This is the fourth blog post where I share my contributions to the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) Innovation Task Force's writing assignments. In this writing assignment I try to answer the question:
What do Extension administrators and professionals need to do in order to create a climate of innovation in those we serve?
Please read over my response and leave a comment below with your thoughts, critiques and insights. I believe in working out loud, if you read this post please let me know what you think.
Innovative work is inherently uncertain
Extension professionals have to accept and allow risk, encouraging experimentation and failure with clients. There is never any valid information that ensures that an innovative idea is guaranteed to succeed. Thus risk is inherently built into innovation and Extension must learn to tolerate risk, not minimize it.
Innovative Extension professionals will attract innovative clients
If Extension professionals are to create a climate of innovation with those we serve, we need to think of ourselves as role models. Extension professionals need to be leaders that listen and give feedback to ideas, and tolerate a certain degree of experimentation. We must also publicly recognize and reward innovative efforts by clients.
Innovators need difficult team-projects
When team members experience a sense of “togetherness” that comes with a common goal, team members will want to cooperate efficiently for their mutual benefit. This increases both team performance as well as individual performance. I had a 4-H robotics club come together this past season that pushed me to be more innovative by experimenting with crowdfunding, 3D printing and laser cutting. We took risks together, failed, got back up and were incredibly successful…not only in the robotics competition, but also in the engineering and design of the robot. The team 3D printed and laser cut most of their own parts and even mixed their own rubber for the robot’s treads.
Nurturing a culture of innovation with clients has to start with us
we can’t wait for it to happen. This week I started a Raspberry Pi User Group. A few clients asked me to get one going, I put it off because I worried, “What if no one shows up? What are we going to do?” We went for it, in the first meeting 16 new clients showed up and they collectively decided on the mission of the group, set goals, and scheduled ongoing meetings. As the leader, I brought the people together and they gained knowledge by sharing and learning from one another. In this example I am allowing a culture of innovation, and the culture will be maintained through a system of positive reinforcements.
I’m not entirely sure how to create a culture of innovation with clients, but here’s a list about what not to do:
How NOT to create a culture of innovation with clients
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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