23
Jan
11

Innovation: Talk or Action?

I participated in two different innovation events last week. Sen. Amy Klobuchar held her Innovation Summit at the University of Minnesota and the GRIT met again. These two events showed the stark difference between talking about innovation and actually innovating. 

Sen. Klobuchar

The Klobuchar event had a terrific panel: Senators, CEOs, academics, and financiers. It was a great crowd, full of enthusiastic people from throughout the community. It was a great location in the middle of the University of Minnesota. The setting was perfect for a great session on innovation and how great leaders will make our state an innovation hotbed. 

Instead, we heard perspectives about old subjects – about the ways innovation is limited by conditions out of anyone’s control. The need for the four ts: Talent, Trade, Taxes, and Trade. The restrictive regulations that government puts in place. The panel talked about all the different things that are hindering innovation. 

It was a fine conversation, but without much action. I learned that success comes in “cans”, not in “can’ts”, and most of the talk surrounded the reasons we can’t innovate. The panel missed the entire side of the equation that involves engaging employees in new ways and building systems that foster innovation. It’s much easier to talk about why innovation can’t happen than to do the hard work to make it a reality. 

Contrast this with the GRIT – the Grass Roots Innovation Team, formed by employees of 3M to boost innovation in one of the most storied companies in the world. The group expanded to include those living innovation and making great new things happen. The GRIT and its members are oriented to action. 

True innovators move. Sure, they talk about innovation and highlight the need to change, but they find it more important to act. As I looked around the table, I saw innovators who worked their whole career to overcome obstacles. Their passion overcomes the nos in order to bring new ideas to fruition. 

Great innovators act rather than talk. They find a way to make the impossible happen and create new futures for all of us! Are you one of the talkers or the doers?  

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3 Responses to “Innovation: Talk or Action?”


  1. January 23, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Nice post. I’m not surprised to hear about the invovlement of 3M at your conference. I read that innovation is systemic and required at 3M – a company of “cans” that executes their mission.

  2. January 31, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Thanks Buckley. You point out a great advanced insight about the Knowing – Doing Gap: you can’t truly know until you do. Talent, trade, and taxes may be legitimate barriers, but innovators have already figured out how to work around them. What can we learn from the successes and spread to others? That is how we will collectively Work Smarter.


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