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Stony Brook Innovation Center Blog

It's Crying Time Again

Nov 09 2014

The most helpful topic for an Innovation Center blog would seem to be examining whether innovativeness can be instilled in people the way installing computer programs enables us to do different things, and if so, how is it downloaded, or learned?  Is there a single Skill Set underpinning all the other attributes that are identifiable in the majority of innovators, short of the few savants floating around, and even there?  Do innovations like the light bulb and Internet arise out of nowhere, or evolve as species do: putting similar things together again and again, and how is that done? 

I would be remiss, considering the magnitude of the issue, not to mention that November is National Long Term Care Awareness Month, even though I included a tidbit about the subject in the “Innovating Your Way Around in the MisInformation Age” post back on July 26th.  The statistics are fearsome, indeed.  They’re actually worse than dying, by and large, strange to tell.  True, you can only whistle past the graveyard for so long; then again, if it’s a 52% each person will need Long Term Care, the average age of a claim is 66—not 86, as most think, which is far less than the life expectancy nowadays, and everyone either has somebody or wants somebody, as Dean Martin and countless others put it—you and that somebody may whistle past the nursing home, but the odds are that at least one of you won’t make it, all too often leaving the other one destitute, to boot.
As I pointed out back in sunny July when the year was still young, the main thrust of TV and radio interviews of me on the Family Entertainment Network was that few families discuss the matter until it’s too late: “What do we do now that Mom or Dad (or you or I) need Long Term Care?”

Here is where this gets interesting from an Innovation Standpoint.  e.e cummings wrote a poem that begins, “he does not have to think because he knows…”  Most everyone over 50—and either you are or most likely have elders who are—with whom you broach the subject, has either a bullet in the night table snap answer for that eventuality, or the Viking shove-off to sea on a bark.  Just because someone needs help with a shower door or frying pan doesn’t mean their life is over, as they know it.  It may even improve their putting and fly fishing.  If they are ensconced in a nursing home, on the other hand, having run out of A Little Help from Their Friends, their life as they know it is over.
Alfred Adler, who is credited as the originator of the whole self-improvement movement, of which one would suppose its counterparts in industry like Innovation Centers are a subsidiary—posited that

“The human mind shows an urge to capture into fixed forms, through unreal
assumptions, that is, fictions, that which is elusive, always in flux, and
incomprehensible.  We proceed much the same when we divide the world by
meridians and parallels, for only thus are we able to find points we can bring
into relationship with one another.  No matter at which point one investigates
the psychological development of the healthy or the neurotic person, one always
finds him enmeshed in his schema, the neurotic person believing in his fiction
and not finding his way back to reality, the healthy person using it to attain a
goal in reality.”

Where my premise about mastering The Uniform Structure of Information diverges from Adler’s is that people who know how to formulate their fictions, so they can use them to accomplish goals, become and remain INNOVATIVE, in touch with reality; people who don’t know how to do that become and remain detached from reality, aka neurotic.
Even Adler, or Freud, himself, whose disciple he was, would be as hard-pressed to say whether the map analogy brought forth the rest of the idea or came from it as the proverbial chicken or the egg.  Plato and Aristotle likewise pondered that interplay between language use, idea formulation, and realities long before them.  When I was asked after speaking at a sales conference what was The One Thing I most recommend they do to improve their sales, which of course was The One Thing I neglected to prepare answering—the same way Ralph Kramden overlooks asking his friend, Norton, the name of the song he keeps diddling before each one he plays to help Ralph prepare for going on the game show, Name That Tune, in a famous episode of “The Honeymooners,” which similarly turns out to be the first one played there for him to guess, so safe to say the predicament is not uncommon—I blurted out, blinded from looking into the stage floodlights, “Read Plato.”  The conference hall manager told me when I left the stage  that he came upstairs to see why the whole building was shaking for the first time in his experience, which turned out to be those 500 people laughing so hard!  Apparently, no one suspected a kindrance between an ideal form of the chairs they were sitting in and the people in them.  The Regional Manager, who was emceeing the conference, took the opportunity to seguay into the applauds that someone that funny was due, albeit unintentionally.  As I mentioned on September 2nd in “The World As Metaphor” post, “Life itself tries with all its might to resemble a well-crafted story.” 

Back to the future.  The trees across the street and down the block from my front porch remind me of the old multi-autumnal-colored Trix cereal slogan: “Trix are for kids.”  The sun warms up the surrounding cedar shingles and concrete enough to write comfortably all day during the cold months, and it’s all the more fun, knowing it’ll be a cold day in hell, as they say, before I’m taken—imprisoned, is more like it; ensconced, if you prefer—anywhere else.  I have an insurance policy I dearly hope I’m wasting my good money on, to pay whomever I please (as opposed to expensive credentialed agencies) to help me out here or anywhere in the world (as opposed to expensive credentialed facilities) I have a hankering to be.  I could cruise around the world every year for what the policy costs me, or go to lotsa shows n dinners, which I forego, not only because, as Dorothy sighed to Auntie Em’, “There’s no place like home!” but so my children won’t have to tearfully advise me that they can’t take care of me, themselves, any more, much as they would like to.  When I think about all those bullet in the night table people, I wonder, ‘Didn’t they count on getting old when they were young?  Weren’t they hoping they would?’  People give more thought to planning vacations than their life!

Where this gets even more interesting is that the same number, 9, comes up—not that it would matter if they were close—for the percentage of people who have Long Term Care plans, and the percentage of people in nursing homes, who actually need round the clock nursing supervision, and couldn’t make do at home if they had the means to pay someone of ordinary competence to be there with them.  The other 91% merely weren’t foresightful enough, not misfortunate to be there.  The same number of people who take care of the matter have no choice in the matter.  They’re different people, of course, but it suggests an inherent prescience, that the writing on the wall is ingrained in us, if we can but refrain from looking away from it, as many a dragon-slaying tale goes.

A further point is to be made in these Equality Conscious times: Long Term Care is very much a Feminist Issue.  The New England Journal of Medicine wondered why 17% fewer men than women statistically need Long Term Care since the medical statistics leading to it, like strokes and heart attacks, don’t jive with that.  It turns out, the missing 17% were cared for by their female companions or wives, without leaving them an insurance policy to be cared for at home, as they were, when their turn came, so very closely to the inverse ratio, 82% of nursing home residents (I’m being kind) are women.  Some might call that sleeping with the enemy.

Stony Brook University Innovation Center, Stony Brook, NY 11794-3775

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