Out-innovate, outeducate, and outbuild: Obama’s call for a focus on education & innovation

“We need to out-innovate, outeducate and outbuild the rest of the world.” This was President Obama’s memorable quote from the 2011 State of the Union Address that summed up what we need to do as a country. Innovation is critical. It is at the center of the radar. But first, we need to teach people how to do it. From the hundreds of groups that I’ve worked with to teach innovation to, I’ve found that many know that innovation is very important, but they aren’t exactly sure what it entails and how to do it. You are on the right website. Awareness is the first stage. We need to increase innovation literacy amongst general citizens, not just directors of product development or startup CEOs. It is imperative for us all to learn how to innovate in our own work. The call is coming from the top now. I dare you to count how many times Obama says “Innovation” in this video of his speech.

Obama visits Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, Wisconsin just after his State of the Union Address to show people a company that is innovating and helping the US economy improve. Innovation and Education is at the center of the radar and it looks like he will continue to showcase organizations that are taking innovation seriously and having success doing it. Check out his first weekly address after the State of the Union Address to see how he still reiterates strongly the call for innovation.

Change behavior, choice, and the interaction: Innovation for the purposes of fun

This great fun theory video shows us the results of innovating for the purposes of making something more fun. Many of us want to change behavior, the decisions people make, and how they interact or engage with our product, service, program or message. One idea…make it more fun. A key question to ask in your innovation idea generating is “what might be different ways to make this more fun?” Then do what they did in Sweden, test it and see the results and change for yourself.

Visualizing, Storyboarding, Whiteboarding, & Showing how Great Ideas Happen

This is a great example of an emerging way to explain something by visualizing it on a whiteboard. Taking notes like this is so much more engaging for the brain to remember and connect with what was spoken or read. This is one of the best visualizations or animations of a book talk that I have seen. The key is they hyper-fast forward the drawing in the video so you see many more images than if you were just drawing in real time. This video is incredible…it so happens to be on a favorite topic of mine as well, Steven Johnson’s book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

Remixed & Autotuned speech from Martin Luther King jr.

This is inspiring and engaging. I’m impressed with what technology can do to make a classic speech sound new, different, and current. The autotune videos from The Gregory Brothers accumulate millions of views (The Bedroom Intruder song has over 66 million!). I’m glad they are remixing some classics and educating as well as entertaining. It brings some important messages back on the radar to new audiences.

The Awesome Things Story Video from TED

Neil Pasricha started the 1000 Awesome Things blog. It is a great visual blog that helps us to have the right perspective–a perspective that lets us see that there are many awesome things in our world–and we can focus on those to be happy. Many of these things are simple and make us laugh. In this TED video I enjoy most Neil’s authentic story about starting his blog…how it began as something that had visitors that counted in the tens to become a Webby award winning blog and successful book. His story reflects our own journey we take to improve life and create something new that is meaningful. I hope this blog can have a similar ripple effect in helping people to innovate their own lives for more happiness and meaning.

Dissertation PDF Now Available – Grounded Theory of High Quality Leadership Programs: Perspectives from Student Leadership Development Programs in Higher Education

Educators, researchers, and leadership professionals have been contacting me about how to purchase a copy of my leadership development programs dissertation. Typically the way to do this has been to purchase the pdf from ProQuest for $42. You can now purchase directly from me for $29 through the paypal button below and the complete 316 page pdf dissertation will be emailed to you.


Darin J. Eich, Ph.D.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison

This study investigated four high-quality leadership programs to illuminate the “black box” of what contributes to learning in leadership development programs. Drawing on the experiences and perspectives of multiple stakeholders closely associated with diverse types of student leadership programs, the purpose of this study was to identify the attributes of leadership programs — including the specific actions associated with these attributes — that contribute significantly to undergraduate student leadership development.

For the purposes of this research, program sites were selected based upon their long-term record and reputation from other leadership educators for creating significantly positive student learning and development outcomes. Theoretical sampling was utilized as a strategy to conduct 62 one-on-one interviews with individuals (students, teachers, administrators, student staff, and alumni) across the four programs in the sample. While primary data source for this research was interviews, documentary evidence and observation were utilized as secondary data sources. The researcher employed the constant comparative method, an analytic induction grounded theory data analysis technique, to explore the data and construct a theory.

The theory of high quality leadership programs developed in this study is grounded in those programmatic attributes that, when enacted, contribute significantly to enhancing student learning and leadership development. The data analysis revealed 16 attributes of high quality leadership programs organized into three clusters: a) participants engaged in building and sustaining a learning community; b) student-centered experiential learning experiences; and c) research grounded continuous program development. Through the program attributes, students learn about leadership and themselves in the course of engaging in the leadership process while reflecting on and applying their new learning and skills in collaborative action with others.

The results of this multi-case grounded theory study of high quality leadership programs could be applied and adapted to enhance leadership development in colleges and universities. This theory will allow institutions to enhance their programs and participants’ leadership development by helping participants improve themselves through self-discovery, personal development, reflective practice and collaborative leadership action with others.

Association of Leadership Educators 2011 Conference

Conferences for leadership educators have been growing the past 10 years . There is ILA, NLS, LEI, and ALE. The 2011 ALE conference is happening in Denver July 10-13. Here is some of the pertinent information for leadership educators from the ALE website.

The Association of Leadership Educators is proud to invite you to the 2011 Annual Conference and Meeting to be held in Denver, Colorado. This year’s theme, Reaching New Heights in Leadership Education, is designed to bring new ideas, challenge perspectives and facilitate the growth of our conference participants by providing new ways to be a catalyst for leadership development!

This year we are excited to bring our conference participants a diverse experience with many opportunities to present and engage in leadership education scholarship. The Request for Proposals has six different categories for submission: Research Papers, Practice Papers, Roundtables, General Posters, Symposium for Emerging Research Posters, and Educators Showcase.

Reflect, assess, & innovate this year by creating a “year in review report” for your life

You may have to do a “year in review report” for your job, department, or organization at the end of each year. Why not do one for your own life? What if you were to take assessing and improving your own life as important as you do your work? You probably spend 40 hours each week on your work. This usually involves giving of yourself to create value for another entity…the organization you work for. Why not spend some time on creating value for yourself? You achieve this through doing some of the key activities that organizations do to improve and innovate. Apply them to yourself. Spend some time looking back at the year and identifying the successes and opportunities for improvement in the different “slices of your life.”

I spend each December 31st afternoon at a coffee shop doing my “year in review report” to myself. I begin by thinking about this question: What were the highlights and successes of the past year and how do I want things to be better in the next year? After reviewing the highlights of this past year, I did an activity where I cut a metaphorical pie up into slices that represented different parts of my life. You can draw and divide up a circle or even create a pie graph with labels.

For each slice I identified how I was doing in that area and which slices of my life needed some innovating. Some pie slices I identified were: Career – Friendships – Love – Health – Financial – Family – Social – Spiritual – Hobbies – Home

The focus is on each individual slice. How much of that slice did you enjoy, did you take in, did you allow to nourish you? Were you fully engaged with it and ate 100% of the slice or did you barely try it…maybe only nibbling 10% of that pie slice and leaving most of it untouched in the pan? For each of these slices or parts of my life I was able to give it a rating for how I did in the past year. How would you rate each slice of your life with 100% being the maximum…meaning you ate the whole slice that year and it was a very successful slice of your life? This will help you see how balanced you are, which slices you are excelling in, and which need more focus. I identified which slices I wanted to make my focus for innovation for the next year. Each one of these life slices can also be a paragraph or two in your “year in review report.” You can not only give them a rating but you can go deeper identifying the highlights in the past year and where you want to go for the next year.

You can also reflect on your reflections. What kinds of highlights did you identify? For me it was travel…you learn about yourself by seeing what stands out to you and brings pride as you look back on the year. Do more of the highlights in the next year because they make you happy and are how you measure successful living. In sum, do a “year in review report” for your life each year. You can take it up a notch and do a quarterly report too. Use the pie slice activity as a starting point to help you deconstruct your life, rate the areas, and write with more depth about the past year and what you hope to do in the next year.

Sleep, Dream, Shower, & Exercise for Solutions: Subconscious Ideation

If I really want solutions, decisions, or insights I will sleep on the challenge, dream on it in the morning while half awake and half asleep, shower on it, bike to the woods with it in mind, and then hike through the trees and sit on a tree stump to visualize the challenge. I do this all with my idea journal at my side to capture the insights I get. Many people say they get their best ideas when they have thought about the challenge a lot but then stop thinking about it. They sleep, shower, or workout and then great ideas come to them. They disengage from a high level of mental engagement on their problem and let their subconscious mind work on the challenge for them while they do something else…like sleep, shower, or workout! Try some of these techniques for generating ideas. Many times I find that the ideas you get are more highly developed…they are a concept that is more helpful for a solution or decision related to your challenge.

1. Sleep on it. Have your idea journal and a pen next to your bed. Think about your challenge in your mind. Jot down ideas you get in the morning or if waking in the middle of the night.

2. Wake on it. Don’t have to be up early? Linger in bed in a half sleep-half awake state and play with your challenge in your mind. Jot down your ideas in your journal. This is related to lucid dreaming where you have a little bit of influence in your dreams.

3. Bathe on it. Many people say they get their best ideas in the shower. Archimedes had his “eureka” moment in the bathtub. Place your challenge in your mind and then focus on relaxing and bathing. Jot down your ideas when you towel off.

4. Exercise on it. Go for a walk, jog, bike ride, or hit the cardio machine at the gym with your challenge in mind. Have your idea journal handy to jot down ideas.

5. Visualize on it. Get into an awake but relaxed meditative state with your challenge and see where your mind takes you. Jot down ideas.

The key with all of these techniques that are more subconscious/disengaging in nature is that you have your idea sheet ready to capture your ideas at hand because you may not remember them long. What techniques do you use to get your best ideas? How can you let your subconscious mind work on the challenge for you?

Ideas, Insights, Decisions, & Direction. Learn about yourself. Take a road trip.

Put the rubber to the road and experience life and this amazing land for yourself. In a plane you don’t get to stop along the way. We need more “drive” in our lives. Driving allows you more control than flying. It is not faster. It is slower. Slower is better sometimes. Plus, when you drive you can stop along the way at any little thing that interests you. Stopping along the way is more serendipitous than reaching your destination which was always apart of your plan. Maybe you need less plan and more serendipity? The journey is the best part.

What are some of the greatest road trips you’ve ever done? They are lifelong memories. I’ve done at least 8 long road trips. Most I’ve driven between Wisconsin and Virginia and Wisconsin and California. Each one is a source of pride and smile inducing memory. The meaning is in not just reaching the destination but the great ideas you get along the way, the people you meet, and the places you stop. A road trip is a great prescription for making a big decision, thinking something through, or opening yourself up to get a new insight on your life. Open it and drive it.