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A Few Thoughts on Innovation Culture

May 10, 2013 / By DJ_Trischler

“Innovation.” I hear the word 10 times a day. The web is obsessed with it. Bloomberg Businessweek has a whole section about Innovation and Design. Fast Company names the most innovative companies in the world every year. Even Chattanooga is frequently deemed innovative for our startups, fiber-optic Internet, and more.

Most people agree that innovation is good, but what exactly is it? Clinically speaking, innovation is making changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products. But, where and how does it start? Who or what sustains innovation? How is it measured? These are the questions knocking around in my head as we get closer to our event about innovation culture with Michael Hendrix of IDEO.

If you don’t know, IDEO is one of the best design consultancies in the world. From the first mouse for Steve Jobs to the improved TSA airport experience, smoother patient care for the Mayo Clinic, or a better virtual banking experience for PNC Bank, IDEO’s mark on the world is around every corner. Michael is the studio director and associate partner at IDEO Boston.

When I spoke with him in preparation for the event, Michael explained that innovation culture is formed through the attitudes and sensibilities of the people within a city, organization, cowork space, etc. The fabric of those groups then create an innovation culture. However, most people start with methodologies or “old maps”, instead of allowing the course to be charted anew. They try and fail because the people aren’t in the right state.

This opened a can of worms for me. Innovation isn’t about doing, it’s about how you do what you do. Innovation begins with you and me, not a method or program. If I begin a design process close-minded, fearful, or cynical – even if the process works – I’m more likely to destroy any potential innovation culture than see long-lasting fruit from the effort. I can’t count how often I’ve done this in my own company and in the the groups I’ve worked with.

That’s precisely why I’m excited AIGA is partnering with Creative Citizenship to bring Michael to Chattanooga: these thoughts are new and bright for me. I see this as a valuable conversation in any organization. We’ve made this a Creative Citizenship event with the hope of attracting a broader audience of designers and non-designers. We believe that in order for a culture of innovation to grow sustainably in Chattanooga it takes all kinds of citizens. Not just a group of designers on the Southside island.

Whether you’re a barista, pastor, director, server, designer, developer, writer, musician, accountant, or something else, it makes no difference: join us on Tuesday, May 21st at 7:00 pm on the 4th Floor of the Downtown Public Library to contribute to this conversation. The event will include interactive installations that illustrate where innovation starts, the keynote talk by Michael, and a Q&A session afterward.

For $25, we’re selling four seats to a post-event dinner with Michael and our executive board at the Public House.

We’re also offering an AIGA members-only hour with Michael before the event, starting at 5:30pm. Tickets to this hour are $20 with the option of bringing a guest. Michael suggested members bring a client or partner who could benefit from learning about innovation.

Click here to register.

I hope to see you there!

Edit made on Tuesday, May 14: Changed the day of event from Wednesday to Tuesday.

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