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Stony Brook Innovation Center Blog

Core Competencies

Sep 18 2015

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? 

There’s somethin’ happenin’ here:
What it is ain’t exactly clear …
   from “For What It’s Worth,” Steve Stills
   performed to perfection by Buffalo Springfield

Core competencies fulfill three criteria:[1]

  1. Provides potential access to a wide variety of markets.
  2. Should make a significant contribution to the perceived customer benefits of the end product
  3. Difficult to imitate by competitors.

I often hear that life is a two-way street, in not in so few words.  Far from it, almost invariably when someone points it out, neglecting to mention beforehand that anything I say can and will be used against me.  Go you one better; make that two: anything I ever said can and already is.  From all I can tell, conversing with men and women far and wide, this is an all too common experience, both at work and at home, but life doesn’t have to be that way: rife with contentiousness.  As it’s also often said, life is too short to waste any of it that way, let alone too much of it, and of course bickering about the bickering and grieving about both afterward.  I might add, life is also too long for such nonsense.  In last year’s October 13th post, “It’s All in the Game,” I referred to life as a two-way street in a different vein: that Devotions beget Devotions, as well.  Might the difference between the hazardous two-way streets and the well-marked, well-lit ones be a matter of Core Competencies, as surely as darkness is the absence of light?  Like cheating, devotions taketh many forms.  The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.  If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you can bet it ain’t no swan.
The last post ended with a fictionalized account (what isn’t?—think about that one) of a conversation with a student on a subject I have broached from different angles throughout, about much of The Point of a REAL University like this, as opposed to the VIRTUAL ones that have become so popular nowadays, is that information is in the air.  Dollars to donuts, you’ve had contact on one campus or another and STILL do with people who are doing or have done work in every college here, probably every department, and major figures like Goethe, Jung, and Piaget, mentioned in that post, and others referenced throughout again, whose ideas permeate every facet of our lives, whether we realize it or not, came up somewhere in class, conversation, or someone’s papers or books they showed you, and got away from you.  If you missed Goethe, Jung, and Piaget through 4 years of college, how much ELSE will you be missing through 40 YEARS of work? 
One of Jung’s seminal books, for example, is called Symbols of Transformation.  Change Management sound familiar?  Handy tool to have under your belt if you wind up on either side of that fence, as most of you—I think your professors will concur—eventually will.  Besides which, is there anyone who doubts that there isn’t a single book or article about personal growth, professional development, or just plain old business that isn’t integrally as much about transformation in one way or another as every novel, short story, play, or poem worth remembering? 
o let us go then, you and I, while the summer is still spread out against the sky, and take that street back the other way, to your Core Competencies. 

Provides access to a wide variety of markets
I’ve worked in architecture, education, original art works, art reproductions, advertising, lobbying, banking, insurance, and journalism, doing much the same thing all the while, just a little differently in each field—call it a market.  Why was I able to thrive sufficiently in each to land on my feet without a care in the world, blogging to my heart’s content?
2)      Should make a significant contribution to the perceived customer benefits of the end product
A hearty diet of the great works instilled in me, much the way you install software on a computer, the ability to be quick on the draw with a phrase that will stop folks in their tracks and make them think twice before taking their next move, the way Straight Shooters are in the Westerns with their guns, and like as not, with a phrase, as well.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again: if you can’t put 2 and 2 together, nothing much else adds up, or holds up for long.  Trickier business than it seems.  Which two, right off the bat—from both ends—picking the right detail to focus on at the right time, and the right analogy with that person at that time.  Three ticks on the clock, down one, with a shot at the city championship in Madison Square Garden on the line, and the coach calls the play to Yours Truly with a first-team All American standing next to me.  You don’t just stroll back onto the court,acting like the decoy in the play, with one gag in your pocket.  10,000 hours of practicing everything imaginable, over and over, led to that moment.  Likewise, sitting across a conference or dining room table over a deal in the making.
3)      Difficult to imitate by competitors.
Soon after my lobbying days, I waltzed into the Long Island Association’s headquarters to take out a membership on behalf of an international fraternal order I began to represent here in Suffolk County.  Not long after giving the receptionist my name, their membership sales manager came into the lobby and asked if I were the David Myers.  Not knowing there was one, I looked around the large area, to see if it were a Hall of Mirrors like the ones in carnivals.  “Not a week—no, hardly a day—goes by,” he tells me, “but one of my seven illustrious salespeople don’t come back with yet another David Myers story about being in the thick of a presentation with a business owner on the verge of joining the LIA, who pulled back suddenly and proclaimed that David Myers is his (or her) business organization man!”

As they say in the militaray, “Do You READ Me?”

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

Phone: 631.632.7171
Fax: 631.632.8181