About the Innographer

The Innographer is a practical open education and innovation design firm that helps people (learn to) become more entrepreneurial and more innovative. And it’s our fundamental belief that everyone everywhere should have access to educational opportunities that help them do that.

Our social mission is to have as much impact as possible in the world around us by helping people build their innovation literacy. We work hard to create and share tools and open educational resources through creative commons licenses, in order to make innovation and entrepreneurship education as accessible as possible.

We operate as a social business and we are run as a virtual institute to offer open access toolkits, professional learning experiences, educational methodologies, assessment frameworks, in-person courses and workshops, and online delivery and open badging approaches to the delivery of deep learning experiences in the areas of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Our internationally award-winning programs and workshops have guided leaders of top teams and organizations from around the world. Through these and our extended/embedded engagements, we have helped managers, technical experts, creative geniuses, educators, students, and entrepreneurs to become leaders of their own Really Big Value change-making initiatives and cultures.

The Innographer regularly partners with and offers its services to businesses, nonprofits, charities, educators, and other organizations. In recent years, our approaches to innovation and entrepreneurship have been used in initiatives supported by or benefiting organizations such as IRAP-NRC, FedDev Ontario, Futurpreneur Canada, the Alberta Association of Colleges and Technical Institutes (AACTI), Calgary Reads, Momentum (Community Economic Development Society), TELUS Spark, Social Venture Partners, the United Way, the WinSport Winter Sports Institute, DePaul University, Illinois State University, Millikin University, the University of Florida, and San Diego State University – just to name a few.

Our Innographer for Education initiative serves over 200 universities from around the world, and our open educational resource toolkits (e.g. for Idea Modeling) reach over 2000 people every month. In July 2015, we brought educators from around the world to Calgary / Banff area when we launched Go Deep: The Entrepreneurship Teaching and Learning Scholars and Fellows Program. And we are very excited about work with TELUS Spark to develop an innovation design school called The Spark School for Innovation by Design.

The Innographer also does research into topics related to innovation, ideation, idea modeling, deliberate opportunity design, and the scholarship of teaching and learning for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Awards and recognition

In 2012, The Innographer’s founder, Dr. Bruton, was named the Entrepreneurial Educator in Canada (by the Canadian Youth Business Foundation), an award given to “recognize the significant contributions made by the education sector to Canada’s economic growth and prosperity. These leaders are raising the profile of entrepreneurship through the education system through a commitment to the promotion of entrepreneurship among students, faculty and community. The award winner is known for providing the guidance and resources necessary for future Canadian entrepreneurs to succeed.” This award had only previously gone to Ryerson University President, Dr. Sheldon Levy.

In 2011, he was named one of his city’s Top 40 Under 40. This was for his contributions to building the entrepreneurship minor and making the case that brought in $3 million to kickstart the centre in innovation and entrepreneurship at Canada’s Mount Royal University.

He is also the winner of several other national and international awards for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.

Every year since 2010 Dr. Bruton has been given the distinction of “Master Educator” by his peers at the Experiential Classroom, an annual program aimed at educating some 70 teachers from 50-60 universities and high schools in 10 countries on best teaching practices in innovation and entrepreneurship education. The faculty team for this program is comprised of 25 of the top educators from across North America in that field and he is proud to be among them.

A note from our founder

My name is Alex Bruton and I’m on a mission to help people (learn to) innovate.

I started out as an engineer. Then invented some cool stuff and did some time developing products and departments. Then became an entrepreneur (social businesses and technology businesses). Then, somewhat accidentally, a tenured professor of entrepreneurship and innovation. And today I run a practical open education and innovation design firm called The Innographer, through which I get to work with people, organizations, and institutions from all over the world.

Today I am:

In the past I have been:

  • an engineer (in the very exciting field of geomatics engineering) and an inventor (of some exciting stuff)
  • a project and product manager (amazingly fun)
  • the co-founder of an innovation department (that failed spectacularly)
  • the founder, co-founder, and VP of startups (both for profit and social businesses)
  • a tenured professor of entrepreneurship and innovation (teaching and doing research at Canada’s Mount Royal University)
  • the leader of a faculty team that developed a new cross-campus minor in innovation and entrepreneurship (yay!)
  • key to making the case for an academic institute in the same area (which raised $3 million, enough money to launch and sustain)
  • a board member at Calgary Reads
  • a director at large at the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE)

I earned a PhD in engineering in my mid twenties, and over my career since that time have earned a degree in innovation and marketing and led the design of award winning learning and development experiences for boosting creativity, developing innovators, and unlocking the power of ideation.

Over the decades, my favorite work, speaking, and facilitation gigs have taken me to exciting places such as the research labs of advanced technology groups; the ice floes of Greenland; and the offices of some pretty amazing organizations, including Google.

I’m a registered professional engineer in Alberta, Canada. And, as it relates to educating young science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals, I am especially proud of work The Innographer has done with Futurpreneur Canada – and funding partners at the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) in Ontario and at the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) – to deliver the Big Idea Labs. This program is now in its second year and is based on The Innographer’s methodological and curricular approaches to idea modeling and entrepreneurship. (Learn more about how it was designed to help Southwestern Ontarians affected by lay-offs and those 18 – 39 with entrepreneurial intent as they transition to their own entrepreneurial ventures.)

I am proud of work The Innographer is doing with the United States Association of Small Business (USASBE) to develop two modules of a new Technology Entrepreneurship Certificate Program to be offered to educators from across North America.

And I’m really excited about our ongoing experiments in game-based roll out of curricula for helping learners come up with better ideas – in corporate, and K12 (higher ed and junior and senior high) contexts.

Teaching

I love teaching and time spent in the classroom.

Between August 2007 and August 2014 I taught full time at Mount Royal University in Canada, where I was a tenured professor of innovation and entrepreneurship. In that time my overall average teaching evaluation score for all of the courses I taught was 4.75 on a 5.00 scale. Here’s a recent student evaluation of my instruction (SEI):

And here’s a more recent universal student ratings of instruction (USRI) from a course I taught at the University of Calgary:

You can also check me out on ratemyprofessors.com. A great many people give these no weight at all – for good reason since they tend to represent only the outliers, statistically speaking. But I’ve learned from students that they do look at them pretty closely – precisely because they represent the outliers.

I still teach part time and I am a regular guest lecturer at institutions around North America. The photo above was taken (by Ranson Photography, formerly Baskin-White Photography) in early 2015 when I visited the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at DePaul University and gave a lecture to 100 students, faculty and members of industry.

Research

Through The Innographer and as an adjunct professor at Mount Royal University in Canada I do research into topics related to innovation, ideation, idea modeling, deliberate opportunity design, and the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Here’s the near-final draft of a book chapter I published recently (in this series) on the topic of Innovating University-Based Entrepreneurship in Order to Inform Innovation for the 21st Century:

And here’s the first draft of an invited book chapter I submitted recently (in this series) on the topic of getting “Beyond debates of business model vs. plan: A practical
framework for Deliberate Opportunity Design (DOD) to
enable “new frontiers” in entrepreneurship education”:

I’m also very excited about Go Deep: The Entrepreneurship Teaching and Learning Scholars & Fellows Program, a faculty and research development program The Innographer launched in 2015 in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship education.

Speaking and Facilitation

Dr. Bruton is a sought after speaker and facilitator, and has worked around the world, including an invited talk given to scientists, engineers, and innovation managers at Google in Waterloo, Canada, during one of their recent innovation weeks.

Check out the “What we get up to …” section of this page for some of his most recent invited engagements, keynotes, open lectures and special workshops.

And please also see his Speaking Page »

Featured engagements

(Click on the posters to learn more and scroll down
for a more complete list of recent engagements.)

Other recent and upcoming engagements

In May 2017 Dr. Bruton will visit CETYS Graduate School of Business and the World Trade Center, in Tijuana, Mexico – to deliver the conference keynote and a workshop as part of the university’s MBA Students’ Symposium focused on Innovation.

In March 2017 Dr. Bruton delivered an invited talk on “Innovating Innovation” to a group of MacKay CEO Forum senior executives.

In February 2017 The Innographer was in South Dakota as the Rickert Visiting Entrepreneur Speaker at the 12th annual South Dakota Entrepreneurship Education Conference. He delivered an opening keynote, a workshop for educators and economic development leaders, and an interactive workshop for all involved.

Learn more about his visit here and here. And more about the event here.

In November 2016, Dr. Bruton delivered a keynote for the University of Calgary’s Engineering Associates Program breakfast on the subject of Sparking Entrepreneurship and Innovation on Your Team. It was promoted as: “a short talk and engaging conversation about getting past the barriers and buzzwords to how you can foster entrepreneurship on your teams and accelerate innovation in your organization.” In which you could “Expect some practically grounded inspiration, an insightful look beyond today’s leading edge of entrepreneurship training, and a straight up treatment of some approaches you can put to work right away.” And it was attended by over 120 people.

In October 2016, Dr. Bruton delivered a keynote at the University of Calgary’s MyGradSkills Invest in Your Future Symposium. This was particularly rewarding for him since he’d been asked to speak to current graduate students about the roles of innovation and entrepreneurship in his career – since having started graduate studies at the same university some 20 years earlier.

In October 2016, Dr. Bruton delivered the keynote at Entuitive‘s annual client event on the topic of innovation literacy and how to foster it in any industry. He worked closely with the partners and the marketing specialists to tailor this talk to their audience, making it an impactful and engaging experience for their clients.

In September 2016, Dr. Bruton continued his work as a “Master Educator”, teaching at the Experiential Classroom in Gainesville Florida. This year he was asked again to deliver one of the opening plenaries to all 80 participants, themselves educators from across North America and around the world.

In August 2016 Dr. Bruton delivered a one-day bootcamp to faculty members from schools across Rowan University, including business and engineering. The following testimonial was provided by Dean Sue Lehrman: “Rowan University’s Entrepreneurship Across the Campus engaged Alex Bruton to kick-off our Faculty Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate program. This event brought together faculty from across the campus, with varying degrees of knowledge and interest in the topic. Alex had the participants up on their feet and actively engaged from the start to the finish of the day. They left with concrete tools and, in many cases, actionable plans to integrate innovation, entrepreneurial thinking, and entrepreneurship into their existing courses. Several exited the day with plans to launch new courses or even to revamp existing programs. Throughout Alex was in tune with the audience, flexing to meet their needs while keeping us focused and involved. The feedback was uniformly positive, including variations on this is the best workshop I’ve ever attended in my many years as a faculty member! The day was all we hoped it would be and more.”

In May 2016 Dr. Bruton was invited to deliver a keynote and facilitate a 3-hour ideation session as part of the annual meeting of the Boys & Girls Club of Calgary.

In April 2016 Dr. Bruton had the opportunity to speak and explore ideas with students and teachers at Calgary’s Master’s Academy and College. This was based on the notion of Innovation Literacy introduced in his TEDx talk, and provided practical tools for ideation.

In April 2016 Dr. Bruton delivered an invited talk on “Innovating Innovation” to a group of MacKay CEO Forum senior executives.

In April 2016 Dr. Bruton was invited to the Querétaro Campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico to deliver a two day entrepreneurial bootcamp to students from across that campus and from other campuses. The focus of the bootcamp was on processes for ideation and assessment of ideas, it used tools like those now found here, and it culminated in a competitive-collaborative competition.

In April 2016, Dr. Bruton delivered a faculty development workshop no ideation for the entrepreneurship area at Baruch College, CUNY, a program that has been placed has been placed at #21 on the “Top 25 Undergraduate Programs for Entrepreneurship” list released by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine.

In March 2016, Dr. Bruton gave the opening keynote at GeoAlliance’s Map the Future conference. This launched two-days of work led by Toronto-based Design Cofounders. For Alex this was a nice mix of his experiences as a geomatics engineer and his current practices in business and opportunity design.

In March 2016, Dr. Bruton and his colleague Dr. Terri Lonier were invited to deliver a pre-conference workshop at VentureWell’s Open conference in Portland, OR. It was an invitation-only event for members of their Pathways to Innovation program members. The topic was “Curriculum Redesign Bootcamp: Integrate Innovation and Entrepreneurship”.

In January 2016, Dr. Bruton was asked to do an invited pre-conference workshop at the 2016 USASBE Conference on the topic of “Using Games to teach entrepreneurship and accelerate ‘experience-gaining’ for innovation and entrepreneurship”. This was sponsored by VentureWell and was one of his four contributions at the conference.

In December 2015 Dr. Bruton was invited to the Monterrey Campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico to deliver a three day special course to 52 educators from across their campuses. The topic was “The Innographer: A Toolkit for Incubator Managers for Big Ideas and Creating Value through Entrepreneurship”

In November 2015, Dr. Bruton delivered a keynote to some 200 audience members at INCmty, “an unparalleled entrepreneurship festival in Latin America where entrepreneurs, innovators, investors and organisms from the entrepreneurial scene gather, learn, network and launch initiatives.”

In September 2015, Dr. Bruton continued his work as a “Master Educator”, teaching at the Experiential Classroom in Gainesville Florida. This year he delivered one of the opening plenaries to all 80 participants, themselves educators from across North America and around the world.

In June 2015 he was in Mason City Iowa for the Midwest Educators Forum on Entrepreneurship to deliver a workshop and participate in a panel on “How the business model canvas has changed entrepreneurship and how it’s taught, what’s good and bad about that, and what’s next”. He shared the stage for the interesting panel discussion with other scholars including Bob Dorf.

In June 2015 Dr. Bruton was invited to the Toluca Campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico to deliver a three day special course to 24 educators from across their campuses. This was a theoretical and experiential deep dive into the leading edge of teaching innovation, entrepreneurship and marketing. The topic was “Creating Value in the Classroom through Entrepreneurship and Opportunity Design”.

In late May 2015 Dr. Bruton gave one of three keynotes at the annual conference of the Canadian Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (CCSBE). The title of this invited keynote was “The Entrepreneurship Learning Experience of the Future”. He also gave a workshop on games for teaching through ideation entitled “Idea Design and the Idea Maker Game for Deeper Engagement in your Classroom”

Of the talk it was said by the conference chair that: “Alex … is a creative and inspiring speaker and his participation in our conference added significant value. If you are thinking about entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education it is worth having a conversation with Alex.”

In May 2015 The Innographer was in Kansas City to deliver two modules of USASBE’s Technology Entrepreneurship Certificate Program.

In May 2015 Alex delivered the keynote at the annual meeting of the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (ECVO). The title of this talk was “There’s No Such Thing as a Social Innovator (and the Five Steps for Becoming One)

In March 2015 Dr. Bruton was invited to give a keynote to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) on intrapreneurship and finding the balance between the cultures/mindsets of exploring and exploiting during growth