NDSU Extension Innovation


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Tech Coffee Break – Sept. 12, 2016

Here's a summary of the September 12, 2016 Tech Coffee Break. Out guiding topic was innovation.

I shared details about the upcoming Innovate NDSU Extension event taking place on October 17 in Fargo. In May, I served as a "creative coach" at a similar event put on by Ohio State University Extension. Amelia Doll, Dena Kemmet and I are organizing the Innovate NDSU Extension on behalf of the Innovation Team.

Innovate NDSU Extension will give you time and space to be innovative. We'll work in diverse small groups that will get us out of our comfort zones, help us be more innovative and hopefully develop a brand new idea

Join us for Innovate NDSU Extension, Monday, October 17, from 12:30 – 8 p.m. CT at the Wanzek Center for Scouting in Fargo, ND. The cost is $25 and you can register as part of your 2016 NDSU Extension/REC Conference registration.

We are still working on the agenda for the event, but here's a rough outline:

  • Jake Joraanstad, Myriad Mobile CEO, will kick off with his ideas of innovation
  • Creativity exercise – get to know your team
  • Ideation – develop ideas for your team’s innovation project/product, how to put it into practice and a pitch to deliver to everyone in the room


Technology and innovation often are hand in hand, but not necessarily eXtension defines innovation as creativity applied to produce positive impact. I asked the Tech Coffee Break participants about their definition of innovation. Here's what they said.

Mike Hanson said last week’s livestock in-service was innovative because staff got together in a different setting with new approaches. 

Katie Wirt said the Innovation Team discussion about the possibility of using Snapchat filters is innovative. 

Kelli Armbruster was excited to see agents thinking differently at livestock in-service. After supper around the campfire, they shared their most creative or positive programs. For example, Nicole Wardner is doing a Coffee and Commodities early in the morning for an informal discussion with producers. Kelcey Hoffman and Mary Berg are doing square-foot gardening containers in schools. Innovation doesn’t have to just be technology but thinking about things in a different way. 

Becky Koch shared that we're in the process of learning how to upload curricula to catalog.extension.org so we can sell digital downloads instead of having to mail DVDs or binders. 

Michael Knudson shared that the soil team has had coffee shop discussions. This may not be new but rather going back to some ideas Extension has used in the past. The Community Vitality team has put together a continuous improvement group. 

I think being innovative in Extension might be kind of like farming where you have to keep trying new things, tinkering with potential solutions.

Michael Knudson said sometimes we have to balance “the way we’ve been doing things” with changing and improving. For example, it’s important to be at big ag shows, but are we assessing the impact of the staff time spent on them? Are smaller, more intimate discussions more impactful? 

Ryan Buetow said we have the freedom and space, just not enough time in the day to do everything sometimes. 

Page Brummund said we have the flexibility, but time is the limiting factor. Lots of great ideas. 

Michael Knudson said we have lots of autonomy and freedom, but that’s often a double-edged sword since we have so many responsibilities, we often don’t have the freedom to choose for ourselves. 

Dean Aakre said his limiting factor often is the imagination. We do many things that people expect so we often do things similar to the way we have in the past. 

Katie Wirt and Amanda Dahners are lucky with two agents in the county so they can brainstorm together. 

I schedule time to meet with colleagues to simply talk about ideas, struggles, etc. Harold Jarche uses a seek, sense, share concept. How do we make sense of some information? Sometimes we need to say it out loud to someone else.

Thanks to Becky Koch for taking the notes that make up most of this post.

- Bob Bertsch

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