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Fresh Off the Press – The Toolbox of Innovation

Can a diverse group of seven engineers and designers write a book? Can they write a book about innovation, teamwork, and problem solving, in a collaborative fashion, while working in a virtual environment?

The answer is yes.   

In fact, that’s exactly what seven of us on the MITRE Innovation Toolkit team did this past year!  Fresh off the press, our book is called The Toolbox of Innovation, and we—Jen Choi, myself (Allison Khaw), Gabby Raymond, Dan Ward, Kaylee White, Niall White, and Jessica Yu—couldn’t be more excited to share it with the world.

As the first line of the book says, it was an experiment. We didn’t know how our book would turn out, or if it would turn out. There was only one way to know the answer, and that was to sit down and start putting words on the page.

We used a writing style similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that were popular in the eighties and nineties, except that we placed our characters in a real-world setting. You—the reader—are the protagonist of the story, which revolves around a passionate team applying innovation methods to develop a product that will delight its users. Depending on the path you take through the book, you’ll learn about intrapreneurism, self-advocacy, problem framing, prototyping, failure, and more. If you encounter a dead-end in your current path, simply turn around and make a different choice.

Chips!

Throughout the writing process, we focused on ways to be more collaborative and creative. We took on the scenes we were most passionate about, learning firsthand that messy first drafts are inevitable. We edited each other’s scenes without feeling like we needed permission. As our book took shape, we incrementally built our cast of characters and mapped out the myriad plot threads. We also learned about self-publishing and the effectiveness of fiction in teaching real-world lessons. Ultimately, it was an exercise in shared leadership as well as a refreshing opportunity to embrace risks.

It was an incredibly rewarding experience, in more ways than one.

One of my favorite parts of our book is its playful nature. You’ll find scenes involving Bigfoot, failure cake, juggling, and alternate endings, not to mention a suspiciously large number of potato chip references. (You’d think we were sponsored by a snack food company—nope, our characters just really like chips!)  Each of the co-authors brought a different perspective to the table, and we’ll be finding ways to share our experiences and lessons learned, starting with this blog post. We want to help you perform your own experiments, in all their glory.

If you want to find out more, go to The Toolbox of Innovation
If you are undecided, mull it over and then re-read the previous line
When you’re ready, turn to the first page of the book, and take the story where you will.  It’s your adventure, after all—you get to call the shots.

Written by Allison Khaw!

This article was originally published on the Innovation Toolkit Blog.