“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”
— Howard Aiken
Today is my day to post about my role in TI and function on this blog. For some reason this week, I’ve woken up every morning with a slight panic about this post. Like Micah, when people ask me about what I do and I say I work for an anti-poverty agency, I get the raised eyebrow or the “that’s cool…” Then I find myself giving a short dissertation on what CAP does and why it’s needed. You can only imagine what it’s like explaining TI. My elevator pitch these days is that it’s the non-profit equivalent to R&D in the context of solving intergenerational poverty. People seem to get it when I say that or maybe they just don’t want to touch it with a 10 foot pole.
In my contributor’s bio, I mention that I’m a Fund Development Specialist aka grant writer, spinner for Community Action Project (CAP). I also devote 20% of my time to studying innovation and how it is being applied or can be applied in the business, more specifically, non-profit world, and even more specifically, maybe Innovation Lab at CAP. At the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 when TI was born, Monica interviewed candidates for the role of a Research Analyst for TI. Out of curiosity, I approached her about it and she basically gave me the job description that Micah has described to you in his post. They also wanted someone with quantitative skills- cue Micah – our recently graduated and incredibly intelligent economics and political science major.
I went on to tell Monica that I have been basically hoarding a wealth of information since I stepped in the door here. Part of it lays in the necessity of making cases in grant applications and a bigger portion from just pure inquisitiveness on how other entities are approaching similar problems. But what to do with all this information that I have and could we apply it? We’re still figuring that out as Micah is as well, being the resident reader. However, through some back and forth and eventual narrowing of focus we decided that I would study the issue of how a business incorporates innovation into its operation.
Why the 20%? Well, good question. 3M spends 20% of their R&D budget on innovation and Google mandates that employees spend 20% of their time on innovation. It’s fairly common in the larger companies such as the aforementioned and many others that some of the best ideas come from within.
There’s something to be said about being able to devote a percentage of an employee’s time to thinking about complex problems in an abstract and day-to-day sense and being given the freedom to explore and see where it takes one. One benefit is that employees are firmly entrenched in the day-to-day operation, so they have a thorough sense of the entity they are working within and to a larger extent- the industry. “Experts” are a great thing, but sometimes the answers are in your own backyard.
I intend to post on some of my findings on this blog and am curious to how others will respond and offer their own perspective on how we could use it here or readers can incorporate into their own workplaces/and or lives. One example was the post I had about the MIT Fab Labs. I must also mention the Stanford Social Innovation Review because they always highlight innovative organizations. I also hope to throw in articles and book reviews as this thing progresses.
There’s been a lot of talk about change lately on a national level. Innovation is a strong catalyst to change and we need to be alert to how we can apply the most seemingly far-away innovative concepts into our own work. We need to also remember that innovation happens from mistakes AND successes.
Did I mention that Google has gourmet chefs, an on-site doctor, and a massage therapist?