It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond


2 more local innovation events by Nheeda Enriquez

logo via charlotte startup weekend

Posts have been less frequent than intended as of late, but I wanted to post two events that are happening here in May.

The first is Charlotte Startup Weekend over at Enventys Friday the 14th through Sunday the 16th.   If you’re looking for an excuse to stop talking about your great business idea and actually start doing something about it, then this is for you.  Billed as a “un-conference,much in the same vein as Barcamp, this partners entrepreneur types with developers in teams to get pitches up and running.

Also affiliated with UNCC is a panel event on May 19th at the Levine Museum called “Charlotte’s Creative Class: How Innovation Can Lead the Queen City Beyond the Recession.”  Yet another discussion about this town’s identity post-financial  crisis, but this time through the lens of Charlotte’s creative class.



Charlotte gets a massive dose of design thinking in April by Nheeda Enriquez

photo via sirconferences

I wanted to quickly highlight a handful of design+innovation events in the Queen City before they sneak up on us!  Who knew we were such a hotbed?!



(A small version of) TED is coming to Charlotte! by Nheeda Enriquez

How excited was I when I learned about this?!  Looks like details are still being formed, but a local version of the knowledge phenomenon that is TED will take place at the NC Music Factory in September.  You need to apply to attend, but admission is free if you are one of the chosen.  The RTP version is in just a few days.

Until then, here’s one of my favorites from Dan Pink talking about the topic of his most recent book, Drive, which is all about human motivation.  A wonderful lesson for service designers everywhere.



3 great places to host an ideation session in Charlotte by Nheeda Enriquez

Innovation experts stress the value of conducting ideation sessions offsite, where participants focus on the task at hand and are removed from their day-to-day distractions.  Brainstorming in a unfamiliar, yet relaxed environment really gets those alpha brain waves moving.

The economy undoubtedly presents a cost challenge, and it may seem like a luxury to whisk away your most productive employees for a day.  However, I’ve seen dramatic differences in idea quality when teams downgrade to ideating in an internal conference room.  In light of that, I suggest a few affordable creative spaces in Charlotte, all of which cost far less than a boring hotel ballroom and worth the investment for results.

photo via Magellan/IMR

The Best Buy:  Magellan Idea Center
Located just outside Uptown in the Atherton Lofts, this space was designed with ideation in mind.  (They also use it for focus groups and other types of market research.)  It’s a huge space packed with creative stimuli (magazines, toys, and local art) and has smaller spaces ideal for breakout exercises.  Lots of amenities are included, like coffee, snacks and tech equipment.

The Local: Imaginon
One of the benefits of having a session in a children’s museum is that it encourages your participants to think like kids again.  Frank Blair of PLCMC suggests choosing one of the round rooms, adjacent to the courtyard, to have a session outdoors.  Note that meetings technically have to be open to the public, so it may not be ideal for super-secret topics, but would be a nice place for brainstorming with potential customers.
Runner up “public” space: The Green at Wachovia

The Extra Sensory Experience: Amelie’s French Bakery
Though I haven’t had a workshop here myself, I imagine it would be a lovely place to host one, especially with the tasty treats so close by.  And it would be a neat option for teams who are most creative during non-business hours, since they’re open 24/7.
Runners-up: The galleries at the Light Factory or the studios at Area 15 in NoDa (site of local meetups and barcamps.)

I’d love to hear about spaces that other folks in the area have tried.  Post them in the comments!



NY Times Year in Ideas: Ideas to fuel other ideas by Nheeda Enriquez

photo via NY Times

I’m a few weeks slow on the draw this time around, but one of my favorite end-of-the-year things to do is pour through the The New York Times Magazine’s Year in Ideas issue.  In the past, I’ve used it for a brainstorming exercise (sort of like a word-association activity, but as stimulus to inspire new applications for their product using one of the featured ideas.)

One of these is called Subscription Artists, is another take on crowdsourcing, where a recording artist finances her work by soliciting pledges from fans.  The article mentions Kickstarter as the tool to collect the funds, but The Point also does the same thing (I think Kickstarter is focused on artists.)  The beauty of these sites is that participants actually commit money to ideas that they like, where as some other crowdsourcing mechanisms often turn out to be popularity contests.

How might a company use a Kickstarter-like tool to figure out what features their customers value?



Creativity + business: A trend in NC? by Nheeda Enriquez

Thanks to the friendly folks at Charlotte’s Arts & Science council, I learned about some recent initiatives worth sharing:

The topic for the Institute of Emerging Issues‘ conference up in Raleigh this year is “Creativity, inc.” and among their keynote speakers is one of my favorite authors, Dan Pink, who wrote A Whole New Mind, which describes a future designed by left+right thinkers.

photo via the Institute for Emerging Issues

The forum is February 8-9, 2010 and you can register here starting Dec. 1.  (Incidentally, to encourage attendance from the Charlotte area,the ASC is offering partial scholarships to the first 20 that send them registration confirmation.)

Also, the North Carolina Arts Council released their report Creativity Means Business back in June.  They claim that the value of the creative sector in the state is over $40 billion and makes up just under 6% of the workforce.  Why is this important?  The study suggests that regions with a high proportion of creative workers attract more visitors and new residents, which in turn means more money.



Crystal Dempsey: Flexing her social (media) capital muscles by Nheeda Enriquez

Proof that people can be brands, Crystal Dempsey doesn’t need more press.  She just might be one of those future local leaders emerging out of the nonprofit sector. This is her world and she’s blending social media with civic innovation in Charlotte.

crystalOver coffee, she described a groundswell of something really interesting happening in this town, and though she didn’t know what it was yet, she was bursting with excitement.  It was pretty inspiring.