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Stony Brook Innovation Center Blog

Innovation Fine Points

Oct 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? 


Say what you will, say what you feel
Feeling inside, yeah, say what you will
Show me what's hiding behind your eyes
Don't keep 'em feelings locked up inside
Tear down your wall, don't let 'em hide you
Reach out your pain, can't you understand
You're beautiful

Do what you will
Pay no attention to the small mind, oh no, no
Do what you will
Or laugh at convention, it's not a crime, no, no, no, no

"Beautiful," by Carole King, performed by The Youngbloods

I’ve referred to several books and articles, poems and songs throughout the posts.  Each has Fine Points and Big Points.  MY Point, which I try to hammer home (for want of a better phrase) is that neither come of themselves, as it seems, but out of a structure, which every writer uses alike, somewhat differently.
When informing people about this blog, I tell them that each post applies one or more components of what I have been calling The Uniform Structure of Information to various facets of work and life.  Why would I pepper the rubric (call it a matrix, a schematic, a system, if you like, or in computerese, a program, which in reality it is: a language configuration that enables you to do things with it, just as computer programs enable you to do things with them) throughout the posts, rather than spill the beans in one neat pile for you?  It’s too big; bigger, in fact, than the infinite internet, which has done nothing to solve The Big Three problems confronting society—education, employment, and healthcare—nor promises ever to.  

I mentioned being able to learn a lot about innovation from athletics commentators, way back in “It’s All in the Game” and “The Lessons Within The Lesson”. While taking a boring online insurance certification test this Wednesday, I caught a debate on ESPN’s show, First Take, in which the contrversy about Deflategate, as it’s known, when fabled New England quarterback, Tom Brady, was supposed to have deflated footballs to gain an advantage in a playoff game.  Where it got interesting is when Skip Bayless contended that Stephen A. Smith had admitted previously that Tom Brady cheated, which the astute, irascible Mr. Smith contested— vehemently, I might add—claiming again that he only said Tom Brady must have known that the ball was deflated, BUT … whether that constitues cheating on his part is a whooole other matter!  The referees also handle the balls a great deal.  They, too, ought to have known.
A few weeks ago, I had a telephonic hearing with a Judge about a pricing exception for a medication that costs three times—I repeat, three times—than it had previously, now that I’m on Medicare, when costs are supposed to go down, at least one would think that were The Whole Point of Medicare.  Opposing me were a team—I repeat, a team—of specialists in this racket for mighty Empire Blue Cross: a nurse, a nurse practitioner, a paralegal, and an appeals specialist.  Over 100 pages of documents were sent to me beforehand, which mentioned several times having spoken with my doctor about the medication and appeal.
After being sworn in, with three hearty “Yes, Your HONOR!s” and an even more pronounced, “Yes, SIR!”—I left mine at plain old, “I do,” without trumpets and fanfare, as I’ve seen in 1001 courtoom movies and TV shows, saving my thunder for the more judicious opportunities I anticipated (from their very overblown courtesy) would fall into my lap—I asked if it pleased the court that the two-page argument I submitted with my request for the hearing were sufficient, so I needn’t read it into the record, for which the judge thanked me, then begged the court’s permission only to point out that my argument included an incident that very much smacked of fraud on Empire’s part, in that their denial of my request for a redetermination was missing from the file sent over to the independent board that heard the matter previously, which was unable to explain how else I had received a notice to submit my appeal to them, but insisted nonetheless that I had to make that request before they could consider my appeal.  That would have delayed the matter another 60 days at least.  Suffice it to say, I faxed the denial to them forthwith, and told the judge that I thought their demonstrated lack of Good Faith was relevant to my appeal.
Half an hour later, after haggling about this, that, and the other facets of our sides, the nurse—perhaps at the prompting a colleague who sensed that, unlike the overwhelming majority of their opponents, I had the knowledge and skills to outmaneuver them—suggested speaking with my doctor about a generic medication with the same active ingredients as the one whose cost I was contesting.  The matter had dragged on for 8 months—I repeat, EIGHT months—up to then, so I asked why on earth the alternative medication hadn’t been mentioned previously.  Then I recalled having rifled through the 100+ pages of documents sent to me, the day before the hearing, in which having spoken with my doctor appeared numerous times, so since they had no answer for that question, I asked further whether they had already spoken with my doctor about the alternative medicine.  Whadaya know: turns out they had, who advised against my using it.  The Obvious (to me) still further again question, which they never anticipated my being enough on my toes for it to ever come up, was why that wasn’t included in the voluminous documents I received?
“I couldn’t say, the nurse replied.  “I didn’t compile them.”
“You didn’t what?  And yet here you are, speaking on their behalf—under oath, I remind you.  Are you claiming not to have even looked at them, not noticed its absence, and brought it up now, nonetheless?”
“I am.  I apologize, Your Honor,” she said.
Apologize!” I intervened.  “Falsification or Concealment of material facts is a criminal offense, Nurse Connor,” I pointed out.  “I hope you found what you just heard, Your Honor, as disconcerting, if not downright dishonorable, at the very least, as I do.” 

You may never have to speak before a judge or an audience of millions on TV, but if movies and TV shows like Working Girl and Mad Men about business environments are any indication of what occurs in reality, as their popularity suggests, you will have to cross gauntlets like these more than once, sometimes with grave consequence to you and others besides the family you support; many many other families.  I go back and forth, throughout the posts, from having a command of The Uniform Structure of Information’s significance in learning, communicating what you know, and acting (or behaving, as it’s known in business circles) innovatively—being innovative—in a heartbeat, all day long.
I met with a group of students doing a project for me this week.  One was made up and dressed overtly stylishly, to focus for the moment on but one component of that structure.  A snazzy hat and makeup may be stylISH, but a plain plaid shirt, polo shirt, or solid color sweater are every bit as much a STYLE.  Each of you has a noticeable style.  Does the way you communicate?  HOW does someone ACQUIRE that?  Not at Liz Claiborne stores or Macy’s.  Someone DESIGNED everything you wear.  You alone DESIGN what you say; who you really ARE.  Do you pay half as much attention to what you say all day as other people gave to what you put on in the morning? 
What does design consist of?  Materials, shapes and patterns, and colors, which I refer to in composition terms as Content, Form, and Tone; Style is the general component, which we are discussing.  All the posts delve into … The Fine Points.

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