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Don’t blend in

4:01 PM  Apr 4th, 2017
by Gita Balakrishnan

“Not everyone can be an inventor, creator or discoverer. But everyone can be an innovator.”

Those were the words that began Nick Donofrio’s keynote address on the morning of President Eric Spina’s inauguration day, April 4.

A 44-year IBM veteran who holds seven technology patents, Donofrio addressed a to-capacity Kennedy Union ballroom on how to be a leading institution in innovation in the 21st century.

Collaboration and inclusivity were high on his priorities in explaining how institutions and businesses can thrive in today’s global climate.

He stressed the importance of understanding inclusivity when collaborating with others on ideas, because “very rarely do innovators work alone.” As he pointed to the audience members, he affirmed “Me and you— we do better work when we work collaboratively.”

He further emphasized, “When I say inclusion, I mean inclusion with a capital ‘I’….and sometimes the big ‘I’ makes you very uncomfortable.” But true inclusivity, he said, requires working with all types and kinds of individuals from all disciplines and educational levels.

And the reason: “You may never know who has the last piece of the puzzle.”

As an example, he cited the work of the late Steve Job, former Apple CEO.  Having worked with him, Donofrio stated Jobs actually never invented anything, but could “study the problem better than anyone [he] ever knew.” Through this process products like the iPod and iPhone were created, which filled a public need.

And that, he says, is key to creating an innovative product

“If no value has been created, then there is no innovation,” he said. “But, value could be educational value, societal value, governmental value, country-specific value, it could be economic value. There’s so many values it could be, there’s no reason for it not to be applied. There’s all these ways for value to be created.”

As Donofrio closed, he reminded the audience of a quote from Dr. Seuss: “Why blend in when you were born to stand out?”  Since standing out, he says, is what true innovation is.



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