Getting to Innovation

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao-tzu

In my career thus far, I have been in engaged in a variety of negotiations, and thus was always on the lookout for any kind of advice on how to improve my negotiation skills. One of the first books I read on the subject was “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” written by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce M. Patton. The title speaks for itself, and the book outlined a process for guiding a negotiation by first identifying the mutual interests of the two parties to the negotiation process, and building on that such that the parties would be able to reach an agreement. I’ve read a few others since that time, but found that I rarely executed the suggestions exactly as “prescribed” in the books. Like so many people, negotiation is a skill that everyone has engaged in at some level, and I tended to stick with the methods I had always employed in everyday negotiations–such as buying a home or car.

Likewise, a significant aspect of my career has been involved in the innovation process, but I did not consider myself as part of that process. I worked with people who were “doing” innovation, and saw my role as stepping in only “after” the innovation. I would add the “legal” and business components–the legal work for protection of intellectual property, and the contract negotiation. Recently, I have come to realize I might play a larger role, and so have done a good deal of reading on the concept of innovation. What is innovation? Who does “it”? How is “it” done? In the process I have begun to connect with others who are asking the same questions, and who are coming up with answers.

It’s still a bit early for me to confidently assert any insights of my own on the subject, but I am beginning to find some key resources that are quite helpful to me, including the following blogs I now read regularly for insight, advice, and inspiration. Some of these are more directly related to the concept of innovation and technology transfer within the university setting, but others are directed more generally to innovation in business.  Listed below are three of these that I find most interesting and helpful.

Research Technology Enterprise Initiative (Gerald Barnett, University of Washington)

Tech Transfer 2.0 Blog (Melba Kurman, Triple Helix Innovation)

Innovate on Purpose  (Jeffrey Phillips, OVO Innovation)

At this stage, I have learned enough to realize that I can be more than a bystander in the innovation process, and I believe that others face a similar problem. Even those more directly involved with “innovation” (in particular, scientists and engineers) may not have a good sense of how they fit into the bigger picture. As I move forward on this path, my goal is twofold–to learn from others with more experience, and then to apply some of the ideas. So far, it promises to be an interesting journey, and I’ve at least taken the proverbial “first step.”

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