Bob Rosenfeld, of Idea Connection Systems Inc., is a chemist by trade yet he has spent the past three decades deciphering how the human element relates to innovation in the workplace.
Sure, he understands to the nth degree the periodic table of elements. That’s one reason he was hired by the Eastman Kodak Co. as a photographic scientist in 1970.
He even asked a professor at Drake if a periodic table of people existed. He was told no, don’t be silly. Rosenfeld, however, believed the absence of said table didn’t mean one couldn’t eventually exist.
“There’s got to be a way to describe people,” he thought.
That concept has been at the heart of his working-world endeavors ever since.
Rosenfeld was keenly aware that not everyone can work together with the same efficiency. And that not everyone is meant to be a team leader. He was also well aware that the right mix and the right dynamics can spawn a harmonious culture of creativity.
So, while at Kodak in 1978, he created the Office of Innovation, the first such structured path to idea implementation within corporate America. Kodak employees had a way to develop their ideas, and obtain the funding that allowed those ideas to become reality.
The creation worked so well Rosenfeld decided he could help not just Kodak but companies across the globe.
Enter Rochester-based Idea Connection Systems (ICS). Rosenfeld left Kodak to create ICS in 1988, acting on a desire to help a multitude of organizations cultivate the true potential of the people they employ.
He obviously made a wise choice. Idea Connection Systems recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. From it came a sister company in 2014, Human Grid, which makes tools to “understand human dynamics.”
What does ICS do? It focuses on the human dynamics that make innovation happen, Rosenfeld said. “People actually make innovation happen, not companies,” he said. “We look at the strengths that people have as opposed to the problem. If you don’t look at the strengths, then you don’t know how to best leverage them.”
“What I’ve learned in dealing with innovation is that I must understand people.”
His list of clients is a Who’s Who Exxon-Mobil, General Mills, General Motors, Kimberly Clark, Raytheon, BP Amoco, the Quaker Oats Co., Frito-Lay, Hallmark Cards, Bausch & Lomb.
Rosenfeld believes innovation is critical, and not just for the bottom line of a Fortune 500 company.
“If we don’t innovate, we’re going to have a real problem,” he said. “We lose our economic strength. We lose our ability to be open to difference. The thing that drives me is helping to release the creative potential within an organization.”
And so he shares his wisdom and ideas to help companies get the most from employees. Like with Raytheon. The company annually used off-site retreats as a means to cultivate ideas. Except the ideas weren’t flowing as freely as the company envisioned.
When they came to Rosenfeld, he combined the insights of Human Grid’s Innovation Strengths Preference Indicator® (ISPI™), a 64-question test designed to find strengths of employees, with the work his company has been doing for decades. The results were dramatically positive, he said.
And that is, after all, how success is measured for ICS.
“Were we able to help our client get to where they wanted to get to?” Rosenfeld said.
The answer almost always has been yes.
Kevin Oklobzija, Rochester Business Journal
Bob Rosenfeld, of Idea Connection Systems Inc., is a chemist by trade yet he has spent the past three decades deciphering how the human element relates to innovation in the workplace. Sure, he understands to the nth degree the periodic table of elements. That’s one...read more
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