Should we stop reading about innovation?

The more I read about innovation and creativity, the more I feel like I should stop reading about innovation and creativity.

The more I read about innovation and creativity, the more I feel like I need to stop reading about innovation and creativity.

Too many of the stories about people who are big, bold, creative thinkers don’t involve them being experts on innovation. They are experts, for sure, but they don’t know everything there is to know about how to have big ideas. They spend time reading a broad range of topics, they spend a lot of time noticing the world around them, and they spend a lot of time just thinking. 

Read about a lot of different things. Focus on education over entertainment.

Notice your world. Really pay attention to the details in the everyday.

Stop reading and noticing and sit and think

Most of the books I’ve read on being innovative or creative or having original ideas have included these basic concepts, if not labeled so succinctly.

So how do we do this?

Reading is the easiest. You don’t really need an action plan for reading – just pick some interesting books and get started.  Although you may need an action plan for making the time to read. I would argue, however, you don’t really need a plan – you need will power. (Here are 15 ways to find extra time in your day – they all involve not doing other things instead.)

Noticing the world around you seems easy, but how many times have you driven to or from work and not remembered the trip. You were on autopilot. It’s a wonder there aren’t more car accidents, really. We spend a lot of our time each day on autopilot. You see the roses, but you need an action plan to stop and smell them.

Thinking requires a combination of making the time for it and having a plan to do it productively.

To be a bigger, better, more creative thinker you need: Time (or maybe just willpower) and an actionable plan to notice and think.

Sounds fairly simple, right?  But we all know it isn’t.

I don’t have answers for you right now, but I’m on a mission to find them.

Stay tuned for more on how to implement some innovation every day.






Think Creatively to Stand Out

How does creative thinking help you in business?  

I get asked all the time “Why do I need to worry about how creative my thinking is? Don’t I just need to do my job well?”

My return stare is usually a bit glassy eyed and blank – I’m working on that.


image – markgraf – morguefile


But then I respond – Doing your job well isn’t enough these days. Competition is fiercer than ever. You need to stand up and stand out.

Thinking creatively about your job, your customers, your company, and your industry is what will set you apart.  Tweet: Thinking creatively about your job, your customers, your company & your industry will set you apart. @prodigyandco

You will be the one with great ideas in meetings. You will spot the opportunities for new products and services. You will see and squash inefficiencies like they are bugs.

As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Start thinking creatively to solve new, unique, complex problems and be the office rock star.

Or do your job well – and prepare to do that same job for a very long time.



Book Review – Flourish by Martin Seligman

flourish pic

Book 12 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. Find out more about the challenge here.


Flourish was such a fascinating read. The idea of positive psychology – focusing on building the good, instead of eliminating the bad – really resonated with me. At a very basic level Seligman says that if you spend all your time trying to eliminate things like sadness, depression, and anger you end up empty, which is not any healthier than feeling sad, depressed or angry. So you should spend as much, if not more even, time building on the positive things – what is working well, what are you grateful for, increasing your self-discipline and self-determination. These are the things that will ultimately lead you to living a better, happier life.

The five main components of “flourishing” or what makes up well-being are 1) positive emotion, 2) engagement, 3) meaning, 4) positive relationships, 5) accomplishment

My favorite part had to do with increasing accomplishment or achievement in our lives. I don’t know what that says about me.  Seligman piggybacked on the work of Angela Duckwork, whose PhD work at Penn was focused on GRIT, the combination of very high persistence and high passion for an objective.

I watched a TED talk recently from Duckworth on this topic, so getting into more detail of the research and theory behind it was incredibly interesting.

The TED talk is here. You should watch it. (But after you finish reading this.)

The underlying theory of achievement Duckworth proposed is this:

Achievement = skills X effort

Skills are made up of the cognitive process of automatic knowledge, heavy cognitive thinking about planning, refining, error checking and creativity, and how quickly you can learn new material to make it automatic.

Effort is just how much time you spend on something. And the biggest factor of that is the character traits of self-discipline and GRIT.

Those two character traits are really the only things you have a significant amount of control over when it comes to the formula for achievement.

So if I want to build Prodigy & Co to a massive success and help people change the world, I need to work on my GRIT – and help my clients with their GRIT.

But it also tells me that is what students and kids need to help them become their best selves, and the sooner we can help them increase their GRIT, the better off they will be. (Exciting news on this front coming soon!!)

I can’t wait to see Duckworth’s research on what you can do to actually increase GRIT. She has a book coming out May 3 that I have already pre-ordered.


Let me know what you think about the achievement formula and GRIT. I’d love to hear from you.


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Design for People – SOTGC Article

My most recent article for Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling is about how to find project success by designing for people.


Are you creating, designing, or developing something? Aren’t we all, really?

No matter your industry or profession, we all create and design new things.

Some of us actually build products, some of us design services for customers or users, some of us develop new processes within existing businesses and frameworks, some of us are making our way through uncharted entrepreneurial territory and everything we do is a new creation or development.

Design firm IDEO uses what they call design thinking, or human-centered design, in the development of all of their projects – whether it is a new product, service, or experience.

Their projects include developing the Apple mouse, kids toothbrushes, patient experiences for a children’s hospital, digital platforms to teach millennials about money, and so much more.

Their focus? People. People are always the center of their design process.

Read more on SOTGC

Book Review – Poke the Box

poke the boxBook 10 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. Find out more about the challenge here.


I’ve been a Seth Godin fan for a while, but I’ve recently discovered his awesomeness. 

Through a course offered by +Acumen on Udemy, I was reintroduced to Seth’s genius in leadership and thinking differently about life and the world. I love what he had to say, and I highly recommend the course. 

After the course, I started looking into his books and his online AltMBA (which I would love to do!). I ordered three of Seth’s books,The Purple Cow, The Dip, and The Icarus Deception  from Amazon and downloaded Poke the Box and We are All Weird on my Kindle as a part of the Kindle Unlimited program.

I loved that Poke the Box was really written as a manifesto like Seth were talking directly to you. It wasn’t earth shattering ideas or things that I had never heard before, but it was packaged in a way (and from someone I trust) that really gave me the motivation to stop wasting my time and life and just start doing.

It is full of digestible chunks of wisdom and heart and after reading it you will feel compelled to start. I know I was. And you’ll be seeing more from me soon in terms of a newly branded website and a new project to help students excel and thrive.

It’s time to start.


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#50BooksIn2016 – The Books (11-20)

I have committed to reading 50 books in 2016 to increase my knowledge of varied fields to up my innovation skills and my ability to make connections between seemingly unconnected ideas. And also because I love books and learning. I’m an awesome nerd like that.

For more on the commitment, check out the original post here.

For books one through ten, check out this post. (Putting all the books in one post was getting out of hand.)

This post will contain books 11-20 along with links to the reviews. Please follow along and let me know your thoughts, whether or not you have read the books.

Book 11 – The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck – by Sarah Knight

“The power of honesty cannot be overrated. I can’t tell you how many more f*cks you end up giving when you try to beat around the bush. God, even that expression sounds exhausting.” 

life changing magic

Book 12 – Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin Seligman

“The lesson from positive psychology is that positive mental health is not just the absence of mental illness… Positive mental health is a presence:  the presence of meaning… good relationships… engagement… positive emotion… accomplishment.”

flourish pic

My Review Here


Book 13 – Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

originals pic


Book 14 – Content, Inc: How Entrepreneurs use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses by Joe Pulizzi

content inc

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Book Review – The Second Machine Age

second machine ageBook 7 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. Find out more about the challenge here.

The rapid change in technology over the past few decades is unlike anything prior in human history. The impacts are just starting to be understood, but the future change is expected to be even faster than before, meaning the impacts are likely to continue evolving. Brynjolfsson and McAfee talk about the technology developments, the impacts now and the potential impacts in the future, and provide some potential solutions to some of the pitfalls of this exponential growth.


As long as we have written science fiction stories, we have written about machines taking over humans. The book details the advancements of machines and their impact on human labor, providing guidance on what jobs computers may or may not be able to do in the future. There are a few key areas where humans are not likely to lose ground anytime soon. Highly physical jobs will continue to need human labor. Jobs requiring ideation, large frame pattern recognition, and complex communications will also continue to be ruled by humans. (I’m particularly glad to see ideation on the list.)


While the increase in technology has brought with it a great bounty in a number of areas, it has also brought with it a great spread between those at the top and those at the bottom. This gap is the largest concern to the authors in terms of the continued exponential growth in technology. Many of the jobs being done by machines now are those previously help by the middle class. Basic manual labor and high-level thinking are the jobs that can’t be done by computers and the wage gap between them is incredibly large.

Some suggestions are provided to help ease the spread without affecting the bounty, mostly around overall increases in the economy and the total number of jobs. Entrepreneurship is highly praised.

After having read the book, I am more confident in my ability to earn money due to my focus on innovation and creativity. Technology is rapidly changing, however. If some day computers can help you innovate your life and your business, I’ll be in trouble.
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Book Review: Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow

Book 5 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. Find out more about the challenge here.

Subliminal - Copy

Subliminal is a fascinating look at the dual layers of the brain – the conscious and the subconscious – and how everything in our lives is impacted by subconscious processing we aren’t even aware of.

Numerous scientific studies are described and discussed on how this subliminal processing goes on. One of the more interesting things that was found in many of these studies is how often people believed they were behaving or making choices based on one thing, but the researchers could prove the decisions were really based on something else.

A few of big things for me were:

1) The way people group themselves and how much it impacts decision making. Even when the grouping was completely random, and the people in the group together had nothing in common and no real reason to be grouped, they had a significant preference over the people in their group to those in other groups. Significant. Takeaway: You want to be in everyone’s group in some way. Find the commonalities and focus on them.

2) Categorization of things and people (read: stereotyping) can be minimized by maximizing contact with those in the “categories” and realizing how different they all are. Takeaway: go lots of places and meet lots of people – experience the world.

3) People are just as likely – if not more likely – to believe something is true and seek evidence to prove it than they are to rationally and logically seek evidence to prove something. We find reasons to justify that the horse we bet on is the fastest, just because we bet on it. We find evidence of what good drivers we are because we believe we are good drivers. Takeaway: If you believe that you are an exceptional, successful, happy person, you will start to find (and create) the evidence to prove that it is true.

Mlodinow takes some very heady scientific topics and research and makes them easy to understand and enjoyable. It was a great read and I highly recommend it.


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Book Review: Headstrong by Rachel Swaby

Book 3 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. Find out more about the challenge here.

What most impacted me about Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World was the persistence with which these women pursued their dreams and passions in the face of so much adversity. There were many times while reading the stories that I visibly cringed and said out loud things like “Really?” and “I can’t believe that was a thing” and more. I read passages out loud to my partner so he would also know what these women went through. He also cringed, but was more annoyed with me interrupting what he was doing.

Working for free, being denied educations and jobs completely, and not getting credit for their work were the most common challenges the scientists Rachel Swaby wrote about dealt with while advancing their fields in immeasurable ways. For example, Ellen Richards was the first woman ever admitted to MIT, and she attended tuition free so “MIT could claim she wasn’t really a student and that her admission did not establish a precedent for the general admission of females.”  Richards later stated she didn’t fully realize her status at the university and “Had I realized upon what basis I was taken, I would not have gone.”

The women in Headstrong won Nobel Prizes, create brand new fields of scientific research, cured diseases, and completed research that changed the course of history (like the development of in vitro fertilization and research that spurred the creation of the EPA to protect the environment).

I am not sure I would have the courage to grit to persevere through the many setbacks these women encountered to continue my work. It is likely because of these women (and many others in many fields) that I’ve never had to endure that kind of sexism.

Headstrong was incredibly humbling from that perspective. It was also a generally very informative and interesting read learning the stories behind some of the greatest scientific discoveries in history. I highly recommend it!


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Book Review: The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson

Book 2 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. Find out more about the challenge here.

medici effectThis book was recommended to me recently by a friend when discussing how connecting ideas leads to greater innovation. I mentioned the books How Breakthroughs Happen by Andrew Hargadon and Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson (both excellent books) and my friend mentioned The Medici Effect.

Given this lead to the book, I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the overlapping concepts between the three, yet I still was.

Many of the stories used to illustrate the concepts of random combinations creating successful innovations, such as how Magic: The Gathering card game was created or anything relating to Thomas Edison I’ve seen multiple times, not just in the books mentioned here. On one hand, it helps solidify the concepts, on the other, more variety would be nice.

Of the three, if you were to only pick one, I would recommend Where Good Ideas Come From. The Medici Effect has some interesting and fairly practical ways to find and spend more time in what Johansson calls the “Intersection”, but Johnson goes much deeper with the concepts in Where Good Ideas Come From. Hargadon focuses more specifically on the business benefits of innovation, so it certainly has its place in innovation cannon and I would still recommend it for that reason.

Overall, the main thing I realized after reading this book is that I need to expand the universe of books I plan to read this year if I truly want to have more access to the small worlds of Hargadon, the Intersections of Johansson and the serendipity, exaptations, and adjacent possible of Johnson.  So my book list will be expanding and changing. It is 58 long (& strong) right now, so I will pick and choose as I go, but I’ve added more science, technology, and history and will likely cut out some of the business and innovation books. Or, maybe I’ll get to them all this year, as I am ahead of schedule for now.


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If you continue to think the same way, you will continue to get the same results.

If you continue to think the same way, you will continue to get the same results.

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