Where does innovation come from? I could never imagine the first AUTS, a small concert on the grass, would be transformed into a campus event spanning two nights and three stages with art installations. Innovation for AUTS has evolved from a series of small risks, layered, tangled, and grown into an innovative new model/approach. Producing AUTS for the past seven years has been a journey of successive risk taking and team building. The first AUTS was a small dance concert on grass with muslin sheets strung between the trees on the Broome Library lawn, a few lights and speakers attached to an iPad. It included my three dance courses and the music ensemble opened for us. That’s it.
Arts Under The Stars came to fruition through years student driven ideas, many that did not work their first trial run. The digital program is a good example. When we decided to integrate green initiatives into the event, finding a way around printed programs seemed like a good start, and just like that the idea to create a digital program was born. Our first program was a PDF and the plan was to disseminate it by texting the crowd. The PDF was awesome, dissemination was not. No one could access the program. For our second attempt, with help from Teaching and Learning Innovations, the digital program was built as a mobile-responsive website, and it worked! Eureka! However, no one was prepared for us to crash the school’s WIFI system when a few hundred people logged on simultaneously. We finally worked out the bugs and the program worked the third time we tried. A huge shout out to Michael Berman and Matt Hughes for boosting the WIFI for us! Innovation requires team building and reaching out for support and help.
Every year the AUTS team comes up with new ideas to try. Some of them work, and some of them don’t. Sometimes we have big visible flops, we learn, go back to the drawing board, and eventually figure it out. We work hard, plan, have contingency plans, and sometimes accept that we are taking a risk and cannot predict the exact outcome. Just because you aren’t sure something will work, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. In the process you WILL learn how to do it better, different, or something else will emerge out of the process. I follow the shameless, fearless, not reckless rule. I have stated these before. This mantra developed from a performing career, but they apply to innovation and education as well.
When our work is highly visible, taking a public risk is scary. Surrounded by amazing colleagues who are creating and doing amazing projects, it can be difficult to see the seeds, trials, and risks it took to build the foundations of their success. If we want to build a university for the 21st century based on innovation, risk is an inherent component. If you have an idea swirling in your thoughts, I encourage you to take that risk, no matter how visible, scary, or unpredictable the outcome might be. There are people who will help and support you. Most important, you might be creating the process and foundation for something revolutionary, necessary, and important.