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How to use your UIF skills to become a badass in any industry

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Overview

The University Innovation Fellows Program teaches a curriculum that is widely applicable beyond college and to a variety of industries and job titles. The skills developed during the training sessions in the realms of changing how one approaches and thinks about a problem and then what connections can be made to solve that problem can truly create lasting positive influence over a student's mindset.

Anyone who sticks to and applies the skills learned during their time training in the University Innovation Fellows Program can be a badass. As Ryan Phillips, a current Program Manager at Microsoft and former University Innovation Fellow, tells us, "The UIF Program allowed me to come into my new job, understand what was expected of me and learn how the organization worked, and then be able to sit at tables with high-level employees, even as a new hire." Ryan says skills he learned in the program directly influence how he acts today, even if he uses said skills in a less structured manner. He says design thinking reinforced how important it is for him to see problems with products from a customer's perspective and to empathize, which he believes is invaluable in product innovation and production. He has also found he has utilized a landscape canvas every day since he began. Even if he is not explicitly writing it out, Ryan always is thinking what connections can be made, what connections are missing, and now how can we make them, when addressing problems, i.e. becoming intimately familiar with and readdressing his in-house resources that are available to him and his team to be used to solve their problems.



Skills from UIF that are applicable in any industry

University Innovation Fellows help to teach a variety of different products in each of the different sessions that are presented during training. These days, companies and organizations all over the world are working towards developing, growing and maintaining their best talent and ideas. They are embracing diversity, innovation and entrepreneurship in order to maintain this culture of growth. The University Innovation Fellows Program has gone through and incorporated many of these ideas and skills into their program, including design thinking, segmentation, landscape canvas, project management, and building connections. 

Ryan also talked about how it has benefited companies and culture, especially at Microsoft. For example, Ryan incorporated and implemented the Landscape Canvas into his role as a Project Manager. He was able to see what connections can we make, what connections are missing, and how can we make those connections, which he then was able to present to multiple VP-level executives, who then got free localization for internal startups using the idea of a landscape canvas. Being able to see these sorts of connections and implement them on a larger scale is applicable to any industry and even more, cross-industry as well. 

Application and Implementation

You may find yourself saying, "These examples are so inspirational! But I'm not a Program Manager. How do I apply my UIF skills to be a badass in any situation?" Well, you're in the right place. How do you apply what you learn as a UIF to your industry? By applying three techniques, you can use your UIF skills anywhere you go. These skills are design thinking, landscaping, and staying lean.

Design thinking is applicable when you are trying to find the right solution to a particular problem. Put aside your preconceived notions, and dig deep into processes that are done in a certain way because they were always done in that way. Identify things with a new perspective that other people may have overlooked. By truly understanding a person's needs, whether they are a student at your university or a customer, you can make progress. You can't make progress by staying within a silo. You need to make connections and take ownership over the problems you are solving.

Landscaping is taught by the landscape canvas. Identify key stakeholders who can help you get things done. If you have their support, implementing your ideas will be much easier. Focus on the connections between people in any organization, to determine the best way to get things done. Everyone has their own concerns, and you need to make sure that you can find a solution that addresses them.

Regarding staying lean, you just have to make things happen. Start the process of growth and experimentation, even when people aren't willing to give you funding or give your idea support at that moment. Ryan advises UIFs to "Base [their work] around numbers and metrics." Have a great idea that adding a hands-on component to a particular class would increase enrollment? Figure out a way to test the idea as simply as possible. For example, instead of convincing a professor to change his or her entire course, you could convince the professor to let you lead a half-hour or one-hour session at the beginning of a class. If there's positive feedback, you can scale up from there. If the feedback is negative, then you can go back to the ideation stage and revise your idea. Stay lean while you're testing ideas. 

Advice on Achieving the Rank of Badass in Your Industry

"I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say today will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening."

-Larry King

One of the biggest challenges we face as innovators, entrepreneurs, and designers is our attitudes. We are taught to let criticism roll off our backs, to not pay attention to the "haters," but rather, to stay focused and achieve what you're aiming for. However, to become a badass in any industry - and to stay a badass - requires taking others' perspectives into consideration, slowing down and listening to peers and teachers, and achieving a role of humility in your industry. Note that humility does not mean passiveness. Instead, it requires an attitude of understanding, application, and thinking of yourself as an equal to your associates.

A common misconception of group work and projects includes the "Conquer and Divide" mentality. In order to ensure that all members of a team are working together to achieve a goal, many groups tend to contribute their ideas, but fail to grasp full responsibility for the project. We usually split the ownership or the project, viewing it as a group assignment rather than a unique opportunity. Without owning and dominating in your work, there is no possibility to fully impact a company, organization, or idea in your industry.

Finally, the most challenging aspect of becoming a badass is finding the perfect pathway of communication to others about the importance of innovation in every organization. The term "innovation" is not widely accepted or understood, and in many circumstances confuse or turn off your listener. To truly become a badass in your industry, you must un-tap the language your peers speak, find the synonyms that are most impactful to your audience, and find the right communication method to instill the importance of thinking differently. You must also seek out the individuals in your field with the most power to influence and implement change in your industry. By creating the best avenue of communication for innovation and entrepreneurial thinking, you will be able to achieve your badass status, and even begin to promote other badass thinkers around you.