Can Innovation Be Taught? The Power of Cultivating the Innovator’s Mindset

Amita Shukla, founder of Vitamita, will be presenting at the Start Up Bootcamp  at the mHealth Summit on Monday, Nov. 9, during the HIMSS Connected Health Conference in Washington, DC.

Early this fall, I had the opportunity to co-teach the first two sessions for the inaugural HEXCITE (Health | Experiential | Clinical | IT | Entrepreneurship) Initiative developed by Paul Nagy, director of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Technology Innovation Center (TIC), which is focused on “engaging world-class scientists and clinicians in an interdisciplinary community to re-imagine healthcare.”

In the first session, we led the class—comprised of physician innovators and graduate students in fields, such as business and computer science, through a series of team-building exercises. In one, they had to transform a long rope into a five-point star under very specific constraints.

As they began, some students rushed into action. “Let’s just try it out,” they said, each time someone suggested a solution. Others resorted to careful analysis and meticulously crafted strategies. Yet, others stood back, observed and offered occasional insights. Twenty minutes later, the star was made.

The following week, we began the class with another exercise in which students had to put as many tennis balls as possible into hula-hoops under very specific constraints. Much to our surprise, the students completed this task in just a few minutes.

“How come?” we asked.

Many students said they approached this exercise in a fundamentally different way. Some said the prior week’s lessons and teaching materials, including Enduring Edge, changed how they thought about the challenge. That day the class learned a powerful lesson on innovation: Often, the solution to a complex challenge rests not in a complex solution but in a simple shift in how we think about the problem.

Amita Shukla is the founder & CEO of Vitamita and the author of Enduring Edge. She is also a Mentor-in-Residence at Johns Hopkins and a Governor’s appointee to the board of the Maryland Technology Development Corporation. Learn more here and follow her @amitashukla.

Learn more about the Startup boot Camp and the Venture+ Forum

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