#InnovatorsMeetup In Review – Food/Wine Festival, Accounting and Design Thinking @ Work

WOW! Our best Carolinas Innovators & Design Thinkers Meetup yet. And the #InnovatorsMeetup After
Tweetup was rockin’ too. The energy of this amazing group of innovators was palpable. Here is a video glimpse of the action.


Babylon-Ceiling1-FeatureLet’s start with the venue — Babylon Restaurant in downtown Raleigh, NC. A vintage building turned eclectic Moroccan setting with an imported tiled ceiling installed by hand. The food and festive beverages were amazing and the staff incredible! Thank you for sponsoring our Meetup! The crowd raved about everything — even before the rockstar speakers took the stage.



Opening sponsor speaker, Lisa Jeffries from Raleighwood Media Group and Raleigh Food and Wine Festival shared the story behind Babylon Restaurant and all its amazing innovation and creativity. Then she threw down some fascinating innovation the Raleigh Food and Wine Festival is bringing. Jeffries explains how traditionally food and wine festivals are for the elite — with average 4-day passes starting at $2k a ticket. She also shares that many smaller, local restaurants and beverage providers usually can’t afford the entry fee either.  She and her co-founder wanted to make the Raleigh Wine and Food Festival accessible to everyone and showcase all of what Raleigh has to offer.  This model is working with two sold-out festivals under their belt and the third one coming up in May 2017. This team focused on increasing affordability and featuring local businesses as their innovation and by all accounts it’s a winning strategy.

FullSizeRenderNext up was Gizem Cetgin, Senior Innovation Analyst for AICPA, The American Institute for CPAs, who shared how this professional association ignites innovation for those perceived straight-laced accountants to capture growth. Cetgin shared the enabling activities the institute does for its members from presenter-led lunch and learns to small group coffenovation sessions.

Innovation efforts of AICIPA

Cetgin shares the innovation space project where the team took a small space in the very corporate building and transformed it into this interactive corner with uncomfortable chairs to encourage people to move, interact and use the new age blackboard.

Key Lessons from AICPA Innovation:

  1. Change the culture takes time
  2. Innovation requires “just enough” structure
  3. Focus is the most important ingredient in innovation

IMG_0070Design Thinking applied to the workplace was up next. Greg Garner,  William and Ida Friday Institute for Education Innovation Research Associate and Design Thinking practitioner, shared practical applications of design thinking to internal teams. Greg Garner and 3 of his colleagues took a free  IDEO course to try to improve internal working conditions.  The hypothesis for their use case during the course was – Their small team of 11 (who help NC teachers, teach better), were known for collaboration and couldn’t collaborate with each other. Whoa…talk about a bold statement.

Garner shared how the team went through all the empathy interview exercises. They decided that they needed to prototype a way to understand what the team really thought about collaboration. They designed a “bait and switch” exercise to test.  He emphasizes that his team knows all the text book answers for collaboration and he says more than likely they designed many icebreakers we all use to help with collaboration.  They designed an exercise that hid the real test — a mini makers session where they built these ramps for fluffy little pom-poms. The exercise had nothing to do with the makers exercise. They did a sneak-attack. They had each participant write down a word that described collaboration before the exercise. They were not to share the word with anyone but the organizers. After the exercise they asked the participants to write words that their teammates would have said about collaboration.

Design thinking slideA Eureka moment occurred: The teams have trouble exercising empathy, which is the root of the collaboration problem. You see all the participants just wrote words related to what they thought was collaboration, not what they think their team members would have thought. They couldn’t get out of their own head to try to understand someone else.  Boom. Now they were getting somewhere and that was just the beginning. Check out Greg’s slides and video if you want more details.

Key Lessons from Garner’s Design Thinking @Work:

  1. Design thinking can be used for internal teams and operations.
  2. The answer you seek may be a few layers deep and requires real empathy to discover.
  3. Design thinking isn’t just for designers or developers, anyone can use it to solve problems and innovate.

It was a night of discovery, networking and connection. Thanks for all who came out and made it happen.

The next Carolinas Innovators and Design Thinkers Meetup is scheduled for September 13. Join the group for details. We will continue the online engagement as well, so look out for hashtag #innovatorsmeetup to get involved regardless of your geography.

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K. Melissa Kennedy

Chief Innovation Officer, Founder, Intrapreneur. Entrepreneur. Enthusiastic leader and speaker. Teller of truths at 48 Innovate
I spent many years working for and building successful companies. I parlayed that experience into a unique process for harnessing hidden assets inside organizations and turning them into big-idea-generating, $1-billion-revenue-producing resources. (Spoiler alert: it’s the people.) I'm an internationally acclaimed expert, happy to share the not-so-secrets that have led to impressive outcomes for Fortune 100 corporations, major educational institutions, start-up companies and entrepreneurs. Working with companies like Cisco, Lancope, Arby's, Capitol Broadcasting Company New Media - WRAL, PRSONAS, Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog, REVO Communications, Erno Group, Focus Carolina, Madan Global, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, INZONE Brands, Albright Digital, Spring Metrics and NC State Kenan Fellows.

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