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Innovation in the New World of Work: Jeff DeGraff Kicks Off Day Two of WCX 

Posted: April 11, 2022

Trying to fit the new into the old is the number one way to fail in the new world of work, Jeff DeGraff says.  

DeGraff, the Dean of Innovation and founder of the Innovatrium, kicked off day two of WCX™ World Business Congress with his keynote highlighting his innovator’s mindset. 

DeGraff stressed the importance of diversity that allows an organization to grow.  

“Diversity is an essential ingredient to breakthrough innovation,” said DeGraff.  

Bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and experiences with the same shared goal creates constructive conflict, DeGraff shared, which comes from the consideration of multiple perspectives from a variety of backgrounds and leads to innovation. He cautioned that businesses should be wary of assimilation, as the death of innovation is apathy or over alignment. 

“We’re supposed to have tension, and that tension will find somewhere to go,” DeGraff said.  

In some cases, this tension is driven by a fear of failure, and those who are cautious about moving forward don’t want to lose whatever ground they currently hold. The innovators, however, push through this fear—and often develop the critical skill that DeGraff describes as learning how to fail.  

“Companies love innovation, but they hate innovators, because they bring deviance,” DeGraff said. “Organizations change when the risk of being radical and the control of staying the same reverse.” 

So how does the innovator find the opportunity to pursue positive failure and make change?  

DeGraff mapped out an entire ecosystem of decision making that incorporates both the creative energy of the innovators of the world and the industry knowledge that long serving professionals bring to the table. He highlighted the quadrants of collaboration to do things that last, creation to do new things, control to do things correctly, and competition to do things now, as areas of focus for lasting success in resolving that good tension to push organizations forward.  

“You have to have something in common that is a shared goal,” DeGraff said. “Nobody cares about your innovation; they care about solving their problem.”  

Finding ways to bridge the gap between the creative thinkers and analytical problem solvers will make way for the next generation of workers who are coming in to innovate and are what DeGraff referred to as the post-institutional generation.  

For those up and comers in the field of mobility, DeGraff advised joining a company with a good brand that needs to reinvent themselves in a location where there isn’t a ton of high tech right now.  

“It’s not about the company you work for, it’s who you work for and who you work with,” he said.