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It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble.
It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

- Josh Billings

It was a pleasant September day and I was attending a seminar on idea generation and testing at the Skandalaris Center at Washington University in St. Louis.

I was there because I've been interested in hearing how innopraneurs came up with The Idea ever since I was a kid and first caught the innopraneurship bug as a result of hearing about the exploits of Steve Jobs. As a result, I talk to as many people, and attend as many of these kinds of events, as I can.

During the presentation, the speaker spent most of the hour talking about that old standard of entrepreneurship and innovation.


During his presentation, the speaker spent most of the time discussing the importance of tools and topics like...

  • Brainstorming.
  • Thinking Outside of the Box.
  • Mind Maps.
  • The Medici Effect.
  • The Intersection of Innovation.

However, the thing that struck me about the talk was that, the longer it went on, the more obvious it became that what I was hearing was completely disconnected it from the speaker's own experiences. The speaker never discussed -- except at the highest levels, only in passing, and with a hint of embarassed dismissiveness -- his own experiences and how they led him to found two successful companies.

While initially frustratring and unsatisfying, that experience ultimately provided me with a perfect summation of the problem with the state of the art of innopraneurship.

What people are talking about and teaching with respect to innopraneurship, and what successful innopraneurs are actually doing, are usually two very different things.

o o o

There's really no mystery with respect to why people focus on creativity when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship.

It's fun.

I remember, in graduate school and in the years afterwards, following the story of Doug Hall and his work at Richard Saunders International. One story that has stuck with me is the tale of a new group of clients at Hall's Eureka Ranch heading to their destination on a pontoon and being chased by members of Hall's stuff chasing them on jet skis and bombarding them with water guns.

How awesome is that?

Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?

o o o

It was during the time that I was in graduate school, that I first caught the creativity bug. I read literally every book, and attended every presentation, about innovation and entrepreneurship that I could.

When asked to develop ideas for new products and services for two internships during graduate school, at first it didn't bother me that getting out a blank sheet of paper didn't help me one bit.

I just figured I wasn't doing it right.

However, as time went by and the good ideas refused to start flowing, I decided that, while I was passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship, I wasn't meant to be an entrepreneur. I decided I should channel my efforts elsewhere.

o o o

Of course, it's easier said than done to just drop one's entrepreneurial ambitions once they have taken root.

Over the course of the next couple of years, I continued to read everything I could about innovation and entrepreneurship and to talk to innovators and entrepreneurs. One of the people I talked to was my uncle in law, a serial entrepreneur named Pat Sullivan. A few years prior, he had created a product name Act, which was one of the first, and the leading, contact software programs for salespeople.

In 1995, when we started talking, Pat was semi-retired. However, he was talking to people about starting a new company to target the same market.

At a family function, I started picking his brain on how he got his ideas. I told him about my struggles getting the creativity-based approach to innovation and entrepreneurship. He laughed and told me that his secret could be summed up with one word.


We talked at length at that event and frequently afterwards. Then, when he started to pull his new team and company together, which was called SalesLogix, he asked me if I wanted to join him and see what innovation and entrepreneurship look like from the inside.

o o o

The SalesLogix experience gave me first-hand knowledge of what innopraneurship looks like and how an innopraneur thinks and works.

What's interesting is that people pushed back on the message.

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