Beth Altringer (Harvard SEAS): Innovation and Honesty

In April 2012 I went to the Annual “How to create things and have them matter” (ES20) final presentations at the Laboratory at Harvard. The Lab is a new forum and platform for idea experimentation in the arts and sciences at Harvard University. Beth Altringer is co-instructor and has a PhD in Innovation and Behavior – an interesting mix. How honest do you dare to be in your innovation process?

In the interesting conversation Beth Altringer brought up a new subject in the Innovation process: honesty. A topic I encounter often in personal leadership programs, but I’ve heared nobody talking about this in relation to innovation. People create complex processes and thinking paterns, because they have (subconsciously) problems with dealing with the consequences of their deepest wishes.

“I think my idea is better. So get out of my way and just do what I say!” -> “Yes, let’s put your idea on this long long list.”
“I’m not really sure what I want, can you help me with this?” -> “Well, if you bring this concept  in a relative position to…blah blah”
“I have an interesting concept on my computer and I would love someone to look at it.”  -> “Let’s talk about safety in this organization.”

Sometimes it is very wise not to act on your feelings ands wishes, but it is not always clear if these fears are real or that you just have to be open about what you’re looking for. Whatever it may be, after the divergence phase (brainstorming, etc.) you have to focus and be honest with yourself and your teammates about what you really want to achieve. Call Beth if you want some help with this:)

(and watch the movie 12 Angry Men)

At the end I asked her to draw Innovation, and she came up with this toothpaste of Innovation, with feedback loops. Let’s evaluate our toothpaste to know if it’s going to help cleaning our teeth.


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