NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Practical Strategies for Facilitating Innovative Research

Practical Strategies for Facilitating Innovative Research


  • Donnalyn Roxey, Knowinnovation
  • Andy Burnett, Knowinnovation

Thanks to our session scribe, Jennifer Huntington, University of Michigan!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • Knowinnovation designed the “Ideas Lab” – a multi-day program to develop ideas among faculty members with different areas of expertise to create a proposal for funding.
  • Creativity was defined as the production of novel and useful thinking. Everyone is creative in different ways that leads to innovation.
  • Tools to use with faculty in order to foster ideation that will get researchers to truly collaborate and think beyond their own ideas of what is important.
  • Clear link between Research Development professionals and their ability to use their skills creatively to foster innovative research. RD professionals are not just the implementation piece.
  • During the session, there were two points at which the audience was asked to speak with someone sitting next to them about 1. Where each person could use more creative methods in RD, and 2. What have you seen work well in that space? This was a great way to develop connections with colleagues and share ideas.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

It was surprising to have the session be based around the idea of creativity and how we can foster that first in ourselves and understand that we are all creative in different ways. That really helped tie into the proposed strategies for fostering innovative research. It surprised me how willing Knowinnovation was to share some of their methodology for us to immediately utilize at our home institutions.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

Two models were shared: Web of Abstraction – how to define the “problem” or really understand what the problem is.  PPCO – how to focus on the values of different ideas to stop the “that’s a terrible idea” mindset. PPCO evaluates an idea starting with the Pluses, the Potentials, the Concerns, and lastly, how to Overcome some of the Concerns (when possible). The presenter did state that she was willing to share any other resources around Knowinnovation’s methods.

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenter(s)’ response?

One question was asked about ideal group size for ideation workshops. Another participant asked how to get faculty to attend the workshops. The presenter responded that the ideal size is less than 10, and that the “sweet spot” is a group of 7-8 people. That then tied into clarifying that a successful workshop of this type is NOT based on attendance/size, so getting faculty to “show up” is not actually the program’s goal. It becomes rather difficult to effectively ideate around innovative concepts when there isn’t an ability to narrow the focus enough. The end goal of these workshops is to have a handful of faculty come out with a great proposal concept for funding.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

If you sign-up for the Knowinnovation blog, they periodically post about the work they are doing, including methodologies and other helpful tips. They offer many services, including: workshops, virtual events, lunchtime talks, 3-day proposal building sessions, and ideas labs.

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