Posted January 13, 2016 by Joanna M. Iwata 

Innovation and Imagineering with Your Team, Part I

Full video of the TED Talk lecture "The Art of Innovation" by Guy Kawasaki Recently in a four-part series of team development sessions with my professional staff at California State University–Monterey Bay (CSUMB), I featured TED Talk lecture “The Art of Innovation” (click the video thumbnail on the right to view full speech) presented last year by Guy Kawasaki, a revered entrepreneur and former advisor for Google and Apple.

Kawasaki speaks to the following 10 unique components related to the art of innovation. Each deserves a special focus, so this will be the first of a series examining how we work with our teams through the design, planning, and assessment of our campus programs, services, and operations through the art of innovation.

  • Find meaning.
  • What’s your mantra?
  • Getting to the next curve.
  • Roll the dice.
  • Don’t worry, be crappy.
  • Let 100 flowers bloom.
  • Polarize people.
  • Churn baby churn.
  • All the marketing you need to know.
  • Perfect your pitch.

Making Meaning
Kawasaki opens his lecture with something that can be somewhat elusive for leaders and managers to capture and articulate to our teams for a variety of reasons.

He challenges us to think outside of the box for a moment on the “what ifs” by providing us with examples of how Apple, Google, eBay, and YouTube did so in their desire to make meaning and change the world. I am reminded of my professional experiences at Wake Forest University, East Carolina University, Mills College, and California State University–Monterey Bay where this concept was front and center in my work with our teams. The end results were phenomenal.

In the business we are in, while one of our bottom lines is driven by enhancing our revenue streams in order to maintain our facilities, programs, and services, what if we were to flip this with a new bottom line: To transform our campuses by how we create meaning with our teams via the innovative ways we respond to the diverse needs of our campus communities through our student centers and unions. How would we do this?

When we actually take the time to step back, examine, and reflect on the different dimensions of our outreach to transform the norms on our campus, it is really not about doing things the same way to get the same results but doing things differently to produce extraordinary results.

Your Mantra
Kawasaki speaks to what every company must figure out for itself as to “why you should exist” in two or three words. For instance, what if businesses like Wendy’s focused on providing “healthy fast food,” Nike as providing the “authentic athletic performance,” or FedEx as giving customers “peace of mind?” Simply stated in two or three words, what would be your mantra?

This concept resonated with my professional staff at CSUMB, and they pondered, “Can we identify three words that define what we do through our programs and services offered by our associated students?” Stay tuned as this is something we will explore at our upcoming winter retreat.

One tool I have used in working with our teams on different campuses revolves around defining a common lexicon (language) that would frame together our work by examining and exploring our core personal and professional values and beliefs. This exercise allows us to create meaning for our individual and collaborative work.

We may often assume that we are all in the same unit together for the same reasons, which is not true. Thus, the key is to map it out with everyone present in safe and constructive zones of dialogue, reflection, and action built around the commitments we will honor and work on together.

Getting to the Next Curve
This critical step is probably difficult for most of us to do: Defining the business we are in and how to create win-win moments for our teams to encourage them to be more resilient if not resourceful enough to “jump to the next curve.”

For me, this revolves around the symbolic celebrations we can create for ourselves and our teams to strive for the extraordinary, rather than opting to be complacent in what we can do differently on our campuses.

In Part II, we will review these and other concepts further. Take some time to think about how you are innovating with your teams in regard to what creates meaning for them. Also, identify your three word mantra as we will explore the importance of getting to the next curve and advance to more informed risk taking (“rolling the dice”), where jumping to the next step (“don’t worry, be crappy”) is just the start of even greater innovations (“let 100 flowers bloom”).

Joanna M. Iwata

Joanna M. Iwata is the AS Senior Coordinator for Governance and Operation at California State University–Monterey Bay.

Joanna has served ACUI in volunteer leadership roles since 1998, formerly as director of Region V and currently as inclusivity coordinator for Region I. She has authored articles on a wide range of topics, including leadership, management, diversity, teamwork, and organizational development, which have been featured in publications for ACUI, NACAS, and NASPA.


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