Innovation requires the right infrastructure to generate new ideas. To think differently, you have to work differently and that starts with your office environment.

The Innovation Institute offers open space, state-of-the-art technology and walls covered with dry erase, white board paint – the ideal atmosphere for fostering creativity, conversation and collaboration. The clean design allows innovators to focus on the messiest problems. Most days, small groups can be seen working together to untangle complex challenges with scribbles and drawings on wall after wall throughout the office. 

How We Work

We believe strongly that we should challenge ourselves to see through the eyes of our customers, usually students, throughout every step of our IDEA Innovation process. Innovation is hard, messy work that blends art, science, creativity and culture with the freedom to explore, fail and learn. At the UWF Innovation Institute, launching great IDEAs is quite a process! Systems thinking, human performance improvement, change management and design thinking inform our innovation model. The process is always messy, but it allows us to quickly build a model, test it, and try it out with our customers to see if we are on the right path. Together, these processes are woven together to create our model [Incubate; Design; Experience; Act: the IDEA model.


Incubate: Imagine the ideal and create multiple concepts to achieve the desired outcome.

Incubation is where the root cause of the problem is discovered, defined, discussed, refined and shared. This is an iterative process. Depending on the challenge, we may cycle through this process several times. If participating for the first time, it will feel very chaotic, ultimately, through a series of open-minded experiences, results will follow. It is important to trust the process.


Design: Build a prototype, based on those ideas, that is both achievable and transformational.

After a reasonable set of possible solutions is selected, we go to work building prototypes, work processes and again back to the white boards to draw pictures, processes and models.  Rapid prototypes and prototypes are meant to be tested and learned from through systematic data collection and reviews. We do a lot of testing, taking prototype ideas to our connected groups and then returning to the ‘drawing board’ to define and design each piece of the overall system until we are comfortable and ready to build it out or frame the work process. During this phase, prototypes are ‘green lighted’ for development and then movement into the experience phase of the model.


Experience: Test the model, keep what works and change what doesn’t. 

After a prototype or new process is complete, it is tested with a small group, possibly through a soft launch, a beta test or whatever we are able to accomplish and just live with it for a while. When working within the new process, it is easier to see where the holes are! If we find a full processes that do not work, we may go back to another incubation session or design a new prototype. Then, we repeat until it is right and we have data to suggest that a specific set of ideas, processes and products will solve the problem. A great example of experiencing the innovation is what Steve Jobs did when he launched the retail portion of the business for Apple. He designed what he thought was aligned to his target demographic based on other stores and a great deal of R&D. He got great advice from his friend, CEO of J. Crew, Mickey Drexler who told him to build a prototype store, live in it for a while and see what happens. The first Apple Store in NYC was the prototype. He literally stayed in that store for many months, saw how people consumed the products and declared his prototype a failure. Based on what was learned, his company went back into design and built what we see today in Apple Stores all over the world where customers are consuming the products with amazing brand loyalty.


Act: Implement and optimize the new system. 

Once we have substantially tested a product or process and moved through the process, it is time to LAUNCH a great IDEA and watch it continue to grow, shift and transform.

It should be noted that at any time in the IDEA process, we may find ourselves revisiting a previous stage, revising what we thought was accurate and trying again. At this time, we have used this messy process for the conceptualization, design and rollout of Complete Florida, our Center for Cybersecurity, the Competency-Based Challenge, Immersive Education and any new project that we tackle in the future.