For some reason, the accelerating pace of innovation really felt real to me as intellectual property attorney Sharon Barner remarked to our table that the U.S. Patent Office was in dire need of innovation -- to keep up with the backlog of so much innovation.
The Chicago Tribune's Trib Nation community conversation lunch this week looked at innovation in advance of our Chicago Forward: Innovation event on Nov. 15. It was a thought-provoking conversation about what enables innovation, what is needed to pull it off, and what can get in the way of it.
But pick a discipline -- any discipline, any industry -- and chances are good that it is changing right now.
For established institutions, said media consultant and designer Ron Reason, that can mean a painful period of self-discovery. For someone such as Mari Gallagher, who studies urban food deserts, innovation offers a means to make necessary changes. P.J. Paparelli, the artistic director of the American Theater Co., sees innovation as a call for new collaborations with the Chicago Public Schools. For inventor/chef Homaro Cantu of Moto Restaurant, it's the process that yields fun and mind-blowing dishes that are wedded to big ideas.
(Here's a Facebook photo album of the visit.)
As we went around the room sharing what we'd learned -- there were 10 guests and a crowd of interested Chicago Tribune journalists -- there was a lot of thoughtful head-nodding. Innovators are always looking for the next spark of insight.
Among the mental prompts:
-- Josh Ellis of the Metropolitan Planning Council on how every good new idea needs a worthy competing idea.
-- Poggled product manager Jonathan Treble on the surprising nuances of the patent process.
-- Patent attorney Bob Gerstein on the long, long chain of collaboration needed to make innovative ideas actually happen.
And then Moto chefs Chris Jones and Richard Farina -- both hopefuls on the next season of Top Chef -- worked a bit of molecular gastronomy magic with Cantu that tricked our mouths into thinking a sour drink was actually super-sweet.
All while sharing more big ideas.
Innovation can't wait. Even at lunch.
-- James Janega
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