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Stony Brook Innovation Center Blog

Innovative Costumes

Oct 19 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?  

                        Why should you be surprised that you never saw The Stranger?
                      Did you ever let your lover see The Stranger in yourself?

                                                            The Stranger, by Billy Joel


The last post began and ended with excerpts from an amazing novel about two teenagers, who start a comic book, then create many more, with seemingly infinite nuances about superpowers and escapes of all kinds from Beng Ordinary, also known as Normal.  Another Common Bond among superheroes is having a costume.  Being an MBA is something of one.  Some people never know when to take theirs off.  Others may not know how to.  A girlfriend of mine from 15-years old, with whom I went steady again at 50 when we were both getting divorced, told me that her husband treated her and their children like the many people he managed.  One would think that some effort would be made during the course of your studies to teach that, but then, costumes are such a tricky subject, perhaps best left to literary and art departments, except … who has time for such things while whizzing through the MBA in Innovation curriculum?
Wellness is another mask.  Stony Brook has the largest Asian student population of any college in America, I’m told.  One suspects there are many others from all over.  Just a wild guess—maaaybe they would know in Social Science or the Medical Center—that immigrants are less diligent about utilizing Preventive Healthcare, most of which is provided for free in every insurance plan I’ve seen, for any number of reasons besides difficulty communicating with and understanding healthcare professionals as well as they do, people whose native tongue they share.  Furthermore, taking ill is bad enough; having it happen in a country half the world away from home complicates matters further.  If you don’t wanna know something, the easiest solution is not finding out. 
Do yourselves a small one.  Whether or not you’re from here or elsewhere, visit the Cancer Center by the hospital, for starters, or North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates, affiliated with the University Medical Center, where patients go for chemotherapy, radiation, and other care right nearby in East Setauket on Bellmeade Road, or take turns with friends, so you can get a fair sampling.  Betcha you’ll see people there, who are YOUR age, before long.  I did, my first visit.          

By all accounts, we are infinitely innovative when it comes to costumes.  Being nice can be a costume; being obedient is often a better one, in a certain manner of speaking.  A professor here—a dean, no less!—(nooo, not our very own, with whom I took TWO classes) told me when I critiqued a fellow student’s essay in a seminar, that I must have come from a dysfunctional family.  I replied, “No, in fact I grew up in a playground where people talked straight, and go to parties to hold hands; I come to class to learn, and would be delighted to discuss any inobjectivity or fallacies of my critique.  Whether you find it pleasant or not is, to my understanding, outside the scope of constructive criticism.”  When you take command of your costumes, you gain the ability to unmask those of other people. 
We are bombarded with costumes in advertisements of all kinds to a degree that was unimaginable in previous generations, on devices that were unimaginable heretofore.  (Not even Spock could use his cell phone to videoconference with crew members on the Enterprise.)  Think about it: what IS an advertisement if not a costume?  Of course, the whole trick is for the costume to be so identified with the product as to go unnoticed, so even a gecko or caveman pose as perfectly sophisticated, authentic spokespersons, for instance.  Even less obvious is how all that masquerading, accepted at face value, affects our ability to distinguish costumes from reality.
The benefits of that are calculable; the damages aren’t.  The superheros know the difference between their disguises and their alternate identity; precious few of the rest of us seem to, and from my perty vast exsherience, the higher up people get, the fuzzier they are about where they came from, not to mention how they got there.  There are too many layers and departments on each floor, to keep up with.  Who knows how many of the half of couples, who once loved each other enough to get married, get divorced to avoid facing that they have lost touch with themselves, and the easiest way to avoid facing that is to blame the other person, instead, for their disquietude and uncertainty about their life.

  Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

                                   Life is very long

 From “The Hollow Men,” by T.S. Eliot

 Aside from your general well-being, all ways around, the real reason an entire course might be devoted to Innovative Costumes is what we can learn from their variations about being innovative in the kinds of practical business pursuits that we examine how to accomplish in the rest of the courses here. 
Transforming our living and work quarters and objects of all kinds that we use, is not only an innate human trait, but widespread throughout most, if not all living things.  The impetus of the process is to transfer some of ourselves to them, so they become one with us.
If you’ve been following these posts at all, you know that we’re back to language enabling us to transform one thing into another through anecdotes and analogies that tie the situation at hand together with others like it in any number of ways, which one gets better at discerning in a heartbeat, the more one learns about and practices that skill.  And the best place to learn about it is the literature that does it best and the other literature about it, some of which has achieved similar renown for its astuteness as the works they examine.  This is a whole other approach to utilizing literature to improve business acumen than Mortimer Adler’s Great Books series, where executives study the classics to broaden their awareness of Great Ideas.  To my mind, the immediate proof that the Great Ideas are secondary is that, right off the bat, Aristotle disagreed with most, if not all of Plato’s.  WHAT either of them thought about this, that, or the other situation doesn’t matter so much as HOW they went about explaining it, and the same process of exploring how to go about that is what the literary critic, F.R. Leavis called The Great Tradition, which has been carried through by all the masters to the present, and I have tried to impart here, while focusing on one or another of its ramificaations.  No, I won’t say I’m sorry for continually insisting that the rest of what you are studying here is incomplete without it.  There’s no escaping it.  No trick, no treat.

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

Phone: 631.632.7171
Fax: 631.632.8181