FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH with Blake Melnick

The Many Faces of Innovation Revisited (Part 1)

November 25, 2021 Blake Melnick Season 3 Episode 1
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH with Blake Melnick
The Many Faces of Innovation Revisited (Part 1)
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to our first episode of season three, of #ForWhatitsWorthwithBlakeMelnick. 

For those of you that had a chance to listen to our trailer for season three last week, know we have an amazing season in store for you. This first episode is actually a re-release of the original podcast we did back in June, 2020.

The reason we're re-releasing this episode is twofold. Number one, the first version was pretty ugly, and secondly we're using this episode as a launch  pad to a new series on innovation called #TheManyFacesofInnovation, where we will explore #innovation, through the eyes of#innovators from across multiple fields of endeavor.

Tom and I will build on this episode, with a follow on episode where we reflect on the ideas we discussed back in 2020, revisit some of those predictions and see where we stand now and where we might be headed in the future

 So welcome to ForWhatitsWorthwithBlakeMelnick, Season three.

And if you like the show please share it out to your networks, and consider making a small donation to the cause by buying us a coffee, using the Support the Show link

The Music for Today's Show, "The Other Side” is written and performed by @BlairPackham. Check out
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The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Reference to any specific product or, entity unless explicitly expressed, does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by For What it's Worth and the Space [in between]

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From those who know to those who need to know

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Every Graduate is Innovation-Enabled; Every Employee can Contribute to Innovation

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Many Faces of Innovation - Re-Visited

[00:00:00] 

[00:00:00] Blake Melnick: Well, welcome to our first episode of season three, if for what it's worth, I'm your host Blake Melnick. And for those of you that had a chance to listen to our trailer for season three last week, know, we have an amazing season in store for you. This first episode is actually a rerelease of the original podcast we did back in June, 2020.

[00:00:51] The reason we're rereleasing this is twofold. Number one, the first version was pretty ugly and secondly, we're using this as a launch [00:01:00] pad to a new series on innovation called The Many Faces of Innovation. So Tom and I are going to build on this episode with a follow on episode where we reflect on the ideas we discussed back in 2020, revisit some of those predictions and see where we stand now.

[00:01:17] So welcome to for what it's worth. Season three.

[00:01:24] This week's guest is Dr. Tom Carey. Throughout his career, Tom has been a serial intrapreneur for innovation in higher education teaching and learning in Canada and abroad. Tom currently works nationally and internationally as a connector, coach and catalyst for strategic innovation within higher education institutions, networks, and systems, his most recent research initiative, Building Ontario's Innovation Enabled Workforce is focused on ensuring that every graduate is innovation capable, and that every employee is able to contribute to innovation within their respective [00:02:00] organizations, systematically increasing Canada's capacity and capability for innovation... an imperative, like never before.

[00:02:09] Tom. I'm really excited to have you as a guest for the first episode of what it's worth. Let me begin by asking you some general questions about innovation and your experience as a pioneer in the field. First off you describe yourself as an intrepreneur. Can you explain the difference between an intrepreneur and an entrepreneur?

[00:02:31] Tom Carey: We're still to some extent mapping out how the difference in context translates back into a difference in capability. So at the big level, we say an entrepreneur is someone who starts a new endeavor in order to enable a particular form of innovation, whether it's a product or a service or a new business model or a structure. An intrapreneur starts a new venture within an established [00:03:00] organization, and again, that could be a new product line, a new service, a new business platform, a new business model. But starting something like that within an established organization means you're faced with a set of challenges, as opposed to the entrepreneur who starts with a blank sheet of paper but the entrepreneur obviously he has a different set of challenges. You typically start with a blank checkbook as well, in terms of what the resources you have available other than your own initiative and whatever angel investments you can attract. So that's the trade-off. In an established organization, you typically have some resources at your disposal, even if you're kind of redirecting them into the new venture, but the price of that is there is inertia , there are ways that we've done it for a number of years. And if you're disrupting a part of the organization proposing to do things differently then obviously people within the organization from that area may not [00:04:00] regard that as a positive development.

[00:04:01] Blake Melnick: Tom you've been a champion in innovation and higher education for your entire career. So from your experiences has higher ed done a good job, developing innovation, capable graduates? 

[00:04:15] Tom Carey: I think there are places Blake where we have developed strengths. If you look at the status of entrepreneurship education now in 2020 versus 2010, or even if you go back to 2000, there's a lot more being done. We understand a lot more about how to develop the skills and the knowledge and the mindsets for entrepreneurship. We're not anywhere near as close with intrapreneurship. And we're just starting to think about what is it that every graduate needs to know and be able to do in order to engage effectively with innovation in the workplace. So entrepreneurship programs typically attract a single digit percentage of our students.

[00:04:55] There are exceptions to that. There are institutions like Babson College in Wellesley, [00:05:00] Massachusetts, where entrepreneurship is a signature outcome. And so they get to higher numbers than that, but across, the range of higher education, especially public higher education, entrepreneurship programs only target a small subset of our students. And so getting to the point where every one of our graduates. Is prepared to engage with innovation in the future. That's something that's new. And we can't say that we're doing a good job on that, but we're trying. 

[00:05:27] Blake Melnick: Well, given what you've just said, what are some of the challenges facing higher ed in that regard?

[00:05:33] Tom Carey: So I think the first challenge we have, and it's not just with higher ed, it's also with potential sponsors in government or funding agencies or philanthropic organizations. When you say innovation, universities tend to think of the old linear model. There's a research lab on a campus and something fabulous gets generated there, which then moves forward out of the academy, into the workplace to [00:06:00] affect a significant change. That kind of scientific and technology driven innovation, including social science driven in terms of interventions in social services and so on. So that's only half the story. The other half of the story is innovation that's driven by the workforce itself. And one of the things we have recognized over the last decade is that frontline employees have a mass of knowledge about how things could be; about user needs, about new ways to conduct our affairs, and so getting that other kind of innovation, that's not driven by technological advance, but it's driven by a sense of possibilities of what could be, what people are now calling design led innovation as opposed to technology driven innovation, again, that's a gap in understanding. If we go to Innovation, Scientific and Economic Development, Canada, the fact that all those terms are put into the name of a Ministry frames, our understanding of what innovation is.

[00:06:59] So, [00:07:00] we see innovation as a high-tech entrepreneur who puts together a startup and, releases an app that the whole world needs, et cetera. And that's the only part of the story. And when it comes to things like social innovation, where in the social and community sector, the not-for-profit sector, we need to be thinking about new ways of undertaking our mission to deal with, the financial constraints that are already on us and no doubt will only increase in the next couple of years. That's a different place to conduct innovation because we're not talking about when do the profits roll in to pay off our investors. We're talking about how do we experiment and make change when our case loads are already high and our resources are already constrained.

[00:07:41] So getting an understanding of the many dimensions of innovation and the many different ways we can approach it and then relating that to what does every graduate of higher education need in order to engage effectively with innovation. On the workplace side, what does every one of our employees need in order to fully use their [00:08:00] talents to help us to become more innovative

[00:08:02] Blake Melnick: I wanted to talk a little bit about the term innovation itself. It's widely used. It seems like almost every corporation is talking about the need for more innovation, but do you get a sense that there's a common understanding or common definition around innovation?

[00:08:18] Tom Carey: I think the big barrier is this notion of innovation being mistaken for invention.

[00:08:23] I was sharing something with a class in Melbourne last night, quote from, the Nobel Laureate in physics in 1978. And I really liked this one and I encourage the students to put it up on their wall. You think of something new, you've got an invention. If you apply an invention, yours or somebody else's to change the world in which you live and work, then you've got an innovation.

[00:08:45] So getting that straight in our minds, that it's the social process of change that makes an invention, a new idea, whether it's ours or somebody else's, into a productive innovation to create new value in our work, or in our [00:09:00] other roles as community members and global citizens. So getting that message across that, all of us can engage in innovative behaviors, I think is one of the keys to help Canada move forward, to help the world move forward.

[00:09:13] So the definition that we're now using, we're talking about workplace innovation because our graduates are interested in that employers are interested in that. But the capability that we developed for innovation is equally applicable in other parts of our life. So we've now said, we're talking about social process of mobilizing new ideas to create better work and work can happen in your employment, but work can also happen when you're volunteering in the local community organization. When you're participating in a voluntary association, be it a labor union or your professional society or your neighborhood watch. In all of these things, there are chances to create better work.

[00:09:53] And then we parse out the term better to mean better in terms of the organizational mission or [00:10:00] purpose, which from a company point of view might be making some money while making the world a better place. But from the perspective of your neighborhood association, it might be building a stronger cohesion within our neighborhoods.

[00:10:11] So better work has to help the organization fulfill its mission, but better work also has to mean that it's better for the people who carry out. So the quality of work life for the people doing the work, really has to be enhanced at the same time as the institutional mission is furthered. If we have one of those without the other, it's not sustainable.

[00:10:30] So if you're asking workers to change what they're doing and only the corporation benefits, and there are no better off or more likely worse off, the chance of getting compliance for that, let alone support, is really diminished. On the other hand, if carrying out our work makes us feel better and better uses our talents, but doesn't actually benefit the mission, the purpose of that, we don't achieve better results, then that's not going to be sustainable either. So helping people to [00:11:00] see that dual nature of mobilizing new ideas to create better work. Results are better, the workforce is more fully engaged, more energized then, that's where we get the win. 

[00:11:10] Blake Melnick: Tom. I really liked the way you define innovation there. I think your definition allows innovation to be more accessible to people because it's not just about coming up with something the world has never seen before. It may simply be improving something which already exists or adapting something that has been designed for one purpose, for use in another.

[00:11:32] Canada has a lackluster record in terms of investment in an outcome from innovation when compared to similar developed nations around the world. The Conference Board of Canada defines innovation as a process through which economic or social value is extracted from knowledge, through the curating, diffusing, and transforming of ideas to produce new or improved products, services, processes, strategies, or capabilities.

[00:11:59] The Conference Board's [00:12:00] research conducted in 2013, compared Canada to similar developed nations in terms of their overall capacity and capability for innovation. Here are some of the key findings. Overall Canada ranks 13th out of 16, similar nations in our capacity and capability for innovation. We ranked 15th out of 16 peer countries in terms of business investment, into research and development.

[00:12:27] We rank eighth out of 16 peer countries in terms of public funding for research and development. In terms of support for entrepreneurship, Canada ranks 13 out of 15 nations in addressing key barriers to competition. In the area of new patents filed, Canada ranks 14th out of 16 nations. The Conference Board's research was updated in 2018. The results illustrated no significant improvement in these key areas. Why does Canada continue to underperform in the area of [00:13:00] innovation? I asked Tom this question.

[00:13:02] I want to take our discussion now to the macro level. Tom, why do you think Canada as a nation, number one struggles with investment in innovation and number two struggles to derive an economic impact from these investments in terms of our GDP, when compared with other similar developed nations in the world?

[00:13:23] Tom Carey: That's a really interesting question. As you know, I spent almost 10 years working in California and I've now spent, almost four years working in Australia, as well as working across Canada a little bit in, I guess, almost all the continents, but in those areas that I do know well outside of Canada, there are some marked cultural differences there, in terms of how enterprising people are. I compare Australia with Canada, for example, the sense of who they are as a country is completely different.

[00:13:53] They're an island in a large sea of culturally and ethnically different people. And [00:14:00] somehow that changes the psychology of your sense of taking initiative, your sense of having to try new things. Now, maybe I've only been exposed to a subset of Australia. I've worked mostly in the large cities, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, so things may be quite different when you get into other regions of the country, but in those areas, you do notice, a different sense of who we are and how we can succeed. I think in Canada, we've been blessed with so many advantages, in terms of natural resources, in terms of the presence of one of the world's biggest markets, on our Southern border, in terms of our special relationships with Britain, and to some extent with Europe and some sense of affinity with, the European leadership.

[00:14:44] I don't want to bemoan any of those as ills. Those have been great advantages for us as a country. We thrive, socially and economically because of that, but going forward, it is a concern that we really need to up our game, and to think in more enterprising [00:15:00] ways to not expect that anyone's going to provide for us, that we really do have to make our own way in the world.

[00:15:09] When I see the number of Australian companies who come into Canada to manage our shopping malls like Westfield or to build our toll roads the 4 0 7 in Ontario. We don't see that kind of involvement by Canadian companies in Australia, outside of the natural resources sector, and, that's not for lack of good Canadian companies. So, it's a puzzle to me, but my work in those other countries has convinced me that there's something more fundamental there, that we have to be willing to innovate and we have to be willing to try out new ideas. We have to learn to be surprised when our ideas don't work out and we need some government leadership on that. And that's hard to come by

[00:15:50] Blake Melnick: All great points, Tom, when I first met you and I think it was back in 1999, when we were involved in the Tele- Learning Network Centers of Excellence. [00:16:00] And we were in a partner's meeting in Montreal after two years into the research, and Gilbert Paquet, I believe, was standing on the stage, addressing the audience saying, well, we spent two years doing all this research. It's time to turn our attention to commercialization. It almost felt like everybody wanted to run for the exits. Is there a fundamental disconnect with the way government is approaching their funding around innovation?

[00:16:28] Tom Carey: Well, again, it's a two edge sword in my view, Blake, so Canadians are wonderful for their trust in public institutions. Living in the U.S, you have a larger number of people who don't have that same level of trust in public institutions. I mean, there are lots of people who do of course, but, our sense of trust in public institutions has gotta be one of the highest in the world, maybe with the exception of the Scandinavian countries.

[00:16:53] So that's the good news, but, the other side of that, is that we can be a bit complacent then that [00:17:00] someone's going to look after us. 

[00:17:01] So in the example you mentioned of, Gilbert and the need to commercialize things. I would generalize that to say really thinking about how we can have a larger impact. And this gets back to, in some ways the world needs more Canada kind of thinking, The world doesn't necessarily need our extensive consultation processes. So my view Canada leads the world in the duration and breadth of our consultation processes. It takes us a long time to make a decision and to get things to move. The current crisis maybe has shown us that we can do more. Our provincial premiers, our federal leaders can in fact work together across ideological lines in many instances to get things done. but traditionally we've been very sensitive to consulting with a broad range of people before we actually make a tough call. And when we're dealing with a competitive situation globally, the [00:18:00] slowness and the thoroughness of our consultative processes are, my own view, often an obstacle to getting it done, trying some things out, seeing what works and doesn't work, managing that and managing the risks involved in intelligent ways, rather than trying to avoid offending anybody.

[00:18:17] When I look at urban development in Australia, for example, the time it takes to get planning approvals is much shorter. Does that always lead to the best development? Probably not, but I would say on balance, getting some things done without talking to death about it, has its advantages, and especially in areas where we're competing against the world. If we're going to compete in a global marketplace, then we're going to have to make some compromises on our built-in inclination to make sure everybody's onside before we do that. 

[00:18:46] Blake Melnick: Well, I'm glad you mentioned the current situation. I think you're absolutely correct what we've seen from our Federal Government, how quickly they responded to the financial needs of Canadians through the implementation of the CERB initiative [00:19:00] was truly remarkable - things that we would normally expect to take months and months to execute, happened very quickly and as a result of their decisiveness, it bolstered Canada economically and socially during this difficult time. I want to talk a little bit about the context for innovation, within the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Stats Can more than 3 million Canadians lost their jobs in March and April of 2020, this represents the most rapid employment decline in the country's history.

[00:19:30] We've seen a veritable collapse of the oil and gas industry, which represents 10% of Canada's GDP. So what does all this tell us about the future of education, work and the importance of innovation and specifically workplace innovation? 

[00:19:45] Tom Carey: So just a few random observations Blake from my limited perspective. My understanding of the kind of macroeconomic impacts, again, very limited by my reading of experts on it. My sense is when [00:20:00] we say 3 million Canadians lost their jobs,

[00:20:03] I think it's more fair to say 3 million Canadians had their work lives suspended. It's not yet clear that, we've had whole industries disappear or anything of that sort. If people couldn't go out and couldn't spend, then certain industries took a huge hit who were dependent on that. Other industries like supplying goods at a distance and having people deliver your groceries or whatever, didn't do that.

[00:20:24] In my view, it's a very different kind of economic dilemma that we face that if demand for certain services has completely died off, then how do we get that demand back up, perhaps in a way that's a little better informed in terms of what it is that we're demanding? I think the oil and gas sector was clearly a more difficult situation because they had already been hit by a glut of oil based on a little, tit for tat between Russia and the Saudis. And, you know, there was other stuff happening there in the immediate term. And then in the longer term, the gradual effort to move away from fossil fuels in order to [00:21:00] limit the effects of climate collapse. So the oil and gas industry was hit by two or three disruptive things at once, so yes, I think you're quite right in identifying that as a really critical thing that we have not been adapting fast enough to fuel those other changes, and then on top of that to get hit with the sudden collapse in demand by people just not out there traveling. Since coming back from California at the end of March, I've spent 50 bucks in gas quite literally, and if demand dries up like that, then certainly that's a huge difference. So that's just on the macroeconomic side. On your specific question about workplace innovation, we have certainly seen that change is possible. In higher ed, we've had to very quickly implement, what we're calling emergency remote learning.

[00:21:47] We're trying to make sure people don't confuse that with high quality well-designed and tested online learning. We've had instances of that, of course, but we've also had a lot of instances where in order to [00:22:00] provide an ongoing service to students, we've had to make compromises, but all in all, I think most institutions have been surprised at the willingness of people who might have been a little reluctant to embrace a change like this in the past, now suddenly seeing the need for it. Now we don't yet understand what the long-term impacts of that are, will instructors, who've now seen the potential of well-designed, well-tested, online learning, be more willing to consider different blends of face-to-face activity and online activity, and other kinds of learning, or will the experience of emergency remote teaching, where we couldn't really do all that great a job come back to haunt us. In both of the teams that I'm working with in Australia, one in Brisbane, and one in Melbourne. The University's made a decision within the last two weeks, to move away from the plan to open second term, which is starts August 2nd. The plan up until two weeks ago was it's going to all be online.

[00:22:55] The Australian government has eased some of the lockdown restrictions they're seeing now a [00:23:00] possibility for, course units to be a mix with some onsite time. So we heard on Monday in Melbourne, that we should change our plans and expect students will be onsite and participating in onsite activities alternate weeks during the term. International students, perhaps taking up residence, but only being on the campus, for half of the weeks, in order to make physical distancing work. So we're being forced to make much quicker adaptations than we probably thought were possible. What will the long-term impact of that be?

[00:23:33] I would be just speculating on that. All of us are just trying to keep our heads above water right now. 

[00:23:38] Blake Melnick: Well, I think part of what's causing such an angst amongst people across all sectors is, as you say, we really don't know what the future holds. And of course, we're anticipating a second wave of the pandemic in the fall, and God only knows what the impact of that will be. So, as you say, we're almost being forced to innovate quickly out of necessity, and I've been [00:24:00] fascinated to see how certain workplaces have adapted to remote working very quickly, while others have struggled to do so. For example, Shopify announced that they're going to shift completely to a remote working model and that's following the building a brand new office space in Ottawa, not long ago. OpenText to sold off a good portion of their real estate assets, because they've also realized that much of the work of the company can be done remotely.

[00:24:27] So do you see this as a trend? Do you think that organizations will see the value of remote work and continue to support that model going forward, even if we manage to find a cure for the virus?

[00:24:39] Tom Carey: Well, you know, it's funny in combination with those reports -that Organizations have been surprised at how much of their work can actually be done remotely. We're also hearing anecdotally from team members that they have been surprised at how fatiguing it can be to be an online meetings all day long.

[00:24:56] If you have to meet a lot with people, then you are [00:25:00] noticing a difference in terms of the fatigue that a day full of meetings can bring on. I was chatting with someone yesterday about this, that it's partly the difference in the medium. So if you're in an online meeting in zoom or anything of that sort, Shindig, whatever, everybody's looking at you.

[00:25:16] If you're in a regular meeting around a meeting table, you know, that everybody's typically looking at the speaker and so you can look down at your notes, you can take a drink of water. The attention is shared much more, in a face-to-face meeting, but people are noticing how the medium, and the way the medium is used and really affect how you experience the meeting. We're getting these anecdotal reports that, " I'm used to being in meetings all day, but I'm ending up more tired" and that seems to be because everybody seems to be looking at you all the time and that's a different kind of phenomenon that we're not used to. I wouldn't be too hasty to jump in and say, well, that's it, [00:26:00] we can let everybody work from home. I don't think the data yet supports that. As you know, Blake, I work from my home office a lot of the time. 

[00:26:07] I think we're going to find different kinds of work there that might open up more flexibility, but I'm not yet prepared to say that it makes no difference. I was supposed to be in Melbourne for three weeks in April. That visit of course got canceled because even had I been led into the country, I'd have been in isolation for two weeks, but there's lots of that work that I haven't been able to do at a distance.

[00:26:29] Blake Melnick: Well, we are social creatures to be sure, Tom. And I've also looked at the research around the fatigue related to the use of zoom and other teleconferencing systems, and part of me wonders whether the technology is the real issue or is the issue related to the way we traditionally work, and the fact that we have just too many meetings. In other words, is our current use of these technologies just shinning the spotlight on how much time people actually spend in non-value-added meetings, as [00:27:00] opposed to doing productive work.

[00:27:02] And I guess that's another issue altogether and another topic for conversation, but with anything new, as the philosopher, Piaget would say, we tend to accommodate it with something that we are familiar with. In other words, how we've always designed our face to face meetings. And as a result of this, there tends to be a swing far to the right.

[00:27:22] So we're presented with a new technology like zoom, and we try to apply the design principles and the processes that we use in face-to-face meetings. So in other words, people, on a zoom call, we'll keep all of their cameras on and look at everybody's face sitting around the table. Now from my experiences, most meetings are informational.

[00:27:46] You don't really need to have your camera on and having your camera on and looking at 10 people's faces for an hour can be really exhausting. But if you turn your camera off or you only turn your camera on when [00:28:00] you're speaking and you eliminate looking at yourself. So in other words, you turn your own camera off, you'll find it far less exhausting. So I think part of it is adapting our processes to fit a new medium. Back in the early nineties at the dawn of the World Wide Web, the same thing went on. When companies decide to shift their presence over to the World Wide Web from print, all they did initially, was take their print material and put it online and hyperlink it to death.

[00:28:32] And this proved to be ineffective because it didn't really suit the benefits of the medium of the World Wide Web. So then companies went back and said, no, we have to cull our content. We have to reduce it into more bite sized chunks where the message is really clear and succinct.

[00:28:49] I think we need to do that when we think about using zoom as a replacement for face-to-face meetings. But again, I do believe we spend too much [00:29:00] time in meetings. As a result, we're now spending too much time using zoom. I believe that this is here to stay. I think people like the flexibility of being able to have some control over their work schedule, and not simply have to report into the office because that's what they've always done.

[00:29:17] And if the work that they have to do is very task based, or if it is focused work that needs to be done on a computer, people can do this more effectively from home and achieve, the added benefit of a better work-life balance, more time with the family and that kind of thing. So I do think it's here to stay, we just have to adapt our processes to suit a new medium.

[00:29:40] I want to shift gears a little bit now. You've mentioned social innovation. You've defined it in such a clear way. I want to talk to you about what you think, the skills, knowledge, mindset, and experience that people need in order to become innovation capable in a post COVID world.

[00:29:58] Tom Carey: Okay. [00:30:00] So, the framework that we're using as, you know, includes skills, knowledge, mindsets, and experiences. So skills is kind of the obvious one. What are the competencies? What can you do? What tools do you understand and how well can you put them to use, to achieve the goals? And in terms of innovation, there really is a large set of tools. We've been teaching some design thinking sessions in Melbourne trying to emphasize to the students, here's one way of doing it, but you can look at the Stanford design thinking garage kit, and there's 51 different ways to do that for a particular task, like getting out of your traditional way of thinking and getting very creative ideas.

[00:30:42] There's lots of ways that we know of to stimulate that and deciding which of those to use requires some knowledge of the context and requires you to read the room in terms of how people are relating to each other, in order to choose the right specific tool that's going to give us the most value. So [00:31:00] we need some combination of the skills to actually carry out a task, using a particular method. Then we need some of this big picture knowledge to understand which method might be more applicable here, and not just in the heat of the moment where we're trying to brainstorm ideas or drawing up user personas to promote everybody's empathy for seeing the world the way each of our different kinds of users might see it. It's also the case, on a sort of larger canvas when I'm planning a project, understanding intrapreneurship in the public sector versus intrapreneurship in the corporate sector versus whatever intrapreneurship might look like in a smaller family owned and family driven business. , so that kind of contextual knowledge that we call the "Know Why" is necessary in order to be able to decide which of our know-how skills gets applied. 

[00:31:54] We've seen a lot being written about the mindsets. So you and I, Blake worked with [00:32:00] Dhavel Shaw, the Innovation Director at the Bank of Canada. And he shared with us some of their resources in terms of here's what we're looking for in our professional hires, and, you may remember some of that, we're looking for people who are change contributors, who are innovative problem solvers, who are self-starters. Well, those aren't skills quite so much as they are dispositions or mindsets. And those are largely shaped by our experiences of the past, as well as maybe some innate characteristics.

[00:32:29] So there's a mix there, but the part that we can really intervene on to help shape, is what experiences can we find for you to engage with successful innovation that might make you more of a self-starter make you feel of yourself as more of a change contributor, more of an innovative problem solver. So in our work in Melbourne and with our pilot group, we had them all fill in the motivation to innovate questionnaire that recently came out from a PhD thesis at Queens University.

[00:32:59] I spoke to the [00:33:00] lead author - the PhD student who did that work and said, Terry, now that we know where people stand in terms of their motivation to innovate and what some of the factors are that are causing them to be high or low on certain scales, what are the interventions that we can use to help nudge them into attitudes that are going to make them more productive, in engaging with the innovation? And, we're a bit stumped there. We have over the last couple of decades developed some of that knowledge about entrepreneurs. How can we in entrepreneurship education, hope to nudge people towards more productive, mindsets, more productive attitudes, more realistic attitudes in some ways. So we're just getting into that in terms of mindsets for innovation. If that's not something that you learned in the classroom, you don't get a talk from someone that makes you a self-starter. You have a set of experiences, which reward you for those behaviors, and allow them to come more to the fore when you're called on in a particular [00:34:00] situation and so that's where the experience part comes in. Partly to produce fluency with the skills. That you've used this skill often enough that you can not necessarily do it on autopilot, but you don't have to think about every step and be concerned about every step. You've practiced enough to achieve some fluency and carrying out the task, but also you need those experiences to help your mindsets, to equipe you to be resilient for example, in the face of trying something, having it work, having to pivot or unlearn some of your hypotheses, to not be thrown off your game by that requires some practice with it, some experiences to say, "yeah, I've been in this boat before, and I know that there are ways that I can deal with it" so how do we build that kind of a program? and again, we're building the airplane while flying it to a certain extent, because these are all open questions, and the only way we'll learn is by being innovative ourselves. 

[00:34:57] Blake Melnick: I really love that point. I've [00:35:00] always believed that you learn about an innovation through being engaged in the innovation process. It's not something you can do from afar or study in a book. And I like your focus on mindset . So how do we encourage people to develop this mindset? As you said, it's partly through experience.

[00:35:17] And as you know, I've always defined knowledge in my practices. In knowledge management, I've always defined knowledge. As understanding, gained through experience, you need to experience something in order to develop the knowledge base, to draw upon when you're faced with trying to learn something new. So I think it's very important. And on that note a new report came out this past Friday from the Brookfield Institute for Innovation, suggesting that in the future, based on where we are now with COVID and the changes that will likely be forced upon us in order to adapt, there are a number of foundational skills they predict will be in high demand in the future. And they are, service orientation, instructing, persuasion, fluency of ideas and [00:36:00] memorization. And when I saw this in print, I thought, boy, They seem very much like old skills of the existing status quo rather than new skills necessary to navigate a world characterized by constant change and continuous disruption.

[00:36:14] I wanted to get your take about this particular research report from Brookfield and whether or not you feel the skills that they're talking about, align with your own research around social innovation.

[00:36:27] Tom Carey: My first comment when I saw the list was "I think you're mixing up categories there" so, persuasion is a skill. People can learn to be more persuasive, service orientation. I would put more into mindset category, and the way you foster that is by creating successful experiences, which gradually reinforce the intrinsic and extrinsic value of that. Fluency of ideas. I'm not quite sure what that means. I think it means being adaptive to new ideas, which sounds [00:37:00] more like a mindset, but also knowing how to test and critique new ideas. So we talk about critical friends of innovation that are critical because you've seen ideas that seemed really promising that in fact were off target. But you're a friend because you've seen enough examples where innovation really did pay off and you know, that you can make an impact in this area, so, I didn't find that categorization , as helpful as I would have hoped because, as we were saying a minute ago, those different categories that make up the capability, require different kinds of interventions to encourage them, to support them, to recognize them, and to reward them. Let me go back to mindset for a moment. I was part of a team at the Carnegie foundation in the U S in Palo Alto that worked with students who struggled with quantitative reasoning and whose struggles in the past had convinced them there's a math gene and I didn't get. So as soon as you put anything in front of me, [00:38:00] that looks like an equation or a mathematical string of symbols that I'm supposed to reason with, I know I am not going to get this. Now that mindset is a huge barrier. If people come in to instructional situation, totally convinced that this will not work for them, then it's no big surprise that they're really going to struggle. And the struggle of course will reinforce that perception. So we had to find some way around that.

[00:38:27] Fortunately, there was a recent PhD student at Stanford working with Carol Dweck. Who's been one of the fundamental researchers on mindset, and he had figured out some ways to create a space basically to cause students to suspend that disbelief in their own ability to develop any sense of quantitative reasoning.

[00:38:47] Now he didn't necessarily convince them that they could do it, but you could create a space in which they temporarily suspended that belief. And it would last from three to six weeks, as long as the experiences they had during [00:39:00] that time were positive. And at the end of that six weeks, you could have changed their mindset to believe " I can do this. I'm actually able to do this" and turn that corner on the mindset. So it is possible to do it, but the nature of those interventions took a long time to figure out. And so, with people who now maybe have a negative impression of innovation, Somewhat conservative in terms of their approach to change and so on, we have to, first of all, create some space for them to come set aside the presuppositions long enough to have some good experiences. Now obviously if they set aside their presuppositions and then have bad experiences, it's going to be a lot harder than next time to shift that mindset. So we have our work cut out for us on the whole mindset thing

[00:39:45] Blake Melnick: I was certainly one of those students and that was my feeling about mathematics. When I was in high school, I just couldn't seem to get my head around mathematical theory. Someone would put an equation on the board and my mind would go blank. It meant [00:40:00] nothing to me. And it was only later on in life and again, with the Dawn of the World Wide Web in the nineties, and I started to get into the business of strategic web development early on that I needed to know mathematical principles and theories in order to code websites, relations, and functions, so to speak. And then all of a sudden math made sense because I was learning it in the context of a higher level goal that I was trying to achieve.

[00:40:29] So this brings me to my next question. Can we teach innovation within our current educational structures to the point that we're able to develop innovation, capable graduates? 

[00:40:40] Tom Carey: Well, if you had asked that question 10, 15, 20 years ago,about entrepreneurship, everyone was convinced. entrepreneurs are made not taught and not born. We know better now. We know that there are ways you can help shape people's experiences with entrepreneurship to be more productive. I believe that the same is [00:41:00] true with innovation, that by structuring a set of , exposures and gradually increasingly deeper engagement with innovation, we can make progress on that. So in our course, in Melbourne, for example, we're starting off with being innovative in your own work, where it's you that has the initiative and feels the impact.

[00:41:19] Again, with that notion of better work, being both better for the organization in terms of the organization's goals and better for you personally, as the person carrying out the work. And then we moved from there to a team, looking at an innovation that's been suggested from outside. So here's something that has worked in another organization may be in another context, maybe in another culture , depending how much you want to span.

[00:41:43] You don't start with all of those at once. So here's something that's worked in organizations, something like ours, but we're different enough that we want to have a team of people who will look at that. So this is harder now on two scales, it's a team effort, not me running my own show. And it's about an innovation [00:42:00] that's going to affect us as a team, and maybe beyond that into a larger impact on our organization, but we didn't have to come up with the idea. We just have to test the idea to see how it might work for us, what adaptations you'd have to make, being sensitive to what made it work in the first place. Because if we take this and really butcher the heart of it, then we're not going to get those effects. Then in the next task that students take on, on the course, they do some design thinking. So they really do have to start coming up with ideas of their own as a group, as a collective. So we think Blake going step by step like that, and gradually increasing the scope of impact and the responsibility of the team for making decisions.

[00:42:42] We can give people a gentle on ramp to innovation. Now all of that is in a context which they themselves understand. The carrying out those exercises within the work of learning in a teaching and learning environment with which they already have some familiarity. It's a [00:43:00] different challenge for them to go out into say their first professional career workplace, where they don't quite understand how things work here and how decisions get made, and who's influence you have to garner in order to get permission to do stuff. So in our Melbourne experiment, that's round two where they go out into a workplace, but partly as an observer of innovation processes and that workplace, partly as a contributor, because they've got a set of very specific skills and we've tried to choose those skills to match with your things that the workplace needs, and perhaps doesn't have that familiarity with, because most of the folks in the workplace, haven't had a chance to go through this kind of a learning process around innovation. These are all hypotheses at the moment. We'll see if they work, but you can maybe get a glimpse of how we've tried to break the problem up into small enough bites that we'll be able to assess what did we get right?, and what did we get wrong? And if we end up with 51%, right, we'll be really happy with ourselves

[00:43:58] Blake Melnick: There's lots of research around what [00:44:00] makes a fulfilling work experience for an employee. And it seems to me that you are suggesting that there really needs to be a concerted effort on the part of both educational institutions and workplace organizations to work together, to design intentionally, a way to foster the mindset, skills, knowledge, experience, necessary to encourage innovative thinking and innovative behavior, whether that be in school or whether that be at the office. So what's next? What does the future hold for Tom Carey? Where do you go from here? 

[00:44:35] Tom Carey: Well, let's say where does the initiative go? I think one of the opportunities that we haven't taken full advantage of that's come to my attention through, something you suggested to me is the notion of intergenerational learning around workplace innovation.

[00:44:49] So you and I had some discussions about the youngish, but older workforce. People who are mature in a particular work setting, very experienced and [00:45:00] who for that very reason sometimes get ignored in terms of new opportunities like innovation. they are considered to have been here long enough that maybe they're part of the old guard.

[00:45:09] We don't always give those mature, older workers, with some youngest traits, the opportunities to really engage with innovation. So I'm trying to think now about how could we combine helping those people move forward with helping our typical university undergraduate move forward. Is there a way in which intergenerational teams could tackle these innovation projects in a way that bridges, what might otherwise be divides?

[00:45:36] There's some recent research from Europe on that where bringing older workers and millennial workers together has produced a great synergy and innovation projects are one of those places where you need to have folks around the table with different boxes in which they think. For any of us to think outside our box really requires some exposure to somebody else's box to a large extent.

[00:45:58] This notion of [00:46:00] intergenerational preparation, and then it takes it a step beyond what you were saying about the workplace and higher ed, maybe working together, being very explicit about we're going to combine older workers and new workforce members. Each of them has something to give each other. The older workers may know when things have been tried before. They certainly understand some of the complexities of our organization. The younger minds are coming with fresh eyes, fresh ways of thinking. How could we make something out of that? That what might otherwise be a gap becomes a bridge. So that's one of the projects, I'll be chatting with you more about. 

[00:46:36] Blake Melnick: Well, as you know, Tom, I'm a big supporter of this idea, combining the experience knowledge and know-how of the older worker with the exuberance and technology literacy of the younger worker helps to fill in gaps for both, and provides a unique opportunity for purposeful collaboration while also encouraging the development of that mindset for innovation, and I get a sense that in the world we're [00:47:00] currently experiencing , there's a feeling of disenfranchisement, certainly for the older worker, but also for the younger workers that don't have the educational credentials or the digital literacy skills. People are feeling left behind. So any kind of initiative that allows people to participate in the emerging world, whatever that looks like is going to be a good thing on many levels.

[00:47:21] Tom, that brings us to the end of our hour. I really appreciate you joining us on the show today. I hope we can get you back again, and pick up from where we left off and see where you're at with some of these initiatives.

[00:47:34] Tom Carey: And I'll follow the podcast series with interest Blake

[00:47:36] Blake Melnick: This concludes part one of our interview with Dr. Tom Carey called the many faces of innovation. Tom will be joining me again next week for part two, where we will examine some of the predictions we made in part one, and the issues that we discussed. And we'll look at where we go from here. Please join us for the many faces of innovation, part two, [00:48:00] for what it's worth.