Organizational Brainpower for Innovation

What if you took one risk to lead a change that would improve a core practice where you work? Could that move set innovation in motion across an entire organization?

On Saturday at an RIT annual event, I spotted 5 questions about innovation that could transform indifference and lead organizational growth. At the Innovation Festival, novelty appeared to spring up at several junctures, and  I captured a few snapshots while moving among young innovators.

Interestingly, I’d just read Seth Godin’s popular post on why higher education organizations meet with inevitable melt downs. Over a lifetime working with brain based change, I’ve grown convinced that innovative higher education can still lead us into the next era. But if Seth’s right, and I fear he is correct, what would it take to move more entrepreneurial minds and increase genius opportunities, on a university campus?

Often we hear people speak of innovative possibilities – and the word innovation appears  – in some form or other – daily in social media commentaries.  Sadly though,  on  a few  occasions only,  do we encounter glimpses of intellectual novelty operating within successful organizations.

RIT’s festival pinpointed organizational innovation in 5 missed linchpins:

1). How do successful innovators reach across differences to invent together? Organizations that look to land a fast fix or play politics, rarely bridge isolated silos of discipline, culture, gender or beliefs. It takes involvement from an institute’s top leadership, a willingness to invest time, and talent within teams that come from many sectors of society. Wonderfully creative ventures at RIT could have melded ideas from many departments had the networks been available for more mental cross-pollination. People possess multiple intelligences in different mixes that contribute to collaboration.

2). How do organizations move past lethargy to cultivate curiosity? While tenure or seniority tend toward inertia in some workplaces, innovative leaders sometimes stir interest out of organizational apathy. Using this same format, what if all organizations, in ways that  RIT campus engaged in an innovation festival, celebrate innovation annually? At the MITA International Brain Center – participants create an innovative design from lessons learned, and then engage others in a Knowledge Celebration which somewhat resembles the RIT festival.

3). What kind of roadmap does innovation across an organization require? In settings where I see leaders running on treadmills, and many employees gaining no ground, pieces of the organization’s overarching plan appear to be missing or disjointed. The opposite is also true. Wherever you spot people linking new ideas successfully across departments,  or producing innovative ventures that draw from differences, you also see an overarching network. Interconnected highways and bridges, clearly marked to welcome new people, and structured to accommodate diverse ideas.

4). How do innovative organizations reboot creativity rather than default to cynicism? Leaders who risk movement forward, also risk criticism that gravitates to most change agents, like iron filings to a magnet. Innovative organizations simply prize risk-taking more than reward people for routine rituals. When innovative plans are created collaboratively and presented as an incremental pathway forward, people tend to jump on board for proven results.  That creative leap tends to launch a track record for sustainable innovation. Nothing stops toxins within cynicism from stomping out new ideas, like innovations that spark a finer way forward.

5). Where does innovation fit into sacrosanct organizational structures? The opposite of renewal is to regress, and regression creeps into daily rituals like chaff  clings to wheat. In contrast, people find passion to create when they are part of the innovative process of a robust organization. Creative minds rarely toss more talent into the mix by accident though. First, leaders and their reports determine what sacred cows must go, in order to open new segues for an entirely different outcome.  Then, a cutting edge vision,  transforms new neuron pathways forward for all those involved. Where does  such potent innovation start?

Simply risk to change  one organizational problem that found you venting recently. Could that movement forward set mind-bending  innovation in motion across an entire organization? Or could it trigger an ingenious renewal move across our nation?

The RIT’ Innovation Festival showed brilliantly how aha moments ignite innovative change, as you’ll hear in live interviews below.

1). Listen to Dr.  Jon Schull tell how arts and science came together at RIT’s Innovation Festival –  on Studio 86.

2). Hear Imagine RIT Festival as RIT President, Dr. William Destler tells his side of the Innovation story, and especially note his strong support for right brain and left brain collaboration.

3). Catch Dr. Barry Culhane,  share news about the 35,000 people who stopped by, and the 2000 students and faculty who ran the event.  Hear how RIT journalism students caught live news during the event.

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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset

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3 thoughts on “Organizational Brainpower for Innovation

  1. Scene

    It’s exciting that we we can also incorporate new technologies for those dynamic exchanges, and yet they do not automatically bring cross-pollination, or integrating different perspectives, I find – unless there are tone skills tossed into the mix to accommodate these differences in ways that also build goodwill.

  2. eweber Post author

    Javier, thanks for your kind words about this post and I agree that it is great to find many aspects you are addressing too.

    It’s exciting that we we can also incorporate new technologies for those dynamic exchanges, and yet they do not automatically bring cross-pollination, or integrating different perspectives, I find – unless there are tone skills tossed into the mix to accommodate these differences in ways that also build goodwill.

    Daniel Pink is right on, money alone is not the best motivator to engage in creative problem-solving thinking. Research continually finds that to be true and yet we’ve placed money at the center in many organizations.

    Would you agree that teams can contribute to that immediate measurement of progress, through self and mutual reflection tasks that track progress against solid criteria negotiated.

    Thank you for your wonderful additions to this post, Javier, you inspire us all to take another step forward in the direction of improvement.

  3. Javier Munoz

    Hi Ellen,

    I enjoyed your post and it is great to find many of the aspects we are addressing in our work.

    My objective in Just Action is exactly what you summarize in this post. We have to start from what we have known for ages. Like Confusius said “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand” This is the objective of “Serious Games” get everyone to take action!

    Now, we can also incorporate the new technologies to create the “space” for dynamic exchanges for cross-pollination integrating different perspectives. The current online social behavior helps since it is more natural to incorporate the same dynamics in an organization.

    The third aspect is to give a sense of purpose that is well communicated in the team and that is meaningful. I think the innovating mind is more prolific when there is a powerful driver. As Daniel Pink suggests, money alone is not the best motivator to engage in creative problem-solving thinking.

    The fourth aspect is to give teams an immediate measurement of progress. This is a key objective because it drives coherence into the exchanges showing the team’s commitment and ability to execute.

    Thank you for your post.

    Javier Munoz

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