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When we think of innovation we typically think of technology. But the biggest and most important innovation we can make for the future is innovating the way we think.

Author and ‘Big Idea’ founder Bill Bishop shared this key message during the Bresenoff-Feierstein Innovation lecture presented recently by the VCU Langston Center for Innovation in Quality and Safety. More than 100 faculty, students, staff, scholars and health care practitioners attended the lecture, “Dancing with Robots: “Innovation in the New Economy: Implications for Health Care,” in the VCU College of Health Professions auditorium.

Author of “The New Economy Thinker: Your Guide to Success in the New Economy,” Bishop is founder and CEO of The Big Idea Company, based in Toronto, Canada. He is also founder of The New Economy Network, with chapters in Toronto, Edmonton, Hamilton, Vancouver, and Richmond, Virginia.

During his lecture, Bishop used robots as a metaphor to stress the need for innovating our way of thinking in health care instead of depending on technology to lead the way. He said the focus has been on what robots do, instead of their overall impact.

“All of this technology is affecting us in much deeper ways that we haven’t fully studied,” he said.

To demonstrate his point, Bishop said people used to go to work at a place in an assembly line and they used to thrive through finding their place in that line. Now robots are performing those assembly line jobs while people go to work in the internet – a network that looks different than an assembly line.

“To thrive in this network means that instead of just having this job, we need to act as a value hub,” he said.

Bishop elaborated, stating that most people today still follow the ‘old factory thinking’ formula of increasing efficiency of production and consumption. This linear way of thinking has an inherent conflict of interests and is not usually designed to solve core problems.

In contrast, ‘New factory thinking’ is a spatial formula designed to increase well-being using less resources; it’s designed to solve core problems, he said.

“It’s about helping others and continuously creating more value in this world,” Bishop stated. “You become a conduit of knowledge, pulling it from various sources and sharing it.”

Bishop told the audience humans have to learn to dance with robots; they have to understand their dance partners.

Certainly, robots have great advantages such as speed, a data-based pattern, machine learning, prediction, and endurance, he noted.  However, humans are equipped with critical advantages that robots don’t possess — embodied pattern recognition, purpose-driven ideation, untamed curiosity, ethical framing, metaphoric communication, and compassionate enthusiasm.

“Now we can focus on these things and let the robots do the other things,” he said.

The Bresenoff-Feierstein Innovation Series is among the Langston Center’s educational development initiatives that bring top scholars in innovation and entrepreneurship and quality and safety, respectively, to campus. The series was made possible by the Bresenoff-Feierstein Fund for Leadership and Innovation established by alumna Lisa Feierstein, M.B.A., RN, (B.S.‘78/N), and her husband, Steve, in December 2016. A registered nurse who went on to become a pioneer in her field, Feierstein is co-founder, along with her husband, of Active Healthcare, a premier provider of medical equipment located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Categories Events, Langston Center