Innovation station

Second speaker series event focuses on solving problems

Kalleen Ozanic and Colleen Finn

For the second week of the 2020 Spring Speaker Series, Quinnipiac University welcomed back Michael Reynolds, vice president of ideation and innovation strategy at Stanley Black & Decker.

Reynolds came loaded with to-the-point tactics that he hopes will revolutionize the future of innovation in the coming decade. The audience was small, but Reynolds was able to impart the wisdom of Bruce Lee and his own knowledge of TikTok — a social media platform that inspired him to motivate his team in new ways, he said.

To warm up, Reynolds played two martial arts clips, the second being one of Bruce Lee. This second clip consisted of a man trying to attack Lee, but was knocked down before he could make a legitimate attempt.

Quinnipiac University
Michael Reynolds believes social media is the key to modern innovation.

This clip was the foundation of Reynolds’ presentation.

“(Lee) created a completely new martial art,” Reynolds said. “(It) was, in his mind, a way of taking the good stuff, but also maintaining a lot of flexibility and fluidity to say, look, there’s a lot of room to continue to evolve this, and it was based on speed, agility (and) getting a big return on a little effort.”

Reynolds stressed how traditional innovation teams practice a kind of “old-school martial art” that consists of choreographed dances, which waste time and money without getting any valuable return.

Reynolds said his proposition, like Bruce Lee, is to cut the tango and get to value with ease and practicality. Reynolds described it as “a relentless focus on moving forward and winning.”

This idea of winning does not stand alone, Reynolds said. He usually approaches his audience with the question, “What problems are you solving?” This is where old-school innovation gets lost, he said, as people don’t have a goal in mind, and therefore the goal is never reached.

Every successful innovation solves a problem, Reynolds said. He made it a modern application by walking through the evolution of social media.

“(It’s about the) overwhelming need to matter,” Reynolds said. “To tell a story and get attention and fame with minimal intellectual effort or skill.”

The greater majority has this need to be noticed, so giving them attention becomes the means of encouraging change and innovation, Reynolds said.

Reynolds offered another piece of advice.

“(People need to be) excited about engaging in solving problems organically and getting a real value fast,” he said. “The only issue with this new idea is that it directly translates to change. Age-old, traditional companies or institutions are not likely to open their doors to change.”

He then opened it up to the members of the audience and offered them a chance to reflect on the times where their own innovations had been shot down. Risk seemed to be the underlying factor in each rejection.

To remedy this, Reynolds discussed an option to change the given situations.

“If you de-risk the change, the change becomes much easier to engage with simultaneous attack and defense,” Reynolds said, describing what he calls the “Bruce Lee method.”

Fred McKinney, Carlton Highsmith chair  of innovation and entrepreneurship and professor of entrepreneurship and strategy, agreed. He reached out to Reynolds with an idea.

“You know, educational institutions, not just Quinnipiac, tend to be very conservative, ‘this is the way we’ve always done it,’” McKinney said. “And we have a ton of bright students here who we almost force into this process, I call it, and I don’t think that we are reaching them and providing them with all the tools that they would need.”

Reynolds left the audience with a closing remark.

“You have to give to people (and) celebrate people … inspire people … get students involved and not just getting credited, celebrate [and] inspire,” Reynolds said. “Faculty and students, be like Bruce Lee, and you have the power to innovate the education experience.”