January seems like a perfect month to reflect on the past year and map out plans for the year ahead. This is counterintuitive thinking in business. We are all off to the races with aggressive business goals and personal aspirations to become better humans and drive innovation. I considered several topics for this blog before catching myself to focus on one of the highlights of my business travel from 2022. I am lucky to be able to attend industry events every year. Liberated by our team and supported by our project work with great Clients, I methodically research each show to optimize my time and identify new projects for our team and key suppliers. This is tricky to do since there is an opportunity for advanced concept development in all industries. The emergence of “new mobility” concepts, alternative energy or EV technologies, and autonomous driving are just a few of the emerging and evolving industries we work in to make a positive difference. It’s exhausting and invigorating to research, plan and travel to shows with an eye on new opportunities and working on personal development. I have been blessed with these challenges!
In November of every year, I travel to Orlando to attend IAAPA for a few days. The pandemic, of course, impacted the themed attraction industry in extreme and challenging ways. Ticket sales went immediately to zero and guests were not in the mood or position to buy tee shirts or princess dresses. It was a uniquely different period in our history. As a nation, world and individuals, we all found ourselves in a time of challenge. The lucky businesses survived or, in some cases, thrived depending on the industry, product or service offered. These dark times are behind us and there are now significant opportunities for business growth and personal development. I attended the kickoff event of IAAPA and the Orange County Convention Center. The lineup seemed intriguing and I am always amazed by the production values on display and the keynote speakers. The speaker this year was Abigail Posner from Creative Effectiveness Teams at Google. Ms. Posner offered up a premise that “creativity and innovation drive business growth.” This is an easily embraced concept. Execution towards this goal is challenging for most leaders and many teams. Groupthink settles into most organizations and a fresh look at ourselves, cultures and teams helps us pivot and find new ways of working. The 30-minute presentation resonated on many levels. The five key takeaways offered for our consideration and application in our work and life were as follows;
1. Tap into your unique gifts
I continue to wrestle with the reality that my gifts are limited to a few key attributes. “Let the birds fly and the fish swim” sums it up neatly. Hire great people, give them the tools required to succeed, and stay out of the way.
2. Just say yes.
So often in life, we look for a way out of opportunities that are a stretch for our talents. Look for ways to embrace opportunity and jump into the deep end.
3. Look for the links
Cultivate your network and identify connections and contacts to build on collaboration.
4. Teamwork it
Innovation is a team sport. Look for opportunities to work with cross-functional teams in all areas of life. Remember you are very rarely, if ever, the smartest person in the room.
5. Share with others
Give back to others in all areas of your life and pay it forward.
Share for the act of sharing with no expectations for a return. The timing for this message was perfect. I left the event with renewed energy and focus to drive innovation. This learning moment has very little to do with meeting new contacts or exploring emerging technologies. It was one of those experiences that come along when we put ourselves out in the world, navigate airports, and simply show up when we have the opportunity. My plans for this year include attendance at a minimum of four industry events, team development and growth, working on my lifelong learning goals, reading one book a month, working with charitable organizations, and teaching at Northwestern University. Please share your thoughts and plans for increased effectiveness and innovation for the new year.
Best wishes for future success!
Featured image illustration by Sol Cotti