It's been a few weeks now since EntreFEST 2017 took over downtown Iowa City with the largest gathering of Iowa's entrepreneurial and innovation community. I was there to connect with like-minded people and get energized alongside fellow innovators. I was also there to speak to entrepreneurs about how to capitalize on trends in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to create more engaging experiences for their customers. This conference did not disappoint: I met a lot of fantastic people that are pouring their energy into new ideas with great potential, I rekindled old friendships, and I learned new things from some top-notch speakers. So with the conference now behind us, and some time to process it all, I thought I'd share some of my takeaways.
It Takes Courage
During the opening plenary session, one speaker unexpectedly asked if there was an entrepreneur in the room that would give a 1-minute pitch to the entire audience. After some hesitation, and a slightly tense silence, one volunteer emerged from the crowd and gave a pitch. That takes guts! And it was a poignant reminder that being an entrepreneur or intrapreneur (innovating inside your company) will always take courage. It's a journey of overcoming the fear of failure, believing and caring deeply about an idea, and battling obstacles to see it succeed. Sure, sometimes your ideas will suck. The answer to that is not to stop sharing your ideas, but instead to create new and better ideas and keep mustering the courage to share them. That is the first discipline of a successful innovator.
In his Keynote, Neil Blumenthal, co-Founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker said "Be kind. Your success will always be dependent on the goodwill of others." These are important words. It's easy to get stuck in the day-to-day of business, of trying to make it, and forget that there's a human being on the other end. We think about this a lot at ISE. In our customer interactions we commonly refer back to three guiding principles: 1) Relationship, 2) Trust, and 3) Value. These are our blueprint to "be kind."
Another memorable quote from Neil Blumenthal's session was this: "The difference between a startup and an incumbent is a mentality of constantly wanting to do better than yesterday."
You can argue that this is an oversimplification, and you might be right. But consider this: Where will the next great idea come from? You better believe it will come from someone that wants to do something better than it's currently being done. If courage is the first discipline of a successful innovator, then continuous improvement is the second. Continuous improvement is one of the reasons we've fully embraced Agile at ISE. One of the core principles in Agile is to regularly reflect on how to become more effective, and then make it happen.
In his excellent talk on Human Marketing, Gabe Erickson of FlowMedia, shared this quote (attributed to Jade Simmons): "The only way to innovate is to be yourself."
Think about it.
What's really new in this world? What's really unique? You are! No one has the same perspective, the same outlook on the world, as you. Which means that you have unique ideas to contribute. Maybe all you need is a little courage to stand up and share them.