Innovation Dojo: Practicing your Innovation Mindset

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Innovation Dojo allows participants to bridge the gap from learning the fundamentals of innovation to becoming confident innovators. You will be introduced to the concepts and best-practices of designing the Innovation Dojo, provided with a hands-on experience with it, and an opportunity to explore designing a dojo of your own.


Justin Lee is the Innovation Design Lead and Lead Media Designer at Capella University where he partners with school leadership and faculty and the product development teams, acting as a conduit for engaging, effective academic media strategy and direction. With nearly two decades of experience as a graphic and web designer, and as a self-proclaimed experimenter, stretching his creative muscles and trying new things is common place for him. Justin has presented and led numerous innovation workshops, including previous OLC Innovate conferences, MinneWebCon, Games+Learning+Society Conference, and DevLearn.
Bryan Kujawski is passionate about bringing educators together and innovating ways to improve the teaching and learning experience. With a background in experiential education, Bryan currently serves as a Collaboration and Innovation Specialist at Capella University leading workshops and project team through the Design Thinking approach.

Extended Abstract

You’ve just returned from a conference or attended a professional development workshop with a spring in your step, invigorated by all the new learning you are going to apply at work. You clutch in your hands the binder from the workshop, filled with tools, resources, and your (very detailed) notes. The next day at work the binder goes into the bookshelf by your desk, beside the other binders from previous workshops. By 10 o’clock the momentum of your work sweeps you up, and you cannot find the time or energy to apply all of your great ideas from that workshop. Before you know it, weeks have gone by and the binder remains unused in the professional development graveyard that is the third shelf of your bookcase. Your intentions were good, but little has changed. How did this happen?

This is an all-too-common occurrence, and it isn’t about you and it isn’t about the binder. It is about having space to practice what you’ve learned with others, to test and play with the content, to build the mindset and skills you are striving to achieve in order to make real changes in your work.

The Center for Academic Innovation had been offering workshops and events designed to develop innovation skills, tools, and mindset. We were receiving high marks and praise from participants and patted ourselves on the back for jobs well done. However, when we followed up with our participants one month, six months, and a year after the workshops we discovered a pattern: they still loved the workshop experience and content, but few had changed any of their behaviors even though they wanted to. We had become the binder on the shelf.

Eager to address this problem, we reached out to our colleagues in other innovation centers. While this was a common problem, two groups of professionals use a simple solution that resonated with us: practice. Athletes and artists practice their vocation a great deal more than they perform, but other professionals rarely put as much time into continuously honing their skills. With this in mind, the Center for Academic Innovation developed our own option for practice that met the needs and constraints of both our onsite and online learning community, and the Innovation Dojo was born. What’s a dojo?  Dojo is a Japanese term that literally means “place of the way” and refers to a place where Japanese martial arts are practiced.

Innovation Dojo provides a place to “work out” the fundamental principles of innovation by participating in activities with other innovatively-minded folks. These are often faculty and staff who have participated in one of our innovation workshops, and have at least a basic understanding of the core innovation principles. Every other week the dojo is online, where participants gather in a virtual space for an hour. The first half of the hour is a facilitated experience in an innovation activity where participants think divergently, turn problems into opportunities, and practice aspects of human-centered design. The second half of the hour is an opportunity for participants to reflect and collaborate on their own innovation efforts, ranging from curriculum design to student engagement and everywhere in between. The value of this type of online networking is to test your ideas and gain insight from other dojo participants, and to share resources, tech solutions, and best-practices. Those who participate share that the Innovation Dojo allows them to bridge the gap from learning the fundamentals of innovation to becoming more competent and confident innovators within the flow of their daily lives.

This Innovation Lab will introduce you some of the concepts and best-practices we’ve discovered through designing Innovation Dojo, provide you with a hands-on experience with Innovation Dojo, and an opportunity to explore designing a dojo of your own.