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

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.










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