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innovation – Joyce Wycoff

“If you can create an organization that innovates, then you can make the organization a better place to work.”

More: Innovation – Albert Yu, Innovation – Catherine Allen

Title: Founder
Company: Innovation Network
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Age: 52

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It was 1982. “In Search of Excellence” had just been published, and Joyce Wycoff was pursuing a career in finance at a traditional company in the middle of corporate America. “That book was a watershed for me,” Wycoff remembers. “It made me realize that there were a lot of things going on in organizations that I’d never seen in the companies that I’d worked for. That’s what started me in the direction of innovation and creativity.”

Eleven years later, Wycoff launched what came to be called the Innovation Network — “a place where people who are interested in innovation and thinking can get together and share ideas.” To jump-start the network, Wycoff asked 30 to 40 of the people in her Rolodex if they would join such a group. An overwhelming response prompted Wycoff to send out MindPlay, her first newsletter, featuring ideas, techniques, and best practices related to innovation and creativity. Today Wycoff’s network has grown from 30 members to more than 800. The group’s live events have flourished too: Next year, the Innovation Network will hold Convergence 99, its fifth innovation conference. And the network has expanded to offer other services: a benchmarking program called Innovation University; a free weekly email, called Good Morning Thinkers!, that goes out to more than 20,000 subscribers; and a Web site. In the process, Wycoff has earned a reputation as the “go-to person” in the innovation community.

“Our goal is to change the way people do business,” she says. “If you can create an organization that innovates, then you can make the organization a better place to work. Innovation means that people are working together. It means that there’s an information flow from within the organization and from without. It means that there’s an environment that honors ideas, that doesn’t punish people for taking risks, and that makes it easy for people to interact with each other. Creating innovation in an organization means building a very complex system.”

Gina Imperato (gimperato@fastCompany.com) is a Fast Company associate editor. For more information on the Innovation Network, visit the Web (www.thinksmart.com) or email Joyce Wycoff (joyce@thinksmart.com).

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