Sparks will fly…InnoVenture Southeast 2011

A few years ago, I was chatting with John Warner and he was describing the InnoVenture experience to a group of people. As he described this conversation, this conference, this experience…he explained that “Sparks will fly!” I was wondering what the heck he was talking about…and it was not until today that I fully grasped this statement.

InnoVenture Southeast 2011 Day One…and it all started with watching my friend and client Lonnie Emard of IT-oLogy present in front of close to 200 people. As I sat and listened, more and more folks became recognizable. More and more of my close friends, colleagues, and clients began to walk through the door.

As I was walking around the follow-up conversation in the center of the room, I walked into a conversation of my own. Yes…a colleague from Clemson. This led to a conversation that led to an idea. As we were brainstorming this idea, another friend walked up and joined the conversation. This idea was growing…three minds are better than one. For some reason, something caused us to stop chatting and walk away.

A few minutes later, as I was standing in-front of IT-oLogy’s booth chatting, those two people who were brainstorming with me a few minutes ago walked over and said, “hey, remember what we were talking about…how can we make it happen?” Then it started right back up again. The brainstorming continued and before you know it…we set up a meeting for next steps and action items.

THEN…and only THEN…another friend walked up. I made introductions and after the exchange of business cards, my friend said, “I have an idea.” This sparked a whole new conversation, a whole new set of ideas, a whole new brainstorming session. This session could only happen if the right people are present and the right innovative thinking was in progress. Sparks were flying.

What you do not know, each of these people were decision makers in their organization. They had the ability to use their entrepreneurial spirit and engage in a conversation around a common theme…innovation. These were two conversations that I was a part of during day one of InnoVenture Southeast 2011. Imagine the numerous other conversations happening that led to exchange of ideas, ideas of innovation, contact information, and follow-up emails that night.

I was so excited, so struck by these ideas…I could not wait to get back to the office to send follow-up emails. We were already emailing ideas back and forth…Sparks were flying! Innovation is a funny thing…all it takes, get like minded people together and a open forum of conversation and innovative exchange. I walked away inspired!

My holiday thank you note writing…

So…this holiday season, I have been trying to take the time to write holiday cards. For the past three years, I have been creating a little holiday video that is from me to all my clients, friends, and family. One message to all of these people. Typically I would have about a 85% open rate, and about 90% of those who open would enjoy close to a minute of the video. These stats told me…that this was an impersonal way of saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.

I have had this little bird singing in my head, telling me to do something a bit different. It is something that I remember John Warner saying in the first NetworkBash a few years ago. He was talking to the audience, explaining how after his yearly event called InnoVenture….he would write each person a thankyou note. This note was handwritten. I would bet he probably had a 100% open rate and 100% of those who opened the letter actually read the note. I don’t know about you, but when I receive a hand written thank you note, I read it!

The other day, I received a hand written thank you note from a very important public figure…I was humbled and honored. This busy person took just a few moments out of his busy, public policy day to write me a thank you note! WOW! His written words inspired me this holiday season.

What many people do not know about me is that I love buying cards. I like to find funny, off color cards that make people laugh. Each birthday, I typically buy two or three birthday cards for each person and number them in order for the recipient to open.  I have been known to find a store with good cards and buy them out. I actually made a lady mad in Beaufort for buying all of her funny cards…I think I spend about $150.00 that day. I have a good collection for the perfect moment.

So this Christmas…I went out and bought cards. Funny cards, professional cards, thank you note cards, and generic holiday cards. I sat down and wrote to each person, each client, each friend a personal thank you note. I wrote to each client thanking them for their business and friendship. Some were sent off-color cards, some more professional cards, and some a typical holiday cards. But to each person, I wrote a personal thank you note. I let them know why I wrote and let them know that appreciated their relationship.

It got to be one fun little task. I got through the list of 100+ plus and kept on finding more funny cards, more appropriate cards. So I wrote to more people. It was therapeutic!  I did not write to my close family members because I will be seeing this a lot during this holiday season, but I tried to write to as many people as I could. Some I did not, because I could not track down their address, so I will hand deliver. Some…I am still remembering and writing as fast as I can.

So this holiday season, how are you letting those you care about…know you care? Sometimes a hand written note says a lot…I know it does for me!

Entrepreneurs are wanted: InnoVenture 2010

There is something about walking through the halls of innovation. Feeling the overwhelming assurance of our ability to innovate, generate ideas, connect with like minded people, and push forward. There is something refreshing, moving from one hand shake to the next, from one introduction to another, and feeling the sense that connections can help us conquer the possible impossibilities.

This is the “pipeline of game changing opportunities.” John Warner has brought us together, empowered our intellect, inspired our creativity, and provided the platform to “connect together in our enlightened self-interest.”

Why is it that we strive to go attend a two-day event, one that has evolved each year….what are we in search of? Hmm…could it be that we are entrepreneurs at heart? We want more than the status quo, we want to find people that can not only help us solve the problems that seek to understand, but meet people and share. It all starts with a handshake.

As we looked around, we found ourselves in a sea of possibilities, and the room was filled with a sea of problem solvers, seekers, ad diverse set of individuals looking for what we are looking for: the common ground that binds us together…innovation.

Where else can you find a room filled with over 500 people listening to a revolving door of entrepreneurs, big business, big ideas, angel investors, people with solutions, people looking for solutions…a sea of opportunity. Where else can you find more human connection happening faster than the transactions in the Blue Cross Blue Shield server farm. Whether if it was an entrepreneur, a big box business, or someone offering a solution…the isles between the chairs were like the sea waters being split providing an angelic pathway from the crowd to the presenter…connecting diverse groups, talking innovation and collaboration.

I want to be a part of this..yes. I want to take my idea to the next level. I want the assurance that it is possible to find someone to help me develop a plan, guide me to funding, inspire me to keep pushing, ground me in the reality, and cheer with me during my successes. Then, I want to be a part of a place similar to Plato’s Republic…a place of sharing, sharing ideas, sharing knowledge, building our knowledge economy.

Where else can you listen to a wireless information provider talk about distributing video to devices and immediately be followed by a appliance provider thinking about the possibility of having video content provided on the face of a refrigerator. Then, both sitting down side-by-side and having a conversation. WOW!

Where else can I be empowered by the COO of Michelin Americas Research Company to think big about the possibility of reducing friction between the tire and the road for energy efficiency; only after being empowered by a lawyer talking about bringing one of the biggest airliner manufactures into our knowledge economy of South Carolina. Where else can I here from someone who wants to help entrepreneurs connect with Angel Investors right after someone seeking new ideas to present to automakers in Detroit.

It is possible! It is in our DNA! It is in our language. We can do it…we can create this knowledge economy right here in South Carolina and become the poster child for open innovation…globally.

Where else can I have a few brews right beside one the greatest examples of open innovation, bringing the academy and private sector together under a common vision. How inspiring is it to see each person clap and cheer a deserving award, knowing we felt a little closer to those around us because we wanted; hoped one day to be honored by that very award just named. It is like a new fraternity was formed, a fraternity of innovators…we know that feeling, that dream, that reality that we can almost touch.

Thank you John Warner, thank you for connecting us, inspiring us, and creating a language of innovation right here.  The future is right here…among us. Like Dave Bodde said,”Entrepreneurs are wanted!” We are all entrepreneurs…open innovation is fun. The sea of open innovators is right here. Just like Dan Wooster said…”We are story shapers.”

So what is InnoVenture Southeast 2009

Well…according to John Warner on SwampFox.ws, it is defined as:

“In the annual InnoVenture conference’s sixth year, the economic storm is raging all around us, wrecking havoc with organizations trying to reinvent themselves and launching out very talented people looking to create new ones. In addition to the Innovation Hall with dozens of exhibits by major corporations and universities, and fifteen entrepreneurs making elevator pitches, InnoVenture also features an awesome line-up of global thought leaders.”

Wow…now that is a loaded answer. It is true, the economic storm is raging all around us, and yes organizations are trying to reinvent themselves. How about organizations, entrepreneurs inventing themselves…Innovating and collaborating in one forum, one place, one hall, with many conversations.

How does that conversation happen, well for every action there must be a reaction. How about Dissoi Logoi (a Sophistic writing by an unknown author) – the words are “Greek words for ‘different words.’ The phrase really carries the meaning of contrasting words, and it refers to the ancient rhetorical practice of arguing both sides of an issue. ”

This leads me to think about the first part of InnoVenture…Inno for Innovation. There will be people from all walks of business talking innovation in their contexts. Whether it is Sustainability, Advanced Materials, Entreprised Systems Management…or digital media, social media, logistics, medical devices, or just being an entrepreneur. Different people from different disciplines, different walks of life coming together with their own “rhetorical argument” seeking conversation of opposing thoughts.

We are all a part of innovation by merely walking through the doors at the Carolina First Center in Greenville, SC. Why? Well, it is like being a part of a fraternity, people that you can connect with who understand what it means to push the boundaries, broaden the mind, and engage in a conversation. A concersation that might lead to an idea that has not been considered…listening to those “different words”, words of innovation.

We are “people looking to create new ones”, new ideas, new thoughts, new conversations…we are looking to innovate. I know I am! I hope to engage!