Sarah’s Diary Episode Thirty-Seven

Jenny was looking forward to the class. It would bring together much of what she wanted to appreciate about innovation. She believed in a discovery learning approach where students must discover concepts for themselves. Often those discoveries come from experiences where their initial thoughts are off target.

“Now that we discussed each of the siblings, I would like you to rate their innovations with respect to their impact. Then compare today’s rankings with what you did earlier in the semester.”

The students began to review their notes. As they started their rankings, they grew concerned. “How do you compare them? They did so many different things,” they asked.

Jenny responded, “I asked you to reflect on the impact.”

That seemed to appease the students for a while until they struggled again. “How do we measure impact,” they asked. “Again, every one of the impacts were different,” they said.

“Let me ask you a question. What is the one thing each of their innovations have in common?”

After considerable discussion, the class arrived at what was common among each of the innovations: they made a difference in people’s lives that was sustainable.

“Now think of how you would rank them,” Jenny challenged them. When the class had ranked the siblings and their innovations, she recorded the number of first place votes on the board. The results were what she thought they would be. The number of first place votes was virtually equal for the siblings.

“I’m afraid I’ve given you an impossible task,” said Jenny. “But I wanted to help you discover something for yourself. Innovations are not static. You can’t measure them at one point in time. All of the siblings’ innovations have future impacts. They are seeds that will continue to grow and blossom. Where that growth will lead to is not something you can measure. And that’s the beauty of innovation and the seeds that we plant.”

“I’m glad that there are fairly equal votes for each sibling because that means you as a class saw worth in all of their innovations. I suspect there was also a projection bias at work in your rankings. I think you probably were projecting yourself on to the sibling who was most like you. And imagined yourself being able to see them as a role model. And I think that was great. I hope this class gave you a vision of what you might want to do to make a positive, sustainable impact in the lives of others.”

Before class was over, several hands were raised. “Who did you pick?” the students asked.

“I cheated. My selection was Hiram and Mable. Just think of the innovation chain they created. I guess I’m projecting myself on to them as well.”

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“The purpose of life is the life of purpose.” – Robin Sharma (author)

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