PART ONE: ONCE UPON A TIME, WE WERE ALL INNOVATORS
Once upon a time, we were all innovators. We came up with new ideas every day. We created worlds of make-believe, with imaginary friends and stories that could take us to new places. But along the way, something happened to that little innovator—that child in all of us. To find it again requires that we re-ignite that inner child. What do you think, doesn’t this picture say it all?
Let’s begin with a story—a story that should resonate with each and every one of us.
It was a Monday morning, and a little fifth-grader named Alex had worked very hard over the weekend on her Solar System project. She was so excited to share it with her class. Off she went that morning, songs swirling around in her head about Venus, Pluto and Jupiter, songs she had written herself for each planet. This was such a fun project, she thought, and she was so excited about sharing it. She wasn’t the first to present, she was fourth. The projects presented before hers were PowerPoint presentations, and it was clear parents had helped her classmates put together these very factual reports on the Solar System. But Alex was proud of her unique approach, and her parents hadn’t helped her.
When the teacher called her to the front of the room, she went proudly, wearing a colorful costume of silk scarves (she had seen Martha Graham, the inventor of Modern Dance, do that), so that when she moved the scarves moved with her, a visual depiction of movement in the universe. Alex twirled around the room, singing about Mercury, the ‘Morning Star,’ and then Venus, ‘Earth’s Sister,’ and then on to Mars, the ‘Red Planet.’ She had put a lot of work into each song, and she was very proud of her work.
But as Alex twirled and sang, she noticed a great many giggles and whispers throughout the class. At one point the teacher stopped her and asked everyone to be quiet while she finished. But Alex didn’t want to finish anymore, and her presentation became quieter, duller, uninteresting to the class and even to herself. When she was done, she crept back to her seat and remained quiet for the rest of the day. In fact, she remained quiet for a very, very long time after that.
We all have a story like that, don’t we? The question is, what does a story like that do to our future? It causes us to lose that creative and imaginative flame that burns so brightly when we are children.
Think back to when you were a child. When you were a child, didn’t anything seem possible? Wasn’t everything amazing?
Didn’t ideas flow, didn’t everyone get excited about new things to do and new ways of doing them? One friend would say, “And then we could do this,”and then another friend would say, “And then would could do that,”—always building on each other’s thoughts.
Weren’t you thrilled to get up in the morning as a kid? And didn’t you want to stay up at night, afraid to go to bed because you might miss something—especially in the summer?
What happened to that child? What happens to so many of us during life’s journey?
Well, guess what? That child is still there—he or she just got lost for a while, that’s all!
So, how can you get that child’s innovative spirit back?
You start by believing in YOU, again. You start by believing that you ARE creative and that your innovative spirit can be ignited once more. You look for role models and mentors who believe in you. You begin to take risks with your creative ideas again. That’s what innovation is—Creativity (imagining new ideas) and Risk taking (having the courage to share that idea—even when it is really hard).