ACT-NOW! The Innovation Journey - The Inaugural Experience - Some Feedback
I (Oliver Schwabe) traveled to the Padua Galileo Innovation Week and the inaugural experience of the Innovation Journey with mixed feelings. Was this going to work? Would the participants actually turn up? How will the audience react? Will the right story be told (I do not speak Italian).... I had no fear, but a huge respect for the challenge ahead. It also did not help that I had just recovered from the flu (not Covind though) and had managed to strain by back two days earlier... so I could have been feeling better. While we had had a short Zoom conference to get to know each other and introduce the concept on the preceeding Friday this certainly did not allay my concerns - Zoom is not face-to-face reality, is not the challenge of orchestrating young novice/amateur actors to a stage performance in front of a demanding audience of 200+ people, and is definitely not the same as looking others in the eye, telling them "all will be well" and feeling/being responsible! So when we met at 9 am on the Wednesday Thursday October 14th in the auditorium we had seven strangers looking at each other and willing to brave an experiment - in the knowledge that the curtain would rise at 5 pm, that we only had until about 1 pm to prepare and that, actually, they could walk away.... It took a while to get started but by 10:30 we had decided on a specific innovation to use as an example (an electric car in the late 19th century) and had actually run through ACT 1 (see https://innovation-web.eu/act-now-the-innovation-journey-version-2-20201006 for the complete script). The actors were working in Italian (with some kind translations for me), we were taking short breaks here and there to discuss progress, share ideas, discuss team dynamics, and investigate other stories from everyone that exemplified what was happening. A high performing team emerged quickly and it was amazing to see how the actors transformed the script into their own story, in their own words, in their own style and having the courage to ask for help whenever they felt too uncertain (as did I by the way!). At all times they had permission to interpret and shape as they felt right - as an orchestrator I "just" worked to ensure the story remained aligned with the script, the human dynamics led to a real team forming, and that everyone felt comfortable. While we all felt it was going well - the proof would be the performance itself - no safety net there, although in the final seconds before going live, I did remind everyone that no plan stays unchanged when it meets reality, that mistakes would happen, but that the audience would respect their courage and be friendly. Worst case everyone had permission to stop what they were doing, call a time-out, and ask for support. For me as the orchestrator, although having gone through similar emergent situations before, every event remains unique and turns out differently - so the nervousness stayed until the performance was over - to standing ovations. Allowing others to make the script their own, giving permission to experiment, trusting in the ability of others to jointly master a huge challenge.... it worked once again. Once again I had stretched myself beyond my comfort zone and enabled others to do the same in a friendly and protective atmosphere - thank you to everyone for making that possible. Not to forget though - once that curtain rose, the play started, no-one truly knew what was going to happen... we had to trust in each other, expect the unexpected and above just do it! The magic is that again and again trusting others leads to wonderful results as you can sense from the thoughts shared below. Something magical happens during the Innovation Journey and it is something that makes me feel alive and contributing to making this world a better place - more please! :) Before I forget, a little travel advice - the inner city of Padua was not designed for Chrysler Grand Voyagers vans - it gets very tight at times! More info at https://open-european-innovation-network.blogspot.com/2020/10/world-premiere-of-innovation-journey.html.
Brave Actor #1
"I'm writing to you because after a week I'm still thinking about the spectacle, and I what to say thank you to you. First of all, I want to thank you for believing in us without hesitation, for letting us play and look for our own path without impositions. Personally, thanks to this experience and thanks to your continuous support, I felt considered and I was able to express myself without fear of making mistakes, because, as you told us, "even if we were wrong it was part of the game, and no one knows it". Secondly, I wanted to tell you that I find this project wonderful because it allows the participants to understand the idea's process, with bad moments and good moments, and also it allows the participants to understand that also they can make the difference, and they can bring out new ideas and let the world know their voices. My personal experience was completely amazing. I did not feel useful to my team and I thank that nobody was interested to listen to me, basically, I felt insecure, but you believed in me and in the team and we shined. Before that day I did not know the people, I collaborated with, but we worked together to conquer a goal, with respect and passion. We learned to manage the time, share ideas, and create a team, everything just in 3 hours. Finally, I totally support this project because it changes the self-belief of people and you can learn really a lot about team building, leadership, respect, the value of everybody and how is the ideas process. Thank you so much for everything and for believing in us."
Brave Actor #2
"I'm an engineering student at University of Padua. This October I had the opportunity to take part into the fantastic initiative that the Innovation Journey is. I had never had any experience in acting: I'm a well-organised person and I usually like to be fully prepared before exposing myself. When I heard about this opportunity that Oliver was offering us, I immediately applied for it as a volunteer, because I considered it the perfect chance to measure my self in something different and totally new, out of my comfort zone. I love innovation and this experience provided me with the opportunity to live it from a different and unusual perspective. Even if only for one morning, working with Oliver has been a pleasure and an honor for me: he's very passionate, professional and brave (the fact that he entrusted us with the role during the project's premiere proves it). Working with other people, challenged to build from the ground up a play in only 3 hours, with the aid of improvisation, contributed to create a wonderful experience that made me grow and prompted me to leave my comfort zone, having a lot of fun meanwhile. I truly feel to suggest it to everyone who has the opportunity to join it. During the process I also discovered more about my self and my personality; I experienced a new type of communication, addressing both the colleagues and the audience. I am really proud of being part of the Innovation Journey; I think there is a huge need of this type of experience in the academic environment and I hope that more people as possible will follow this initiative."
Brave Actor #3
"The Innovation Journey for me was an incredible experience. But let’s start from the beginning. This project was the last part of University of Padua’s big project called Contamination Lab, started in March 2020: a multidisciplinary laboratory in which students from different courses/ degrees work together to bring to life new and innovative businesses. The Innovation Journey took place in October 2020, inside the great final day of the project, at Centro San Gaetano in Padua: the mission was to create, in a day only, a small representation about the life of an innovative idea, mixing arts and business. Six students, six clabbers, meet at 9 a.m. on the stage and supported by Oliver Schwabe (and just a very very simple plot) made a thirty minutes show in five acts, telling to the audience a story from the moment when an idea is born to the moment when the product arrives on the market and became viral. The six of us were not professional actors and know each other not very well. We use only our words and our bodies to communicate with the audience (not music, not particular clothes, not special effects).The evening before the Innovation Journey I read the document Oliver send us and I thought: “Ok, I’m not able to do this. I’m not an actor, I’m scared about talking in front of an audience, I don’t like very much improvisation. And I don’t like English, so tomorrow will be a huge catastrophe”. But the morning, at 8 a.m., just an hour before the project starts, I said to me: “Let’s do it, why not? I’ve nothing to loose”. At the beginning I had no hope we will be able to do something great: we were confused and I felt a little bit uncomfortable. But we kept going on and we did it. The secret was not looking at this like an impossible journey, but like an opportunity to do something new and innovative. We were brave, we were on the stage. We found a blue ocean. We made the audience laugh, speaking about important topics (like women in business), doing it in front of many important person of University of Padua. And we had no fear. The surprising thing, for me, is that we had only three hours to try the representation and not enough time to try the entire show from the beginning to the end. So we made it only by improvisation and this for me was an opportunity to go beyond my limits (because I really need to try millions of time before speaking in front of an audience). I really suggest this experience to those who want to put arts, innovation and business in the same place, mixing together, going beyond the borders of our traditional way to think. And, at the end of the day, I felt I really like this new way and more self confident."