Even Innovation Managers Need Time Off: To Recharge, Just Return to Your Hive

Photo by Mike Shelby

Photo by Mike Shelby

Innovation asks us to stand in the unknown. To see through the eyes of others. To suspend our disbelief. To nurture the implausible. Sometimes we get tired.

When you need to recharge, it helps to have a hive to return to. Well, I just hit the jackpot for a hive. It’s called AMI.

A few weeks ago, I became a member of AMI, the Association for Managers of Innovation. AMI was formed 35 years ago by some creative leaders at, where else but, the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina. It has since spun out of CCL to become a freestanding 503(c) non-profit. There are no more than 200 members at any point in time, and we come from all walks: corporate, non-profit, academia, startups, and so on.

I knew I would like these people, but I had no idea there was a community like this waiting for me. I just got back from a three-day event in Sonoma, where over sixty members attended. It was mind-blowing. And wine-tasting.

During the meeting sessions, members are invited to share a Beg, Brag, or What If.  It is a ritual that lets people share what’s happening for them and taps into the collective wisdom of the AMI hive. People respond by writing notes on “blue slips,” which are 3 X 5 cards that let members contribute simultaneously. I came back with ~40 blue slips to help with a challenge I’ve been thinking about.

Another highlight was when Rolf Smith, a 30-year member, asserted that, “Innovators know who they are.” He invited us each to answer the question “This I believe” on a 3 X 5 card. Mine read something like this

  • Take a different route. Move toward the unknown. Take notes. Listen to what scares me. Be nice without any reason. Be still, but not usually. Put it down and come back later.

Wherever you are on your innovation journey, I have two wishes for you: (1) Find a hive that recharges you, and (2) Know what you believe.