4.5 Questions with TEDxNormal Speaker Dr. Alex Bruton

Bruton

The first TEDxNormal event is just a few weeks away! November 7th is when you can hear over a dozen influencers from across the country share their message and insights with you.

This week, our speaker spotlight in shining on Dr. Alex Bruton, who is on a mission to help people learn how to innovate.  We asked Alex 4.5 questions, and let him finish the end of the last question along with his answer. Here is what he has to share with you!

#1. Why do you think TEDx talks are valuable? 

TEDx talks are valuable because they give us the opportunity to have more intimate conversations. They’re about ideas – just like any TED talk. But they’re important because they’re organized by local communities for the people in those communities. I’m honoured to be part of what’s shaping up to be an incredible conversation at TEDx Normal.

#2. If the world ends on November 6, 2015, the day before TEDx Normal, what would people die without knowing?

For my part, I look forward to telling you about innovation literacy – the stuff of creative and innovative greatness we all have inside us but that more often than not gets “evaluated away” in favour of a lot of other genuinely important but usually easier-to-measure stuff by the time we’ve progressed through school, grown up, gone to college, and landed a job.

For all the ways we value innovation in society, as leaders within our organizations, and as individuals going about our lives, the process of getting better at it tends to be misunderstood, often ends up being patchy or overcomplicated, and is usually difficult or expensive for people to access.

On November 7 I’m going to put it to you that it doesn’t have to be that way.

#3. The TED tagline is “ideas worth spreading.” What’s an idea you wish would stop being spread?

My beefs are with the way we’re encouraged to conceive of innovation as being elusive or not for everyone, the ways the word itself gets used and abused – even inadvertently, and the common belief that eureka moments and true disruptions come about because of luck, hard work, genetics, or that consultant or process you’re thinking of bringing on board.

We need to stop spreading the Post-It-Notes-on-the-wall-for-the-sake-of-it, the Lego-on-the-desk-because-they’re-cool, and the let’s-get-the-keywords-into-the-annual-report notions of innovation.

#4. What’s your best piece of advice for the person reading this?

1) Trust yourself but don’t fool yourself. We all need to believe in our hearts that we’re creative and innovative beings who can do incredible things. But we also need to admit to ourselves that there are some surprising and fundamental things that most people – from CEOs, to executive directors, to managers, to senior engineers – are usually no better at now than they were when they were kids. We’ll take a look at some of these and at how our collective norms and your own brain are likely to blame for some pretty stealthy reasons you may not yet have developed your innovation literacy.

2) Invest in yourself and the people around you. The world desperately needs big ideas and people who can lead them forward, and, as you’ll see, anyone can develop ways of thinking and practice that lead to truly impactful, feasible, and meaningful change in the world around them.

And 3) join me in thinking differently. What if we could get past the cool and promotional lenses on innovation? What if an executive level course didn’t cost hundreds or thousands of dollars? Better yet, what if there was no market for such a course because creating value was already as natural and familiar to all of us as running or riding a bike? And because we’d found ways to reliably point to what separates the innovative people among us from those who aren’t (yet), and found the trust in ourselves to make those competencies openly available to anyone, anywhere who wants them?

#4.5. What was one time in your life when you … “were happy?” 

I wear a lot of hats in my work, but teaching people to innovate is closest to my heart and what makes me tick. Whether I’m working with a group of executives, guiding a class of university students, teaching professors how to foster entrepreneurship, or playing with my own kids – some of my happiest moments have been the result of watching people’s eyes light up when they make simple breakthroughs in their understandings and their abilities to change the world around them. Especially when the sum of those yields a platform from which they can launch great things that would have otherwise been just slightly out of their reach.

But that’s just the thing that inspires me. What’s yours? What’s your family member’s? Your neighbour’s? Your employee’s? And how can innovation literacy help us make them all a reality?

I can’t wait to meet you at TEDx Normal!

Watch Dr. Bruton and over a dozen speakers share their messages live on November 7, 2015 at the Normal Theater in Normal, Illinois. There are still limited tickets available for Dr. Bruton’s talk in session 3, but you have to act fast. 

For more information about TEDxNormal, contact event organizer Doan Winkel: DWinkel@ilstu.edu.  Receive updates and information by following TEDxNormal on Twitter and Facebook.

About Dr. Alex Bruton 

Dr. Alex Bruton is on a mission to help anyone, anywhere (learn to) innovate. He’s the founder and president of The Innographer, a practical open education and innovation design firm that helps people become more creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial. He’s been an inventor (of some pretty exciting stuff); the co-founder of startups (in both for profit and social contexts); the co-founder of an innovation department (that failed spectacularly); a project and product manager (amazingly fun); and, quite by accident, a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship (a role in which he was named Top 40 Under 40 in his city and the Entrepreneurial Educator of the Year in Canada). He earned a Ph.D. in engineering in his mid twenties, and, over his career since that time earned a degree in marketing and innovation and has led the design of award winning learning and development experiences for boosting creativity, developing innovators, and unlocking the power of strategic ideation. Over the decades, his favorite work, speaking and facilitation gigs have taken him to exciting places such as the research labs of advanced technology groups; the ice floes of Greenland; and the offices of some pretty amazing organizations, including Google.

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