How Innovative Are We?

May 11, 2018 | A sense of community: What makes Iowa a great place for manufacturers? Brett Burkhart, Partner, Shift Interactive,

It seems nearly every week a new ranking comes out giving Iowa a placement on some new list: retaining young professionals, work/life balance, most foods available on a stick ... the list goes on. Recently Iowa was listed as the No. 43 Most Innovative State. You read that right: FORTY-THIRD. Although that’s not where I’d like to see Iowa on this list, I don’t think a ranking should be our primary focus. Instead, let’s focus on things we can change to make our businesses more relevant, innovative and effective, and from there the rest will likely take care of itself.

One factor that contributed to our spot on this list is ranking near the bottom of states in retaining science and engineering grads. If we’re going to be more innovative on the whole, we need to focus on putting innovative thinkers into positions to initiate change. This is a challenge many businesses and state organizations are focused on. If we don’t draw the best and brightest to stay in or move to Iowa, we’ll only fall further behind.

So how do we get grads, who are motivated by making a difference and pushing the status quo, to make Iowa their home and help drive our businesses forward? We can ensure we’re adopting technologies that streamline processes and make doing business simpler, faster and more effective. We can take advantage of opportunities to evolve our workplaces to embrace change and consider that the way it’s always been done isn’t necessarily the best way anymore. When we do this, innovation will be the byproduct and our standing on this particular list will rise.

As with most things in life, being proactive is better than being reactive if you want to be innovative. Adoption and integration of new technologies is an area where being proactive is especially beneficial, and a major factor in gaining and retaining talented people.