Mica L. Moore
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
The Spirit of Innovation
During my freshman year of high school, I spent a few months working with my biology class on an important water quality project. One day, we traveled to a local river to take samples and gather data. I noticed on the bus that one of my classmates was lugging a ridiculous contraption around with him. He had taken two ordinary household brooms and lashed them together with duct tape, fastening a stainless steel cooking pot on one end. It waved comically in the air, clanging against the side of the school bus.
The entire class had a good laugh – until we arrived at the river a few hours later, and started taking water samples. The river was freezing cold. In order for us to fill the test tubes, we had to wade in up to our waists and submerge them in the murky river. Muddy water often seeped into our boots, numbing our toes as we worked. Our ‘strange’ classmate stayed comfortably dry the entire time, never moving away from the edge of the bank for the duration of the trip. Standing a safe distance away from the water, he lowered his contraption into the river again and again to take samples. He finished gathering data for all of his trials before I finished my first.
I learned an important lesson that day that has never left me. Never underestimate the power of a good idea. Good ideas have the power to change the way we operate for the better. Never doubt the power of innovation – the power of creativity, invention and sheer entrepreneurial spirit. This simple maxim has relevant and important applications to business decisions made in the current national financial climate. In order to deal with the recession both effectively and responsibly, businesses must focus not only on maintaining production standards, but on improving their methodologies for the better. More succinctly stated, business leaders must strive to become innovators in their respective fields.
An ‘innovation’ is a new idea, method, or device. The capability to innovate is a powerful tool in the corporate world, permitting businesses to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and promote productivity. Although it is important for businesses to curb superfluous spending and stay fiscally responsible during economic downturns, it is also important that businesses make concerted efforts to stay ahead of the game. Innovation is the tool that can help businesses cope with recession challenges, enabling them to save money while also making informed changes with long term benefits.
There is truly no better place than the Greater Washington Region for expansions in the fields of research and development. It contains the largest science and engineering work force of any U.S. metropolitan area.1 Many of the most innovative organizations in the fields of science and research base their operations in this area, including non profit organizations, corporations, and, of course, branches of the federal government ranging from the National Cancer Institute to the Environmental Protection Agency.
What makes the Greater Washington Region so attractive to such industries? This area simply possesses a small ‘something’ that provides businesses with an extra competitive edge. That ‘something’ is a highly capable, highly educated workforce; aided by the superb commitment of the region in providing a first rate educational experience from elementary school to college. The region contains the best metro-wide public school system, 16 of the top 100 performing high schools in the nation, and top-rated colleges and universities such as George Washington and Georgetown.2
Students are not only granted access to excellent educations, but also to a variety of jobs and internships in over 4,000 non profit organizations; helping them to find their own personal niche and become a member of the work force after their schooling is finished. In addition to these domestic elements, many workers from other states seek positions in the D.C. metropolitan area. Many are attracted by the diverse culture of the area, the vibrant city lifestyle and multitudes of attractions, ranging from classical concerts at the Kennedy Center to exhibits at the Smithsonian museums in history, science and art. The thriving intellectual climate in Washington D.C. is such that 47% of the work force possesses a bachelor’s degree.3
The highly educated nature of the work force provides a useful human resource for businesses during the downturn. However, opportunities to innovate old business models are not restricted to the fields of research and development. Greater Washington Region businesses looking to revamp marketing techniques or attempt rebranding initiatives during the recession need not look anywhere beyond their own doorstep to find excellent advertising organizations; ready to help businesses attract consumers.
Businesses can also implement innovative and socially responsible techniques to combat the recession by going ‘green’ and increasing the use of sustainable technologies as well as energy savings measures. The Greater Washington Region is home to a burgeoning green revolution. 136 buildings have received the coveted Energy Star Award from the Environmental Protection Agency. Investing in green technologies not only helps the environment and the global community at large, but helps businesses by decreasing energy costs. The Energy Efficiency Partnership of Greater Washington has worked to introduce energy saving measures into various area workplaces, resulting in savings of $36.5 million dollars annually.4
Many businesses will choose over the next few months to focus on rethinking previous strategies and improving product development techniques. The Greater Washington Region provides a wealth of assets to aid them in this journey: an educated work force ready to improve procedures, provide new marketing plans, and use technology as a method to cut costs. This dynamic region has already proven to be highly resilient to shifts within the national economy. The unemployment rate has consistently been beneath the national average. Including the current economic downturn, the Greater Washington Region has performed better than the national economy during the last four recessions.5
Tough decisions often must be made during recessions, and the next few months will require forward thinking solutions to problems on the part of business leaders. Businesses in this area can certainly benefit from the resources available to them, and most of all, from the spirit of innovation that the Greater Washington Region promotes, encouraging economic growth for years to come.
- 1 The Washington Post. Washington Area Report. 10 Oct 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/08/AR2006060800133.html
- 2 Greater Washington 2009 Regional Report. Greater Washington Initiative. Washington, DC, 2009. 10 Oct. 2009 http://new.bot.org/forms/gwi_rr09.asp
- 3 Greater Washington 2009 Regional Report 6.
- 4 Greater Washington 2009 Regional Report 23.
- 5. Greater Washington Initiative. Greater Washington News Release. Washington , DC, 2009. 10 Oct 2009. http://www.greaterwashington.org/news/news_press/060309.htm