What is an Innovation Pioneer? #25 #cong17

By David Pollard.

Three years ago, I was a builder. Now, I work with assistive and educational technologies as the Innovation Pioneer for the Rehab Group. The learning curve during this transition has been steep. It has required an immersive and collaborative approach to learning. 

I believe that we should have a positive outlook on being the change we want to see. I will share my thoughts on what it means to be an innovator, what drives an individual to regularly push themselves outside their comfort zone, and how innovation should not be confined to our 'real' jobs.  

What is an innovator? 

Quite simply, we are introducers. We introduce people, systems or communities to something new. As pioneers, we are the ones who get arrows in our backs. We are the first or some of the earliest in any area of inquiry or progression. Our new ideas often challenge and change the status quo. They can result in friction but offer an opportunity for positive discussions and, ultimately, purposeful and impactful actions.  

What are the traits of an innovator? 

There is no room for ego. Being first and taking hits means that we are dependent on others to support us. If someone else is doing something incredible, we should be drawn to collaborate. It's not who does it, it's what is done and the purposeful impact that it has.

We are nothing without our peers, supporters and those who follow after us. We can introduce as many ideas as we want but without people to validate, support and integrate these ideas we are nothing but a sounding brass. Communicating our ideas clearly from the start is essential. This takes time, reflection, and patience to sit down and walk through the process in order to get people on board from the outset.  

What drives innovators? 

We are experts in feeling uncomfortable. We are driven by the realisation that our knowledge is limited. Aristotle is credited with saying that the more we know, the more we know we don't know. Education was the spark that pulled me from the building sites and threw me into exciting new worlds of change and technology. It showed me how much I had to learn. The only way to learn fast enough to keep up was to immerse myself in topics that I was working on.  

What does immersion look like? 

Don't confine your innovation. Take your ideas and spread your vision in your community. Collaboration has always been the best way for me to learn about new topics. Initially, when I started teaching prior to my current role I needed to learn about education. In order to do this, I organised Ireland's first Startup Weekend Education, a 3-day hackathon to create solutions to educational challenges.  

After this, it was apparent that I would need to learn more, and fast. So, I co-founded the community of Learning Tech Labs. With monthly meetings and networking opportunities, I was fully immersed in the educational technologies world. There, I could soak up knowledge, meet experts and ask the 'stupid' questions. I would be lost without it! 

Next, I entered the world of assistive technology and accessibility at Rehab Group. Co-organising Hack Access Dublin was my way to immerse myself in this topic. Now, there is a huge challenge in society. How do we teach the safe, savvy and ethical use of the internet to new generations? With Ireland's first Digital Citizenship Summit I hope that through my need to learn that we can find some answers! 

Innovate to learn, learn to innovate.  

Like the above examples, our passions should have a ripple effect on society. Our drive to learn and change can have impacts outside our 'real' jobs. In fact, the learning we have in these external roles can be invaluable to our success as we take more innovative steps in the coming year.

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie