Why I wore jeans to work yesterday

I wore jeans and a shirt to work on a Wednesday. Usually I’m a shirt and tie kind of guy.

It’s not a big deal, but I was interested to hear Tom Chapman speak in Cedar Rapids on the “humanization of entrepreneurship” and wearing a shirt and tie just seemed wrong . I don’t know many entrepreneurial minds that wear ties. That’s for the VCs.

Chapman is the director of entrepreneurship and innovation for the Omaha Chamber of Commerce. He was in Cedar Rapids as part of a two-day event organized by Amanda Styron and Andy Stoll, most recently the co-founders of Seed Here.

During his talk, he stressed three traits a community can utilize to create a vibrant entrepreneurial landscape: Friendship, humility and being less humble.

  • Friendship – Create a vast network of connected people so when opportunities arise there is a trusted relationship already established.
  • Humility – Be part of many things and take and give credit where it’s most due.
  • Be less humble – Speak up. People in the Midwest have trouble doing that when good things happen.

His main point, however, was highlighting the importance of people, the individual, in making an entrepreneurial landscape more vibrant.

“I hear it a lot. Innovation is important. Be urgent. Commit to doing it,” he said. Those are just words people speak. “An individual can make a huge difference. Find leaders that are not typical. Let people lead, so you don’t kill the authenticity.”

There are a group of individuals, including myself, organizing an unconference event called BarcampICR. Like Seed Here, a goal is to get creatives and entrepreneurs to share ideas and create a dialogue on current projects that are happening between the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City corridor. It’s a start.

“Be a champions for what you can do for your community and the realness of what it means,” Chapman said.

Some other key points from his talk:

  • Grown entrepreneurial teams by getting them talking to one another regularly. Don’t make assumptions about what the current ecosystem looks like.
  • Wealth is created organically. In the ecosystem, job creation and investments do their thing, but wealth creation is not a byproduct. It’s created by entrepreneurs.
  • Champion what individuals and teams can do for a community.
  • Raise the level of the dialogue about entrepreneurs: The people, the hardships, the successes, the daily grind of making things work.

Follow the #boomcow hashtag for more on Chapman’s talk.

The truth about innovation

Innovation is a buzzword. Easy to use. Easy to cite. But it’s difficult to understand the complexities of what it actually takes to do new things, take more risks and think more creatively.

I think in many firms innovation is the triumph of hope over experience.  Innovation is fraught with risk, so few people are willing to dig deeply into what makes innovation work.  Further, because everyone is so busy, it can be hard to find time to innovate, so while many are called, few actually choose to participate.

The appropriate distribution of innovation work

Two links worth reading

Two of the better links from my reader this morning:

Are you Experienced? – At a minimum, everyone using social media and participating in innovation should understand that they are new tools, not completely understood, and often lack participation and involvement by the people most experienced in life. – Jeffrey Phillips

Cooperation vs Collaboration – How can we ensure that collaboration and cooperation coexist without threatening the organic, self organizing nature of connectives? – cloudhead

Launch something new every 30 days

NASA Shuttle Launch Photos

The need for culture change in newsrooms is well documented, including most recently from Doug Fisher citing Earl Wilkinson.

I won’t recite past specifics on why or how it can be achieved. Ultimately, it’s a personal decision where each individual must decide to change.

Here’s an idea I floated a couple of weeks ago to a team at work. I want to launch something new every 30 days. I’ve never done that before. The items in bold listed below seem like good places to focus.

Culture change in the news industry involves a collection of practices that break from the past, some obvious and some not-so-obvious — yet all not generally practiced in our industry even today:

  • Listen to the market.
  • Prioritise expenditures to your USPs.
  • Outsource, link or cut what isn’t your USP.
  • More sales feet on the street.
  • Invest in research.
  • Digital first.
  • Focus relentlessly on your differentiators.
  • Sell market solutions, not space.
  • Dialogue, not monologue.
  • Embrace the crowd.
  • Be willing to fail, but fail fast.
  • Go on the offense for readers and advertisers.
  • Speed over perfection.
  • You can’t be all things to all people.
  • Respect the platform for its unique value.
  • Go where the growth is.
  • Be relevant.
  • Place many small bets.
  • Low-cost innovation.

The last thing I was apart of that went out to the market launched June 13. I guess I better get going.

Why INMA will keep talking about culture change at newspapers

Every business and brand is a publisher and vice versa

I find the new media discussion on personal branding and whether its ruining journalism to be one big waste of time. But it has been entertaining.

That shift actually occurred about three to four years ago when, in my view, skills like community management, content strategy and content marketing became more well known and part of normal business practices. It’s time to move on.

The one glaring problem that maybe the example between Steve Buttry and Gene Weingarten proves is this: Traditionally, media companies and journalists haven’t viewed content as a business asset, while other industries outside of publishing have embraced it.

Journalism has an ethic of “objectivity” that pushes us to pretend we are objects, not people. And you can’t develop a personal brand without being a person and being seen as one. – Buttry

The truth is every business, person, brand or journalist with a blog, Twitter account or Facebook fan page is a brand and a publisher. So is the guy sitting in his mother’s basement uploading videos on YouTube.

Of course, the problem with the whole argument here is that Weingarten is a brand, and he kind of knows it. He even says as much in his own way.

When I was a hungry young reporter in the 1970s, I thought of myself as a superman, an invincible crusader for truth and justice — even though, looking back at old pictures, I now see that I resembled an emaciated weasel in unattractive clothing. My goals, however, were unambiguous, and heroic: 1) Get great stories that improve the world. 2) Get famous. 3) Get doe-eyed young women to lean in close and whisper, “Take me.” – Weingarten

Running into the fire

We find inspiration in ways that simply amaze me with their timing. It’s even more impressive when it comes at challenging and difficult times.

I’ve learned much in the past three days. Self-examination and realization tends to do that.

I found my inspiration the other night from an unlikely source: Season 4 of the West Wing in an episode titled 20 Hours in America. Despite your probable laughter, it worked for me.

I haven’t been at my best, but I will be better. No words are going to show that. So I’m ready to run into the fire and keep moving forward.

And although my personal and professional challenges don’t rise to those portrayed via fiction in a television show, there is an underlining theme I needed to hear.

Long version (3:41)

We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people’s strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive. Forty-four people were killed a couple of hours ago at Kennison State University. Three swimmers from the men’s team were killed and two others are in critical condition, when, after having heard the explosion from their practice facility, they ran into the fire to help get people out. Ran into the fire. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They’re our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory, God bless you and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.

Shorter version

New possibilities, new experiences, new connections

I’ve probably watched this video (embedded below) a dozen times and each time I come away with something different. The video is of the TED talk given by Benjamin Zander, the conductor of The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and it offers inspiration by, among other things, asking “Who am I being.”

His passion for classical music is astonishing, and he doesn’t get deterred by the negativity surrounding the closing of  orchestras or survey results showing that only 3 percent of the population likes classical music.

“There are some people who think that classical music is dying. And there are some of us who think you ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” he says.

His talk is funny, inspiring, motivating, eye-opening and likely the best 20 minutes, 46 seconds you could spend today.

I mentioned each time I watch it I pick up something new. Here is what I heard today:

“The conductor of the orchestra doesn’t make a sound. He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful. And that changed everything for me. It was totally live-changing.  .  .  I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people.” – Benjamin Zander

[ted id=286]