- Author: Wendy Powers
Today was definitely a two hands on the steering wheel day as I headed north to Susanville. I even saw some tumbleweeds go across the highway. Despite the GPS indicating it was quicker to go to Reno and then head north, I decided to take the long way.
This evening I took a short cut. Instead of reading a book I learned about last week at the National Extension Directors Association meeting, I found that the author has a TED Talk on the subject and I listened to it. I try to listen to 2 TED Talks each week with no particular focus on topic. The book is Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson. Here's a synopsis of the 15-min TED Talk:
An idea is a network – network of neurons. To develop into a good idea, your brain needs an environment where it is contact with more ideas (network expands). Good ideas are parts of ideas that are stitched or cobbled together to form something that actually works. This means we need to change our models of how deep thinking occurs. The change could mean providing creative spaces (i.e. Google pods or the British coffee houses that led to the Enlightenment) or Innovation Time Off (also Google). Important ideas have very long incubation periods (remember, overnight successes are rarely overnight). Great ideas linger for decades. Darwin's natural selection theory wasn't a ‘Eureka!' moment but instead took months to evolve. Therefore, in addition to creative spaces, we need to create environments that accommodate a long incubation time. Need to value the premise of connecting ideas and not just protecting them via Intellectual Property. Chance favors the connected mind.
A while back I read a report from a team across UC ANR that evaluated Work Groups some years ago. One of the conclusions was that there was insufficient cross fertilization of ideas across the entire division. Program Teams emerged to help foster ideas. I suspect Strategic Initiatives followed for much the same reason. This doesn't detract from the work and function of Work Groups but is intended to facilitate creative spaces for idea expansion. I've certainly found value in working across disciplines, sitting with people outside of my usual circle, and attending conferences that are outside of my typical meetings. Collaborations foster ideas; new collaborations should foster new ideas. Perhaps a path to new success is to brainstorm at the Division level, working across Program Teams and Strategic Initiatives, then implement at the Work Group level.
I have more to share and think through related to last week's meeting. But it's time to get ready for this coming week. I'm looking forward to my visits to Lassen/Sierra/Plumas Counties and Butte County. During the visit I will have a chance to meet Tracy Schohr, Assistant Area Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor headquartered in Quincy, with programmatic responsibilities in Plumas, Sierra and Butte Counties. Tracy doesn't officially start until next week so I am particularly appreciative that she is making time to meet.
This week UC ANR welcomes Mary Bonaparte-Saller, Assistant 4-H Youth Development Advisor, headquartered in Irvine with programmatic responsibilities in Orange County. I hope to meet Mary and many of the other new hires next week at the New Academic Orientation in Hopland.
I still have reading to do tonight. I'm about half through my grant reviews for the UC ANR Competitive Grants Program. It looks like there will be some hard decisions ahead – so many good ideas in the proposals! No shortcuts here, so I had better get reading.