What is the source of innovation? Organizations can find the answer in some unexpected places, including video games, design, biotechnology, and Cirque du Soleil.

That’s what School of Management faculty member Dr. David Gould and PhD in Management student Karla Phlypo discovered when they represented Walden University at the 2012 World Innovation Forum in May. They were among the 40 students and faculty members from 14 institutions in the Laureate International Universities network who traveled to Leon, Mexico, for the annual event to learn how today’s most successful companies are driving innovation.

“My current focus is on innovation and how community-based innovation is emerging as a new way of conducting business, so being selected to attend the World Innovation Forum was very exciting,” says Karla, who is president of the global knowledge management company PK & Associates.

She and Dr. Gould returned home with new insights from leading experts, such as Paola Antonelli, senior curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; Juan Enriquez, CEO of Biotechonomy LLC; Tom Peters, author of the international best-seller In Search of Excellence; Lyn Heward, head of creativity for Cirque du Soleil; and Clay Shirky, one of today’s most influential thinkers on the Internet’s global impact on society.

Several of the ideas resonated with the Walden representatives:

  • Social networks keep organizations honest and are a source of problem-solving and wisdom.

  • An organization is much like a video game: Each calls for tasks at an appropriate level. Participants become bored when levels are too easy but distressed when they’re too hard.

  • Rather than taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach, organizations should allow people to perform their roles in ways that work well for both them and the organization.

  • Innovation applies not only to products and services but also to art and entertainment, the rule of law, banking systems, and governing models.

  • Design enhances innovation by pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

  • Innovating with excellence calls for businesses to treat their employees and their customers in the same way.

  • Businesses of the future will mimic biological systems by relying on loose networks of smaller, cooperative entities to survive and create.

“This was an interesting, entertaining, and provocative conference,” says Dr. Gould. “As Tom Peters noted, we clearly live in an ‘innovate or die’ environment today.”

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