Sarah’s Diary Episode Nineteen

Jenny wanted to use today’s lesson to reinforce an understanding of curiosity and innovation. “When I share the next series of diary entries, I want you to think about the connection between curiosity, creativity, inventiveness, and innovation. I want to emphasize that there is no general agreement on these destinations, but just thinking about them can be useful. Here’s the diary entry from May 10, 1889.”

“Ben just made a new concoction from pastes he made out of different plants. He tried it out on a scrape I got from weeding the garden. It does make the scrape feel better. He’s also used it on Matthew’s poison ivy, and it seems to reduce the rash and itch.”

“Now let’s examine Ben’s curiosity. Look at your notes. How do you think Ben would have answered the questions? I’d like you to write down your answer so I can see the distribution of your scores.”

Once the students had done their scoring, Jenny put these on the board. The results were as follows:

Question 1:  Do you seek out new information regularly just for fun and then share this information with others? Score: 4.9

Question 2:  Do you seek out new information when you are anxious about not knowing something you feel you should/must know? Score 1.7

Question 3:  Do you try to understand how other people are thinking by observing them or asking them questions? Score 1.3

Question 4:  Are you willing to take risks to gain new experiences? Score 4.2

Question 5:  Are you comfortable with moving out of your comfort zone in order to gain new insights or knowledge? Score 4.7

“Now what does that tell you about Ben?” The students came to a general sense that Ben was highly curious, but socially, he was an introvert. He was comfortable in exploring new ideas and probably was prone to being easily bored. Then Jenny asked, “What would it take to make Ben an innovator?”  The responses were interesting.

“Does Ben really want to be an innovator? Maybe for him, the joy ends with the discovery.”

“I don’t think Ben needs to team up with someone like Mary or Harriett to advocate for his ideas.”

“And maybe an Elizabeth or Sarah to help organize his discovery into an innovative venture.”

Jenny was excited to see how well the students were beginning to understand the innovation process. “I think that you see now how innovation is really a three-step process. First comes the discovery, creative work, or invention. For some, like Ben, that may be all they care to contribute. Second comes advocacy. For an original idea to become an innovation that changes how we look at the world, someone needs to advocate for it. That may be the original creator, but for some creators advocacy for their ideas may seem too crass of an activity to pursue. Or they may not have an interest because they have moved on to another idea. When the creative work has economic value, it may require someone to be the organizer of making a business around the idea or using it generate revenues.”

“Think of Steve Jobs and the development of the smart phone. He was not the originator of the idea and, in fact, saw the iPhone as primarily a phone. Others were responsible for stage 1 in the innovation of smart phones. When he did accept the concept, he became a forceful advocate for it. Thus he played a critical role in stage 2. By the time the iPhone was conceived, the stage 3 of the innovation process was already well established. Was Steve Jobs an innovator? I want you to give me your thoughts as your next assignment.”

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“Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.” –  Albert Einstein

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