Organize a group, tap into local mentors and grow together using the online course “Growing the ‘YOU’ of Innovation Power”

The outline below is provided for those looking to lead a group of students or a group from your organization through a catalyst program for maximizing student, group and community growth as innovators. This is an opportunity to expand awareness, growth and connectivity via review sessions with input of local leaders, mavens and mentors from across disciplines.

This “Awareness for Innovation” Course is available to support programs in a 16 Week Drip-feed Format  (fitting with a semester timeline, meeting with different mentors hosting the review sessions every 2 weeks). Or available in 8 Week format for a summer program




Lesson 1: Intro and Opportunity Visualization – an Overview

While we think of innovation as relating to STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), this intro section provides a view to opportunities across all disciplines: business, psychology, anthropology, politics, education, food, health and wellness, service industries and community. Why? Because innovation—the connecting of wide-ranging ideas, talents and expertise, and avoiding or learning from mistakes—is important within all paths that may be ahead of you. This section also provides an 11 Point list of what makes a “Creative” and “Cross-discipline Creative”. Our intro is a start to the process of thinking — and reviewing your thinking — along the path of this course.




Lesson 2:  Learning Your Talents – Epiphany at Honor Society

This section is a look at our own talents (as we are aware of them today) and the talents of those around us. Through a number of stories, including the author’s background, we consider wide-ranging opportunities to be creative and identify our interests and passions. We highlight the value of paying attention to the people and talents around us — considering how their varying skills, passions, interests and collaborations will impact the career paths we create and our growth toward opportunities later.

Group Review and Mentor Session 1: Intro to Opportunities & Assessing Talents – Review, Stories & Discussion –  with 2 Local Leaders  (A cross-discipline Maven, An Inspiring career guidance counselor) willing to provide personal stories and insights, answer questions, promote discussion and be mentors for 1½ hours.









Lesson 3:  Your Place Amidst Creatives

In this unit we consider the varied personalities and styles of people who become “idea expounders’, innovators, “do-ers”, contributors, and varied supporting actors – within the performance of creating. We outline the characteristics of different types of Creatives – realizing we are not all the same, each with different strengths and weaknesses. We may fit within general types or categories, but likely we cross several. It is good to consider general characteristics for a view to our talents and areas we want to improve (and strengths we want to seek out in others to compliment our own).

Lesson 4:  Experience Base of Reference & Customer Empathy                         

This section is about expanding our ability to “relate” to people and situations. While it is said this requires “walking a mile in their shoes”, this is seldom possible directly. So how do we get as close as possible? This section provides stories and discussion on expanding awareness of how we feel, react, and act within experiences. We then apply thought and consider the perspective of others from their base of experiences. The more experiences and awareness, the more we can “put ourselves in someone else’s shoes” — increasing our base of insights for problem solving and innovation.

Group Review and Mentor Session 2: Place Amidst Creatives and Experience – Review, Stories & Discussion –  with 2 Local Leaders (Art/Design, Sales or Marketing) willing to provide personal stories and insights, answer questions, promote discussion and be mentors for 1½ hours.


Lesson 5:  Direct Knowledge – Knowing What You Don’t Know – Mentors

In this section we explore our “Direct Knowledge” (knowing what we know), our “Indirect Knowledge” (knowing what we don’t know, and knowing who does) and how we expand awareness of “Yet to be Discovered Knowledge” (the stuff we don’t know that we don’t know). We look at what inspires us to study, grow connections and welcome learning in new areas — to “load our data bank” for later innovation.

Lesson 6:  Turning Procrastination into a Professional Tool

This is a topic few think of relative to innovation, but is impactful, and in a big way. Stories and article references illustrate the benefits of understanding our personal traits of procrastination and discipline. We cover engineering training’s method in laying out the problem, the ‘given’, the objectives and timelines, and how to load up our mind and allow time for creativity. We consider the techniques that can turn a slow performer into a high performance innovator.

Group Review and Mentor Session 3: Knowledge Base – Mentors — Pro Procrastination – Review, Stories & Discussion  –  with 2 Local Leaders (Business leader, Creative designer) willing to provide personal stories and insights, answer questions, promote discussion and be mentors for 1½ hours.

Lesson 7:  Making and Tools of Making, Each a Tool

STEM and STEAM “making” today focuses largely on electronics, robotics, coding, Legos, and the sciences. This section takes us broader — into product development, materials, plastics and composite processes, metal fab, structures, and within this, the art of design perceptions and “styling”. The ability to visualize and combine wider ranging ideas and “making” processes of broader products and manufacturing services — even outside our prime interests— expands our innovation opportunities.

Lesson 8:  Materials and Processes in Making – CAD & Simulation

This section discusses CAD (computer aided design) technologies in use within design today. While sketching, art and styling illustrations are powerful tools to explore ideas, concepts and styles, CAD is the next step in power for design of a production product. CAD is increasingly easy to use. Just as we “make” in a shop and hand-sculpt model forms, we can also “make” and “sculpt” with CAD’s digital lines and surfaces — then translate via 3D printing and other processes into solid form. Methods and tech in visualization and “making” expand our innovation, with application across disciplines.

Group Review and Mentor Session 4: Making & Ultimate Making – Review, Stories & Discussion –  with 2 Local Leaders (Shop and prototype technician, CAD modeler) willing to provide personal stories and insights, answer questions, promote discussion and be mentors for 1½ hours.

Lesson 9:  Perception is Reality (a Russ Strong Mantra)    

In this section we consider the importance of perceptions within our creative processes. Since a customer’s perception is their reality, understanding what is or will form his or her perception of our “product” or service is important. People subconsciously process and interpret sensory input and feelings about everything — based on their knowledge, memories, trends and expectations. We look at the importance of “first introductions” to our “product, and how enduring perceptions are created, each important for success within innovation and brand development — and we relate this back to Lesson 4’s insights into developing customer empathy.

Lesson 10:  Customer Focus & Out Beyond Listening to Customer

It is important within any innovation process to get ourselves thinking “out beyond what the customer or market research is saying”. We consider how we can watch, listen, empathize, anticipate and innovate from this perspective — understanding customer perceptions, trends and expectations, listening first-hand and then getting out beyond response to existing products and services? This means anticipating a customer’s response to a new product, feature or a service they have yet to be aware of. People successful here envision the future and are expansive in innovation.

Group Review and Mentor Session 5: Perceptions & Customer Focus – Review, Stories & Discussion  –  with 2 Local Leaders (Market researcher, Business leader, possibly Russ Strong) willing to provide personal stories and insights, answer questions, promote discussion and be mentors for 1½ hours.

Lesson 11:  Writing – Illustrations – Communication as Innovation Tools

This section covers the value of the insights gained in the act of writing research papers, business plans, patent applications and communication of our ideas and projects. We consider how writing, illustrating and general communication expands innovation, deepens thought, placing ideas more firmly in our minds, and leading us to aspects we may miss otherwise. Getting ideas onto paper or digital form also creates a document to refer to and add further ideas. All are actions expanding the probabilities of innovation.

Lesson 12:  Styling and Design – R&D Styling and Production Styling

Our personal experiences, our exposure to media and trends form much of our perceptions of products and services. In this section we consider form, texture, and emotions. We discuss the principles of good design and how the application of styling to a product or service can attract customers we desire within our market sector (or miss the target). Stories are provided on how we shift perceptions in our favor. We go into how to employ the tools of art and the talents of others — ourselves not having to be artists — to maximize creative outcomes, and success of products and services.

Group Review and Mentor Session 6: Writing – Illustration – Styling in Design – Review, Stories & Discussion  –  with 2 Local Leaders (Technical Writer, Designer/illustrator or Industrial Designer) willing to provide personal stories and insights, answer questions, promote discussion and be mentors for 1½ hours.

Lesson 13:  Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

This section is about stretching our comfort zones, applying thought to how we seek opportunities to expand our experience base — while recognizing our strengths and weaknesses as introverts or extroverts. This can be by travel, new studies, going to networking events, volunteering on a challenging project, or just broadening your range of friends. We may yet be uncomfortable as we stretch, but we are okay — as we gain a competitive advantage by way of this “stretching”, expanding access to ideas, talent and creativity — increasing the probabilities for innovation.

Lesson 14:  Constructive Griping – Speaking Honestly

The creative process within teams counts on collaboration. This involves people. And with people, not all goes “right”. Not everyone is perfect. Tendencies arise for us to gripe, complain and gossip. In this section we think through how to turn the energy we have for griping into a positive — how to focus on facts amidst emotional personal reactions. We consider how we turn thoughts into constructive solutions and actions, how we speak honestly about our thoughts and ideas. This includes expressing our concerns directly to the person or people causing the situation about which we would like to gripe.

Group Review and Mentor Session 7: Comfort with Discomfort – Constructive & Honest Critique – Review, Stories & Discussion  with 2 Local Leaders (Business traveler, HR leader or Psychologist) willing to provide personal stories and insights, answer questions, promote discussion and be mentors for 1½ hours.

Lesson 15: Checking Your Reactions at the Door – Welcoming New Ideas  

There is much to gain by our taking a deep look into how we react to new ideas; not letting first reactions limit our ability to consider and play with new ideas and explore what is behind an idea. Like “coat checking” when you enter a concert or restaurant, we gain more freedom to move and mingle, and this equally applies to freeing up our minds to consider new insights — increasing the probabilities for innovation. We also discuss when others stick with negativity and don’t consider our ideas or the connection between ideas — and how we need to keep moving. Don’t stop, rather… think and anticipate!

Lesson 16:  Barriers to Action – Removing Barriers – Taking Actions

In this section we consider the differences between assessing an idea objectively and assessing subjectively. We consider how barriers to action occur. We look at the reasons people expend effort to stop actions on new ideas and concepts — for both objective reasons and for personally biased reasons; how people create “barriers to actions” and muting actions. We go into ways to address, side step, and remove (or ignore) barriers along our paths to sustained innovation efforts and results. Understanding barriers and barrier removal is important, because action stopped is innovation stopped.

Group Review and Mentor Session 8: Changing Reactions – Barriers and Removing Barriers – Review, Stories & Discussion –  with 2 Local Leaders (Innovation leader, Business leader known for taking risks, taking actions) willing to provide personal stories and insights, answer questions, promote discussion and be mentors for 1½ hours.


Utilize the online course “Growing the ‘YOU’ of Innovation Power” as a tool to broaden awareness of opportunities and engage more students with local leaders — expanding growth of your regional innovation ecosystem!


Further description to the material of this course and its linked references and recommended reading:

–  This course provides a unique “in the trenches” perspective. Russ Strong shares his stories and insights from a career spanning engineering, art and design, generating over 60 patents — a career connecting executive level decision making, global marketing, and tech integration within national defense and today’s academia and community initiatives.


–  Russ shares how he gained the insights and skills he would later use and expand on. These are personal skills and growth actions enabling unique capabilities for influencing outcomes, and generating higher impact programs. Recommended reading is noted, along with short synopsis of how these can help the reader. 


–  Russ includes stories and references on varied techniques of thinking from a customer’s perspective, “making” and design evolution. This provides a view to actions that increase innovation — and how this draws in the contributions of others. This material and review format provides a unique and a ready base for local business and creative leaders to add their stories during discussion sessions to continue students’ learning and connect with mentors.

– This course also provides a unique view to industrial design and styling – capabilities, talents and insights applicable across disciplines and aiding innovation within just about any program. Russ also highlights common pitfalls (seldom spoken of).


–  This course and review sessions lead students in accelerating growth in skills and attributes for higher success within today’s top innovation processes:  “design thinking”,” integrative design”, “interaction design”, and courses such as MTM (masters in technology management) and IDT (integrated design & management). Note: Russ Strong pioneered aspects of these processes within his work over the past 35 years, before they achieved the attention they have today.


–  Course material takes students through the cross-section of challenges they will later face in life and their career due to people, politics and bureaucracy. The local leaders providing their stories during review and discussion sessions will add further insights. Thus, the student gets a “heads up” on what will hit them, before it hits them — with valuable insights on the impact of personalities within the dynamics of teams and organizations — and how to recognize and bypass roadblocks to objectives.


–  This course and its discussion and mentor sessions shall bring students insights on how top creative leaders look holistically across society and tech — across engineering and business, styling, art, tech integration, manufacturing, marketing and customer experience, education, sociology, health, architecture, politics and more — to track, engage, and lead in generating novel solutions and actions that create change and move trends.


In sum, this course is designed — and supported by the Review and Mentor Sessions — to advance the self-aware and motivated student as a “Cross-Discipline Creative”. Students engaging with this program shall expand awareness of their passions and opportunities — and connectivity to local mentors and resources  — and thus, expand their range of growth and increase their probabilities for innovation, and speed of innovation.




Note: The format of this online course allows the student to highlight key points that resonate with their particular interests, make notes and discuss with others so they can best grasp and incorporate these into their life.


At the end of each section there is review of “thoughts for reflection and consideration”. There are also references to other books and articles, with notes on how these fit with the student’s studies.





Copyright © 2021 Russell W. Strong, All rights reserved