I’ve spent a frantic weekend preparing for the Gonzeaux Tour trip to Florida to attend the FEI 2012 Conference*. Two requests for proposal came over the transom on Friday and they required weekend work, and a lot of it. I had hoped for a bit of peace and thoughtful packing prior to what might be a week of cheap hotels, crashing with friends and family, but it was not to be. So, the first leg begins in an hour and I haven’t even packed a bag yet. I do have piles of stuff to take: KILN IdeaKeg boxes, large mural paper, Post-it’s, iPad, iPod, Garmin, pocket knives, sunflower seeds, water, dirty bucks, and an Indiana brand guitar in a battered case. And a black leather motorcycle jacket. Just wearing it makes me feel good.
It occurs to me that innovation is like this at big companies. It’s easy to be busy with business as usual. Innovation seems like “extra” work. As a writer, a consultant, and a founder of KILN, this Gonzeaux Tour is a form of innovation for me (us), doing something different, and hopeful of a better result, and yet, have not done nearly enough to make this idea pay off. More logical minds would call it off, but innovation is also about pressing on and trying to make lemons from lemonade. So off I go. I’m committing to making it work.
State of Michigan Innovation
Michigan has had it tough these last few years. As the car industry shrank, and as a lot of manufacturing moved offshore, the decent jobs that made living in this state a bit of heaven have largely gone up in smoke. There is a whiff of fresh new innovation here though, several new tech battery plants are going online soon, the car companies have made a comeback, and stalwarts like Whirlpool (just invested heavily in a new campus in Benton Harbor) and Steelcase continue to lead their categories. But let’s not forget Michigan’s greatest innovation: Motown. I mean the music, the record label, not the great city of Detroit.
Last Friday night here in Three Oaks, MI, I was privileged to be entertained by a music group called “Hitsville”. The 9 member band did a 2 hour show at The Acorn (speaking of rural innovation, how about a theater that operates 50 weeks a year in a town of about 2000?). Hitsville were amazing, they put on a show that had every gray hair in the audience off their asses and dancing. They did a find job of re-creating that Motown sound, and even in a pensive mood it lifted my spirits. Can we revisit the Motown story and look at it through the lens of innovation? Every Michigan business should, the elements of Motown’s success:
- Entrepreneurial energy and risk taking, courage really
- Visionary leadership
- Hard work, having fun doing it, collaboration
- Finding and training amazing talent
- Knowing their consumer and accommodating their needs, but remaining authentic
- Not compromising on quality
- Selling, selling, selling
Michigan — I challenge you to return to your roots of innovation. Look at Motown, look at Ford, and bring this state back to glory.
Gotto go Gonzeaux now, more later, on the Innovation in the State of Indiana. Want me to pop in? Send me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Really looking forward to hearing Tom Szaky at FEI — he’s CEO and Founder, TERRACYCLE and author of Revolution in a Bottle. That’s him in the picture. You’ve got to love a guy who makes millions from garbage nobody else wants…that’s innovation!