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Stony Brook Innovation Center Blog

Innovation Evolution

Dec 08 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?  

Grandmas sit in chairs and reminisce
Boys keep chasing girls to get a kiss
The cars keep going faster all the time
Bums still cry "Hey buddy, have you got a dime"

And the beat goes on, the beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La, de, da, de, de, la, de, da, de, da

                                    Sonny & Cher 


Kind of funny, ain’t it, how nature not only takes care of itself, but continually innovates improvements in creatures and environments to make them increasingly compatible, come what may.  I’ve been harping for some time now about doing likewise to improve yourselves, through changing whatever you are thinking or communicating about into other objects, creatures, or situations like it in some way, with illustrative anecdotes and analogies. 
I visit a lot of people, this time of year, to provide their Medicare insurance plans, and have noticed that people who capture the musicality of words in their speech, which evokes their emotional significance, are healthier, have outlived siblings, even survived catastrophic diseases which they were told many years ago they should not expect to have.  If a fourth year medical student thought it would make an interesting study, seeing whether people’s speech patterns influenced their general well-being, I have to surmise that no one ever thought of doing one before.  Now that’s a bonafide Competitive Advantage that Stony Brook Medical Center can tout! 
How come nobody ever thought of it before?  The concept comes into play in a Star Trek episode somewhere, probably aired some fifty years ago, where Captain Kirk’s emotions and intellect get separated in the transporter.  His intellectual half has difficulty Processing Information and speaks in a monotone.  Way back in Putting 2 and 2 Together to the Nth Power, I mentioned a psychiatrist bringing his adolescent son to me with the same problem, and reunifying him by capturing the musicality inherent in a random reading passage.  You don’t have to be a medical student to know that all our organs, glands, and cells Process Information, nor to make the leap that if our brain is clogged, stalling, or slipping, it ain’t good for the rest of us, either. 

Much the way Big Numbers make evolution work, both environmentally and biologically, seemingly insignificant oversights, in and of themselves, wind up mattering a great deal on a grand scale economically, as well.  Case in point: an application for a Medicare supplement is submitted to an insurance company by a broker for the first time, and the broker gets a note from an underwriter requesting documentation about something.  A few days later, different underwriters requested the same document from other applicants, whom the broker already advised to fax it to the first one.  Only after nagging the first underwriter about it did he receive, two days later, a confirmation that she’d forwarded the documents to the correct underwriters, very near the Annual Enrollment Period deadline.  One would guess that everyone who’s been around the block a time or two can add a few similar mishaps.  Those who’ve been around it 1000 times, as I have, probably have 1000 more.  Do I see a WikiWhacky somewhere in the near future?
WHY wouldn’t she have let him or her KNOW she was doing so, right away?  I’ve ,mentioned other instances of people not seeing The Whole Picture and wreaking havoc on several lives because of it.  Safe to say, even though that specific situation won’t come up again with that broker, others will.  To some extent, everyone in business is constantly teaching each other how to fulfill their needs, BUT … there’s also a presumed base line of Ordinary Competence.  The Question looms large: How Much productivity is LOST due to people operating below that without realizing it, and everyone working around it?  You have to count how much people like that lose over their lifetimes from being stuck where they are.  I frankly don’t know the degree that Sigma This and ISO That or Any Other efficiency system is even aimed at Core Competence on this level, where the rubber meets the road, as they say; just that The Beat Goes On.

Let’s ratchet the scale of events up, just as mega-events occur environmentally and biologically.  No more tigers, condors, and polar bears in the wild seems almost unthinkable.  We can do without dodo birds, BUT … elephants, gone?  Just like that, forever?  Are there any rhinoceroses anymore?  I don’t see them on the Discovery, National Geographic, or Public Television programs.  Just the black ones, or the white ones?
A lifeguard at the gym was wearing a t-shirt in memoriam of some firefighters killed on 9/11 in the World Trade Center, so it occurred to me to ask, knowing that he’s planning to be a city fireman, whether anyone—I repeat, ANYONE—ever discusses that all those hundreds of rescue responders in every capacity, who died that day should have known that the buildings would collapse any minute, in which case even New York’s Finest and Bravest don’t go into buildings, and those many many lives would have been spared and their families spared their loss.  To the best of my knowledge, the subject has never come up.  Since the architect, builder, and owner presumably knew that the buildings’ construction method was subject to collapsing under such conditions, their liability—and the city’s, which accepted the plan—looms large.  I’ve twice mentioned capable historians revisiting events, first with regard to Innovative Re-Viewing: Disruptive Information on August 11th, 2014, and the so-called Great Society in I Can’t GET No … Innovation on October 1st this year.  Much has been written and filmed about 9/11.  This is a major university.  Someone should be looking into what really happened that infamous day; that is to say, what didn’t happen.  Our evolution depends on it.
Stony Brook U. has a program to help those who helped at where I was referred to the FealGood Foundation working on legislation regarding the matter, as well as assisting those who put themselves in harm’s way.  One would think that getting those who dropped the ball then to pick it up now can only help those in need because of it.  The Bigger SOLUTION Requires The Bigger PICTURE.
As it happens, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign also adds fuel to my fodder, if only because the snap responses from his opponents belie the True Significance of the question he raises.  At the Middle Country library the other day, I got the queasy feeling that someone might come in with an automatic weapon and end my life in an instant, along with everyone else’s there.  Same thing at the gym I visit regularly, or—Who Knows?—Trader Joe’s.  Anywhere!  The snap slur about Racial Profiling came up often in the candidates’ and newscasters’ responses to Trump.  No one so much as asks whether we are the ones being Racially Profiled by radical Muslims, as mere Westerners of ethnic and religious backgrounds other than Islam, and their version of Islam, at that!  Judgment at Nuremberg ends with the judge overseeing the proceedings, holding Nazis accountable for the holocaust, telling a Nazi judge condemned to life imprisonment, who pleads that he didn’t know it would come to that, that it came to that the first time he condemned someone to death, knowing full well that he was innocent.

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

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