FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH with Blake Melnick

Understanding the Motivations to Innovate - Part 1- with guest Dr. Terry Soleas

December 19, 2022 Blake Melnick Season 4 Episode 6
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH with Blake Melnick
Understanding the Motivations to Innovate - Part 1- with guest Dr. Terry Soleas
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH with Blake Melnick
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In this episode of #ForWhatitsWorthwithBlakeMelnick, the #MotivationstoInnovate, my guest is #DrTerrySoleas from #QueensUniversity in Kingston Ontario. Terry and I discuss #Innovation, Invention and the difference between the two. We share stories and insights about innovation with the collective goal of making innovation more understandable, accessible and actionable to individuals and organizations alike ...For What it's Worth

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Understanding the Motivations to Innovate - Part 1

[00:00:00] Blake Melnick: Well, welcome to this week's episode of For What It's Worth, I'm your host, Blake Melnick, our guest for today's show, understanding The Motivation To Innovate. Part of our Many Faces of Innovation series is Dr. Terry Sallis. Dr. Sallis is a director of continuing professional development for the Faculty of Health Sciences, as [00:01:00] well as an adjunct professor in the faculty of education at Queens.

[00:01:04] His PhD dissertation explored the factors underlying the motivation to innovate and what learning environments can do to make innovation more likely. He applies his motivation, research and educational development to high school and higher education learning environments, particularly the motivation to innovate and the professional development aspirations for health professions and learners in the health sciences.

[00:01:27] Terry, welcome to the show. It's always nice to have somebody that's, equally passionate about the field of innovation. , and you and I have very similar backgrounds, we're both educators and spent a long time in the K 12 sector as well as the university sector, and then moved into the workplace.

[00:01:40] So it's great to have somebody here that has the same kinds of passions that. 

[00:01:44] Terry Soleas: It's fantastic to be here Blake. Thanks so much. 

[00:01:46] Blake Melnick: So, before we jump into the discussions about your research, I wanted to have a general discussion about innovation, and make sure that we have a context for our listeners.

[00:01:57] So everybody talks about innovation, we [00:02:00] see it in most organizations, value statements and corporate strategy. It's almost become a buzzword. So first off, why do you think innovation has become so important to organizations? 

[00:02:12] Terry Soleas: I agree with 99% of what you've said on there. There is no, almost, it has become a buzzword.

[00:02:18] There's no question about that. Now, I, I think one of the reasons for it is innovation is viewed as being an act of genius or it's seen this way mm-hmm. by a lot of society. I don't really agree with that on that one cuz frankly, I see innovations from all kinds. Of different places, and more likely I see flashes of genius everywhere, right?

[00:02:37] In terms of how people approach things. In terms of how people solve problems. So I think it's seen as being , an act of geniuses. But really fundamentally it's a human act, right? And I think we understand that with any number of the problems, challenges and issues facing variety of societies around the world.

[00:02:57] I think we all realize that the solutions to these are going [00:03:00] to come from thinking differently. It's gonna come from approaching issues, novelly, a novel execution of processes, ideas, and products that creates new, unspecified and sometimes specified values. I think we understand that innovation is not the province of.

[00:03:22] geniuses and it doesn't only occur in corporations, but it occurs in everyday life. Right. It's a human act that occurs in human life. 

[00:03:30] Blake Melnick: Right? Why is it so important? Like, why do people all of a sudden seem to think that innovation is, I don't know the answer, to whatever ails them as an organization?

[00:03:41] , why have people come so attached to this word, innovation? 

[00:03:44] So it's buzzwordy and people definitely wanna have and catch some of the 15 minutes of fame that goes along with, say, innovating. I think that you're seeing it more because people realize that staying stagnant means wallowing around , in the status quo of their company.

[00:03:58] And unless you [00:04:00] really like the status quo, unless you are absolutely thrilled with your circumstance and have no complaints about where you are, clearly there's an opportunity to get better. And innovation is seen as an easy way and an easy way of conceptualizing that, getting better. It's a heck of a lot easier to say than quality improvement, isn't it?

[00:04:16] Right, right, exactly. But the same ambiguity, applies to both. I think so. If I Absolutely. If I asked you, and if I asked anybody for that matter, who are the people that we hold up or who are the people that you hold up as innovators that are recognizable, that people would say, oh yes, of course they're innovators.

[00:04:33] Terry Soleas: Well, if you look at who society will put up on innovators, and I might get myself in trouble on this one, one of the ones like the tangible ones that people would see is, would be Elon Musk. Right. Right. It would be an example of somebody that you would look up and say, this person is an innovator.

[00:04:48] There is some degree of evidence there is fallibility in every innovator to be had as exhibited by, Mr. Musk in that particular regard. But every innovator everywhere [00:05:00] has the potential of getting it really right or really wrong. Mm-hmm. on this one. So the failures that some folks have had along the way have been absolutely stunning from people that we absolutely think are innovators.

[00:05:13] And the idea that saying that this person is an innovator and holding them up as an example, well, probably true. , it, it, it is impossible to say that Elam Musk is not an innovator, right. He certainly is. With how he's exhibited, with how he's popularized new ideas, discussions of things that we haven't seen.

[00:05:32] The idea about turning somebody's roof into solar panels that gathers it and that the solar panels, by the way, are gonna last longer. than a new roof. Absolutely. The work of Solar City, as I understand it, and these are works that have been worked on by teams of people that he popularized in a flash.

[00:05:50] When you look at it as an act rather than as a person, I think it's easier to spot innovation because you get trapped quickly with saying, this person is an innovator. [00:06:00] Well, why is this person an innovator? And then you have to refer to the act.

[00:06:03] Whereas if we just refer to innovation as being an act or a process, right, it's a lot easier than saying that this person is an innovator. And there are dangers that we Sauvely avoid by referring to the process. So when we actually say, who are innovators? Well, there are people who execute ideas differently, right?

[00:06:23] To create new, perhaps predicted, perhaps unpredicted values for society. And that refers to any number of people. So like the, gold standard that I'll go for somebody who popularized, like public television for the good Mr. Rogers , did it in a different way. Right? Absolutely. And it wasn't revolutionary that there was a nice man in a cardigan who was telling us about his neighborhood, but it was the way that he did it.

[00:06:50] Sure. He brought it and he operationalized it as a means of creating good, as a means of creating a safe spot for people to feel emotions and to feel connections with [00:07:00] people around them in a new way. Absolutely. That was innovative. I don't think Mr. Rogers would've considered himself the poster child for innovation.

[00:07:07] Mm-hmm. , and I don't think a lot of society would've done it either. But when you decontextualize, when you remove the person and you focus on the act, it's very clear that there are lots of innovations that go unrecognized or at least under recognized. 

[00:07:22] Blake Melnick: Right. Well, and you mentioned Musk and of course everybody would jump to Elon Musk or , Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or somebody like that, and I think there's maybe a danger in that because then we're starting to equate innovators with people that have lots of money, and lots of resources.

[00:07:38] You bet. And I do want to talk about that. Because I'm assuming there are different types of innovators and obviously different types of innovation. , and I want to talk about, what you think those types are because I do think we confuse innovation with invention.

[00:07:51] There's no doubt that Elon Musk and Steve Jobs are inventors, and I guess they're innovators too. I mean, they certainly were disruptive. In the [00:08:00] case of Steve Jobs, the way we used and communicated. With technology, jobs made technology subservient to our ability to be creative, to be more productive without having to understand computer programming language or the computations going on in the background.

[00:08:14] With the introduction of the gooey, he sort of democratized the use of computer technology. But let's talk about the different types of innovation and try to distinguish invention from innovation. So in your mind, what's the difference between innovation and invention?

[00:08:29] Terry Soleas: I always have trouble disentangling them cause the active invention is an active innovation, certainly on this one, I guess invention has the idea about creating something that works where it didn't before, or creating a product that does something differently, in a way that people wouldn't have thought of it.

[00:08:45] I would say that invention tends to be applications or creation, whereas innovation tends to be more execution maybe. Hmm. That might be one way of telling them apart. Pretty cleanly. Right on [00:09:00] this one. Innovation definitely has an execution aspect, whereas creation and invention tend to.

[00:09:06] Theoretical at first and then built Right, right. In that way. So I view them as having a less defined execution aspect or application aspect than say, innovation would. Yeah. There will be very, very intelligent people who will disagree with me on that point, and very possibly. They are.

[00:09:22] Right. 

[00:09:23] Blake Melnick: And I think that's part of the issues that we struggle with is that there are many definitions of innovation. 

[00:09:28] Terry Soleas: 610 to the last time I counted . 

[00:09:31] Wow. 610. And then my brilliant idea in the first year, you just added a new one.

[00:09:36] Make it 611 . 

[00:09:39] Blake Melnick: When I think of innovators, when I think back on who would I consider to be the first innovator, I always turn to Leonardo da Vinci, I think of him as the consummate innovator, the renaissance man, because. He innovated across multiple domains, almost in anything that he seemed to do.

[00:09:57] There was some form of innovation [00:10:00] going on. So to me, he's kind of the poster child, for an innovator. But if we asked a general person out on the streets, do you consider yourself an innovator? What do you think their answer would be?

[00:10:11] Terry Soleas: Overwhelming. The answer tends to be no. Is that right? But, and I would've thought the option, so in terms of like people on the street saying, are you an innovator? Yeah. With me going 

[00:10:20] Blake Melnick: up and asking someone, do I do consider yourself an innovator? Yeah. 

[00:10:24] Terry Soleas: So if I ask somebody on the street, and I did this in my research one of the scales that I used was a, innovator self-concept scale that I created.

[00:10:32] And I asked people about different dimensions of were they innovators or not? There were people that thought that they were innovators, but the vast majority of people put themselves somewhere just below average. In terms of were they innovators? Now, the minute that I went and said, have you innovated in the past?

[00:10:49] Mm-hmm. , the answer is yes, but it's whether people think of themselves as being an innovator. I see. Yeah. . I was actually wondering about this. All the examples of innovators that you and I have been speaking [00:11:00] about and all the ones that we commonly tend to see in articles are not, tend to be from people who look like us, right.

[00:11:05] Blake. Right. tend, tend, tend to be this way. And cultures all over the planet have tended to come up with brilliant solutions to issues. The only thing is that I think it's only in the western world where we've tended to lionize people. Mm-hmm. and that's why they've been popular, which is why we can identify it.

[00:11:21] I don't know who invented fireworks. I know that it was somebody in what is now recognized as China. Right. That originally came up with the idea or at least that's how far I know, yes. That it is from there, but I can't pinpoint it to one person in the way that I can say who invented computing and here in the west to the person that I guess a lot of people would say is one of the pioneers of computing would be Alan Turn.

[00:11:45] Sure on this one. So because somebody was lionized, we can go and say that person's an innovator. Whereas in cases where a culture is more social or that ideas and the fame for the ideas is diffuse, right? Among lots of different people, [00:12:00] it's way harder to pick out one person, right?

[00:12:02] Cultures that are likely to share the credit, perhaps more so than say, Western cultures might. You probably have fewer easily identified this person is an innovator, or at least we don't recognize them as being a standout innovator in the vein of Steve Jobs, bill Gates, or in the case of, Alan Turing right?

[00:12:23] Blake Melnick: So would you consider yourself an innovator? 

[00:12:25] Terry Soleas: I would consider myself somewhere probably just a little above average in terms of willingness to try and implement and apply new ideas. And in that case, yeah, I would say that I would be what most people would consider to be an incremental innovator.

[00:12:37] Okay. I wouldn't be what very many people would consider a radical innovator. Right, right. And I would be very clear on this one, continuing professional development does not generate the big bucks. So I don't think a lot of other people would go and say, oh, no, no. Terry is absolutely a radical innovator.

[00:12:51] Right. No, they, they probably just go, well, he's got new ideas and he is a font of creation and revision and steady quality improvement. That would comfortably make me an incremental [00:13:00] innovator. Right. 

[00:13:00] Blake Melnick: The reason I ask that question is back to the earlier question. When you ask people if they consider themselves innovators, I wonder whether their answer is based on a conception of, , innovation as invention.

[00:13:12] And those, people that we lionize, the Steve Jobs and the Elon Musk of the world, and they go, well, I'm not them, so therefore I'm not an innovator. 

[00:13:21] Terry Soleas: I think you're absolutely right Blake. And I think when we ask people, are you an innovator?

[00:13:26] They're hearing, am I a radical innovator? Right. And as soon as they hear, am I a radical innovator, we're like, well, you know, I haven't really changed everything or I haven't really created a tangible impact on the wider world, but I am influential to the people around me or , that sort of thing.

[00:13:42] If we ask people, are you at least an incremental innovator, you'll see more people say yes to that question. Right. If I ask somebody, are you a pop culture icon? , well, people are gonna answer this question a heck of a lot differently with, are you recognizable in your community?

[00:13:58] Right. They're different scales of proof and I think people [00:14:00] are interpreting and answering the former when we could be asking them the latter. 

[00:14:04] Blake Melnick: And I think that's a great point. So what inspired your interest, in innovation 

[00:14:08] I always wonder why people are doing things. I ask a lot of why questions. Innovation is one of the realms of areas where I study. But really the broader context is motivation research. So for innovation, it's what motivates innovation. Sure. For my continuing professional development role for Queens, it's what makes people come out to programs to go and learn about new health proficiency ways, or as I charitably like to put it, Terry helps you eat your educational vegetables.

[00:14:32] So for innovation, specifically what I'm looking at is how do we implement ideas differently to solve the issues and challenges facing society? And instead of looking at the people who do that, I wanted to look at the why they did this. Yeah. And I figured that if we figured out why they do this, we could create those same factors for loads and loads of other people and there'd be more innovation.

[00:14:54] And that tends to be a way of solving problems or at least a more innovation educated. Electorate in [00:15:00] society. Right. That we could have originally focused within Canada, but obviously aspirations are bigger for that. But looking at the reasons why and how we make it more likely. How we make it more likely to have more people able to mobilize ideas and solve problems.

[00:15:16] Mm-hmm. , there are no shortage of problems. Oh, we we're not going to run outta problems and challenges to solve. We can't exactly run out of people who are capable of taking them on either. 

[00:15:24] Right, right. Would you consider your research, to be innovative?

[00:15:29] Terry Soleas: I would consider it to be innovative. Yes. Yeah. This one spot. I would say that it would be, the reason being is cuz I, I took what I think is a fairly unique take on a timeless problem, which is how do we have more people capable of solving problems in society? Right. It's the reasons behind public education.

[00:15:45] It's the reasons behind, charter schools. It's the reasons behind a whole bunch of different initiatives to try and create new types of thinkers on this one. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , I did take a new way of doing it the best way. I don't think so, but perhaps new [00:16:00] and new in a way that I think creates value for society itself.

[00:16:03] So yes, I would call it to be modestly innovative. 

[00:16:06] Blake Melnick: And so when you began this, what were you hoping to discover when you began your research? what did you think you might accomplish or what were you hoping you might see at the end of it all? . 

[00:16:17] Terry Soleas: The spur for this one is actually an urge for justice for the most part.

[00:16:21] When I was teaching, one of the things that I noticed is that there were people that were told you can do anything, and there were people that were not told, that conspicuously, were not told that. Mm-hmm. . And that always bothered me it always bothered me that we invest so much in geniuses and not enough in creating more people who are capable of doing something.

[00:16:38] The fact that we invest in people who we notice flashes of genius in, as opposed to people that we might not be lookng for those flashes of geniuses, we might not expect it of them. And that's a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy both ways. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. on this one. There was a 2016 report. Out of the us Najor et al 2016.

[00:16:58] That was looking [00:17:00] at the best way of creating more innovation isn't to invest in existing innovators, it's to replicate their conditions for more people. Creating more innovators, as it were. Or at least more innovator. Capable. Capable, at least more innovation capable. Right. Individuals. And that always stuck with me because how good of a job were we really doing that?

[00:17:20] Enrichment programs and, programs of, exceptionality in Canadian schools and wider schools, and wider world schools as well on this one tends to focus. Resources into small groups of people anointed as prodigy's talents and geniuses. That is true. Instead of actually creating the opportunity for loads and loads of different people.

[00:17:42] Blake Melnick: When I think about how do we increase the capability of young people to. Demonstrate the skills of innovation, if you wish. The competencies of innovation, the mindset, I think is perhaps more important. And part of what I think prevents us from doing this very effectively in a systemic [00:18:00] way is that we're still mired 

[00:18:02] in industrial structures, , the production line. And I think we, oh yeah. We, build our schools around the production line. We silo, subject disciplines. We don't teach students to understand the connections between disciplines and domains of knowledge. That there are definite connections that are not silos.

[00:18:22] Mathematics, language, geography, history, they're all connected and they all flow together. But we have created structures where we teach people to think that they're separate, that somehow you need to specialize, and people come out of university, whether they be engineers, engineering is a good example because it's a very specific.

[00:18:41] Mm-hmm. . And as you know, in the work that we are gonna be doing shortly with an engineering firm, one of the problems that they're finding is when they're trying to encourage, their employees to be more innovative, and they really do want to build a culture of innovation.

[00:18:54] They're finding that what's happening is that a lot of the people are saying, I don't have expertise in that area, [00:19:00] so I don't feel that I have anything to add to the conversation or to advance the knowledge in this area, because that's not my training. Part of it is we create these barriers, through the structures that we design.

[00:19:12] I think we do this in the workplace. , I think we do this in education. And until we can get outside those boundaries and how we think of, education and knowledge, it's gonna be more and more difficult to get people to demonstrate those qualities of innovation, if you will.

[00:19:27] Terry Soleas: Absolutely. The case, it's gonna be whether we created environments where they feel safe to actually take chances. Right. . There are certain things that make you feel more comfortable that you can take chances. A couple billion dollars in the bank makes you able to take chances,

[00:19:41] Well, that's right. Which we've kind of seen, maybe we've seen an example or two of somebody going and taking a real gamble with about $40 billion. Mm-hmm. and going and buying something. Right. We've seen that kind of example, that kind of security isn't available to the majority of people. And until we create at [00:20:00] least semblances of that kind of security, the idea about having the safety where you can try something and if you screw up, it's not the end of the world, but go ahead and try something and let's see what we can learn from it. Try something, fail.

[00:20:14] Try again. Fail better. 

[00:20:16] Keep getting closer and closer to that, as it were. 

[00:20:18] Blake Melnick: You know, when you talk about innovation in this way, and I've heard a number of leaders say something similar to this when they're trying to encourage employees to be more innovative, well, you're not gonna be penalized if you fail. , and this really bugs me because I don't actually believe in failure. I think failure is a negative construct. We've perpetuated as an excuse when things don't go according to plan. The whole idea of trying to affect an outcome before you've done anything seems sort of absurd. Unless you're an engineer, perhaps what really happens in most cases is. The outcome was different than what was anticipated originally.

[00:20:54] It's not a failure unless you stop or don't learn from the outcome you've achieved. [00:21:00] Innovation is a process and it's not linear, Companies certainly public companies that have to report to shareholders on a quarterly basis, don't want to put out a statement saying, we have a company and we're not afraid to fail and we encourage failure and all that kind of stuff, because clearly shareholders don't like that idea.

[00:21:17] Terry Soleas: I would agree with that. I think that there are desirable and undesirable outcomes depending on what your goals happen to be. Right? And failure is either achieving or not achieving those goals.

[00:21:27] And I guess you haven't failed until you stop, is one way of looking at it. There are ideas that are gonna have less desirable outcomes than others, and we should triage resources accordingly for making that happen. But the idea of saying

[00:21:41] we've made not succeeding immediately or we've made the struggle to succeed undesirable, which. The wrong way to think about it. Mm-hmm. , because that is the only path to success. Every step towards progress in society has probably to some [00:22:00] extent been mired in things and ideas that didn't pan out, and then trying something different and learning from it and getting closer and closer to it.

[00:22:08] That's how we build measurement instruments , in psychology and education and elsewhere. It's also how we built the first computer. It's how we launched the first rockets. It's how we built the first planes. It's how we've created systems like social welfare systems that keep people alive.

[00:22:29] It's how we address societal discrimination by looking at things that we've done in the past that were undesirable or straight up malicious Right. And fixing them. Mm-hmm. , we do this, . So is the solution to systemic forces of racism in society to say, okay, society, we had a great run.

[00:22:50] Let's start off with the anarchy again. . No. We look at the structures of discrimination and inequity in society, and we look at [00:23:00] addressing them, right? And perhaps this means deconstructing and reconstructing ideas with Sure, with equity or with justice for everyone in pieces.

[00:23:09] But we don't have to say, oh, this idea failed. Let's go back to the drawing board. Right? Well, let's look at where the failure is and address that, right? Look at where the failures are and maybe we'll find lots of spots to go about fixing it.

[00:23:22] If we're looking to make the world a better place, I guess look and identify the parts that are good and the parts that are bad and do something about that. It's not a wholesale tear down. 

[00:23:31] Blake Melnick: I am in a hundred percent agreement. Oftentimes, there are good ideas that emerge and there's no context for them at the moment, but context is always changing which is why organizations like Google and others have idea banks. They're capturing ideas that they don't have a direct application for at the moment, but they recognize the idea itself has merit. If the context were to present itself, and then all of a sudden this is a brilliant idea. Great ideas are there all the time, but people go, it doesn't really fit what we're doing right [00:24:00] now. And then they dismiss those ideas where I think more progressive organizations say, no, this is a really good idea.

[00:24:06] You know, if it's product related, we don't have a customer for this idea, or we don't have a product, but it doesn't mean that this idea should be discarded . 

[00:24:14] Terry Soleas: I have an example of this. So Queens in 2004, right after the, right after SARS in 2004, we came up with the idea for an online infection prevention and control course.

[00:24:25] Mm-hmm. . And we had 25 people in originally. And by the time that I came along to the office in 2018, we had 50 or 60 people per cohort of it. And one of the teams that joined our office, online course development, gentleman, named Dr. Prite chef, , had the idea for how we would design a version of the course that could take in up to 500 or 600 people.

[00:24:50] And in 2018, we thought that this was an interesting novelty because there was no way that there was going to be a huge need or surge and interest of people to take infection prevention and [00:25:00] control of courses anytime soon, . Right, we had that idea in 2018. And this idea that, . PreK and, his partner Sonali and a whole bunch of other folks in our course development team had, , for making the course able to be more asynchronous, which means more people up for it.

[00:25:18] It wouldn't have the same demand on faculty sat on the shelf for two years, until March, 2020. When suddenly, I don't know if you heard about this Blake, but there was a pandemic that we had , it got everywhere. It made us reevaluate things and suddenly it became desirable for folks , to take courses online and to learn about how to contain infections and so on.

[00:25:38] And this good idea that sat on the shelf for two years got put into action at an absolutely stunning pace for Queens. It only took us four months to implement this idea, which is. Absolutely. Genuinely astonishingly fast, fast for any post-secondary institute of education, . It's true. It's true. Whereas you or I, having this idea, we would implement it in our basement overnight.

[00:25:59] The [00:26:00] idea of a large systems taking up an idea and implementing it takes time. Takes 

[00:26:03] Blake Melnick: time. I think there's lots of examples of that. And you mentioned online learning and that was sort of a point of frustration for me 

[00:26:09] I've had similar experiences but with less favorable outcomes. Back in the late nineties, I was one of a small group of teachers that pioneered the virtual school for the Toronto District School Board, and originally it was global in nature rather than provincial.

[00:26:23] We developed some incredible groundbreaking courses. That supported deep discourse collaboration and used some of the most advanced collaborative environments available at the time, and the education system wasn't ready for this kind of innovation because it challenged the status quo, our perceptions of teaching and learning, and it lay outside the collective agreements between unions and school boards.

[00:26:45] So, It was eventually reduced to what it is now a, collection of essentially online correspondence courses in the early two thousands, I was working with the Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology and the Ministry of Education launched an initiative called the P L [00:27:00] P Program, professional Learning Program for Teachers, which was essentially mandatory professional development to help prepare teachers for the future of learning.

[00:27:09] And I developed courses to help teachers learn how to teach online. Again, the structure of the system didn't support it. The initiative was challenged by the unions, and these courses were never released. But unlike your example, they weren't preserved. And had they been, they would've helped with the transition to online learning during the pandemic.

[00:27:26] I mean, there's good ideas and you need to keep in mind that maybe there's not quite the context yet for those ideas. But they still have value. And so this is why a lot of organizations are figuring out ways to preserve them and capture them for mm-hmm.

[00:27:38] future use. Before we jump to the research you did around motivations to innovate. I wanted to make a point about Canada as a country, in terms of our overall, capacity and capability for innovation.

[00:27:51] According to research conducted by the conference board of Canada, Canada, on a per capita basis, ranks near the bottom of the list of similar industrialized [00:28:00] nations in terms of our investment into and the outputs we're gaining in terms of impact to our G D P from innovation investment, and a lot of the research, including the research that we're doing right now at a macro level, is about trying to increase Canada's capacity and capability for innovation. 

[00:28:16] Make it systemic, not pockets. Cuz there's always pockets of innovation going on everywhere. Yeah. And I've seen it, I've been involved in them, but they're largely not sustainable, in other words, as soon as the innovator goes away, so does the idea, so does the initiative, it tends to fall away. So why do you think Canada is not good at this , as a nation.

[00:28:38] Terry Soleas: I see examples of Canadians mobilizing and creating absolutely brilliant ideas and doing things. I disagree that Canadians aren't good at innovating. Okay. I think they are ludicrously underfunded in a variety of ways, and I think the underfunding and the under resourcing certainly impacts our ability to create things.

[00:28:59] I [00:29:00] would like to point out that Canada got there first with the Avro Arrow. Sure. That clearly there are moments in flashes where Canadian innovation excellence is very clear to the world. Right? Yep. The telephone, a variety of other examples like that. I think that as a portion of our G D P, our investments seem to go elsewhere and not into creating and supporting new innovators.

[00:29:25] I think we do a marvelous job of funding established innovators. Right. But that's a perpetuation of innovation as the province of geniuses instead of creating more innovators. Mm-hmm. . And as you might imagine, whenever I look at the vast majority of innovators that I recognize as being Canadian, I had to fight really hard to get a representative sample that approximated Canadian society.

[00:29:49] Right. Because if I had wanted to get and do my 20 interviews with Canada's top 20 innovators, if the sample would've skewed white, it would've skewed older. Right. And [00:30:00] would've skewed towards men. Right. Right. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to look at the innovation life histories that I could actually implement in Canada's globalist.

[00:30:10] And a cosmopolitan society that Canada is right and it's hard. And the reason is because funding finds its way disproportionately, unless it's allocated carefully, disproportionately finds its way to funding and perpetuating what has occurred in the past. That's interesting. And to some extent, one of the main criticisms of my work, my own criticisms of my own work, is that I looked at what worked in the past to try and say, this is what will work in the future.

[00:30:36] Right. And that's and that's a hard assumption to make. And I tried to balance that by looking at lots of people's pasts and applying it to lots of people's futures. Is the way that I tried to structure my work , and those are the assumptions behind. So if you were to say, here are the assumptions behind my work, and perhaps the assumptions that Karen, I would need to consider in terms of who and how it's funding.

[00:30:58] And frankly, more funding, please [00:31:00] would be wonderful. Although I'm sure that I'm joining a lineup of people asking for more funding for lots of things would be, look at who Canadians are and who Canada will be. In the future. Mm-hmm. , and then decide how you best support the innovation of where Canada's citizenry is going to be in five years.

[00:31:18] Canada is becoming more cosmopolitan. Canada is becoming a more service-based and middle power than it has been in the past. Perhaps we are caring a little bit more about the welfare of our own people than some of our neighbors in this way. But Canada still has structural inequities that need to be addressed.

[00:31:36] And I think that the next 20 years in Canadian, society is going to be the reckoning of dealing with those systemic inequities. Mm-hmm. , and it's gonna be how do we actually address these? And I think that the innovations that we should be funding should be social in nature. Societal, at least partially.

[00:31:50] Yeah. That should be where our investments should be. 

[00:31:52] Blake Melnick: I don't disagree. You know, we did a show on, basic income, universal basic income. Hugh Siegel, kind of the champion for that, a progressive [00:32:00] conservative, a senator, who has done a deep dive and a deep analysis on this and said, look, this is a better way to ensure a better quality of life for our people, But it's also better economically. It'll cost our country less. Hugh referenced Einstein's definition of insanity of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. And he was basically saying, our current social welfare system is not doing what it's supposed to be doing. 

[00:32:26] in other words, it's not alleviating poverty. So, I agree with you. I think that's interesting. And I, what I love about your research, Terry, and because your focus is on education, and a lot of it I gather is in that K to 12, , group is that I think that in order to make innovation systemic, we have to focus on uniting education with the workplace , and co-developing, pathways, to becoming more innovative.

[00:32:53] If we don't start, encouraging people or at least. making people believe that innovation is accessible [00:33:00] to them and starting at a very young age, then that will carry through into their work life, post-graduation . So the whole notion of creating innovation capable graduates and innovation enabled employees, it's a continuum.

[00:33:13] Mm-hmm. and that way we really can be a country of innovation, but we have to look at innovation differently as we've discussed that it is more of a process. , it's accessible to everybody regardless of what they choose to do for a livelihood, , once they graduate. But it should also be part and parcel of the education experience.

[00:33:32] since 2015, Tom, Kerry, and I have been advancing the idea that we need to view the classroom as a workplace effectively closing the gap between learning and work, and allowing students to translate their theory. They're learning in the classroom, into practice. Where learners work.

[00:33:47] Collaboratively alongside peers, potentially in interconnected classrooms. And it doesn't matter where those are located and with their counterparts in business and industry to find solutions to large scale challenges facing our [00:34:00] world where schools encourage students to engage with innovation at a very young age, helping them develop the mindset for innovation.

[00:34:08] Teaching them the skills of innovation and thereby allowing them to gain the experience as innovators, advancing new ideas, building knowledge around these ideas to develop solutions to the types of problems or challenges that will impact their lives and they're motivated to solve, whether they be climate, food, water, affordable housing, social justice.

[00:34:26] These are big, complex challenges that require innovative. , but inherent in our current education system is the conception that students, particularly young students, are incapable of creating new knowledge or bringing new knowledge into the world. And I know firsthand this is not true. Our systems are still perpetuating mind is container metaphor.

[00:34:48] We need to fill students' heads with prescribed content curricula. Uh, largely all the same stuff cuz we believe that creates equity and learning. I see this really as a production line approach [00:35:00] of industrial age. Do you think this is true? 

[00:35:03] Terry Soleas: I think it's one of the dangerous assumptions that our education system, and I think education systems as a whole make, is that children are naive or that learners are naive in that regard.

[00:35:15] And I think that there, there is some truth to the fact that maybe aspiring learners and so on and so forth and young people in general that they don't understand all the dangers of mobilizing ideas yet. And yes, there is a degree of society protects. It's people in this way, but is that protection dampening their ability to grow into the adults that we will need them to be.

[00:35:39] And there has to be a balance and a degree of trust. And certainly the environment created where they can try learning these. If it's dangerous in schools for children to try new things, they're probably not gonna try as many new things when they are adults. Right. And that sounds like a hard cap on our innovative potential.

[00:35:57] I would also say that, the school [00:36:00] as workplace for it. So provided that you and I agree that the school's purpose it's sole an exclusive purpose.

[00:36:07] to create new factory workers. Right. But yes. There will be people who work in factories. Yes. There will be people who provide for their families in that way, but school doesn't have to educate for compliance and for obedience. It has to educate people for the lives that they want. Mm-hmm. to lead. In this way right now, want and need are balanced in this sort of thing.

[00:36:28] And I think everybody would prefer to be a billionaire. All things considered on this one. But in terms of like for the lives that they will lead, are we actually equipping them to use their potential Right. In this way? Great point. And I think that the goal of schools and the goal of education systems, so beyond schools, education systems include all the formal and informal educational learning spaces that we have.

[00:36:53] It's not just schools. So it's not just K to 12, it's higher education, apprenticeship, informal after school clubs, right.[00:37:00] The kids who grab sticks and play in mud, that's education there as well. Mm-hmm. . And I think that we need to consider that the purpose of education is to connect people with what they aspire for.

[00:37:15] and the measure of success of an educational system, , especially an innovative, supportive one, is that it connects people with what they dream up, right? They dream up, and I have a chance of doing this if I work hard, that I can go and I can reach for this and that I'm not doomed to repeat a life lived before.

[00:37:32] Mm-hmm. , or to live life based on a paradigm that was established centuries ago. Right, right. The idea that people can reach for new and that they have the tools to create new. . Really they can choose not to. Yeah. Right. There are, there are lots of wonderful people in my life that know what they like.

[00:37:50] They want to get what they like, and they are wonderful people. True. They have chosen not to innovate and I think that it. . Beautiful. That [00:38:00] society gives people that choice. What is absolutely haunting to me is that we've created situations where people who want to innovate cannot. 

[00:38:08] The environments that they inhabit, the situations that they are in that structural inequities have made it harder or impossible. Near impossible. For them to go and mobilize brilliant ideas that they could have or could develop . Of the findings of my research. The one that kept me up at night the most was that I identified the perceived costs.

[00:38:29] Blake Melnick: This concludes part one of understanding the motivations to innovate part of our series, the Many Faces of Innovation with my guest Dr. Terry Sallis from Queens University. Part two of our interview will focus on Terry's research methodology and his surprising discoveries about what motivates people to innovate.

[00:38:50] The second part of the interview will drop in January, 2023, I want to take this opportunity now to thank you, our listeners, for your ongoing support for the show, [00:39:00] and also to thank our amazing guests Without you, the generosity of your time, your creative spirit, and your willingness to share your ideas with the world.

[00:39:09] We simply wouldn't have a show. And finally, I want to thank the for what it's worth, production team, Cameron Brown, Rowan Melnick, Parker Melnick, and Allison Davies for their tireless efforts. I wish you and all your families a happy, joyous, and safe holiday season and May your Yule rule for what it's worth.