A Think and Do Tank

From where I stand, Innovation is the name of the game.

How can we create an atmosphere conducive to innovation to better support the emerging sustainable economy in …emerging??

I’m envisioning an affordable, interdisciplinary Think and Do Tank, an innovation lab. As I contemplate this “Center for Innovation’, I can see there are several ways it could be configured to serve each region’s needs. This Think and Do Tank could well have an online presence that facilitates innovation.  Today, I’m going to focus on “real world” applications.

Some businesses, such as Google, pay their employees every week to spend 20% of their time on endeavors outside their “normal” jobs. These pursuits end up generating something like 80% of the innovative products Google develops.

The Think and Do Tank could be this kind of an asset for our community;… An office away from the office, where employees could pursue an inspiration in a supportive, creative environment, which in turn, brings innovation to their “normal” job. In this way,  professional development, changing careers, or following a wild hair, all can become fuel for the emerging sustainable economy.

The Innovation Lab could have attributes of a classroom with hands-on curriculum, a school for entrepreneurs of all ages. By having the existing local business incubator groups involved, SCORE, etc, the T&D facility could become a location where startup support is delivered.

As an entrepreneur’s needs arise, this “Center for Innovation” might match up a knowledgeable person in that arena. The Center could connect students of all ages with mentors.

Yet another possibility, an entrepreneur could extend an offer of hands-on learning to an intern, and pick up some much needed help.

Lifelong Learning

As this era of innovation unfolds, lifelong learning is a given. Expanding your business’s ability to deliver services while cutting costs, picking up some tips on how to create a woodworking jig, or just working with some new dealie on your smart phone…life is for learning.

For some learners, maybe it’s time to just immerse in a field, to see what the jobs in the field actual entail. No telling what fruit those  seemingly random paths might uncover in a mentorship; one thing leads to another!

I have the sense this kind of hands-on pedagogy (style of learning/instruction) would prepare a certain segment of our children for their futures.  Existing local learning institutions would greatly benefit by becoming partners/cosponsors of such an endeavor. The Innovation Center would become a learning lab, a place where new curriculum/pedagogies could be trialed.

Funding Strategies

In these times of shrinking budgets, innovation may well be required to bring funds to the Innovation Lab. One creative mechanism is alternative “currencies”, such as a time bank. For each hour contributed to a member’s project, an hour is credited to one’s account, thus the out of pocket money can be greatly reduced and a win-win reciprocity outcome is created for both parties.

I’ve recently joined the Santa Fe Time Bank. At 200 or so members, the list of services is growing! I’ve already been spending my accrued hours to brainstorm around the organizing of this Santa Fe Innovation Lab. What’s so great, is Time Banks are more flexible than just a service exchange. In some TBs, members can get credits for their involvement in community projects!


Another excellent tool, and possibly a source of revenue,  is a coworking. These shared-resources, affordable, collaborative incubators for businesses are sprouting up all around the world. Imaging a shared work space, where individuals are coming to the office and doing their daily tasks. They can “rent” their desk on a partial or a whole month basis, or even rent a “hot desk” by the hour. Each coworking facility differs, but often a conference space, private “phone booths” that hold 3-4 people, a kitchen facility, maybe a shower, free coffee, a conversation lounge,  a  mail box, printer, and of course internet connection are  features that commonly come with a membership.

Here’s a short video of coworking’s benefits…from the horse’s mouths!

Some coworkings have a esprit de corp that goes beyond just business start ups.  The Berkeley Hub, for example, is a building full of green social, economic and ecological innovators and non profits. Either way, the potential is a room of talented businesses with a wide range of support just feet away, a creative environment beyond the isolation of the home office.

A Think and Do Tank can bring regional networks and systems  together in ways that bridge our silos and turfs, and builds upon our collective wisdom.   The times call for supportive teams of eager learners (high schoolers to retirees) who want to be involved with developing real world and online tools that empower people in transforming their communities sustainable, creating jobs while partnering with local businesses and institutions. I’ve already embarked in creating these tools, and I want more help! Together, we can make sustainable real!!

Image courtesy of Egbrain.com

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