Saturday, January 08, 2011

Enabling innovation and entrepreneurship - getting more parts on the table

There was a great essay in a recent weekend Wall Street Journal called "The Genius of the Tinkerer", by Steven Johnson, (Sept. 25, 2010).

Mr Johnson writes that the secret to innovation is combining odds and ends.

That would make a great phrase to include in any definition of sustainable entrepreneurship.

Combining odds and ends is often easiest to do with what's close by, or as this WSJ piece closes "getting more parts on the table."

There are great opportunities in every industry to reconfigure and get more smart new 'parts on the table' as we emerge into a rebuilding world economy. It's not just an opportunity. It's necessary for growth.

Entrepreneurship is based on action, not endless hand-wringing.

Among the ways we're doing it in Iowa County (WI) now is with experiments in food entrepreneurship of all kinds. The more substantive ideas we can help nurture, fledge, and develop, the more new parts on the table we can contribute, the more useful our work becomes.

Within that mix, our Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen has the potential to be a valuable new tool for creating jobs and growing economies in all kinds of geographic regions.

But any experiment is best developed and deployed in context. With other parts.

More parts like the wonderful Hodan Center that created the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen and makes these experiments possible. We have a wonderful group of peer institutions in our region. Many of us are looking for ways to work together. More parts. More value. Put me in coach.

I believe knitting together nearby institutions into a regional food hub makes great sense and has the most likely chance of success.

The WSJ article quotes scientist Stuart Kauffman discussing his idea of "the adjacent possible." What comes next arises from what we do with what we have.

I like the sound of that. Focusing on the ‘adjacent possible’ with like-minded peers has always been effective in my work life. Working with friends and organizations within the sphere of what is sensible and ‘adjacent’ will allow more combinations creating more and better parts on the table for communities to grow and prosper.

This is not a thought experiment. It's a call to action. We are working hard in Iowa County and throughout Wisconsin and our region to enable progress. We may not get everything right but we are taking action steps and learning from each one. Creating new tools and growing new networks is at the heart of this effort.

As the WSJ piece closed, "The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table."

Wall Street Journal article "The Genius of the Tinkerer"
by Steven Johnson

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Iowa County Area Economic Development


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