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Stony Brook Innovation Center Blog

Innovation Drills?

Mar 02 2016

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?  

"Acting is life study, and (Jeff) Corey's classes got me into looking at life as an artist."
                                                                        Jack Nicholson


Near the end of one of the all-time movies, “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” the colonel in charge of the mission to blow up the bridge, who runs the whole commando school, murmurs while looking through his binoculars over the scene, the morning after they laid explosives and lines, “There’s always One More Detail.” 
Athletes and performing artists do drills every day, to avoid overlooking details and making mistakes.  They do them during lessons, and part of their lessons involves devising and refining drills for specific skills. 
Interesting Subject for a business management book, if there isn’t one on it already: enumerating all the details that go into the various tasks that occur in businesses universally.  A lot of people might be surprised by how many they overlook.  Drills would be at the top of the list.  A WikiBusiness might be more in line with such a project.  Some business school (ahem, ahem) might distinguish itself, creating one.  Some students might even get rich that way.  Forget the WikiBit. is Easy Street waiting to happen.  Why limit it to work?  Parenting and Companionship are every bit as much Skill Sets as Managing and Leadership.
Schools and businesses at every level, in every discipline and department, have tens of thousands of brainstorming sessions every day, as but one example.  Families also do, owever informally.  Suggestions are sometimes given for how to go about it, and specific prompts or instructions for the matter at hand often come with the assignment for a brainstorming session, either beforehand or when it begins, and may be modified during sessions, BUT … never to the best of my recollection, through eighteen years of schooling and forty plus in just about every spectrum of the economy, is anyone actually taught how to improve the way they go about it, much less do it well. 
People talk to each other in businesses all day, and to people in other businesses or the world at large.  I’ve written extensively throughout these posts about what I call The Uniform Structure of Information, much as there is a relatively uniform structure to our bodies, and the significance of putting two similar things together like men and women, again and again, to innovate and evolve; also applying the way athletes and performing artists do drills for specific skills—and ordinary people work specific muscles in gyms, then put them together in larger skills and exercises—to tasks that occur in businesses and families.

On the rinky-dinkiest of levels, I just spoke with someone at a credit card company about removing the finance charge and late fee for missing a payment last month, first pointing out that I also have a checking account with the same bank, where he can see that I have ten times the amount I overlooked paying last month, then how often someone hits a tab, button, or back-arrow on a website, which goes blank with a stupid square box face apologizing for the mishap, and how interactive websites like online checking are subject to timing out due to inactivity, which may well have occurred the very moment I was submitting the payment for the bill last month, since three other payments I thought I’d made also didn’t go through, which he could see I’ve likewise paid on time for decades.  Lastly, I mentioned that the rare times a check to me bounced, officers at local branches waived fees in consideration of my long-standing good record,
After crediting me for the charges, he asked if I minded him giving me a compliment.  Who minds compliments?  He said I should be in the Hall of Fame of explanations.  I told him I am in more than one national company’s sales Hall of Fame, which is pretty much the same thing.
How often have you heard, “Think Outsde the Box,” particularly, matter of fact, befre, during, and after brainstorming sessions?  How often have you heard two words about Getting Outside the Box? 
Step #1: BUILD the Box!  Amaziing, huh.  The bottom is the predicament.  The top is the goal.  Each side of my case is illustrated with a brief anecdote that takes my listener outside the box, explicitly or implicitly, with characters, actions, settings, and time frames.
Step #2: Each and every syllable of the words are inherently musical.  Capturing that evokes their emotional significance, enabling the listener to Process the Information and engaging his willingness to respond reasonably. 
Step #2: Each and every syllable of words are inherently musical.  Capturing that evokes their emotional significance, enabling the listener to Process the Information and engaging his willingness to respond reasonably.  Ever hear Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata?  His Fifth Symphony?  One would guess that concert pianists and orchestras play every numerously repeated phrase a leetle differently, just as the classic singers do, who recorded songs with repetitious phrases, and the best communicators in business do when they use the same expressions in different parts of what they say.  They pay attention to every detail out of habit, from practicing doing that all the time.  They think about the process all the time, whether they are aware of doing so or not, breaking it down into finer and finer components and piecing them back together, so it thinks for them when they are using it.
Step #3: Realize that talking—yes, talking—is as tricky a skill as dribbling a basketball, hitting or catching a baseball, dancing, or playing a musical instrument.  Anyone can bounce, hit, or catch a ball, do the two-step, strum a guitar, or talk.  As large a variance as there is between the best athletes and artists, and the rest, persists in speaking skills.
Step #4: Repeat steps 1-3 again and again.

Brainstorming may seem a bit trickier to devise drills for improving and doing well than talking, BUT … think back to the basic, underlying premise of all that has preceded this: using what you know to understand what you don’t.  What makes brainstorming—and talking—challenging for many people is trying to focus on the one task or subject to which you have been directed, in and of itself.  If, instead, you begin by formulating the matter at hand anecdotally, since every action implies characters, settings, and time frames surrounding it, one or another of them will innately suggest similar actions, characters, settings, and time frames, for which you already know solutions.  Their similarity will guide you to applying that situation back to the brainstorming matter.
Just as dribbling a basketball well facilitates passing, shooting, and rebounding one well, and controlling each facet of the game improves how you perform the others, so does brainstorming drills improve speaking skills and the rest of the tasks that occur in businesses.  Everything you do should improve everything else you do, or you need to rethink the way you are going about it.

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

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