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Notes from Innovation Policyworks


I don't know. I need help. I fail a lot. I keep coming back to these three phrases, as essential for innovation, creativity and personal learning. Similarly, for organizations to innovate, they must be learning organizations. Edward 

Hess, in his new book, Learn or Die, says, "organizations and individuals must be continuously learning, adapting, and improving, or riskprofessional obsolescence." 


Hess goes on to say that trust, mutual respect, and psychological safety are all required to learn, because individuals must be able to admit that they don't know everything, ask for help, and be able to be wrong or to fail.  Schein called this "humble inquiry" and it's difficult to achieve in organizations when admitting that you don't know something is career suicide. But asking instead of telling is essential to building trust, and trust is essential to learning. (See below for tips on asking for help!)


Another related skill is to silence our inner critic, and, sometimes, our external critic, and let new ideas live and breathe, instead of quickly announcing all the risks, misconceptions and mistakes that you see. One way to do this is to say, "Yes, and..." By saying "yes" first, you acknowledge the idea. Then, saying "and" allows you to build on the idea, and add, modify and improve it. This is a lesson from improvisational theatre, one of the most creative genres there is. So, there must be something to it.


The principles of learning organizations apply to communities as well. There needs to be a clear vision of what a community wants to be. And, there needs to be the opportunity for members of the community to have room for "humble inquiry" - to ask questions instead of telling, to learn from each other, to create a space of trust and respect, and to support experimentation, and "failure." 



Labor Force Dynamics


While many of us are worried about the aging workforce in our states, there's another dynamic at work - labor force participation. According to the St. Louis Fed, the civilian labor force participation rate is now at 62.9 percent, the lowest that it's been since March 1978! The good news is that 32 percent of the people 19 and older not in the labor force now would prefer to be working, but the group that is retiring is growing by 16 percent, the number in school is rising by 19 percent, and the number disabled or ill is growing 23 percent. The Fed notes that working to increase workforce participation is key to growing economies, but that the relationship between population changes, aging and the level of discouraged workers is different in every region, requiring tailored solutions. Read more HERE.

Getting Better at Asking for Help


Wayne Baker from the Michigan School of Business offers these tips on asking for help.

  1. Earn responses to your requests by helping others first. The desire to repay appears to be hardwired, and so you can generally expect help if you have helped others.
  2. Know what you want to ask. Have a vision or a goal, and know what you need to learn about or need help with in order to achieve the goal.
  3. Ask SMARTly. A good request is SMART: Specific, Meaningful, Action-oriented, Real, and Time-bound.
  4. Don't assume you know who and what people know. Just ask.
  5. Create a culture where asking for help is encouraged. Leaders should model behavior of asking for and giving help.

Read the whole post HERE.

Preparing for Middle-skill STEM Jobs


Jobs for the Future recently issued a report that takes a fresh look at the enduring controversy over whether or not there is a STEM skills gap. They found that there is a set of STEM jobs that can be defined as "middle-skill," that is they require less than a Bachelor's degree. Furthermore, these jobs are more plentiful than generally believed, and pay more than the typical jobs available at this skill level. The report concludes that these middle-skill STEM jobs are "an important and growing source of opportunity for lower-income, less academically prepared individuals, those leaving high school and those treading water in low-wage, low-skill employment." They argue that community colleges could do more to prepare workers for these jobs. Read MORE.

Ten Critical Site Selection Factors


Despite the political rhetoric, the factors that manufacturers use when choosing where to locate or expand their companies are not focused on tax rates. The annual Area Development survey found the following site selection factors:


  1. Availability of skilled labor
  2. Highway accessibility
  3. Labor costs vs. quality
  4. Occupancy/construction costs
  5. Advanced information and communications technology
  6. Available buildings
  7. Lower corporate tax rates
  8. State and local incentives
  9. Low union profile
  10. Energy availability and costs

Read MORE.

Biggest Sustainability Breakthroughs of 2014


GreenBiz contributors offered their opinions on the biggest sustainability breakthroughs of 2014. They included:

  • Drones as widely available commodities
  • Developments in third-generation solar technology and related business models
  • Price parity on solar and wind
  • Advanced 3D printing capabilities
  • Electronic vehicles, like Tesla, especially the Chinese market
  • New ride share services
  • Ag-tech.
Read MORE.
 Upcoming Learning 






Innovation Engineering Executive Experience, 

Eureka! Ranch, Cincinnati, OH


The Executive Experience lets you see, feel and experience the Innovation System that Increases Speed to Market and Decreases Risk. You will leave with an understanding of what it takes to craft an organization that lives and breathes innovation.  


 Dates: Feb 19-20, 2015 and March 19-20, 2015. 


Contact us for more information.


FREE Webinars


These introductory webinars led by Doug Hall and members of his Eureka! Ranch team are held regularly, and are free. Register HERE and use the password Lobster!


Friday, January 23 - 1pm Eastern

Monday, February 9 - 1pm Eastern

Friday, February 20 - 2pm Eastern


In This Issue - January 2015
Labor Force Dynamics
Asking for Help
Middle-skill STEM Jobs
Site Selection Factors
Sustainability Breakthroughs
Upcoming Learning Opportunities
Aimee's Corner
France Redraws its Map

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Aimee's Corner

I believe looking back always helps me move forward faster. With that in mind, I selected twelve lessons learned from my fellow Black Belts, month by month. Of course, there are many, many more, but here are twelve lessons that highlight the advantages of our innovation system. I predict that if you implement even a few of these lessons, you will be a better Innovation Engineer in 2015. Read MORE.


Wishing you innovation speed and reduced risk in the new year!



How Digitization Transforms Industries


Over the past two decades, we have watched the Internet dramatically change numerous industries from travel agents to movie and music distribution to taxicabs and banking. This means that leaders must adapt their understanding of how digitization will impact their industry and adjust their strategies accordingly. McKinsey suggests that there are seven forces to consider:


  1. New pressure on prices and margins.
  2. Competitors emerge from unexpected places.
  3. Winner-take-all dynamics.
  4. Plug and play business models.
  5. Growing talent mismatches.
  6. Converging global supply and demand.
  7. Relentlessly evolving business models.

Read MORE.

Quote of the Month 


"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."

Henry Ford

France Redraws its Map: Le Big Bang de Rgions


In a move that seems politically incomprehensible in the US, France is about to redraw its map, reducing the number of regions from 22 to 13. Dubbed "le big bang de rgions," the French National Assembly has approved this change that will reduce waste and duplication. The biggest rationale, however, is economic development, with the regions taking on the role of long-range planning. It is also interesting that the new boundaries more closely conform to labor markets and industry clusters. This is yet another piece of evidence of the growing importance of sub-national regions and municipalities, as gridlock and partisanship have made national and some state governments increasingly irrelevant. Read MORE.

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135 Maine Street, Suite A-183 Brunswick, ME 04011 207.522.9028

Innovation Policyworks, LLC, is an innovation strategy firm focused on innovation policy and practice. 
Dr. Catherine S. Renault has been delivering innovation-based economic development results in rural states for over 22 years, most recently as science advisor and Director of the Office of Innovation for the State of Maine.  She is a Certified Innovation Engineering Black Belt. Cathy is currently in the middle of a project with Camoin Associates working with the Town of Falmouth, ME on an economic development project.

Aimee Dobrzeniecki works with clients in Washington DC and across the country sharing her 20 years of government policy, economic development, and technology transition experience. 

She is also  Certified Black Belt in Innovation Engineering, and is following her passion by helping organizations that have a positive outlook on the future. Through her individual coaching skills, she is ready to roll up her sleeves and provide an ally to businesses seeking to enter new markets, create new products, or test new business models. Aimee not only explains why it is the time to innovate; she demonstrates the steps to innovate faster than your competition. 


For a list of selected projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.