The Voice of the Innovator: Inspiring Story of Dr. Will Li

Innovators often have succeeded beyond the pale of ‘WE’ mortals.  We put them in bronze, read about their accomplishments with reverence, and build monuments to them.  And even though their messages are poignant, we still make change, innovation and accomplishment the realm of the exceptional, and even stop ourselves on that journey before we begin, believing that they are exceptional, but we are not. 

In the next few blogs,  you’ll read about innovators who are creative and courageous, who have experiences and words to share that will bring us back to what is possible.

As you read, consider how you are like or different from these innovators.  Their lives, work and messages about being innovators are instructional and inspirational.  I selected them because they have all worked in different fields and have made a difference in the way innovators are viewed and acknowledged. 

I asked them to address the following in my interviews with them: 

 1) What motivates you to be innovative? 

2) What messages have you received over the years about being innovative?

3) Who influenced you the most?

4) What’s one of your most innovative ideas?

5) What did you have to do to get your idea accepted? 

6) What advice would you give to other innovators? 

 Dr. Will Li—Director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, Harvard University

www.angiogenesisfoundation.com

William W. Li is president, medical director, and co-founder of the Angiogenesis Foundation. Will trained in the lab of Dr. Judah Folkman, a pioneer in the field of angiogenesis, and has been actively engaged in angiogenesis (development of new blood vessels) research and clinical development for 22 years. Under Will’s leadership, the Foundation has developed a unique social enterprise model based on international collaborations with leading medical academic centers, biopharmaceutical companies, and government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, and the Food and Drug Administration. As president, Will has testified and presented before congressional and other government panels on the impact of angiogenesis in healthcare, and lectures widely on angiogenesis-related topics before clinical, government, and industry audiences.   

Takeaways from your childhood and life?

Will in his own words….

I am very determined to succeed.  I am very independent and respect rules, but I am not afraid to challenge them. I consider myself an innovator because I’ve stepped into several different business arenas that have traditional models and are generally followed  by others, and then I’ve  altered those models.  

To understand me, you need to understand my background.  I grew up as a child of immigrants.  And as a first generation, I had a drive for success.  My mother is a pianist and artist and my father is a biomedical engineer.  I came from a structured, academic environment.  Interestingly enough, both logic and creativity were prized within my family. The nature of my education was fostered upon the ideas of discipline, success and creativity.  As I think back, I was always encouraged to speak up for myself—take risks! I don’t think people encouraged me to be a risk taker, specifically, but the combination of science and arts and the blend of the two just created a natural risk-taking in me.     

The entire Angiogenesis Foundation that I lead is innovative. The organization was born out of a very pure vision: that impartial third parties could help speed health transformation by contributing something unique –a medical revolution is dependent upon this way of thinking.  I sacrificed a lucrative clinical industry career to pursue this direction.  I make my job every day.  The thing about the Foundation is that when we were created in 1994, my idea was met with skepticism.   People felt that I was not focused enough on the disease,  but on the process.   My mentor tried to discourage me; I would destroy my career, he said.  However, another thing about me is that I’m not daunted by external diversity.   I am up to the challenge of  finding a way around it. 

We are tackling 70 different diseases at the same time at the Foundation. The argument is that if the American Cancer Society can’t tackle it, what gives me the right?  Answer: I believe others are missing the forest for the trees.  The organization itself is a social enterprise.  It has to work simultaneously with the biopharmaceutical industry, Genentech, which is a $6 billion dollar industry.  We’ve had to figure out how to work with them, but retain our status and independence.   

 Will’s advice for being innovative and stretching your innovative capacity? 

  • People and money prevent things from happening.  During the process of implementation, it has been  my experience that you need to build the right teams and have the right people externally. 
  • There are few people willing to take the risk.  People want evidence before they are willing to invest.  Your appetite is always bigger than the processes to make it happen.  I wake up in the morning and think about how to balance the enormous appetite to create new things with the mundane for a process.  
  • In my experience, being innovative makes you lonely.  Yet, it is also true that if you are successful you have people gather around you.  Nevertheless, you still have that sense of loneliness as an innovator that never goes away.  You need to be okay with being lonely. 
  • Use a combination of experimental intuition and logic; both are necessary to achieve innovation.    
  • There is a consistent thread among innovators that includes persistence, imagination and stamina. They are all required.  Dr. Folkman was a  pioneer and an innovator in the field of angiogenesis. After reading his work, I went to the University of Pittsburgh, where they developed liver transplants, the polio vaccine and other remarkable innovations that changed the world.   I camped on the chair outside of Dr. Folkman’s office and watched him go in and out of his office every day.  One day he was leaving for the day, and he looked at me and said,  “Do I have an appointment with you? “  I said, “No, but I’m the guy who wrote you 20 letters that you didn’t answer.”  He said, “I will give you five minutes, ” and that five minutes turned into 20 years!”
  • A successful innovator has to develop an ability and tolerance for stamina. This is not just any marathon; it is a triathlon—you will not only be tested against yourself but against the asphalt and the ocean.  

  

 

 

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The Voice of the Innovator: The Inspiring Story of Dr. Jeanne Bailey

Dr. Jeanne Bailey, CEO, Social Entrepreneur

As CEO for over six years at United Family Medicine, a community clinic in Saint Paul, she was described by her board chair as “compassionate and fearless.” She considers it a privilege to serve in this leadership role in an organization that provides primary care for those with limited access to health care. A true social entrepreneur!
Prior to heading up United Family Medicine, Jeanne was the co-founder of the Institute for Women Entrepreneurs at St. Catherine University, working with women to leverage ideas into opportunity.

Takeaways from your childhood and life?

Jeanne in her own words….
A girl can never have too many purses….. As a little girl, I carried several purses with me wherever I went: a little girl-sized red one holding money and gum, the usual purse things, such as an adult-sized shiny black bag filled with paper, pens and books, and sometimes a third purse, full of dolls, doll clothing and ribbon, each one devoted to my diverse little-girl interests. These full satchels symbolize my diverse interests. I did not know that some day these purses would become a metaphor for what I value most: continued growth and learning.

I’m always looking for alternative solutions—”making it so” is what I call it. If someone has a great concept or process, it just isn’t good enough to say ‘what if’ – how can we find a way to try this and see if it works? If we don’t, I grieve that we may not have checked it out. I guess I ask why a lot. When I was little I would drive with my Dad and ask questions, I’ve always had that natural curiosity. I’m really resilient too; I always see another option that we just haven’t figured out, yet. People would say I’m always hungry for information. I think that started very young, and I received very positive messages from my parents. When I went to school to be a nurse, I found the school that required the shortest amount of time and got my degree so I could do exactly what I wanted. Before I was born my mother traveled all over the state during the depression to little towns, and she would help struggling farmers by setting up offices for financial and social aid. Her sense of adventure and imagination was part of who she was. At the age of 65, she started a new career as a newspaper proofreader and recipe columnist! Dad was an inventor—probably a Dreamer on the Creatrix Assessment, but they both were clearly role models for creativity and taking risks.

I always believe there is a better way to do something. I believe there is a solution ‘out there’ and I have to find it. For me, it’s a mixture of curiosity, information and experimentation, working through alternatives, trial and error, and being sensitive to the way I work. If new ideas are not explored, I see it as a missed opportunity. I think I work on helping people see the wisdom of ‘doing it’ differently and use questions as a way to get the thinking started.
I think my favorite job was creating the Institute for Entrepreneurs at St. Catherine University (St. Kate’s). Clearly over the years, I’ve enjoyed creating new jobs, new roles, seeing a need and saying let’s do it!

Jeanne’s advice for being more innovative and stretching your innovative capacity….

• Believe that there is always a solution and you just have to find it
• As innovators, we tend to have an idea and surprise people, and then it is an uphill battle—I’ve learned over the years not to surprise people, but bring them
along and create some consensus. That is often antithetical to an innovator’s natural tendencies.
• There is always something new to learn.
• Be courageous and decide the value yourself.
• Be clear about what you contribute and help others to do the same
• Be patient, help others catch up but be clear about what you want.
• Incremental innovations may not be what you want, but are worth paying attention to.

The Voice of the Innovator: The Inspiring Story of Sarah Miller Caldicott

Sarah Miller Caldicott, Speaker and Author of  the newly released ‘Midnight Lunch’ and

and co-author of ‘Innovate Like Edison’ 

www.powerpatterns.com

A great-grandniece of Thomas Edison, Sarah Miller Caldicott has been engaged in creativity and innovation throughout her life. Inspired by a family lineage of inventors dating back five generations, Sarah began her 25-year career as a marketing executive with major brand-driven firms, including Quaker Oats and the Helene Curtis subsidiary of Unilever.

 Concerned that America was losing its innovation leadership just as the new millennium dawned, Sarah spent three years researching Edison’s innovation methods with experts at Rutgers University. She co-authored the first book ever written on the subject of Edison’s world-changing innovation methods, entitled Innovate Like Edison: The Five-Step System for Breakthrough Business Success. She is the CEO of The Power Patterns of Innovation, a consultancy which guides organizations of all sizes in applying Edison’s timeless methods today.

Takeaways from your childhood and life?

Sarah in her own words….

When I was growing up I was in the minority. It seemed like I always had different ideas from everyone else. Sometimes I voiced those ideas and other times, not.

 As one observation, it seemed like the way I approached problems and situations was a bit uncommon. I had a different take on things. In college, for example, I self-designed my own major, stepping outside the box to pursue something no one else was doing. I found I consistently saw unique connections between things that others didn’t see.

I realize now it would have been helpful to know I was an innovator. I might have approached the decisions I made a bit differently. Who knows, I might have been able to stay in corporate life? (laughing)

I can’t recall if I was ever specifically encouraged to take risks, but I was definitely encouraged to follow my interests. My family considers me the “innovative and creative” one in our family circle, perhaps because I did so many things off the beaten path. And perhaps because I’ve written a book, people say “You’ve been true to things you love – you really stayed the course.”

The most important innovation I’ve been involved in was the book on Thomas Edison’s innovation process. It involved three years of research studying Edison’s approaches. I found myself seeing intriguing patterns, making connections in his work that had not been specifically linked before.

I’m not sure if I’m like other innovators or not. My impression is that many innovators are very stubborn and don’t listen well – perhaps I’m cut of that same cloth, I don’t know! Sometimes innovators just see things they are so passionate about that they have to do them – no matter what.

 Innovators usually drive things harder than others because they are extremely interested and curious about new things. I find I like to pursue new subjects, and so did Edison – probably to a level that has not been equaled in modern history. For example, when experimenting with the light bulb, Edison was using bamboo filaments impregnated with carbon. Some of the carbon wound up on the interior face of the glass bulb. It was being thrown off the filament by the electrical current, but Edison wanted to understand why.

His findings about this process became known as “the Edison Effect,” and ultimately was logged as one of Edison’s basic research discoveries. It turns out the filament was casting off electrons as a result of interactions between the carbon and the electrical current. The carbon deposits showed up in certain patterns on the inside of the light bulb based on the shape of the filament itself. The findings from Edison’s breakthrough became the foundation of vacuum tube technology – impacting the understanding of how to selectively turn currents “on” and “off” in discrete parts of a larger process. So in a very real way, Edison was the father of modern electronics.

Sarah ‘s advice for being more innovative and increasing innovative capacity…

I find that most of my better ideas start with small insights that I write down, then expand on. I keep a notebook, review my ideas, and use a ton of Post-It® notes. My family can vouch for that! This system creates visual reminders for me about what my insights were weeks, months – even years – ago. Sometimes I believe I’ve thought of something new, and then I find I’ve already recorded something similar in my notebook. When I see clusters and patterns like that, it generally is a sign that the idea has some staying power.

For the 5% of the business population who are innovators, we need mini support groups to help us see — and articulate – the unique skill sets we have.

When selling an idea, it’s challenging to simply plop down your report and say, “Here is my idea, now you go make it profitable and successful.” Innovators need to understand that many ideas take time to break through. It’s important to scout for people with the behaviors and mindset that will connect with yours inside an organization, and then learn how to engage them and sell to them.

Successful innovators also need to understand that the ability to fulfill customer needs – rather than just a good idea in itself – provides a guide to senior leaders in what gets a “yes” or “no” decision. If you can’t articulate how your concept connects to customer needs, your chances of being heard are smaller.

Overall, I would say that innovators need to learn to present their ideas more effectively, and learn how to create a collaborative community where others can contribute to their overall activity.

Sometimes being an innovator means everything moves more slowly than you’d like. You feel like you’re making zero progress. I have a phrase for that – I call it “moving the peanut forward.” If I can see even a little turn in the peanut each day, by the end of a month, I’ve moved the peanut by a whole foot. That feels like progress! And sometimes, that’s all you need to keep motivated and continue ahead just one more day.

 

The Voice of the Innovator: The Inspiring Story of Dr. Stephen Lundin

Stephen Lundin, Ph.D., Author, Filmmaker, Educator and Entrepreneur

www.stevelundin.com

Dr. Stephen Lundin is a writer, entrepreneur and filmmaker with a rich history as a graduate level business school professor and dean. Steve is the only professor in the history of the Minnesota State College System to receive tenure and resign. He did, however, continue teaching MBA students as an adjunct professor for the next 20 years.   During his ten year stint as a filmmaker for Charthouse International he worked on a number of award winning films including the film FISH! which has been the #1 best-selling film in the world for the last 14 years. Steve has written a number of books including the multimillion best selling FISH! and the simply best-selling FISH! Tales, FISH! Sticks and FISH! for Life. His book Top Performer, A Bold Approach to Sales and Service was published in January 2007 and has been adopted by a major hotel chain and the largest big box retailer in the US. CATS: The Nine Levels of Innovation was published in January of 2009 and was quickly adopted by a medical products company. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Business School of Griffith University, teaching MBA courses in Responsible leadership, organizational change and innovation. He also serves Griffith as the Director of Executive Development and Academic Director of the Asia Pacific Management Center.

Takeaways from your childhood and life?

With age I have become more and more comfortable simply being me. I remember feeling like an outsider looking in for much of my childhood.  In 7th grade the teacher said the results of an IQ test were available and the highest score in the class was 120. I was devastated because I looked around and saw two students I was sure were brighter than me. It seems silly now but for years I was sure I was an overachiever and would eventually be found out. I never stopped to think that the fact I understood intelligence tests might be a sign of intelligence. Years later I worked up the nerve to take a test professionally administered, only to discover I qualify for membership in Mensa. I have no interest in belonging to a group that celebrates their raw IQ since it is a gift of birth, not an achievement. 

Stephen in his own words….

Innovation feels good. When I am on the creative edge, sparking, stretching for the frame that will make everything clear, I am my most vital. I know that if I can get in an innovative space that the energy will be natural, I will feel free and my life will have a quality it has when I am my innovative best. I only wish I could help everyone experience that place where ideas flow and anything seems possible.

People have always commented on my innovative nature. I don’t know where it came from but I am extremely grateful to be so. I do know as a child I watched my mother prepare contest entries. It was clear she was driven, not only to win, but to create something unique. As a result our mail was interesting. A washing machine, furniture and even a 25 foot flag pole arrived as a result of mom’ entries. The flag pole was a bit of a challenge as we lived in a tiny veterans home at the time. I think we donated it but I was 4 so I am not sure. I am sure that some of my interest in the creative world started there.

In the 1970’s I was conducting a five day management seminar for Sperry Univac where the participants got feedback, learned about management and made development plans. I overheard a lot of comments about learning these great things and then going back on the job and not being supported in their application. That was when I introduced the boss exercise. After 2 1/2 days I sent the participants back to have a conversation with the boss using a structured protocol. They returned for the fifth day with renewed energy and the word was reentry became much easier.

It all really comes down to self-confidence.  With regard to FISH, no one thought we should call the book and film FISH! but it felt like the right thing to do so I would not give in. With Top Performer I was not sure but felt that the focus should be on the Rat Catcher. I thought the title should be The Rat Catchers Guide to Sales and Service, not Top Performer: A Bold Approach to Sales and Service. I allowed myself to be swayed by the publisher and rue the day.

There were a number of other people who influenced me over the years including: Tony Buzan, CK Prahalad, Edward DeBono, Wells Hively III, David Whyte, Peter Block, Dewey Force Jr.

Steve’s advice for being more innovative and stretching your innovative capacity….

I don’t make a practice of giving anyone advice. I tell my stories and if you are provoked by one of those stories, to discover something on your own, that is as good as it gets. We live in a time when everyone seems to be asking for the bullet points and examples that will provide them security. Hog wash. I am reminded of the quote,  “If you see you path ahead of you, step one, step two, step three you know one thing for sure, it is not your path. You discover you path when you commit to the first step and everything changes”.

Make your life an experiment. In 1975 I was in Washington DC finishing The Presidents Interchange Program and my family had already returned home for the school year beginning. I decided to learn a bit more about another way of living and moved into a flop house for 4$ a night. I love to do things like that because the result is always a provocation that leads to novel thoughts.

The Voice of the Innovator: Inspiring Story of Rebecca Schatz

Rebecca Schatz, Entrepreneur and Founder of ‘The Works’
http://www.theworks.org

Go for it!

Rebecca Schatz is the founder of The Works and served as President from 1987 to 2011. The Works is a hands-on museum that makes technology, science and engineering interesting, understandable and fun for young people. Rebecca has created something out of nothing. She had a vision and a passion and combined those to change the way children experience engineering. The Works is all about inspiring the next generation of innovators, engineers and creative problem solvers. Today, Rebecca is involved with the National Science Foundation and other innovative efforts around the country.

Takeaways from your childhood and life?

My Mother said that one of my key phrases was, “I can do it by myself.” My parents did encourage me to do my own thing. I don’t know if I was born quirky or became a quirky person because I didn’t have it rubbed out of me. I always ate apple butter sandwiches and my parents just made sure there was other nourishing food around. Another thing that was influential on me was ‘Tikkun Olam’ –part of Jewish philosophy which says, “This is why we are put on this earth—to make things better.” I also remember a specific line from a play….”God says take whatever you want and pay for it”. It means to me…whatever you do is alright, but don’t expect it to come easy. This is an important message for innovators—almost nothing comes easy.

Rebecca in her own words…

Being innovative isn’t the goal. It is more about getting some thing done and doing some thing that is worth doing. Before I started The Works, I had in my mind that I wanted to push on engineering education and enhance America’s capacity for innovation. I felt strongly that engineering education can and must start with young children — and that exploring engineering can transform how we educate our children in significant and wonderful ways. But, I wasn’t a politician and I wasn’t wired to be an educator in the traditional way. I had to pick something I was passionate about and apply my skills. My thought was to start a place that could be a model of what I believed, and even if it didn’t explode it still would be an example of how I thought the world could be. There was a landmark study — the Project 2061 Technology Panel chaired by Jim Johnson from 3M — that articulated a comprehensive and deeply human vision of what engineering and technology education should look like, but no-one was doing it. So, I decided I would catalyze this.
I loved tinkering and do-it-yourself stuff when I was growing up. I began to major in engineering but I was not tough enough to survive being the only woman in the large entry-level lecture classes. There wasn’t much respect for engineering in the larger world either. Luckily, when I was in college the computer revolution took off. I wound up in that industry and moved up really fast—one of the few women in the field at the time. But, I was looking for what was next and I wandered into the fellowship office and ended up with a fellowship in Japan. I studied the underpinnings of technological innovation during the time when Japan was becoming a very serious competitor. America was overly confident — arrogant really. The Japanese were sending many people to study us, we weren’t sending anyone there.
When I returned, I was ready to do some thing else and I traveled around to see what was going on with engineering around the country. There wasn’t anything at the time that allowed you to touch and really play with machines. Frank Oppenheimer had created The Exploratorium, a museum of physics and human perception. And, Cynthia Yao at the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum had created a truly engaging, participatory place for children and learning. What they were doing was the closest thing to what I was thinking about. They had a big impact on me.
When I founded The Works I wanted to make an environment where every child would feel truly welcome and that each child could make things, learn things, build things, understand things, even just mess around. At the time, education was very book and worksheet oriented. It was all about learning facts and not oriented toward hands-on experience. As a child my best and truest moments were when I was making or doing something. Children are so full of possibility and think about it we make them sit still and hold a pencil in a certain way for long periods of time. Children need places that are truly welcoming of their individual capacity to invent and create a place that gives them an opportunity to build things and transform their world.
I have a quiet deep belief of why I did what I did and over the years reality mostly reinforced my beliefs. The Works became what I wanted it to become. Originally it was a passion pitch. People came because they thought it was cool; parents, cub-scout leaders, or teachers. It wasn’t because it fulfilled a standard. We were a niche market initially. We weren’t very well publicized, we were small and our funding was mostly from men who had started technology companies. They were engineers and understood the power and the joy of engineering; they got a glint in their eye and said something like, “yea, we need this because kids don’t build boats any more….”
Today the whole context is different. Engineering is now required in the Minnesota State academic standards at every grade level, beginning in kindergarten. National standards for elementary engineering are underway. Our audience has grown 5 fold in the past few years; our strategy can now envision nation-wide impact. Innovation never stands still; there are always new challenges and new opportunities to tackle. For instance, The Works is now a pioneer in training and inspiring elementary teachers to have children DO engineering in the classroom. We are funded by foundations and companies as well as individuals, and we’re sustainable. Our mission is more important than ever and our impact grows and grows.

Rebecca’s advice for being more innovative and stretching your innovative capacity….
“Do your homework, don’t talk crap and in the fullness of time victory will be yours…” Janet Brown—Environmental Defense Fund…..
Find other people that want it to happen and help you. If it is just you, you’ll wear your self out. What you do has to resonate with the ‘bigger world,” if it is to have an impact.
Remember the song: Know when to hold ‘em’ and know when to fold ‘em.’ You shouldn’t stop after the first attempt but you need to set some kind of limit past which you’ll move on or try something different. We have had many difficult times in the history of The Works but only once did I almost fold it and it was pretty early on—but, I got a very large donation on that day.
Take care of yourself. It can be a long haul. I don’t think I have taken care of myself like I should have. You have to have a lot of skin in the game to do what matters, but maybe I should have kept a bit more skin to myself. And one more….
Go for it! There’s nothing like the pure joy of seeing something you made happen work. Innovators really do change the world.

The Voice of the Innovator: Inspiring Story of Dr. Stuart Rose

 

Stuart Rose, Innovator of Garden Attriums

If it makes sense to me, I do it!  –Stu Rose

www.gardenattriums.com

Dr. Rose is a registered architect and a graduate structural engineer.  He holds a doctorate in organizational development, has been a professor at several major universities, and has worked for several decades as an educator and a consultant to architects, consulting engineers, and other design professionals.  Since the 1980s, he has tracked trends related to our ability to sustain life as we know it on our planet.  He’s initiated a unique pilot project of sustainable housing that provides elegant housing, but does not deplete the Earth’s resources, asking the important question, “Can truly sustainable housing compete with traditional housing?”  Dr. Rose converts concepts about sustainability into concrete, sustainable realities. 

Takeaways from your childhood and life?

I did a lot of canoe tripping every summer.  One of the first things I was taught was to always leave the campsite better than when you found it … even though you don’t know if anyone will ever be there again or will appreciate what you’ve done.  Seems like a good policy to follow in all areas of life, as well.

Stu in his own words…

If it makes sense to me, I do it.  I thought sustainable housing just has to happen.  I didn’t have any evidence that it was going to work.  But, if I believe something should be done, I’m willing to try to do it.   I know it is the people who follow a new trend, when the curve is going up who are the ones who really make the money.

What’s exciting to me is that people can actually come through the houses and experience what it feels like to live with the earth.  This is the first house to have all the pieces put together: air quality, solar power, heat, rainwater harvesting, etc.  As Zorba said, “Go out and solve the problem!” That’s what I’m trying to do.

Being an innovator requires taking risks with your idea and having the desire to solve problems by focusing on learning and discovery. People were rarely very encouraging to me.  They thought I was nuts most of the time.  I remember my first teaching job, where I taught perspectives on computers for architecture; it was very early in the development of computers for architectural design.  The class had students beating down the door to enroll.  After a few semesters, the other faculty decided the class was too popular and had it pulled from the curriculum. What I learned is, when you are going to do something different, people get their noses out of joint.  They don’t think of you as an innovator—you’re considered a threat!

The way I function is to see a problem and then do something about it.  The Garden Atriums are like that.  But I will never forget what the developer I was working with said to me: “ You do know that the houses might not sell?  You are a pioneer and you know what happens to pioneers?  They get arrows in their back.” 

Over the years, we had to work with government officials to get the property zoned and the houses built, and it was tough.  Government officials generally don’t like to take the risk with something new.   The reason I do something is to solve a problem.  If someone says that it is not going to get approved, then I ask, how do I get it approved? It seems like everything you introduce, if it is something new, people fight you. How do you cause a change to happen without so much shit being thrown at you?  You don’t back off.  If it is a good idea, it is a good idea, period!   

Stu’s advice for being innovative and stretching your innovative capacity? 

  • Understand what you are trying to accomplish and go for it. You have to know that you can shift and be flexible.  
  • Ask are there any pieces that have been done before that I could use to connect;  practice synectics which are mental patterns that lead to creativity.  (“Synectics,” by William J.J. Gordon)
  • Learn to think in analogies. This can be extremely important.  Asking the question, why didn’t it work, and what would work?
  • If you look at the universe and understand different ideas for growing and learning, you can always learn from someone who rejects you—rather than fighting it. 
  • Fear kills creativity.  If you’re going to be an innovator, you have to believe you can do it. You have to have self-confidence that you can go forward and make a difference. 

Words of advice for people who are or want to be more Innovative?

 You have to live with frustration, and tons of it.  You won’t likely be very popular, you likely can’t work in a larger organization, and you might not have many friends.  You may not make much money.  (Nikola Tesla caused more change in our world than almost anyone, but he died alone and poor in a cheap New York hotel.)  Your passion for creating something that’s truly important to you has to be that important to you.

  

  

  

   

    

 

 

 

The Voice of the Innovator–Risk-taking and Self-acceptance

Risk-taking and Self-acceptance

I feel good about where I’m going.   I don’t have any regrets!”

Intuitively, it makes sense that risk-taking and self- acceptance go together.  People who take risks are comfortable with themselves and do not fear what others think or don’t think of their actions or ideas. 

How you acquire self-acceptance and seek self-understanding and self-knowledge is an important question. That journey is often very personal and requires you to look in the mirror. This includes understanding both your strengths and your weaknesses;  what’s important to you, how you define success,  and what you are willing to give up or not give up, including people, ideas, relationships, and money.

One of the amazing benefits that truly comes from understanding yourself and what makes you tick is an increased level of self-confidence.  We often think of confidence as bravado, but real confidence is understanding who you are.

People who are very concerned about what others think are often fearful of retribution—so they do not take risks.  People who are very concerned about failing are overly cautious.  People who are not self-accepting are often perfectionists and beat themselves up if something doesn’t work out. 

The old adage rings true for those self-accepting and courageous people: They see lemons and they say ‘let’s make lemonade!”   

Children try anything. Remember when you were a child and that judgmental adult voice wasn’t there?    That ‘little one’ in all of us is often lost because we make mistakes, and adults and other kids criticize us and call attention to what we did wrong.  We so often look for the ‘critical.” When we receive nine points on our paper or on our performance assessment, with one point off for something we could improve on, what do we tend to focus on? The one point for needing improvement! 

Three ways you can re-ignite self-acceptance in yourself: 

  • Look for the good in a situation
  • Believe a mistake is a mistake and not a life-altering event- ALL THE TIME!
  • Celebrate your successes and dwell on what you can do, not on what you can’t.