Academic Setting Innovation Award Winner: UW-MANIAC

I have been involved with “MANIAC” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a number of years now. UW-MANIAC is the Madison Area Network for Innovation and Collaboration – a dynamic partnership of University and community people who are creatively exploring the possibilities of a network focused on sparking creative, innovative practices in the workplace. I was invited to speak to the group a handful of years ago and found it to be just the kind of thing I needed in my work and life. The people are fun, creative, supportive, and encouraging. They have become my colleagues and “non-traditional” co-workers.


This year, UW-MANIAC was presented an award for innovation in an academic setting at the National Summit on Innovation for Associations!  My friend Harry and I traveled to Milwaukee, accepted the award, showcased MANIAC, and presented a fun and interactive 18 minute TED-style talk that allowed participants the chance to “test-drive” some UW-MANIAC style activities.

As someone who develops and facilitates innovation programs for a living, UW-MANIAC is my test kitchen where I can both develop and take action on ideas for new programs that I have. I’ve incubated a number of my classic programs like “Jammin,” “Bounce,” and “the 3Cs of Innovation” within UW-MANIAC. Best of all, the Maniacs are willing to be a part of innovation experiments, and we can often go from idea to launch in less than an hour – like we did with our Facebook page the other day. To illustrate, at our recent retreat, I wanted to show people Google Hangouts and how we could integrate that with YouTube to do a live on-air broadcast. I also wanted to get some testimonial videos, so we mashed those two things up and created an experiment during the retreat.

My hope is that every college, university, and organization could have something like UW-MANIAC – an invigorating “test-kitchen” space where people can come out of their individual offices to learn and practice collaborative creativity. Along the way, they work toward the innovations that matter the most for their work.

Innovation is currently at the center of the radar for many universities and they are bringing it to life through programs and initiatives. For instance, 2012 is the Year of Innovation at the University of Wisconsin. and I’m excited for the Innovation U launch event. Another major Educational Innovation initiative is also in progress at UW. These are notable endeavors because they represent campus wide approaches to cultivating innovation that bring everyone together to develop and launch new ideas that can have an impact.

I’m happy and excited to help others who are interested in cultivating innovation in higher education, most specifically through new initiatives, programs, and even the University innovation test-kitchen idea! Just get in touch with me at Darin@DarinEich.com if you would like to learn more about how you can create something like UW-MANIAC that is uniquely tailored for your institution, as well as launch and seed it with engaging programs.


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