Nurturing Innovation • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine

Nurturing Innovation

Pfeil Innovation Center serves businesses and organizations alike.

by Lauren Caggiano

Necessity may be the mother of invention. But what about innovation? It can be argued that the Pfeil Innovation Center is the purveyor of innovation in the South Bend/Michiana area.

In the words of lead faculty Matthew Krathwohl, the Pfeil Innovation Center “brings innovation into reality.” The Pfeil Innovation Center is “a gift to the region” from Beacon Health System, the parent organization of Memorial Hospital of South Bend, under the leadership of CEO Philip A. Newbold and through the generosity of Richard J. Pfeil.

THE MOTHER OF INNOVATION The Pfeil Innovation Center.
THE MOTHER OF INNOVATION The Pfeil Innovation Center.

Krathwohl is responsible for leading the Pfeil Innovation Center and implementing Beacon's Innovation intent. He is an accomplished executive with more than 15 years of experience in leading key strategic initiatives to achieve sustained organizational improvements.

But how are those abstract concepts translated into actionable results? Pfeil's hallmark initiative includes two-day, four-hour immersion session for business people that provides the tools to think about and execute innovation at any organization. Since 2011, 800 professionals have gone through the immersion. That translates to about 40 sessions, which are held on the Pfeil campus.

The center's design is just as much a part of the experience as the curriculum. A mobile dry erase board, roundtable type seating and kinesthetic learning aids all facilitate the environment of innovation. An ancillary space known as “the cocoon” is a nontraditional area, with a vaulted ceiling, mood lighting and waterfalls. This “low stimulus” environment is designed to be soothing, Krathwohl says. A deli style diner, “Doodle's Diner,” also adds to the theme of innovation. The $150 fee per participant covers the training, meals and a workbook.

What's unique about this program is that it's accessible to organizations in all sectors and industries, Krathwohl says. For-profit, non-profit and governmental organization alike will find the material relevant. For example, professionals from Nylon Craft, Hiler Industries, Notre Dame Federal Credit Union and Junior League of South Bend are all alumni and success stories.

“It's been amazing to be a part of that,” Krathwohl says.

Speaking of the material, the classes cover such topics as anchor points, plagues, strategy and environment. The bottom line: “Any of us can become an everyday Edison,” says Krathwohl.

But Krathwohl cautions innovation does not happen in a vacuum. It speaks volumes when the CEO participates in the immersion alongside staff, as the culture trickles down from him or her. Also, a team-centric approach is beneficial because it encourages collaboration and feelings of validation. Krathwohl highly recommends bringing new hires to the immersion to acclimate them to the business culture.

According to Krathwohl, the sessions have a ripple effect beyond the participants or organization itself. By embracing this culture of innovation, organizations can change the “economic trajectory of the region. ” He points to the recent economic downtown as a turning point that challenged businesses to think differently about how they conduct business. Cost-cutting and layoffs were the norm. Now that the local economy has made a comeback, he says it's imperative that companies “learn the tools and methodologies of innovation to achieve that growth.”

“Pfeil is passionate about adding jobs to the economy,” he says. “Our programs are designed to help the area become the ‘go to' place for innovation.”

Another way Pfeil contributes to the economic momentum is by offering other onsite programming. For example, it regularly conducts social events for alumni to gather and share knowledge. It also brings in speakers for one-time seminars. Additionally, the facility is available for rental for corporate retreats and other needs.

To learn more about the Pfeil Innovation Center or to register for their programs, visit, or call 574/647-6953.


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