By Nicky Sullivan
For a conference focused in large part on innovation, Tina Seelig’s closing keynote was the perfect finish.
Seelig, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, described what she called the Invention Cycle, a model she created which covers the process from imagination to entrepreneurship.
It was a fitting message for a conference that listed disruption as one of its three themes and had numerous panels look at the future of journalism.
“In the world of journalism, there is a huge need right now for people to rethink the future,” Seelig said in an earlier interview. “Clearly the world of journalism is in a state of flux. The journalism we all know is changing rapidly, as there are lots of other ways for people to get their news.”
“We’re in an era of chaos and opportunity in journalism,” said Dawn Garcia, managing director of the JSK Journalism Fellowships at Stanford, who was involved in organizing the conference and suggested Seelig as a potential keynote speaker.
Seelig’s Invention Cycle has four steps, as it moves from imagination to creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. It’s meant to help people be more creative, and she describes it as “a vocabulary and a set of relationships that are going to help unlock the process of going from the seeds of an idea all the way through to implementation.”
Seelig gave examples of some of the exercises she had her students do to help explain the cycle. One exercise took students to San Quentin State Prison and had them “redesign the experience of going from prison to freedom.” Students had to identify a problem, reframe it, come up with a solution, and inspire interest in their solution, she said.
This reframing was one of the key pieces Seelig emphasized. When an audience member asked how best to accomplish it she suggested “challenging assumptions” and “asking ‘why’ questions. It sounds really simple but it’s actually very hard,” she said.
After a conference where lots of new ideas were thrown around in more than 30 presentations, Seelig’s keynote closed the conference with a message of optimism and advice on how to move forward with ideas as the field of journalism continues to adapt and change, said attendees.
“I liked it a lot,” said John Dillon, a journalism professor at Penn State University. “I liked the fact that she organized it in a very clear, step-by-step way. You could take this back and start working with it.”