I just returned home from the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliances, 2012 Oklahoma Conference on Manufacturing. WOW, That’s a mouthful! The focus of this year was Innovation. What an opportunity. I recently posted a blog on Ebovation or Ebsco Innovation. With innovation such a part of Ebsco, I knew I had to attend and I was not disappointed. The conference had several speakers and breakouts but I want to focus on two of the keynote speakers, Gus Whalen and Michael McMillan.
Gus Whalen is the Chairman of the Warren Featherbone Company of Georgia. E.K. Warren, Gus’ grandfather founded the company in 1883. The company has made everything from corset supports, to buggy whips to baby clothes to its current innovations in education. Talk about innovation. He touched on adapting to change, innovation, investment in people and how companies and communities are “hooked at the roots”. interdependent on one another. He painted a picture of a company that consistently was the leader in its field only to find that field to disappear via progress. Warren Featherbone Company, several times was faced with its demise only to reinvent itself in another, often unrelated field. Mr. Whalen shared an old Dakota Indian motto that I turely loved. “If the Horse is dead, Get Off.” How many times do we in our lives and in business hold on to something that is no longer relevant? How often to fight for an idea that has passed it’s time? I have always been impressed with the wisdom of the Native Americans. I think this is one that I will use often. “If the horse is dead, Get off”. Mr. Whalen was quite an engaging speaker. I feel challenged to look for the “dead horses” at Ebsco and make sure we follow the Dakota’s and just get off.
Our final keynote speaker of the day was Michael McMillan. Mr. McMillan founded a visual communications firm that’s client list read like a who’s who of business, sports and music legends. After 20 years, Mr. McMillan sold his firm and has been sharing his ideas on creative thinking with business leaders and organizations. Michael’s presentation touched on several topics. I want to share a few with you.
Thinking outside the box. Michael is self-proclaimed as a creative thinker. Many clients want him to talk about “thinking outside of the box” Michael analyzed what is the box and how do we think outside of it. The box is your current reality, where you live and work, what is accepted. Outside the box is the new, the different. When something is accepted from outside the box, it becomes part of the box and the box grows. WOW, I’ve never thought of it in that manner. He explains that if you go too far outside the box, your discoveries may not be accepted, may be ahead of their time. He proposes that you work just outside the box, on the fringe, bring new ideas inside to grow the box and then step just outside your new larger box. Imagine a circle drawn around a box, just touching the corners. It’s a great visual and a different way of looking at creative thinking.
He also talked about creative thinking. How many times have we heard bosses say “I want everyone to find a creative solution to this, think outside the box” as if they expect people to flip a switch and begin thinking creatively. Michael explains that thinking creatively is not something we can turn on and off. It is something we must develop and creative ideas come at the least expected moments. Many times the true challenge is to recognize them when they arrive.
Michael spoke on the importance of purpose and passion. He utilized President Kennedy and the space program as an example. Purpose and passion drive us to the greatest results. They center us and focus us on what is really important. Without these we are simply wandering from event to event. Purpose and passion will drive our efforts and allow us to achieve great things. I would encourage you to go to his website http://www.michaelmcmillan.com/blog and watch the paper airplane video. I challenge you to not be inspired.
This is just scratching the surface of his presentation. I have already purchased books from his web site that I am going to share with some of my co-workers and challenge them to use them as training tools, sparking their creativity.
So what did I get from the conference? Not much as far as practical knowledge I can plug-in and use at work. What I came away with is so much more. If you learn a couple of facts or new techniques, their value is just what they are and nothing more. What I came away with is inspiration. Inspiration launches the mind and has limitless possibilities. Gus and Michael lit the “What If” lobe in my brain. “What if I could….” What if Ebsco does ….” That’s powerful. So look forward to future Blogs that are a little out there, not like my previous ones haven’t been. I remember in first Blog I talked about how I wasn’t sure how my journey would go at Ebsco but I know it was going to be one hell of a fun ride. Well I think we just lit the booster rockets.
Thanks Michael and Gus.