Put a hospitality entrepreneur, a radiologist, an environmental engineer, a textile manufacturing manager and a director of a global internet company in the same room. Add in some R&D managers, corporate executives, designers, strategists and a few 20-somethings. The result? A high-energy, provocative opportunity to exchange ideas and galvanize innovation.
The powerful meeting of the Association for Managers of Innovation (AMI) held last March wasn’t a one-off experience, however. Members and invited guests were celebrating the 30th anniversary of AMI and, appropriately, focusing on the theme of “sustainability.”
“AMI has sustained for three decades as a community dedicated to innovation and creative processes,” says founder and president Stan Gryskiewicz. “We’ve grown and innovated as a group because of our commitment to key principles and a dedication to our own reinvention.”
Twice a year, AMI members and invited guests gather to wrestle with questions of innovation and change. The small group (usually 35 or 40 people attend each meeting) shares experiences, best practices, mistakes and missteps in their efforts to leverage creativity and innovation in their organizations and society.
AMI began as an offshoot of CCL’s “Creativity Week,” held between 1978 and 1987. Interest in the process of innovation in organizations was emerging and Gryskiewicz was hooked. Through AMI and his multiple roles at CCL over 35 years, Gryskiewicz tapped into the research and practice of innovation and contributed significantly to the field. Today, he writes and consults (www.positiveturbulence.com) while keeping AMI going strong.
AMI members have pushed their creative thinking through field trips and guest speakers on wide-ranging topics, including a translator of Near Eastern Languages, a Hospice director and an evolutionary biologist. Members gamely have held two meetings in Second Life.
At the recent meeting, 70 members were literally surrounded by the theme of sustainability as they gathered in Greensboro, NC at the Proximity Hotel — the only LEED® Platinum hotel in the United States. The Proximity’s Dennis Quaintance, Paul Bowen of The Coca-Cola Company and Erin Carlson of Yahoo!, each spoke of their organizations’ conservation and sustainability efforts. Boston-based Creative Realities facilitated several problem-solving sessions. A panel of young adults shared a generational perspective of the future. But, most importantly, AMI members shared their work, their ideas and themselves.
“Inviting new ideas into your world creates ‘positive turbulence’ — the fuel for innovation,” says Gryskiewicz. “But it’s the values of the group that make AMI a powerful community of practice and a place where deep friendships have grown, too.”
“The diverse perspectives, open dialogue and commitment to confidentiality and trust push the group in new directions and keep members coming back year after year.”