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BLOG:Innovation Jam: After the Goldrush

Innovation Jam: After the Goldrush

A popular song from the 1970’s by artist Neil Young that laments how throughout history, mankind has made a shamble of the environment. “Look at mother nature on the run in the 1970’s”. I was humming this song to myself while cleaning up after a recent Innovation Jam that we conducted in New Hampshire.

At Universal Mind, an Innovation Jam is a facilitated event that helps organizations innovate by relying on the deep expertise that they have at their fingertips. The half-day session includes subject matter experts from within and outside of the organization, usually blending specialists, generalists, customers, vendors, and anyone with a vested interest in the success of any organization that is intent on wrestling with thorny, complex issues.

We focus on the idea that Innovation isn’t just about making crazy, breakthrough, new things; it’s about making existing things better, faster, and more efficient. During the session, participants are encouraged to think deep in areas of their own personal domain expertise and are challenged to see beyond their own personal blind spots to creatively, efficiently, collaboratively, and quickly, create experiments that are the result of positive tension. It’s the application of this positive tension, brought to the forefront by the experience diversity of the attendees that results in great things.

Neil’s song was rolling through my mind partly because I’m a hopeless Baby-Boomer and partly because of the mess I see many organizations make with the precious resources that they have. I’m usually happy to clean up the mess after the gold-rush because that mess of crumpled paper covered with emphatic lines and drawings, post-it notes, spilled coffee, along with disheveled walls full of layered pages is actually a rich repository of artifacts, the results of some very creative thinking, very positive cooperation, and some very excited connecting-of-the-dots. Nothing goes to waste, no idea is left behind, no time is wasted in social loafing; the Creatives worked with the Number Crunchers, and the Impatient Ones worked with the Patient Ones resulting in an engaging, dynamic portion of time. Best of all, there’s no bust after the boom, no post-conference let down in which the excitement that carried the sessions, fades into a melancholic stupor of what’s next? The Innovation Jam offers post-conference attendees numerous opportunities to experiment with ideas, processes, and products that they envisioned, created, and vetted. Numerous possibilities that can be worked on with newly rediscovered skills and passions.

Neil’s song, After The Goldrush fades into an escape – a time where mankind is spirited away from the destroyed earth with the hopes of a new world carried in the seeds of nature. After an Innovation Jam while humming the song and cleaning the mess, I find myself excited and encouraged to know that there’s no reason to be spirited away - innovation is neither dead nor doomed, it was merely dormant, lulled to sleep by time and lack of attention. By reacquainting conference attendees with those snoozing competencies, great things can begin to happen by design. Industries can be transformed, lives enriched, and relationships strengthen. The best part of the gold rush lies ahead for those who have the vision, courage, and perseverance to work towards it.