I recently had the privilege to witness one of the most exemplary representations of functional innovation, inclusion and diversity. Academics, researchers, 'mainstream' Irish and international students, students with intellectual disabilities, athletes, language barriers, and absolutely none of it mattered. There was an amazing energy and desire to share knowledge, collaborate and make inclusion and diversity a reality across the two weeks of the EIT-Health Summer School on Inclusive Physical Education hosted by Trinity College Dublin (TCD) in collaboration with the Technical University of Munich.
I was overwhelmed by how quickly the groups engaged and coalesced despite numerous obstacles. This group needed to follow, translate and interpret complex instruction, while always making sure that everyone had a voice that was heard and respected. My role was as a facilitator, to facilitate the exchange of ideas, to encourage creativity and curiosity, to challenge and to support. It was without doubt one of the easiest innovation events I have ever facilitated. The ease of this session was due absolutely to the desire and openness of the groups involved, their steadfast focus on their goals of inclusion, their absolute understanding of the importance of their topic and their openness to learning.
Problem Solving starts when we listen and recognise that a problem exists!!
Finding ways to understand what people need, what people want, and identifying the gaps and challenges to satisfying those requirements is fundamental to creating value, comfort and contentment! That's innovation! While this group had a passionate desire to create solutions in this space, they also had to engage with the amorphic concept of inclusion, the impact of exclusion, and the personal experiences of those excluded. They had to be rigorous in their investigation, one example of exclusion, though emotionally impactful is not enough on which to design a solution.
I was especially impressed by how well the groups critically engaged with the problem space, defining the problem through a process of divergent questioning, moving toward convergence and designing genuinely targeted solutions. We used aspects of Triz, Design Thinking, Lean, Agile etc.. without becoming overly dependent on any one model. I personally feel, with a group as diverse as this, and with no previous experience in the innovation space, it is important to avoid becoming overly focused on models but more fluid with an emphasis on the value of the thought processes that underpin the models, what I call the innovation mindset.
This was a very lean process, taking far less time and expending far fewer resources than might otherwise be seen in some of the companies I work with. Even the obstacle of limited time and resources did little to diminish the ferocious desire in the group. In many ways this desire and reduction in obstacle impact speaks to the value of intrinsic motivation. If this kind of motivational awareness and energy could be bottled, that might alone be an entrepreneur’s dream. I have certainly worked with
client’s who would chew off their arms, if
only they could motivate their staff like this group.
The innovation space, processes and attitude required a new type of thinking for a lot of the groups and this can be tiring in the early stages. Once we began to engage our type two thinking, the groups became much more adept and capable as critical thinkers, even in times of stress.
Achieving an inclusive culture is hard work, it takes time and effort, it takes awareness and a willingness to change and grow. It is absolutely worth every single second of stress and strain because being truly inclusive makes us better, as people, as companies, as a culture.
“When we treat people merely as they are, they will remain as they are. When we treat them as if they were what they should be, they will become what they should be.” Monson
Of all the photos I took over the two weeks, this image of Una more than any other encapsulates everything we hoped to achieve with this series of innovation workshops. Respect and fairness are central to our happiness as humans. The conversations this week have covered a wide range of experiences and impressions of what inclusion is but on a very fundamental level, inclusion comes back to respect. If we respect people, we want them included. By including people we are telling them we respect them, their presence, their point of view. Exclusion is punishment, so why punish people just because they don’t fit a particular standard?
The two weeks, here in Dublin and in Munich, have been incredibly special. It is rare that I witness such a genuine and total desire to examine and resolve the challenges surrounding inclusion and diversity. While the main focus of the sprint was on inclusion in relation to physical education and sport it was abundantly clear that the solutions generated by the groups address and solves challenges to inclusion in a range of other settings. I would personally, in my capacity as an innovation consultant, see an opportunity to implement some of these solutions in companies I work with were the appetite evident.
A huge congratulations to the organisers for what has been one of the best examples of collaborative #innovation I've witnessed. Logistically complex, managing a lot of moving parts and moving people, Mary- Ann O'Donovan of Trinity College Dublin and Elke Langbein and Dr. Daniela Schwarz from Technical University Munich, Mark Solomeyer, Dr. Timo Schädler, Ilse Hemmelmayr of Special Olympics Germany, Cáit Donnelly of Special Olympics Ireland, and Alan Armstrong of EIT-Health have been AMAZING.
I am genuinely in awe of the groups I've had the opportunity to work with across the two weeks. Irish, Italian, German, Finnish, Maltese and Austrian, students, teachers, researchers, athletes, and families all coming together to share knowledge, collaborate, and achieve an incredibly important goal, with ferocious determination. I was struck by the capacity for growth shown across the sessions, the quality of the thinking, the willingness to stand in front of peers and present half-baked ideas, to embrace criticism, to sing, to dance, to pitch and to remain focused.
It has been a privilege to witness the strength, support, compassion and the desire to learn and grow as problem solvers, innovators and solution designers.
I’m extremely excited to see the incredible solutions generated and pitched implemented!