Conference Insights: Innova-Con 2019

Earlier this year the International Association of Innovation Professionals (IAOIP) partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to host Innova-Con. The two-day conference took place in Washington D.C. to highlight the “disruptive and emerging landscape of innovation.”

I had an opportunity to catch up with Innova-Con attendee Steve Palmer, founder and owner at Ever Evolving. Steve shared some of his notes, observations and lessons learned from the event.

Why did you attend Innova-Con?

There were a lot of great things going on at Innova-Con, but what appealed to me the most was their discussion on ISO 56,000. For those that aren’t familiar with it, the international community is beginning to outline the standards for Innovation Management. Think ISO 9001 – only instead of measuring or managing quality of service, this standard will measure and manage the innovation process. This is going to do wonders for the government and other mature organizations by helping them take a structured approach to innovation.

Overall, what did you like about this year’s event?

Overall Innova-Con was a really, really interesting and thought-provoking conference. I really enjoyed being around a lot of like-minded individuals who are all focused on finding new and better approaches to business. They also presented some really outstanding student projects, including one by Edwards Leiper from the Florida Institute of Technology who is looking to disrupt how vehicle accidents are reported. It should be an exciting technology to follow and hopefully get it incorporated when (if?) my wife and I are ready for our next cars.

What are some key trends that stood out to you?

A few themes really stood out. First, they spoke a lot about the work the IAOIP is doing in/around ISO 56000 / 279. I wrote down how many times people still referred to it as 279 even though it’s been changed to 56000 – that’s how new this stuff is. But they are comparing this standard to what the PMI institute has done for Project Management.

Second, the wave of new technology. Tom Edwards (Chief Digital Officer, Epsilon) gave a very energetic speech on this. There was a lot of discussion on Blockchain technology and Brent Lessard’s experience with the rLoop team was very interesting. rLoop is the world’s first engineering system entirely designed and built by a community.

Another trend is the tools that are in place today to disrupt the higher education experience. Michael Matthews (AVP Technology and Innovation, Oral Roberts University) shared that Oral Roberts is “flipping the university” worldwide. His talk about AR/VR technologies to create virtual universities was really fun.

Finally, there were some great government innovation initiatives that were highlighted. AFWERX’s Mark Rowland shared how his team is connecting innovators and accelerating development at the U.S. Air Force. They recently launched the AFWERX Challenge, a platform for solutions to further strengthen our Air Force. And north of the border, Sunny Uppal (Director Innovation and Youth Engagement, Government of Canada) is doing a lot of fun things. The Canadian government is really focused on providing leadership roles to youth to 1) get them engaged, 2) get them the experience they need to grow their career, and 3) get to them while they are still focused on innovation.

Were any innovation initiatives shared that others should be aware of?

I was amazed at the culture and comradery that the rLoop team was able to build. For those that don’t their story, they built a pod capable of running in SpaceX’s Hyperloop. And they did it while being 100% dispersed. Most of the rLoop team never met until they did their first test run in the Hyperloop – which I think is fascinating when dealing with technology at that scale.

Cheryl Strauss Einhorn highlighted an interesting framework. Her AREA method uses a declassified CIA approach to create and examine multiple hypotheses, then compare those hypotheses against available data. You can read more about the AREA Method in her book, “Problem Solved.” Cheryl also talked about doing a pre-mortem of ideas. Examining them BEFORE a campaign kicks off because “post-mortems never work out for the dead.”

Which speaker did you most enjoy? Why?

Aaron Proietti was probably my favorite speaker across both days. He just shared several things that really resonated with me and the work Ever Evolving is doing. Aaron talked about a Hype Cycle, or when an innovation grows irrationally for a short period of time, before coming back down to normal growth. A great example is the sudden surge of interest in BitCoin a few years back.

Aaron also talked about risk. Employees will take more risks when the risks to the employees go down. So, if the employee is not at risk of getting fired or getting stuck on a terrible job, they will be more willing to submit ideas to fix things.

A final lesson he shared was that companies like to jump to the execute phase of an idea because that’s where “heroes are made.” But really, the battle is won during the current state and future state assessments.

Why should someone attend Innova-Con in 2020?

Besides getting to hang out with me or visiting DC? I really think that those two should be reason enough, but if you are insisting on a third, I thought the organizers of Innova-Con put on a first-rate conference. There were many great presenters with lots of great information coming in a rapid-fire manner. During his opening welcome, Langdon Morris promised we wouldn’t be bored, and boy was he right! Most of the presenters were absolutely spot on and I really enjoyed my time. I would recommend this conference to anyone who takes innovation and/or the threat of disruption seriously.

Finally, what does innovation mean to you?

To me, innovation is continually looking for new and better ways to execute your craft or provide the best experience to your customer base. Companies too often think that hiring one or more “smart people” or having one dominant product makes them innovative. It doesn’t. It provides them with a starting point. To be truly innovative, you must continually invest time and resources to performing the research. Investigating ideas that won’t work, but that will lead you to new ideas that will.

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Steve Palmer is an accomplished, focused, and enthusiastic businessman with a passion for all things innovation. Having supported organizations big and small, he understands that innovation must be more than just building and supporting one great product. And that for a business to maximize its potential, innovation needs to be both repeatable and perpetual. Steve started Ever Evolving to bring his passion for evolving business practices to the masses. He lives by the philosophy that “while today was great, tomorrow can be better.”

Disclosure: Steven received a complimentary pass to attend Innova-Con through Centric’s partnership with Energy Conference Network.

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Jason WilliamsJason Williams is the Executive Director at Centric, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that connects, educates and celebrates innovation-minded thinkers in an effort to improve the success rate of innovation in Indiana. Connect with him on Twitter @jawbrain.

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Jason Williams

Innovator. Marketer. Connector. Jason Williams is a curious explorer whose purpose is to drive innovation through capacity-building connections. With nearly 20 years in corporate marketing and innovation community leadership positions, he has had a front row seat to the common challenges and popular solutions shared by leaders and organizations across many different industries and sectors.




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