with Normal  for change in the OSM, do not forget to check/edit those states. This is valid for Text Buttons, Image Buttons and Transparent buttons.

  • For shapes: you cannot define a default style for text and another default style for buttons (too bad), but any shape style that you define should include InBuilt states (Normal, Rollover, Down) because any shape can be converted to a button.

  • Quizzing objects are in a separate category. Quiz buttons cannot be replaced by shape buttons (yet), but you can define an individual object style for each quiz button. Feedback captions can be replaced by shapes.
    Feedback captions and shapes not always use theme colors in the default Themes included with Captivate. Be careful: if you want to have consistent colors in your project, you'll need to check those styles.
  • It is not possible to define real Effects in an Object style. Only the 'old' Transitions can be defined.

3. Master slides

The Object styles defined in step 2 - at least the default styles - will immediately be applied to the objects on the Master slides.  If it doesn't look well, you can edit the object style and redefine it, while working on the objects in the Master slides (It can be done with the Properties panel). Be sure to make all added objects responsive (check all the breakpoint views) on the master slides.
Each theme needs at least 6 master slides (Blank Master slide, 4 Quiz master slides and a Score master slides), besides the main master slide, but you can create as many master slides as you want. You can add different type of placeholders on master slides, but be careful with the 5 master slides for Quiz: the embedded objects (without individual timeline) have a lot of functionality built in!


Some tips

  • Use the new Rulers and Guides to assist you when designing master slides: check this post Guides Rule!
  • If you plan to use the theme for software simulations: keep a real Blank master slide, because it is used both for software simulations and for Powerpoint import. You don't want those slides covered up with other stuff.
  • Remember that shape buttons can be used on master slides, they can have actions. This can be a big time saver for custom buttons like the ones from these posts: Toggle buttons   and Replay slide button
  • Do not forget to label the master slides


4. Skin


Use the theme colors palette to customize the skin: playbar, borders and Table of Contents. You can even insert a logo on the TOC and eventually custom expand/collapse icons.5. Recording defaultsThis is only necessary for themes (also) to be used for software simulations. Although you have set up Default object styles in step 2, you still have to indicate which styles have to be used when capturing simulations. Just one example:

  • Create a default style for the highlight box in step 2: with a big bright red stroke and outer fill. Set it to display as default highlight box style.
  • Open Preferences, Recording, Defaults and check the default Highlight box style: it will still be set at the original default style in the original theme. Bit annoying, but it also allows you to save two different sets of object styles within a theme: one for normal slides, and one for software capture slides.

Do not forget to save the theme (using the Themes menu)!

Do you need a Template?

I ask this question very often and everywhere: with all the design power and flexibility of a custom theme, why would you still need a template? Before themes existed, I used templates to be able to reuse variables and advanced actions (see: Template for reusing script). With the present version of Captivate, we have shared actions which I store in a separate project to be used as external library in any project. Variables, used in those shared actions, get copied automatically when the shared action is dragged into the Library of the new project.  When you copy an object, that triggers an advanced action, the action will be copied along when pasted into another project.

I used templates to have footnotes on each slide, pointing to the name of the project, showing the slide number and the total amont of slides. But now you can put them on master slides, using system variables or user variables that can be populated later on.

When would I use a template in Captivate 9? For courses that have several modules, where you want to have some slides in common, maybe have custom navigation/control buttons that cannot be put on the master slide, but need to be timed for the rest of the project. I would rarely use it to have placeholder slides, unless some team members need to have that assistance. Lot of placeholders have fixed object size, which can just be annoying. If you do have a lot of advanced actions (maybe variables), that cannot be replaced by shared actions, identical entries in Project Info, variables not included in shared actions: those would be situations where I would think about creating a template.


I hope this post did clarify the difference between a theme and a template. If you ever see somewhere my question 'Do you need a template', this will no longer be a mystery, right?

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