Sarah’s Diary Episode Twenty-Three

Jenny planned to reveal another side of thinking about curiosity, creativity, and innovation in sharing with the class the story of Luke. Throughout her study of innovators, she rarely got more than just a glimpse of them as people. Sure, she knew about marriage(s) and children, but how were they as caregivers to those they loved? What obligations did they feel to their family, their community, and to themselves? Luke’s story was one that revealed this side of the life of innovators.

Jenny began by asking the class what they thought of the personal side of innovators. Most of their images were conveyed in such terms as obsessed, dedicated, persistent, tireless, etc. Then she said: “Those are good descriptions of their personal side as it relates to their ideas, but what about their connections to family, friends, community?” The class hadn’t thought much about this, but they didn’t see them as being particularly supportive of others.

“Some innovators are uncaring as you imagine, while others can be very supportive. Luke’s story is one example of the caring side of innovation. Let me start by sharing with you some insights from Hiram’s memoir.”

“Luke was the only one of the siblings who had an interest in farming and keeping the family farm going after his mother and father passed on. He kept a farm journal and was a careful observer of how crops performed in different parts of the farm. Luke was always challenging his father about farm practices. He would just not accept that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

“When I read about the disputes that Luke and his father had about farming practices, I could just imagine the challenge that the Cooperative Extension system would face in changing long standing beliefs about farming. Now, let me read to you Sarah’s diary entry from June 2, 1889.”

“The first corn plantings are coming up. I can tell mine are going to do well, but I doubt that I’ll beat Luke. He changed the plot of ground from what he used last year. He claims that you need to rotate what you plant each year. I’ve also noticed that he is very careful about watering and removal of weeds. He even plants flowers near his corn claiming that the bees help his corn do better. Sounds crazy to me.”

After Jenny read Sarah’s diary entry for Luke, she asked the class again to rate his innovative potential. She then put the scores on the board.

Question 1:  Do you seek out new information regularly just for fun and then share this information with others? Score 4.6

Question 2:  Do you seek out new information when you are anxious about not knowing something you feel you should/must know? Score 3.9

Question 3:  Do you try to understand how other people are thinking by observing them or asking them questions? Score 3.8

Question 4:  Are you willing to take risks to gain new experiences? Score 4.8

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

Again, Luke seemed to score high in innovation potential, but like Ben, he wasn’t especially interested in being an advocate for his ideas. In fact, what Luke was doing as a child became accepted practice in farming years later. But few people knew that Luke had pioneered many of these practices before.

Jenny wondered whether his dedication to preserving his family’s farm was a barrier to him as an innovator. She challenged the class to reflect on this before the next class.

At the end of class, Jenny said, “I have exciting news from Sarah’s diary.”

“It worked! The meeting we had with the Governor has opened the doors for women to be admitted to our state university. Elizabeth will be going to the university this fall along with nine other women. I’m so proud of her and Harriett.”

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“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.” – Gail Devers (track athlete)

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