Sarah’s Diary Episode Thirty-Two

Jenny was very interested in what her class thought about Luke as an innovator. Of all the siblings, he was the only who didn’t go to college. What he wanted from life was to stay on the family farm and take care of his parents. He was a preservationist in the sense that he valued simplicity and continuity. He was also an experimenter in that he was always looking for new ways to expand the farm’s crop fields. While he didn’t have training in veterinary science, his cattle, sheep, and chickens thrived.

“Let me share with you Luke’s story,” began Jenny. “You may recall that Luke always won the annual corn crop competition. While Elizabeth and Mary were at the University, they met students in the agriculture major. When they told them about Luke, their friends encouraged them to tell Luke’s story to their professors. At first the faculty were disbelieving, but they were intrigued enough to visit the farm.”

“Luke was still quiet when the faculty first met him. But what Luke was doing was fascinating, and they decided to document his experiments. At the time, agriculture experimentation was in its infancy, and what Luke provided was essentially a laboratory for experimentation. Hiram and Mable supported Luke’s association with the University faculty in what was one of the first agricultural experiment stations in America.”

“Luke, however, would not agree to any interference in his experiments. He wanted to explore his own ideas. While the faculty could document his experiments and their results, Luke maintained control over the actual tests. Luke was also insistent that he not be mentioned in any of the papers or the location of the farm.”

“Overtime, many of Luke’s experiments became known as best practice in agriculture, but Luke wanted no credit. What he did agree to do was to be the subject of an in-depth study of his thought process. One of my personal heroes in the study of innovation lived with Luke and his family for a year. That provided the most detailed study of the thinking behind innovations ever produced. Again, Luke only agreed to this if he were not identified.”

“We often think of ego as a motivation for seeing your ideas adopted by others. But that clearly was not the case with Luke and many innovators I’ve studied. I want you to reflect on why that is so before our next class.”

“Again, I’ll ask you, was Luke an innovator?”

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“The only credit you need from others who accept your ideas is the satisfaction of making a difference.” – Anonymous

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