Technology-partnered yet Species-driven, Empathic innovation


Western Michigan University is the only place that provides space and process for barrier-breaking collaborative brainstorming about the future of jobs on this planet.


Stakeholders get innovators of the New Renaissance, WMU-grown innovators who will shape the future of technology in relation to work. What will distinguish WMU-grown innovators from the rest is a recognition that industry has the potential to thrive while solving important social and planetary problems. Technologies that are solely profit- rather than simultaneously species-driven will be appealing but may not resolve the most important social problems we face. WMU innovation critically evaluates how humans currently relate to technologies and vice versa. WMU innovators ask instead: What jobs do we want technology to do for us with little human supervision? What jobs do we want humans to have exclusive rights to? What jobs do we want to do in partnership with technology? WMU innovators bring creative methods for solving these questions because they will  learn in an environment that creates spaces and process for bringing together students, staff, faculty from engineering, education, fine arts, humanities, natural and social sciences to free think and brainstorm together.


Program initiatives - how we get there:

  • Non-hierarchical, interdisciplinary teams of students, staff, faculty—leadership rotated by task.
  • Teams brought together by common interest in a problem.

Problems identified through multiple pathways – open submission, collaborative think rooms:

  • “Collaborative Think Rooms” across campus that provide access to food, truly comfortable and creative seating arrangements, and smart tech access so that students, faculty and staff can float in, meet, talk, and exchange ideas across the boundaries of rank, employment category, age, gender, and so on.
  • Regularly scheduled “theme days” for the collaborative think rooms (themes determined by physical and virtual suggestion boxes, flexible for new suggestions) – e.g., climate and mobile technologies; climate and social media; AI and autism; race, gender, technology, and the future of work.
  • Funding mechanism for ‘time’ – course releases so that teams with clear ideas (as determined & awarded through a peer-driven process) can develop those ideas to the full proposal stage (for extramural grants, patent development, curriculum changes).

What does the BIG DEA of technology-partnered yet species-driven, empathic innovation achieve? It might address some of these issues:

  • Authentic learning in online and in-person delivery – how do instructors and students use and abuse technology now? How can technology become a partner in learning? What does technology want us to do for it? What can it do for us when we learn what we really want and how to ask? [Includes the physical and virtual learning space as well as process]
  • What are the ways we are telling technology to kill the planet? What would climate-sustainable, inequality-reducing partnerships with our phones, computers, transportation, washing machines, heaters, and so on look like?
  • What racial, ethnic, gender, sex, sexuality, nation- or ableism- or age-based, and intersectional barriers have we created with technology? How can we identify and resolve those barriers one relatively smart or increasingly intelligent technology at a time?
  • How do we control job creation and elimination? What jobs do we want technology to do for us with little human supervision? What jobs do we want humans to have exclusive rights to? What jobs do we want to do in partnership with technology?"