Since I was hired by Southern New Hampshire University almost a year ago, I’ve been continually in awe of the people here and the work they do. So when the University was named the #12 most innovative organization in the world in Fast Company this week, while part of me was completely overwhelmed to be a small part of it, another part of mewasn’t really surprised. I come to work every day with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met and if anyone could make it happen, they could.
It got me thinking about what it really means to be innovative. Some pretty convincing arguments could be made that we aren’t close to the #12 innovator in the world (heck, one could say that for most of the companies who made the list), but it all depends on the yardstick you’re measuring by. The conclusion I’ve come to is that innovation isn’t about being perfect – none of the organizations on the list could possibly measure up to that standard, Apple or otherwise. Instead, innovation has got to be about having a vision and pushing the boundaries of what is accepted every day. Our President, Paul LeBlanc, said it best in the article:
“We want to create the business model that blows up our current business.”
But when you’re in the thick of it and you have your head down and are battling forward every day, you can forget how different what you’re doing is. Sometimes when I get caught up on the muck, I turn to Seth Odell and say “Seth, I need you to give me your idealistic motivational speech” and he’ll inevitably say something like “Karlyn, when we are successful at our jobs, we change people’s lives” and I get all fired up again.
So here it is. My definition of being innovative: A group of people who come into work every day, put their heads down and wade through the muck it takes to truly realize a vision, overthrow a model that desperately needs to evolve, and change people’s lives. And every once in a while there’s a moment of celebration, but it’s inevitably followed by the realization of how much more we have left to do…and then we turn around, go back to our offices, put our heads down, and get back to work.
I mostly wrote this post because I’m curious what others think. What do “being innovative” mean to you? Leave a comment!