Earlier this year, I joined inVision Edge as a Business Development Associate. As part of my training for my new role, I had the opportunity to attend Innovation College a few weeks ago. The College was held at the Eureka! Ranch in Cincinnati, OH. I attended with a few fellow Canadians as well as individuals from various organizations in the U.S. (you can read more about about my inVision team members' College experience here).
I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect going into Innovation College. I had watched all the prep videos and heard about the experiences of others, but it still didn’t prepare me for what was coming. Innovation College has truly changed my way of thinking. Here are just a few of my takeaways:
As a left-brained person, I am generally a linear thinker. I like to have all the facts before making a decision. Creativity doesn’t come easy to me, and I felt this would be a challenge going into the college. As I found out, it doesn’t take a creative person to come up with creative ideas. It just takes the right system and stimulus to allow the creative ideas to come out.
Often considered the father of the quality evolution, Dr. W. Edwards Deming was referenced frequently during College for his approach to systems and innovation. It made me think of my early work experiences: how often was I “set up to fail” even when I was giving 100% effort? It made sense: if an employee is giving their best without a system that allows them to succeed, they will eventually burn out and quit trying. This made me really appreciate how important a good system is in a workplace.
Our instructors got me to open my mind and learn to think differently. They did this by providing us with stimulus for creativity. For example, we were asked to solve a problem with an innovative idea. With traditional brainstorming, it’s relatively easy to come up with a normal idea to solve a problem, but very difficult to come up with something new and innovative.
The Innovation Engineering system took a different approach by providing us with stimulus to get us all thinking outside the box. Stimulus included being shown pictures of new technologies and what people have done in other countries. We were even shown phrases that describe the problem backwards. At first, these stimuli seemed irrelevant, but when we were told to relate them back to the problem, the creative juices began to flow.
In teams, we created mind maps on the white boards to help us categorize and link our ideas in a visual way. Coming from different backgrounds, the cool thing was that we all had different ideas from the same stimulus. Once we started linking together our different ideas, we were able to come up with something innovative that hadn’t been done before. Four non-creative people had just come up with an innovative solution to a problem in about a half-hour. Each group had come up with something different. It was an amazing thing to be a part of.
In many of the exercises we did, we were told to start with ideas that didn’t even seem possible; or that were crazy and actually impossible and write them on the board. This is because it is better to fine-tune a crazy idea than it is to try and expand on a boring and easy idea. We were told that stupid ideas were good and that we should try to make each other laugh with our first ideas. (Fact: People who are having fun come up with more ideas than those who aren’t.) Ground rules ensured that we were in a safe environment, and that meant that no idea was a bad idea. This made it easier to say the funny or crazy ideas that popped into my head as we went along. We would then choose our favourite ideas and present them.
College was an amazing experience and the week flew by. I’m excited that this is only the first step of my Innovation Engineering journey. Over the next several months, I’ll be working towards becoming a certified Innovation Engineering Black Belt, helping organizations across Canada make innovation a reality.
Interested in learning more about Innovation College? Connect with us!