Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Innovation and the Global Youth Conference

"A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new." ~Albert Einstein

"Act as if it is impossible to fail" --Joy Jamal Eddine, Special Olympics

I am at the Red Cross and Red Crescent Global Youth Conference hosted by the Austrian Red Cross in Vienna this week. As in the Imagine Cup student competition where I volunteer each year, I am continually impressed with the energy and passion that students and graduates bring to world and local problems.

One of the sessions was about Youth as Innovators. Here are some thoughts I prepared for this session.

I would like to tell a story I told at a meeting with the Saudi Red Crescent earlier this year.

I recall a young student in a mixed age classroom. It was the time to make oral presentations. Everyone was nervous.

The teacher asked who wanted to go next. A small hand wheMn up in the back corner of the room. "I'll try" the young voice said. Some laughed as he shuffled to the front of the class. He was smaller than the rest and spoke with a very soft voice. The rest of the class had difficulty hearing him.

One of the older and taller students stood up, walked to the front of the class and standing by his side, (here is the technology part...) gave him an old fashioned megaphone so he could be heard by all.

It was a good presentation. When he finished everyone applauded and agreed he had some of the best ideas they had heard yet.

Now what did you hear about innovation in this story?

I hear three things. First the younger student had the courage to try it. He took the risk of failing and made it a success. For the past six years, I have been a judge for the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition. It's the largest software competition in the world for students from most countries. I see more innovation in one week than all year. Why is that? Imagine Cup students have...

1) No business experience
2) No marketing experience
3) No time
4) No money
5) No sense of limitation

and it's this last one that makes all the difference. These students just try it and refine it. Notice the order: Try it and refine it.

Second, what the taller student did was give voice to the whispering. When we stand up for those who are weaker in our organizations and communities, that's what we are doing. We are becoming Chief Amplifiers. And it is this role that is so important to leadership and innovation.

Third, The new ideas came from the back of the room. Often the ideas from the far corners of our organizations that have the possibility of becoming the really big ideas for the future. Innovation can come from where we least expect it. Be open to surprise.

Here are some discussion questions:

1. What if your organization were to give greater voice to the small ideas?
2. What are you doing to become a "Chief Amplifier"?
3. What can you do to discover the good ideas in the far reaches of your organization and harvest for the good of all?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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