FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH with Blake Melnick

Understanding the Motivations to Innovate Part 2 with guest Dr. Terry Soleas

January 05, 2023 Blake Melnick Season 4 Episode 7
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH with Blake Melnick
Understanding the Motivations to Innovate Part 2 with guest Dr. Terry Soleas
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH with Blake Melnick
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Show Notes Transcript

Well, Happy New Year and welcome to this week's episode of #ForWhatIt'sWorthwithBlakeMelnick. This is part two of our episode, #UnderstandingthMotivationtoInnovate with my guest, #Dr.TerrySoleas from #QueensUniversity. Dr. Soleas's seminal research on the factors which motivate people to innovate is key to making innovation more understandable, accessible, and actionable to individuals and organizations alike.

We need to resist thinking about innovation as the preserve of geniuses, and we need to avoid lionizing individuals and giving them singular attribution for large scale innovations and inventions. We need to begin to focus on the process of innovation as a collaborative knowledge building effort to address complex social challenges.

In part one, Dr. Soleas and I attempted to clarify the difference between invention and innovation. We discussed his personal motivations behind his research, the desire for social justice to ensure that those who have the drive to innovate are able to do so. In part two, we explore the dimension of cost and and expectancies from and motivations for innovation, as well as the design considerations which formed the basis for his research ...for what it's worth.

Link to Episode Blog Post

The music for this episode, "How Come I Gotta"  is written and performed by our current artist in residence, #DouglasCameron. You can find out more about Douglas by visiting our show blog and by listening to our episode, #TheOldGuitar

Knowledge Management Institute of Canada
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Workplace Innovation Network for Canada
Every Graduate is Innovation-Enabled; Every Employee can Contribute to Innovation

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Understanding Motivations to Innovate - Part 2 with guest Dr. Terry Soleas

[00:00:00] Blake Melnick: Well, Happy New Year and welcome to this week's episode of For What It's Worth, I'm your host, Blake Melnick, and this is part two of our episode, understanding the Motivation to Innovate With my guest, Dr. Terry Soleas from Queens University. Dr. Soleas's seminal research on the factors which motivate people to innovate is key to making innovation more understandable, accessible, and actionable to individuals and organizations alike.

[00:00:28] We need to resist thinking about innovation as the preserve of geniuses, and we need to avoid lionizing individuals and giving them singular attribution for large scale innovations and inventions. We need to begin to focus on the process of innovation as a collaborative knowledge building effort to address complex social challenges.

[00:00:50] In part one, Dr. Soleas and I attempted to clarify the difference between invention and innovation. We discussed his personal motivations behind his [00:01:00] research, the desire for social justice to ensure that those who have the drive to innovate are able to do so. In part two, we explore the dimension of cost and expectancies from and motivations for innovation, as well as the design considerations which formed the basis for his research, for what it's worth.

[00:01:25] So let's get right back to that research.

[00:01:27] Talk a little bit about how you chose to design your research. 

[00:01:30] Terry Soleas: I got tired of looking at study samples that were established of people who anointed themselves as innovators because they worked in a firm that called itself innovative, led by a person who called themselves innovative, who disproportionately looked an awful lot like me, were male.

[00:01:48] They were white and they worked in a field that was continually financially sustainable. And those were the samples that I was seeing in the studies. And that was so much of the innovation literature [00:02:00] from the seventies. Well, until the early two thousands, it's really not until the late two thousands that we started seeing really diverse representations of who innovators could be, and the idea that individual motives mattered.

[00:02:13] It wasn't just only having the right people on a team. So in a way to try and make it so that my research was based in advancing justice and based in. A cosmopolitan sample. I had to look at the individuals and I had to make sure that I was sampling and I got representation from lots of individuals, right?

[00:02:36] Lots of different kinds of folks. All shapes, shades and sizes of folks that we had from all different kinds of scales of innovators, from those who were micro innovators all the way up to big eye innovators, which is my adaptation of Kaufman and Bagu GTO's four C model. Mm-hmm. , um, that I had there. So that was how I structured the sample.

[00:02:53] The first thing that I did was pilot and developed my instruments with a smaller sample. Then I interviewed, 30 different [00:03:00] innovators, and, I got a survey sample of 500 innovators that I could verify in some way, shape, or form. The pos that I invited to be in the interview sample were award-winning innovators across a whole bunch of different dimensions as well as, Folks that I looked at and said, this person can't win an award because there isn't an award in the area of innovation that they are doing.

[00:03:20] Mm-hmm. , I had Nobel laureates, I had CEOs of companies, I had, renowned artists, I had comedians. I had all kinds of folks, folks that had created not-for-profits, folks that had created social services. All kinds of different innovators of my sample of 30 in-person innovators, probably my in-person interview sample, probably seven of them would be names that you would recognize, and I'm not allowed to actually say Right.

[00:03:48] Who they are for confidentiality in my studies. Mm-hmm. Seven of them would be people that you would recognize by name saying, oh, you managed to interview this person. And he goes, no, no, no. I think they liked my concept and and took mercy on me, , [00:04:00] and filled out this poor PhD students they answered his emails.

[00:04:05] that sort of thing. Mm-hmm. , the other 23 are people that if I explained what they did, you would go, yep. They're innovators, but you'd have never heard of them. Right, that sort of thing of the survey sample that I got, the 500, survey respondants, there were more 500 of them that I could actually verify and I could structure them into different, groups and different types of like socioeconomic backgrounds, different disciplines, representation across gender, people who had exceptionalities, people who were racialized, all kinds of stuff like that, that I was able to structure into that 500, person sample.

[00:04:37] Right. 

[00:04:38] Blake Melnick: So you must have had some criteria though, for reaching out. I mean, what was your criteria to say, I want a diverse, group, that represents different populations, different racialities yeah. what was your main criteria to say, this person's an innovator.

[00:04:51] Was it because they're creators? . 

[00:04:53] Terry Soleas: So creators, inventors, innovators, all of them qualified. I didn't really discriminate between the three, [00:05:00] right, between those three different groups. And I knew what they looked like. So to me, the definition of innovation that I used, the 611th definition , that I alluded to earlier cuz this is gonna be the one that solves all the problems.

[00:05:12] Blake, that's why we saying that's why we went from six 10 to six 11 was a novel execution of a product or process that creates value for society. Right. Okay. And that value can be economic, that I value can be spiritual, that can be social, and it's a product or process. Well lots of things are products or processes, right, right.

[00:05:30] That are there for it. So lots of different things can be innovative and that doesn't restrict it to only the most economically viable of ideas. So with that criteria, plus I looked at various innovation awards, people who had gone and done something really different, people who were newsworthy, and I made sure to dig deep across all different kinds of, awards and also people that wouldn't have called themselves innovators. Right. So, yes, my process was definitely subjective, in terms of who would qualify as being an innovator. [00:06:00] One of the appendices that I had was my innovator's backgrounds.

[00:06:03] Mm-hmm. . And it was the first thing that every person on my PhD planning committee, and the first thing that I showed to every one of the innovators who was there to say, do you agree that you belong in this appendix? And everybody would look and say, yeah, this person's an innovator. Right. I built a case for each of these people to be innovators in that way.

[00:06:20] So subjective, yes, but definitely process based and defensible. Right. At least in the court of public opinion and in the court of academia. The two courts that matter to me, 

[00:06:28] Blake Melnick: and I'm assuming you use this group identifiable innovators as the benchmark, the baseline, for, your further surveys of people in general.

[00:06:38] Okay. So tell us a bit about that. 

[00:06:40] Terry Soleas: So, With the knowledge of what I found in the interviews, I was able to make tweaks and refinements to the survey itself so that it would actually capture the key information of a whole bunch of different people with what enabled them to innovate. So I looked at the things that made them have an expectation of success.

[00:06:57] So expectancies, think [00:07:00] confidence, what their values of innovating were. So was it that innovating was fun? Was it that innovating was important, or was it that innovation connected them with the lifestyle and resources that they wanted to have? Mm-hmm. . But where expectancy value, cost theory might, the motivation framework that I use really takes off and is really different from a lot of other motivation frameworks.

[00:07:22] I don't really see this in many other places, is the dimension of cost, right? Yes. The notion that. , there is a price to pay for doing a task. And that price to pay isn't just financial, that is one of them. It's implications of success, implications of failure, pressure, effort, time, resources needed, lost opportunities, physical danger, all sorts of like dimensions of costs like that.

[00:07:46] The idea that if I go and I pursue this idea all the way, I might not be able to feed my family financial responsibilities. All these different dimensions, which are the dark side of innovation that we don't really talk about. No, that's good point to [00:08:00] spend all this time talking up how great innovation is

[00:08:03] There is a real, there's a cost. Cost. Mm-hmm. to innovating. , there were, so the folks who came up with digital cameras ruined, or at least Yeah, totally. Seriously diminished the film industry. Yeah. Netflix ruined blockbuster. Sure. DVDs put, and I love vinyl as much as the next person. DVDs and CDs made vinyl, a niche.

[00:08:25] progress has a price and it's not always paid by you. Sometimes it is paid by you. Right, right. Great point. When we look at the costs of innovating and we array those against their expectations of success and their values for innovating, I reduce the motivation to innovate to being a shoving match or a scale or an equation.

[00:08:44] Right? Right. As it were, right? That if the expectancies and values are high enough, they will overcome the costs and a person is more likely to seek out opportunities to innovate. Whereas in the places where the costs are just prohibitively high, people will [00:09:00] not try innovating, how can we reasonably expect them to try innovating if the costs are gonna be so high?

[00:09:06] And that's where my work started to take on it. I didn't expect it initially, but it started to take on a justice orientation that if we wanna make innovation more likely, we have to address the costs for all kinds of people. Sure, sure. And when I looked in the survey sample that I did, and this was the finding that kept me up at night.

[00:09:28] A person who reported having a learning exceptionality reported about 28% higher perceived costs than a person controlling for every other variable than a person who did not report having a learning exceptionality. Mm-hmm. , 23% higher cost were from people from a racialized background.

[00:09:49] People who did not identify as being white. Right. People who came from a racialized background on the average, the aggregates respondent who was racialized reported [00:10:00] 23% higher perceived costs. There were no differences in expectancies, there were no differences in values. The differences were in how punishing the costs were.

[00:10:11] Right? So if we wanna try and make innovation more likely for more kinds of people, it's alleviating and addressing the costs of innovating. 

[00:10:19] Blake Melnick: The risk rewards that will make it more likely for them to do it. Yeah. Yeah. Fascinating. 

[00:10:23] Terry Soleas: Listen, putting the idea out there , like if you make this ideal work, I will pay you a million dollars.

[00:10:29] The key thing is right there. Yes. You've increased the value, the utility value, right, as it were, of doing the innovation. But it says, if it works well, what happens if it doesn't? Right. What are the prices to pay? Right. People, the price that a person pays for if it doesn't work is different person to person.

[00:10:45] Life to life. Context to context. Yeah. And it's systemic inequities and structural inequities and under-resourced supports that make it less likely. That somebody is going to actually be able to stick with it reasonably [00:11:00] without risking the wellbeing of themselves or the people around them, 

[00:11:02] so if you wanna make innovation more likely, make it safer. Make it safer, yeah. If we address the costs of innovating, you're gonna have a hell of a lot more people. willing to try innovating Right. As it were. 

[00:11:14] Blake Melnick: I love that point all my research. So, reflecting back on this research, , I gather used a sample of approximately 500 people 

[00:11:21] 500 

[00:11:21] Terry Soleas: people is why I publish in the study. I have larger sample size, then I'm always working on I'm gonna work with my good friend Blake and, my friend Anahita and Tyranny , that we're gonna go and we're gonna get some more people to fill this out. And who knows, we might be able to do some more research there as well.

[00:11:35] Right. 

[00:11:35] Blake Melnick: But reflecting back , on your initial research were there any aha, surprise moments for you, things that you didn't anticipate that you went, oh my God, I never thought of this. Oh, yeah, . So 

[00:11:46] Terry Soleas: So this wasn't an aha moment. This was one that I expected, but it was gratifying because I found it.

[00:11:52] Not that I especially liked this idea, so, , if we were to gamble people who identify as being male versus people who identify as [00:12:00] being female, who is more confident that they are an innovator . 

[00:12:05] Blake Melnick: Hmm men 

[00:12:06] Terry Soleas: .Hmm. I would gamble that people who identify as being male have a little bit more confidence that they're innovators on this one.

[00:12:12] So the innovators self-concept is there. Right. And it's the only one that really differed by gender. Between the two expectancies values and costs were actually remarkably similar. And dare I say, the fields of endeavor were just as complex between that. So maybe that, male boost in confidence that was exhibited in.

[00:12:30] Innovator self-efficacy is one that, that I looked at and said, yep, that's consistent. That's how I knew that my sample was behaving normally. Right, right. Statistically speaking. Mm-hmm. is that I found that one. I go, yep. That's an effect that I've seen in so many other rigorous studies. Yeah. The fact that it behaved the same way was very reassuring.

[00:12:47] Reassuring is the right word. Gratifying, perhaps not reassuring, reassuring. . But that finding happened. Yeah. The other one was, and this one amused me to no end because I've been screaming about it for years. on this one, [00:13:00] that who are most likely to think that they are innovators and what are the cost expectancies and , that sort of thing.

[00:13:06] When I did the disciplinary comparisons, it followed the same pattern. The highest of the positive motivating factors tended to be attainment task values. So the perceived importance of it. Then intrinsic, then the expectancies, then the utility task values and that pattern happened across areas of endeavor that happened in venture capitalism.

[00:13:31] That happened in education, academia, that happened in sciences. Mm-hmm. , social services, arts and humanities. It happened this exact same pattern, right. Happened on all of them. Business people had the most confidence. That they were innovators, right? Scientists had the lowest confidence that they were innovators and, education and academia were somewhere in the middle. Hmm. In terms of the relative levels, but they were super close together. The only reason these findings were significant was because of my sample size. [00:14:00] I don't expect that there actually is a huge difference, between what different areas of endeavor would find as their innovative potential, what they were looking for and the resources that would be helpful to folks in an area of endeavor did differ on this one.

[00:14:17] In science, it's lab time, it's testing time, it's resources, it's funding that they're looking for. Yeah. In the case of business, it's safety from consequences and being able to reattempt. A project later that didn't succeed the first time getting feedback and networking. Right. Different types of priorities that you could find , from innovators, in different endeavors.

[00:14:36] There were common things that could be done, the main product of my research was all the things that, education systems of all kinds. So from K to 12 into post-secondary education, apprenticeships, community organizations, corporations, workplaces could do.

[00:14:54] Were enable people to work together, be thoughtful with the types of collaborations, [00:15:00] resource them well to be able to try things, set up structures of review where they can get advice from people that are a little further ahead. So you don't have to network with Oprah, you have to network with other people.

[00:15:14] It's other different kinds of people. So it's not that I need an audience. I need an audience with a super famous innovator in order to get ahead, I think you need to talk to both like-minded and unlike minded people get feedbacks on it. The people who will tell you that your idea is terrible and why are probably some of the most helpful if sometimes unpleasant interactions that you can have as an innovator, right?

[00:15:41] Because you learn a heck of a lot more with this is why this isn't gonna work as you have it right now. Mm-hmm. . And I don't think people normally wake up in the morning energized to go and hear why they're wrong. But it's an awful lot of what is needed. It's not that you're wrong, it's that you're not right yet.

[00:15:57] Right. Or here's how you could be more. Right. [00:16:00] Exactly. That sort of thing that's the conversation that people need to hear, and I think we need to, as a society, get more comfortable with hearing. You don't have the right answer fully yet . Right. I don't know what the right answer is, but here's how you get closer.

[00:16:11] Yeah. That sort of thing. And the acceptance that we're getting closer with every tweak you make. Right. Or you take a step back and try something different 

[00:16:19] Blake Melnick: you've touched on a whole bunch of interesting ideas here. The importance of multiple perspectives. The importance of collaboration to advance an idea, , to make it better, to improve continual improvement, improvable ideas, transportable knowledge from one context to the next.

[00:16:34] Yeah. And again, that effort of collaboration. But, , again, collaboration, you know, innovation has replaced collaboration on the corporate value statements these days. People would talk about collaboration. I would work with the organization. I'd say, collaboration to what end?

[00:16:48] It has to be focused, purposeful collaboration we need to be at trying to achieve something in order to make that collaboration effort, valuable. Because if you ask people do they collaborate and they go, of course I do. I talk to my [00:17:00] buddies every day, right around the office.

[00:17:02] I go out for lunch. Those are your buddies. Those are your buddies. , and you're right. Having people say, well, look, you know, your idea is not there yet, or it has potential. Maybe you need to think about this again. Opens that up to further 

[00:17:14] reflection study and research and so on and so forth to try to get that idea to the point where people could say, I think this is a really good idea and we're all in agreement that this is workable. Oh yeah. But then the idea is not, owned by one person, and I think that's another point about innovation is that, you can pick anything in society.

[00:17:31] You can't actually attribute it to one person, . It's really the collaborative collective efforts of people over time. Building on the knowledge of the predecessors, advancing that, and continually moving beyond best practice. Cuz I hate the word best practice cuz who's to know whether that practice is any good?

[00:17:48] And why would you just want to get to that point? Why wouldn't you continually evolve 

[00:17:52] that? Why would you call this one the best ? That's right. Why? Why is this one the best Hate? Yeah. History is littered with best [00:18:00] practices that turned out to be horrible. Horrible. 

[00:18:02] Right, exactly.

[00:18:03] Horrible 

[00:18:04] Terry Soleas: things that that were done. People. You used to think that taking children away from their families and cultures was a good idea. Sure. That's a horrifying example of what at the time may have been thought as being the right thing or the moral thing.

[00:18:17] Sure. Or the, the civilized thing to do and history is littered with. Exactly, yes. It is like that of best practices. That turned out to be horrible things. Yes. So innovation on the whole tends to be good. Yes. Tends, tends to be good. There are some very vivid exceptions of innovations and new things that we figured out what to do normally.

[00:18:37] Methods of killing each other that we came up with. That are terrible things. These are horrible things. 

[00:18:42] If we had kept nuclear energy in the reactor, I would be thrilled. Right. The fact that we can blast apart atoms and subatomic particles and stuff like that. And cause wanton destruction is a little unsettling. Yeah. I wish we had kept that genie in the bottle and instead focused our energies on creating nuclear fusion, which would be [00:19:00] great for being able to solve a whole bunch of different energy crises.

[00:19:03] Blake Melnick: That probably is the future if we stop blowing up labs, . Yeah. 

[00:19:07] Terry Soleas: If we stop blowing each other up at some point we'll be able to focus our energies on that. We have actual problems. 

[00:19:11] We don't need to make any more of 

[00:19:12] Blake Melnick: In a nutshell, and I'm asking this a very high level, but can you summarize the key factors which you've discovered through your research that motivate people to want to innovate?

[00:19:23] And we've talked about the cost variables and the value but were there other things? Were there human qualities, , I guess is what the question is. And on the other side, what qualities, prevented others from being innovators?

[00:19:37] Terry Soleas: I'll focus on the positive for the moment. Sure. So I'll break it up into two groups, what leaders can do and how we can structure environments. So in terms of what leaders do, leaders that make collaboration more likely, make innovation more likely. Mm-hmm. leaders that create a sense of, need supportiveness from self-determination theory.

[00:19:54] So think of it as like psychological safety and the ability to take risks without immediately [00:20:00] fearing the consequences. , make innovation more likely, the letting people. So something that, I think I first encountered this. From Google and from perhaps elsewhere, but Genius Hours.

[00:20:12] Have you heard of this? No. So companies that plan during a regular work week. Mm. Okay. They set aside an hour or an afternoon where people can chase after an idea that solves a problem that they're facing in their role. Right. I have that in my office here at Queens.

[00:20:28] That, that's something that I do. It's normally Thursday afternoons. I have a disturbing number of meetings , excited meetings with people, on Thursday afternoons, that are people saying, I have this idea. Can I chase after? And my answer is always, yes, go for it. But please, . Don't forget about the other deadlines we have, but yes.

[00:20:45] Go after this idea. . 

[00:20:47] Blake Melnick: I wanna stop you for a second here, Terry, cuz I think you've touched on something quite important, something that gets in the way of people innovating within organizations. It's one thing to say to employees, we want you to innovate, and it's another to expect [00:21:00] this to be separate from their day-to-day work.

[00:21:02] In other words, the day-to-day prescribed tasks and activities upon which their performance and perhaps more important, the performance of their managers is being measured. And I think this is a challenge being faced by the organization we're going to be working with shortly. They have a relatively young workforce, a lot of new hires, and as such, they're on a steep learning curve trying to get up to speed with the company culture.

[00:21:23] While this company has created excellent structures and opportunities for employees to innovate, I suspect these represent an additional workload on top of their day-to-day workflow, which to your earlier point, represents the cost of innovation, increased work, and additional stress at a time when they're still trying to get their footing.

[00:21:40] If in turn their managers are saying This is the work they must do, the key tasks and activities they must complete in order to receive a positive performance review. There's little incentive for them wanting to color outside the line, so to speak. Absolutely. How do 

[00:21:55] we get beyond that? 

[00:21:57] Terry Soleas: I wish I could go out to a store and buy that strength of [00:22:00] transition, because , this is where I was going next with what leaders can do.

[00:22:03] Leaders who model letting go of something to create room for something else. Ah, that's the process of creation. Mm-hmm. , you have to be able to let go of something to create the space for this by designating Thursday afternoons as being the innovation hours that we set aside, normally about two or three hours, that's two or three hours that they no longer have to do other things.

[00:22:24] There is a opportunity cost, as it were, as much as, I hate the term opportunity cost, right? That's a price you pay for doing this new way for trying it in this new way. And it's people who create the space for that. And it's people who model what the thought process is for being able to decide, am I going to pursue this idea or not?

[00:22:43] So it's modeling that starting from leaders. Some people will call it champions, I'll call it leaders. Okay. In terms of what they could be doing that that's there for and what that will happen to look like. You have to create space for something to exist.

[00:22:56] Right. And the space must be created for this. So either we have [00:23:00] to change up people's workloads to make it possible, or you can say that you're implementing the idea and you will get almost nowhere because you haven't created the space for it 

[00:23:09] Blake Melnick: Yeah. And I think that is a big job. 

[00:23:11] Terry Soleas: Leaders and environments create space, right.

[00:23:13] That makes innovation more likely. 

[00:23:15] Blake Melnick: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . I agree. Okay. Sorry to interrupt cuz I know we were talking about those key qualities or attributes? Yep. So back to you again. 

[00:23:22] Terry Soleas: So from the environment's perspective, it's a mix of both formal and informal structured and unstructured environments that are there.

[00:23:30] It's a thoughtful mix that creates innovation. , that makes it work. So structure in terms of teaching people the skills that they'll happen to need, and then informal is the chance for them to use it in less structured formats . Studio time, design time, collaboration spaces, in a pods, all those kinds of different types of spaces that a person can create or that an environment can have.

[00:23:55] Honestly, one of the best sources and supports for innovation that I've seen. Make sure people have a whiteboard, [00:24:00] get people a whiteboard . We've got ourselves an engineering firm that maybe we're gonna be talking to on this sort of thing.

[00:24:05] Whiteboard 

[00:24:06] walls, just Yeah, I agree. Do that. 

[00:24:09] Yeah. Get people to draw things, , draw it out together and to talk to each other about it. Normalize the kinds of conversations where somebody has an idea, they go to a person who is gonna tell them, these are the things that I see with it. Have you thought of this?

[00:24:22] Have you thought of this? Can you try using this? Yeah. . Yeah. That kind of feedback. Yeah. So it's a, it's getting critique, not necessarily seeking out critics. 

[00:24:32] Critique versus 

[00:24:33] Blake Melnick: critics. Yeah. So it's a real design effort. 

[00:24:35] Terry Soleas: I've seen the food channel on this sort of stuff.

[00:24:38] Critics are terrifying. I'm an enthusiastic amateur baking. I wouldn't go on one of these baking shows because they're all terrified. They are. I make baklava probably as good as the next guy. Maybe better. I make great baklava, but I would be absolutely terrified of taking it to a stage where I'd be getting feedback from a critic.

[00:24:55] Right. But every time that somebody tastes it and tells me what they like, what they don't [00:25:00] like about it, I'm getting critique and somehow I'm more comforted with that. Mm-hmm. and I'm able to actually make those tweaks here and there. Mm-hmm. , this sucks is not thoughtful criticism. Too much cinnamon.

[00:25:10] Try this instead. That's actionable and useful. Right. That I can live with. Right. That's the kind of feedback you're hoping to get from the collaborations and the critique mm-hmm. mm-hmm. that you're hoping to solicit that environments and leaders can provide. 

[00:25:22] Blake Melnick: , but again, what are some of the qualities that you saw emerging? Were there commonalities of, personality types or attributes? For innovators. 

[00:25:30] I understand what you mean. There isn't a specific innovator build, there isn't a one way that an innovator thinks that goes and does it.

[00:25:37] Terry Soleas: Some common traits, they're self-regulating. They tend to say, okay, I like this idea. I also don't think that this idea is going to succeed, at least not in the context it's currently in. Mm-hmm. . So there's a discipline to the process of innovating that I noticed across context.

[00:25:55] They go and they seek out support innovators that have an idea that [00:26:00] say, this is what I happen to need. And they have a sense of this is the person that I need to go talk to, this is the type of thing that I need. So in my case where I dreamt up an idea for doing a learning program in a new way.

[00:26:12] And I went over to probably my most experienced, events coordinator, somebody who's on my staff, and I went and said, here's my idea. And, Jenny came back and said, here are the problems that I see with it. I like it, but here are the issues that I see with it. Have you thought about this yet? I knew what I needed to hear.

[00:26:29] Mm-hmm. And I went over and I found somebody who could point it out to me. 

[00:26:32] Blake Melnick: Yeah. seek out the knowledge that you're lacking. Yep. 

[00:26:35] Terry Soleas: Mm-hmm. , I, I knew what I was looking for, or this is the person that I need to go ask on that sort of thing. Right. So they have a sense. So they're self-regulating and disciplined.

[00:26:44] Mm-hmm. , they also know they won't be able to do it alone and that they'll be able to go and seek out this kind of help. This is what I happen to need right now. These are people that also know how they are productive. They know where they are able to be productive. So in my case, when I'm trying [00:27:00] to be creative, I know that I set aside some time and I lock myself in my office for a little while, and then I go out and I go out on the march to go and find somebody to go and ask a specific question for.

[00:27:10] Right. That's just my way of doing it. Sure. There are other people that would innovate in groups in that way. Either way, people know what their process is and they stay disciplined to it. Right. That's a skill that we teach. We have to teach people how to regulate their process. What does it look like when to say this idea has run its course and I can't invest any more time on this right now.

[00:27:31] They also know where to go and look when they don't know where to go when they don't know. Mm-hmm. . So I refer to this kind of resource, or this is the kind of textbook that I would happen to need that they would go and they would take a look at, who do I need to reach out to, who do I give a phone call to?

[00:27:46] Mm-hmm. , they've also built support networks for themselves. The networks that they've built for themselves tend to be both a mixture of like-minded and not like-minded people. Mm-hmm. that they have that they [00:28:00] can ask questions to. In terms of the qualities of leaders that make innovation more likely, they're supportive, they're empathetic, and they are leaders who are not afraid to admit when they are wrong or when somebody else is right.

[00:28:13] That's the kind of thing that's there, right. Somebody has to be toxically Correct. Is not likely to create a particularly innovative, supportive environment for others. They might get people to buy into their ideas through cult of personality, but cult of personality overall is not conducive to innovation.

[00:28:30] Mm-hmm. , at least in the samples that I've seen cult of personalities are dangerous. Yeah. because they result in people following ideas and refusing to admit when a person has done something that is wrong or when they're going after something in the wrong way. If you can't tell a person, I don't think this is correct.

[00:28:46] I don't think that leader is particularly likely to stoke innovation. Right. Even if they themselves are a brilliant innovator. 

[00:28:53] Blake Melnick: Okay, so let's look at the flip side. Those people that you found in your research that were not innovators, are not [00:29:00] motivated to innovate.

[00:29:00] , were there some, again, common reasons why these folks just weren't interested? In being innovators or weren't able 

[00:29:08] Terry Soleas: Abject terror of the status quo, the tyranny of the status quo, the tyranny of now as it is called. That's one that I noticed. The, how is this going to solve this narrow view of this topic when it, when you might be saying, how are we changing paradigms or a risk aversiveness?

[00:29:28] Mm-hmm. risk aversion stamps out innovation very effectively. Right. I would also point out that the status quo is a danger to innovation, especially if it's very firmly entrenched. Yes. If there is an unwillingness to change the status quo. Innovation is very unlikely. To flourish because there simply isn't a space for it.

[00:29:51] Blake Melnick: Right. And this is the cultural piece 

[00:29:53] Terry Soleas: there isn't a room for innovation doesn't occur. Yeah. You ever tried planting a garden on concrete ? It's hard. You gotta [00:30:00] blast it apart. You gotta get to the soil underneath. You need a sturdy foundation for innovation for it to work. And that's sturdy foundation.

[00:30:07] is sometimes a fertile bed. 

[00:30:09] Blake Melnick: I think this is a common theme, certainly in workplace organizations. The not invented here mentality or that's just how we do things around here, you know? And this is the cultural piece, right? I mean, it's what culture really is, how things get done around here. And there's a certain safety when you can operate in what I call an autonomous mode, you know what you're doing, you'll walk into the office every day and you do the thing

[00:30:32] it's like the teacher that comes into the classroom every day and says, okay, students, stop talking now. Open your textbook to page 10 and let's do some quiet reading. Well, there's no teaching going on here. Um, there may be some independent learning on the part of the students, but there's certainly no teaching going on, but it's easy.

[00:30:49] It's autonomous. You know what you're doing. You really can't get into any trouble if you just keep doing that over and over again. And it's one of the biggest challenges that organizations [00:31:00] face when trying to build a culture of innovation or to change their culture in any kind of way to get people to engage in doing things differently.

[00:31:08] As part of their workflow process, not as something that sits on the side of their desk, but part and parcel of all the work they do all the time. And it's funny, you know, over the years, and I've worked with many different firms and organizations and the problems that keep the executives up at night.

[00:31:26] In other words, the challenges or problems that affect their organizations. The answers to these problems typically lie within the heads of the people that work for them. But the leaders haven't created a way for those people and those ideas to come forward. Anyway. I, taken up a lot of your time, Terry. I could go on and on. There's a lot of things we could talk about here. 

[00:31:47] Terry Soleas: So could I, that's why we've gone as long as we have . 

[00:31:50] Blake Melnick: But let's conclude by letting people know you're going to be working with us at WINCan to apply your research around motivations, to innovate, to help determine whether workplace innovation or [00:32:00] encouraging a culture of innovation in the workplace can actually lead to both a better quality of work experience for employees and increase performance for organizations.

[00:32:08] So we'll keep you posted on the results from this effort. Terry is one of our guests on the series, the Many Faces of Innovation. And we're going to have a lot more. So you're gonna hear more perspectives on this, from different innovators, people that are trying to increase their capacity for innovation within their organization. I suggest you follow this series. It's gonna be really fun, exciting.

[00:32:30] And if you have any questions for Terry, of course we always have a blog page and Terry will have one as well. And so he'll give us his contact information. If you wanna do any follow up with Terry, you can certainly do so. And 

[00:32:41] Terry, thanks so much for your time. Yeah, I'm really looking forward to working with you on this I think we're gonna do some great things. Likewise, . I think we will. I think so too. Thanks so much for having me on Blake. You're most welcome. 

[00:32:51] This concludes this week's episode, understanding the Motivations to Innovate Part Two with my guest, Dr. Terry Soleas [00:33:00] from Queens University. On our next episode of, for What It's Worth, another segment in our series, the Many Faces of Innovation. We'll focus on innovation at the organizational level and the five-year journey of one Canadian company to build a dynamic culture of innovation for what it's worth.

[00:33:21] I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the Future Skills Center of the Government of Canada for their support of this research and for their ongoing efforts to ensure we increase the capacity and capability for innovation within Canada.