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