If you want innovation you need innovators. Innovators are people who can imagine and bring into existence what has not previously existed. So where are you going to find them and should you be looking for a particular age demographic?

Many people confuse innovation with technological innovation. If you conflate the two you run two big risks – you won’t be looking for the right people and you won’t be looking in the right place. Why? You’re more likely to assume innovators will be young as the new generation will be more technologically savvy. Second you’ll probably miss numerous opportunities to innovate because you won’t recognize breakthroughs as innovations and you won’t see how they might apply to what you’re doing.

Innovation Example 1 – “The Grandmother Effect”

As the US incarcerates ever more of its citizens suppose we could reduce the present 50% recidivism rate to less than 10% by doing things differently with people while in prison. Would you be interested?

It’s already been done consistently – by an 81 year old grandmother in Kansas. SuEllen Freid started visiting Lansing Correctional Facility in 1980. She helped develop and for many years has run a prison program called “Reaching out from Within”. It helps prisoners work with one another in groups to address their issues and become kinder, more empathetic people. As one of the inmates said in a recent report “SuEllen has a grandmother effect on people”.

Bit too fluffy for you? Not when you look at the stats. The recidivism rate among those murderers, robbers and rapists who regularly attend the program consistently drops to below 10%. That’s why the program has now been rolled out to every prison in Kansas. Talk about ROI!

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