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Innovation Engineering College: What did I learn?

November 9, 2015

More than I thought possible.

If you've been following us on LinkedIn or Twitter, you know that inVision Edge was the proud host of the very first Canadian Innovation Engineering College held here in Winnipeg, MB at the end of October. I was fortunate enough to attend as a student, on a mission to get my Innovation Engineering Blue Belt. Doug Hall, the founder of Innovation Engineering asks participants a question each day: “What did you learn?” My answer has as much to do with how I learn as it does with what I learned.

inVision Partner Wendy Ferris, herself an Innovation Engineering Black Belt, cautioned me about the learning process in College beforehand: “Embrace the X,” she said. “You’ll have to forget about perfection, about getting it right the first time. Focus on learning.” Hmmmm… she must know me well. I like to get things right – the first time. I’m not a perfectionist, but I do get satisfaction from a job well done.

The last time I was in an intense educational environment I was a university student. When I think back to those days, there was a lot of memorization involved. There had to be: the prof was looking for the “right” answer during the grading process; my logic, reasoning, and assumptions simply had no place in my exam answer. At the end of the day, what was really being tested? For someone whose memory isn’t the strongest, I often felt that my grades were based on the strength of my memory instead of my understanding of the material.

The very first class of 2015 Innovation College students.

Me and my fellow students at the very first Canadian Innovation College.

On the other hand, Innovation Engineering College is focused on learning and collaboration. Multiple assignments each day (usually under strict time constraints and working with a group) help participants to apply their learnings immediately.  The assignments are graded quickly, with feedback received within a couple of hours of submitting the assignment. An “X” on the assignment with the words “Needs more work” appeared on the first several assignments my group submitted. I was startled and frustrated: these were the first assignments, the “easy” ones. If I couldn’t succeed with these, what would the rest of my week look like?

As the week went on, there were more Xs (and some checkmarks too!). The Xs came with feedback --- comments designed to make me evaluate my answer and formulate a new response to submit. And submit I did --- sometimes it takes a few tries to get the answer right. But with the Cycles to Mastery approach, that’s OK. Submitting and re-submitting assignments (multiple times) is encouraged and expected – all in the name of getting smarter, learning, and eventually mastering the material.

So, what did I learn? That it’s OK not to get it right the first time. In fact, it’s actually better not to get it right the first time. When my assignments come back for re-work, I view it as an opportunity to learn and improve. Instead of trying to memorize the material, this is a chance for me to actually LEARN and UNDERSTAND the material. My Innovation Engineering Blue Belt is within reach --- I just have to get a few Xs out of the way first.



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