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’

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

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 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.









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

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.  




Ambiguity and Creativity–Re-igniting the Voice of Your Innovator!

Creativity and Ambiguity

“Hindsight is always twenty-twenty. Let’s just do the best we can with the information we have.”

Imagine, for a moment, a blank piece of paper. It is much like that computer screen that appears in front of you every day challenges you to put something on it. It may be a report, a summary, a graph or chart, a poem or a picture—in other words, it could be anything. But you are faced with nothing on the screen—blankness=ambiguity. The opportunity, at the moment, is to see it as just that: an opportunity. And to ask yourself the question, what are the possibilities? So often, ambiguity creates anxiety and fear. But it’s from that release into the unknown that something spectacular can happen.

Often, in this situation, we try to decrease the ambiguity. We think about what else we’ve done before, what we’ve seen others do. What we could borrow from the previous report that we put together, or that a colleague put together, or from a best practice used by others in the industry. We try to narrow down the sense of ambiguity and create predictability or a known solution. Each of us, of course, handles this in different ways.

How comfortable are YOU, when that blank screen appears, with creating something out of nothing? Ask yourself, do I need greater predictability or structure, or can I be open to the ambiguity (the gray) that might create new possibilities?

When we run into people or situations that challenge us or ideas that we don’t immediately grasp, people we “can’t” understand, and other concepts foreign, inconceivable or counterintuitive to our accepted “norms,” we have a choice: 1) accept the ambiguity and see what comes of it, or 2) close down on it—what’s your choice?

How do you strengthen and re-ignite ambiguity in yourself and others? Here are a few ideas: Start:

  • Working with the information you have, rather than always needing and asking for more data.
  • Holding meetings without an agenda to create new ideas.
  • Asking, “How might this work?” rather than, “Here are the problems.”

The next blog–Independence and Creativity!

The Voice of the Innovator


Every innovator I’ve known or observed has had to deal with enormous challenges and, yet, they just keep moving forward—nothing seems to get in their way. What can we learn from them? There is something important here. Many of them are successful in spite of others and, in many cases, in spite of themselves. Those who we might not consider successful innovators consider themselves successful —it’s the rest of the world who is “not seeing clearly.” And, in many cases, you know, they are right.

Completing this work completes a journey for me into understanding what innovators have to teach us about ourselves. So my acknowledgement is simple—“here’s to the innovators” who jump the curbs of life, who stand-up for their ideas, who stay curious about the world, who are cynics and optimists at the same time, who never give up. We can all learn from them. I hope that everyone who reads this book can takeaway something that will make their lives more fulfilled; more creative, willing to take the risks to make it happen and become more innovative!