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35 years – Bob Rosenfeld pulls a thread of Rochester innovation around the world

Bob Rosenfeld starting out at Kodak and today.

Over the city’s history, Rochester, New York has experienced the ebbs and flows of innovation. It is the birthplace of social movements, as well as brilliant new products and technology under brands like Eastman-Kodak, Bausch and Lomb, and Xerox.

For more than 50 years, one Rochester scientist and business owner has maintained an important and respected innovation foothold in the city and around the globe.

Robert “Bob” Rosenfeld is that scientist, starting at Eastman Kodak as a chemist and inventor in 1970, and then forging his own path in the innovation industry in 1988. His company, Idea Connection Systems (ICS), is uniquely focused on the human dynamics of innovation and is now celebrating its 35th year.

ICS is an innovative thread spun in Rochester and its work is currently being used in major corporations, small businesses, and local governments around the world.

Rosenfeld began his career in Rochester at Eastman-Kodak, where he developed and directed the company’s “Office of Innovation,” which became the first successful launch of such an office in corporate America in 1978. His work in this role inspired Rosenfeld to finally create an innovation from an idea he had nursed since being an inquisitive freshman in a chemistry class at Drake University: why isn’t there a “periodic table for people”?

Rosenfeld began working on the notion with his friend and colleague, the late Larry VanEtten. Rosenfeld and VanEtten named their assessment the Innovation Strengths Preference Indicator®, or ISPI™ for short. Their creation was introduced to the marketplace in 2008. The ISPI may be the foremost psychological assessment tool used for organizing people into teams to be more – you guessed it – innovative. Like the periodic table, the instrument can precisely identify a vast range of human mindsets so teams can be formed to channel creativity more effectively into innovation with marketable value.

The ISPI measures individuals’ preferences for problem solving, on a spectrum from methodical to exploratory, because some people prefer to move cautiously, crossing T’s and dotting I’s, while others like to dream and not worry about details. The two main distinctions are “Builders,” who tend to focus on the details of getting things done, and “Pioneers” who ignore conventional structure in the pursuit of expansive ideas.

It’s more complicated than that in application and ISPI uses a sophisticated matrix of measurements and a very precise taxonomy of styles that enables qualified users to organize teams with the optimum balance of “Low Builders,” “Mid Builders,” “High Builders” and the same for “Pioneers.” With over 30,000 people having been assessed, the ISPI is amazingly accurate in forecasting how an innovation team will perform.

One client jokingly named Rosenfeld, Nostradamus, for his ability to forecast success of failure based on reading a team’s ISPI scores. “It’s not my prediction,” says Rosenfeld. “The ISPI does the predicting, our team and many of our clients simply know how to read it. We can usually tell you how and why a team might fail or succeed and suggests ways to realign teams to be much more effective. Most recently, we’ve demonstrated this with the United States Air Force.”

Today, Idea Connection Systems serves clients like Exxon Mobil, Rolls Royce, Hallmark, NASA, Raytheon, the U.S. Dept. of Defense, Center for Creative Leadership, and Columbia University, to name just a few. Additionally, hundreds of leadership and organizational development consultants, “ISPI Certified Practitioners,” rely on the ISPI for development engagements around the world.

And it’s not just for commercial applications. Since ISPI measures human preferences for problem solving, it’s also proven to be valuable in community development. ISPI is helping to bring together diverse pairs of people who might not otherwise connect to work together on larger municipal teams focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion solutions for their communities.

In 2002, ICS answered the call of then Rochester Mayor, Bill Johnson and created the Bi-Racial Partnerships Program, recently re-branded Mosaic Partnerships. The Mosaic Partnership Program builds on Idea Connection Systems' longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and represents a powerful tool for cities and organizations looking to build more inclusive cultures.

This Mosaic Partnership approach has been in use in Rochester, NY, Greensboro, NC, Milwaukee, WI, and Topeka, KS.

"We are thrilled to be celebrating our 35th anniversary this year, and to be launching these exciting initiatives," said Rosenfeld. "For more than three decades, we've been helping organizations innovate and grow, and we're looking forward to continuing our work with our Fortune 500 companies and non-profit partners alike."

To learn more about Idea Connection Systems and its innovative tools and programs, visit



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