Posts Tagged ‘Innovation’


Innovation…in Government?

February 15, 2010

Last week at the Opening Session Retreat, Larry Keeley, Minnesota-born innovation guru now residing in Chicago, posed the following question to members of the State Legislature:

“Is the pace of the changes that you in state government are proposing, debating and achieving faster or slower than the pace of change in the lives of your citizens?”

It got the attention of the audience, and that of the Strib’s Lori Studevant who wrote a followup column that hit home to me.

Studevant painted a picture of the Minnesota Legislature as one stuck with jurisdictions of the 19th century, structures of the mid-20th century, funding formulas from the 70s and tax fights of the 1980s and then posed the relevant question for me…”Can a Legislature in the 21st Century still be timely, relevant, creative – and most desirable of all, effective?”

Over the last six months, I have posed similar questions about national government and media, business and their customers in general, event designers and producers and their clients specifically, and have wondered about organizations to which I belong and their membership bases. So I eagerly scanned the article for more insight.

Keeley points out that one gains greater “innovation competence” by remaking one’s decision-making process. Decisions should be based on a disciplined analysis of problems and opportunities – a “exercise quite different from partisan positioning, orchestrated public hearings and theatrical floor debates”

Know your strengths…discern what’s ahead in those areas…build incentives into financing systems…enhance the customer experience…encourage new processes…junk old structures when they get in the way of results…don’t make decisions based on anecdotes or arguments of a few vocal interests…research and use the experience of those that have succeeded.

These are familiar arguments that pertain not only to government but to all that we do. Think about it.

Put another way, let me ask you – is the pace of the changes we in the meetings and event world are proposing, debating and achieving faster or slower than the pace of change in our client lives and in the lives of their target audience?



January 11, 2010

An OP ED in this morning’s paper, aimed at taking an honest look at Afghanistan situation ended with a real thought jogger:

We are becoming very good at uncovering what went wrong—on 9/11, in Iraq, at Tora Bora, on Christmas Day 2009. We are not good at figuring out what the rapidly evolving terrorists who hate us are planning next.

That summary of the “what”, with little thought spent as to the “why” and the “what next” seems to me to be systemic throughout our world today. We focus on hind-sight, past experience, the proven truths of the 20th century and self-righteously make judgments in the context of our “glorious” past rather than the future – let alone the present.

This brought me immediately back to the Harvard Business Review “Spotlight on Innovation” I wrote about in my Dec 13, 2009 blog. Just a month ago, I made a commitment to reorient and look to the future…trying not to protect the status quo and to move forward to embrace a mission for change that would allow me to take risks and give me permission to make mistakes along the way.

I’ve spent most of the intervening month battling a lengthly illness, snow, ice, and cold, doctor appointments and an out-patient surgery. So have spent very little time figuring out how I was going to accomplish this change in thinking and move away once and for all from the tendency to protect the good accomplishments that have come before and focus on what lies ahead.

Despite minimal progress, I remain committed to this however, and think it is a worthy goal, not just for me personally, but for our industry, for our politicians and pundits, for our state, and for our American life. So I am recommitting to Associating, Questioning, Observing, Experimenting and Networking in order to improve my Innovative Abilities to better prepare for life in the 21st century.

Future success will be easier, I think, when there are more fellow travelers on this pathway.



December 13, 2009

There are those that recognize my creativity and think of me as right-brained. And there are those who know me for process and financial acumen and think of me as totally left-brained. I have always struggled with what might be amiss that I seem to have moments throughout my life when I demonstrate strengths in both; confusing those around me because all of a sudden I do not “fit” in the category in which they have placed me.

For years, I have bristled at those that use the terms creativity and innovation interchangeably. To me, creativity was just an innate ability to come up with something different; while innovation was the ability to apply that creative idea to meet an objective and accomplish a purpose. So when clients did not praise our “creative ideas”, I was usually the lone wolf preaching that no, the client wasn’t the problem, we had somehow missed the mark. For most of my life, that has been met with blank stares and if anyone agreed, it was only to humor me or to get me to shut up!

So when I saw the December issue of the Harvard Business Review and its cover advertised this issue was a “Spotlight on Innovation”, I bought it, thinking – finally I am going to be vindicated and my way of thinking validated.

And with that, a whole new way of thinking opened up before me!

Innovators engage both sides of the brain as they leverage the five discovery skills to create new ideas…creativity is connecting things…Innovators question, observe, experiment and network. Then they associate those four patterns of action to cultivate new insights. And best of all, this is not necessarily an innate skill – it can be developed and strengthened with practice. Innovators question, observe, experiment and network more than typical executives because they are motivated by two common themes- they actively desire to change the status quo rather than accept the tendency to prefer an existing state of affairs and they embrace a mission for change which makes it easier to take risks and make mistakes.

Wow. All that in the first article! I’m not sure I will have enough time to accomplish all the things I have just added to my “to-do” list that will lead me to become an innovative entrepreneur, but today, I shall start down that path to see what I can learn.