Make innovation a study and you inevitably will run into one name: Jeff DeGraff.  Dr. DeGraff is a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.  He’s been called the Dean of Innovation.  Before moving to Nashville, I lived in Ann Arbor and had the opportunity to meet him and see him in action.  Jeff has worked with some of the biggest global corporations including Apple, Visa, GE, Coca-Cola, and Johnson & Johnson.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Jeff when I visited the University of Michigan.  He has created an innovation laboratory called the Innovatrium.

You may have seen him recently on National Public Television on a program named after his latest book Innovation You.  After working with corporate executives for many years, he has translated lessons from the corporate world to ones we can all use personally.  The program is all about reinvention, specifically how to reinvent the most important product in your world:  you!  The subtitle of his book is Four Steps to Becoming New and Improved.  Those steps include:

  1. Rethink innovation.  How can you be more creative?  The first step starts with your thinking.  You want to see all of the possible outcomes and think through them all.
  2. Revise your approach.  There are four major approaches to innovation.  (Jeff’s book offers a simple test to show you which is yours.)  Is your current approach the best one or do you need to adapt it to achieve your own goals?
  3. Run your experiments.  Whether you want to build a new company or lose weight, you have to experiment.  Setting goals, seeking advice, and learning what works for you are all part of this process.
  4. See the whole journey.  Just like economic and corporate cycles, there are also cycles of innovation.  It’s important to step back and gain perspective to build a better life.

Some of my favorite quotes from Jeff’s book include:

Every innovation pushes some older approach out….If you push hard enough, the other force will fight back.

Innovation, at best, is a work in progress. -Jeff DeGraff

Be an author, not a critic. -Jeff DeGraff

Innovation is a cyclical learning process. -Jeff DeGraff

Innovations go sour like milk. -Jeff DeGraff

 

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