Once you come to the realization that the answers are out there, you are left with the challenge of discovering the right questions to ask. I recently met up with Marc Bowers to discuss how his non-profit manufacturers’ group St. Louis Makes and an event they co-promote, Product Camp St. Louis help makers and inventors, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs discover those next steps and questions that open doors to new opportunities. No matter your current resources or where you stand in the development of your idea, St. Louis Makes helps the region’s 6,500 manufacturing operations to MAKE business happen.
Hosted in over 50 cities around the world (North America, Europe, Australia, even India), Product Camp has continued to grow and make an impact on business communities the world over. In 2014 Product Camp St. Louis had one of the largest registrations of all Product Camps held globally. The 2015 Product Camp St. Louis is projected to have 600 professionals, ranging from Fortune 500 leaders to local start-up founders, in attendance
So why would you register for Product Camp St. Louis? Strategies for success start with insights, and unfortunately we often don’t know what we don’t know. To remedy this, we have to immerse ourselves in environments that force us to learn, grow, and continuously expand our scope of the industry we work in. Opportunities like Product Camp St. Louis are priceless because they allow us to network and gain the valuable insights we need to explore and seize new opportunities that add value to our current offerings.
If you’re interested in attending Product Camp St. Louis, remember the event is FREE, but registration is required. (click here to register)
It’s interesting to think that we live in an age where people want to know what you do in 140 characters or less, but as soon as they’ve been hooked, they expect constant and consistent content to explain the how and why behind your offering. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just makes things more interesting and requires a bit more creativity on our part as business owners.
Dr. Z, otherwise known as Zach Schaefer, Ph.D., realized his consulting business was lacking that needed hook, and set out to rebrand his business accordingly. Now this is no easy task. You basically have to step outside your own realm of thinking and put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. You have to take all the jargon familiar to you and your colleagues, and translate it into ideas that not only can be comprehended by your target audience, but resonate with them as well. This is where the idea of adding that spark to a discussion came from. When reflecting back on the many areas of communication that encompass his expertise, Dr. Z discovered a theme driving his consulting philosophy. When communications become stagnant and go stale, Dr. Z is the one who comes in and adds that spark needed to reignite the discussion. Thus the creation of his newly branded consulting agency: Spark the Discussion.
Now that he has his hook in place and a brand to develop and promote, his next steps are to focus on becoming a thought leader in both his profession and the eyes of his targeted consumer base. If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Z and exploring all that he has to offer your company, you can follow him on Twitter at @SparkSolver or check out his site at www.SparkTheDiscussion.com.
If I asked you to tell me what the picture to the bottom right of this paragraph resembled, what would your answer be? If you’ve seen these drawings before, then your mind has already been prepped to think outside the box and answer accordingly. Although, if you were caught off guard like I was, you might return with a blank stare and stumble to come up with anything at all. It turns out these drawings are referred to as droodles, or optical mind games that ask you to think beyond the obvious and be creative with your answers.
Now why are these important? Patrick McKeehan, the Director of the Illinois Metro East SBDC and an adjunct professor at SIUE, demonstrated how these drawings can be used as a tool to introduce the idea of problem solving to students of all fields. Once he explained to me that the previous mentioned shape was a giraffe passing by a train car’s window, he asked me if I could describe the next drawing as seen below. I now knew what he was asking for, but still had trouble solving the problem by first glance. This one turned out to be a man riding a bike wearing a sombrero. The lesson behind these drawings are to teach us that the problem given to us might not be easily identified by first glance, and that it’s up to us to identify all viable possibilities.
Now take this same concept and apply it to business, healthcare, engineering, or any field for that matter. We face problems daily. Sometimes the answers are right in front of us and easy to solve, but what about when they’re not? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a staff that was trained in the art of problem solving? What if you knew that by their college degree they were taught how to look at problems from every possible angle, question the original parameters, and actually be able to identify the root of the problem? This would then give your team the ability to develop feasible solutions, instead of throwing money at what end up being mere band-aids to these disruptive issues. This was the theme of my conversation with Patrick. We couldn’t agree more on the need for more problem solvers and an emphasis on teaching it in our classrooms across all fields of study. The amount of problems we face in this world are endless. With that said, we should never claim that there is a lack of opportunity, but instead a lack of emphasis on educating students to identify such opportunity and ultimately solve problems