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.

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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.

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!

Once upon a time we were all innovators

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?

Source: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-to-Embrace-Your-Inner-Child-Sandra-Magsamen

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).

JB