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


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!



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.



“Yes, and…” is the golden rule for ideation (and improv!) by Nheeda Enriquez

yesandI’ve been fortunate to take a handful of improv workshops during my life for different reasons, but it wasn’t until one from grad school (led by a Second City member, no less) that I realized its influence in innovation.

When brainstorming, I encourage using the phrase, “Yes, and…”  to make sure everyone reserves judgment of others’ ideas.  Generally, we find ourselves practicing the opposite, readily dismissing the kernels of a new idea without airing it out to see if someone can improve upon it.

Improv teaches us how to “live in the moment,” which can actually be a frightening place, but this is where the purest level of creativity (and comedy) live in your subconscious.  Many workshops are geared to get people out of their shells, but they can also get them out of the box.

Here is a wonderful write-up with 10 principles of improv where you can easily see how they might be applied to a business setting.

And here is a free workshop put on by Funny Bone in Charlotte next week.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to check it out because of another event, so I’m hoping for another one at a future date.



Can Charlotte get smarter through creativity? by Nheeda Enriquez

flickr photo credit: benrybobenry

flickr photo credit: benrybobenry

The friendly folks at Civic By Design and Charlotte Viewpoint are hosting what promises to be an interesting, interactive “mini-conference” on Thursday, October 15th at 6pm called Making Charlotte Smarter.

I’ll be checking it out, and I’ll also use it as an opportunity to peek at the brand-spanking new Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Uptown.

Registration is only $20 and can be found here.



Taking your own medicine: Creativity in Advertising by Nheeda Enriquez

I was flipping through the Charlotte Business Journal a few weeks ago this ad struck me.

[ click for larger ] photos credits: Lee Stewart, Charlotte BizJournal

click for larger

I stopped partly because it contrasted the busier, text-heavy ads, but also for its tagline.  No one questions the spending power of the boomer generation and its impact on our economy.  But so many advertising dollars are spent on the young, so I contacted Lee Stewart to learn more about his company’s unique positioning.

“It’s easier for a boomer to understand a 25-year old than it is for a 25-year old to understand a boomer” he said.  He reflected on the advertising heydey of the Madmen-era, and the cleverness of Volkwagen’s 60’s campaigns.  Stewart suggested that today’s ads are geared towards shock value and may insult the intelligence and value set of the Boomer market.

Career accomplishments aside, I was equally impressed that Lee Stewart practices what he preaches.  Contrary to instinct, a down market is when advertising sees greater penetration.  Follow up ads in this series will run in July and September.