I am part of a panel on innovation in the workplace in a couple of weeks and the organizer (one of my best friends at work and personal life coach) needed some content as part of the teaser. She sent me an email with a loaded question:
“What are your keys to innovation?”
I avoided the question….I didn’t have a good answer…yet
Silicon Prairie news has done more for the midwest tech scene than any of us will ever be able to thank them for. Their BIG KC event this week took things to a new level; locking the best and the brightest together in an airplane hangar at the downtown airport. An amazing lineup of speakers shared their beliefs on innovation, entrepreneurship, success, failure and more to the hundreds who participated.
It’s impossible to name a favorite speaker but there were plenty moments of passionate agreement, questioning, laughter and even tears (yes…a guy wearing a backwards hat got the best of my emotions when he talked about his toy robot ball being used by a special needs child in a wheelchair for the first time).
My biggest take away was clarity on my thoughts around innovation. While I may not be considered a traditional entrepreneur, I have a bit of a penchant for challenging traditional thinking, breaking stuff and finding new ways to do things. After hearing 2 days of speeches and having 1-on-1 interactions with dozens of people, here’s how I replied to my friend Cari:
- Define the problem you’re trying to solve – this may sound simple (because it is), but it’s often ignored. Every speaker on stage could easily rattle off their mission and had a clear identity behind their successful ventures. Absence of a clear identity will result in the waste of [EXTREMELY] precious resources regardless of the size of your backing.
- Talk with people who have been there before – There are experts who have been in your situation and they want to help you out. One of my idols (and master networker), Alana Muller knows just about everyone….she’s done it by scheduling meetings and sitting next to people she doesn’t know (it’s uncomfortable, but effective).
- Shut up and build something – I use the term “build” loosely because at the core, we are all makers. Write it down, draw it out, collaborate, hack it together, hit the send button, pitch it, sell it. Seriously…get off your butt, stop talking about it and just do it.
- Become comfortable with the crash and burn – This is the MOST IMPORTANT step. Be honest…what’s the WORST that could happen? Set up environments where you can try really crazy stuff, diverge from conventional wisdom, fail purposefully and start over.
Thank you to all of the speakers who flew in from far and wide to come talk with a bunch of motivated Midwesterners and thank you to Silicon Prairie news for pushing this community in the right direction.
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