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VOL. 129 | NO. 37 | Monday, February 24, 2014
Graber Atkinson

Michael Graber & Jocelyn Atkinson

Innovation for the Rest of Us

By MICHAEL GRABER & JOCELYN ATKINSON

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Innovation, as a discipline, tends to be special assignment work that is reserved for the creative hotshots, iconoclasts, those in hot spots like Palo Alto, or on an esteemed university campus, such as MIT.

Yet, the lack of a real practice of innovation cripples businesses and communities. The dirty secret is that anyone can do it with a little training.

Another secret is that innovation work and its methods are not competitive; rather, as a model, innovation holds the very keys to a collaborative, sustainable future for companies, nonprofits, cities and individuals. You just have to do it. Not talk about it, read about it or speculate, but do. Action wins.

To this end, several peers in the community who are passionate about innovation and its positive impact on business and the social sector started meeting to share their passion. The natural outgrowth was the Memphis Innovation Bootcamp. Organizations on the founding team included Merck, FedEx, University of Memphis, and the Southern Growth Studio.

The Design Thinking methods were adapted from Stanford’s D. School. MIB is a three-day, intensive, hands-on introduction to the latest concepts in design thinking and innovation. We have held two sessions, founded an advisory board and are building up an infrastructure of innovators who can get behind projects that make the region a better place.

Mission of MIB

Create a network of innovators who produce human-centered solutions that positively transform lives, communities, and businesses.

Approach

MIB – A 3 day hands-on, real-world, exciting, transformative immersion experience that imparts application-ready design thinking capability.

MIB Connect – MIB connects local businesses, organizations and governments with local and global resources to establish a network of robust Design Thinking programs.

MIB Engage – MIB staff engages with a select group of local organizations to impact the community and help establish Design Thinking capability.

Jay Morgan, AVP of Innovation at Merck Consumer Care says, “In our discussions with companies, community organizations and even schools administrators, we have found a very strong desire to innovate. At the same time, most admit they don’t know how. MIB’s approach established by Silicon Valley startups and taught at Stanford University, provides a proven framework sustained success.”

Kevin Boggs of the University of Memphis ties the techniques to the unique Memphis culture: "In some ways, the empathy-focused approach of the MIB is a natural extension of our local culture with its emphasis on story-telling and deep connections to community."

Professor Brian Janz adds, “We believe creativity is like muscle. … Everybody has them, but they need to exercised. Through the bootcamp, we awaken these dormant creative muscles, work them out and help people get reacquainted with their creative selves. This is how we've begun to build the creative confidence in people all over the Memphis area.”

Harold Howlett of MCC sums it up like this: “You can teach old business guys new tricks.”

Think of it as a Memphis Innovation Revolution or innovation for the rest of us.

Jocelyn Atkinson and Michael Graber run the Southern Growth Studio, a strategic growth firm based in Memphis. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

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