It seems everyone is talking about innovation and idea generation. Do these terms make your pulse race? Make you think you're not doing enough to generate ideas? Much too much space is given to the generation of ideas, but the only time an idea can be judged as good or bad is by pushing it through the innovation pipeline, and the only way to do that is to stop generating ideas and test a few.
The late Jim Corder, who taught writing at TCU, wrote in an essay that we always need to be open to invention and closing down on structure.
He is talking about writing, and he means that once we start to put an idea on paper, we are making decisions and closing ourselves to new ideas. When we open our minds to invention, we let new ideas flow in. We might think of 20 ways the cover of a brochure might look. When we decide to put a photo on the front and frame it in blue, we pretty much stop looking for or thinking about how the front of the brochure should look.
This idea works in areas outside writing, too. We dream of how we want a shop to look or a display to look, but once we purchase an existing building or approve a blueprint, we are literally nailing down the materials, and we close to decision making about certain details.
I find this process has three problems:
- We get caught up in generating new ideas and never push a few of the best ideas into development.
- We get caught up in doing business--running the office--and forget to open ourselves to new ideas.
- We keep looking for new ideas in the same ol' places--the publications or blogs that we read, the wholesalers or vendors we use, or the places we visit each week. (For me, that would be the deli counter at Hanaford.)
My biggest problem is the first trap. I have too many ideas. In Myers-Briggs/Keirsey Temperament Sorter speak, I am a "NP." I love to explore possibilities. I love to wallow in complexity. I'm completely okay with the gray areas. I have ideas. I need the quiet space to develop these ideas. The truth is that I need to stop bouncing from meeting to meeting and do some work because I'm far enough along to know which ideas I want to develop.
My second problem is really the third issue: I keep reading the same publications thinking I'm going to find a cool idea. Ideas come from unexpected places.
Which brings me to the point of this post. If I don't need any ideas, why is it important to attend events like America Means Business?
For one thing, it's a new event and not the same ol' networking event. For another, it isn't necessarily a place to generate new ideas (unless you need that), but a place to find ideas about how to implement ideas and a place to confirm what you know.
The calendar is so varied that opportunities to find interesting or helpful sessions exist throughout the event. Some sessions are "How I Did It" sessions. They will have lots of vendors who offer services you might use to implement an idea. They will have ideas for businesses that you might like to start or explanations of what it's like to own certain types of businesses. Can you imagine for a moment the opportunity to step into a franchise owner's shoes and learn what it's really like to own that kind of franchise? It's much cheaper than getting a year into the business and realizing you really dislike owning this type of business.
Maybe you want to know how to finance the next step of your venture. SCORE volunteers will be on hand to advise you.
Perhaps you want to know whether you should Twitter or Facebook or both? You can find out about that, too.
Or, perhaps you do want new ideas for starting a business. America Means Business has a session for that, too.
I don't know about you, but I learn everything I know about social media from using it, and sometimes, I want to listen to others speak so that I can confirm that I know what I know--that I'm not missing anything. The same could be true for any topic. If I want to make sure I have a good grasp on financing for small start-ups, I can attend a session to see what else I could learn.
Corder says we must always be open to invention and always closing down on structure. Open and then closing. It's okay to take time to close down on structure for your ideas, opening briefly to consider how to approach the next phase, and then close down again on the structure of doing that. Without the closing down on structure, ideas will never make it through the innovation pipeline and will be just that--ideas.
America Means Business offers entrepreneurs a place to generate ideas but also a place to take your ideas and to close down on the structure of them.
The best part: Registration is FREE through Tuesday. Registration at the event is only $10.