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 Rebecca Schatz

Rebecca Schatz, Entrepreneur and Founder of ‘The Works’

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.