Tag Archives: innovation keynote speaker

Why the Manufacturing Industry Needs Diversity

Why the Manufacturing Industry Needs Diversity

I’ve worked in many male dominated industries, from being an innovation keynote speaker to being an inventor to being a manufacturer. Quite often I’m the only woman in the room, but I’ve never felt left out of the conversation. Most men I’ve worked with welcome a fresh perspective they haven’t thought of and are more than willing to answer questions. This is especially true when hanging out with a group of inventors, who will look for an answer wherever they can find it, and for as long as it takes to find it. Inventors are innovators and problem solvers.


I was proud to be included in a recent article on women manufacturers with the CEOs of General Motors, Lockheed Martin and Siemens. They are incredible role models for other women who might be thinking about going into the business or don’t even know that’s possible for them.


Even though women make up about half of all US jobs, they only make up 29% of manufacturing jobs. One of the reasons is that it’s not a career that many women even know is open to them, and the manufacturing industry in general hasn’t started courting women to work in manufacturing like they have been doing with women engineers. 


As the keynote speaker for engineering conferences, I learned that for many years the industry was not only not open to women engineers, it was an openly hostile environment for them. That is changing. Now women engineers are being courted aggressively by major corporations as early as high school and college.


Studies have shown that organizations that have a team of people with different industry backgrounds, different social and economic backgrounds, genders, cultures, attitudes, and belief systems tend to innovate faster and more efficiently. 


Failure to create highly diversified teams often results in GroupThink, a psychological phenomenon where the need for group harmony outweighs rational decision-making and stunts innovation. Studies in science labs have proven that the lab teams with the most diversity in all areas created the most innovative projects, and exhausted all possibilities in problem solving


A recent Harvard Business Review article states “By breaking up workplace homogeneity, you can allow your employees to become more aware of their own potential biases — entrenched ways of thinking that can otherwise blind them to key information and even lead them to make errors in decision-making processes.”


Diverse leaders create a more innovative workplace where creativity and innovation are not only okay, but encouraged. This leads to a more innovative company with more disruptive ideas that help them with sustainable competitive advantage. When employees feel comfortable speaking up, they are more likely to share their ideas.


I’ve been told by some of the women engineers I spoke to that they didn’t feel comfortable sharing ideas when they were the only women in the room. And that’s a shame because women have so much to contribute to the conversation. That conversation needs a more diverse set of ideas from people with different genders, backgrounds, races, education, and ways of thinking.


One way to get more women involved in manufacturing is by first letting women know that it’s a viable career path. This is the same problem we have as women inventors.


I’m glad there is starting to be more information out there about women in the manufacturing industry. Now if they would just start courting women like they do for engineers, things might start to change.



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Why You Should Hire an Inventor as Your Innovation Keynote Speaker

Why You Should Hire an Inventor as Your Innovation Keynote Speaker

Where would we be without inventors? Practically everything we touch in the course of a day is thanks to an inventor who saw an opportunity most people overlooked. Inventors are problem solvers who are never satisfied with the status quo and believe there is always a better way. That comes at a heavy price as inventors are truly outliers and have to go against the grain if they want to be successful. 


When I tell people I’m an inventor they are curious to know more. It’s not a typical job on a resume, but the skills you need to be a successful inventor make a great employee. Motivational speaker is also not a job you typically find on a resume either. But then again, most jobs I’ve had wouldn’t be. Like actor and spokesperson. When I decided to go into speaking as a profession I used my background as an actor and my skills as an inventor to teach others everything I know about creativity and innovation that you can’t learn in a book.


When it comes to creativity and innovation, experience trumps book sense any day. To be a creator you simply have to get down in the trenches and learn by doing. You can talk about innovation theory all you want, but innovation is “the action or process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value for which customers will pay”. Inventing is an action verb. An idea in your head is not an innovation until you turn it into something useful. In fact, The Patent and Trademark Office defines a patent as being “new, useful, and non-obvious”. 


If you want to learn about innovation theory, hire a professor. If you want to learn how to generate ideas on a consistent basis to create new revenue streams, outwit the competition, design unique marketing campaigns, cut costs, improve sales, create new products, services, business models, and unique promotions, then hire a working inventor and learn step by step exactly how to become an innovator and turn your employees into innovative problem solvers.


Here are 5 reasons why you should hire an inventor as your innovation keynote speaker:


  • High energy – Inventing is not a 9 to 5 job. It’s more like a 9 to 9 job or even more. Inventors like Leonardo Da Vinci had a sleep schedule called the Uberman sleep cycle, which consisted of 20-minute naps every four hours. Telsa only slept two hours a day and would work in his lab for several days straight without any sleep. “I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success. Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything,” said Tesla. (He was also a virgin when he died, so I guess that makes sense) Keynote speakers are meant to rev up the crowd and inspire them in some way. There’s nothing like a focused inventor to draw people in. Which brings me to my next point…


  • Passion –  Inventing isn’t an overnight process. It’s a grueling and lonely journey with a staggering amount of ups and downs, mostly downs. Sometimes the only thing you have to sustain you is your single-minded passion. When everyone tells you to give up, you have to hold on to the passion you have for your idea. It’s the same trait you want in your innovation keynote speaker. Passion for your profession will show through. A passionate speaker lives to be on stage and genuinely wants to transform the audience so that they leave with their own passion for innovation. 


  • Curiosity – There is one trait that I always hire by and it doesn’t require a college degree – curiosity. Curious employees will elevate your organization to be more innovative. Curiosity is the number one most important trait of all innovators. This is something inventors have in spades. We are constantly asking questions and delving deeper into topics than most people. This is what you want in your keynote speaker. All of my keynotes are customized because every industry and company is different. A big part of what I enjoy about speaking is getting to know industries I don’t know anything about. Yes, it’s a lot more work to do weeks of research into a new topic as opposed to a canned speech, but the curious inventor part of me enjoys that. I’m the geek that thinks a great evening is back to back episodes of the Science Channel and the explorer who wants to experience new things. Our brains are hard-wired for novelty, but most people never even use a fraction of that ability. A good innovation keynote speaker will spark that curiosity in the audience so that they are excited and intrigued by the world around them. Curious employees are happy employees!


  • Big Picture Thinkers – A successful inventor doesn’t just think of an idea, but sees the big picture on how to sell and market an idea. Inventors are very goal oriented and realize the need to get their ideas on the market. After all, an idea needs to be turned into something useful that customers will pay money for. You want your innovation keynote speaker to be someone who sees the big picture for your organization. This involves knowing what your organization’s pain points are and what you want to accomplish instead of just spouting off some talking points and stories. Which leads me to the final reason…


  • Problem Solvers – Most of all, inventors are problem solvers. And the world will never run out of problems to solve! Inventors know that there is always more than one way to solve a problem. Human beings tend to get stuck in a rut. We all do. And the more we think in one way, the deeper the rut gets and the harder it is to get out of it. But inventors know the techniques you need to use to get out of that rut and where you need to search for the answers. Inventors believe there is a solution out there somewhere and never give up until a problem is solved.


Inventors simply think differently and that’s a good thing. That’s exactly what you want in your innovation keynote speaker. Someone who is able to see the world in a different way and inspire your audience to do the same. 




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Trade Secrets as Competitive Advantage

Trade Secrets as Competitive Advantage

Trade secrets are information that your business would want to keep secret from competitors, and whose value comes from the fact that it isn’t widely known. Examples might include customer lists, or unique ways (that only your business knows about) of delivering services that enable you to outperform the competition. 


Patent attorney and Founder of IPWatchdog, Gene Quinn explains why businesses should have trade secret protection:


Trade secrets are a very important part of any intellectual property portfolio. It’s not much of an overstatement to say that virtually every business has trade secrets worth protection, regardless of whether the business is run as a sole proprietorship, a small business, or a Fortune 500 company. Perhaps it’s better to say that every business has assets that could and should be protected as trade secrets, but the truth is that many companies, even large companies, fail to do so properly. 


Trade secret protection can exist for virtually any business information. And trade secret is extremely easy to obtain.


By definition, a trade secret is any information that is valuable because it is a secret. While most consider trade secrets to be synonymous with inventions, that is an oversimplification. It is, of course, true that trade secrets exist for most, if not all inventions, but trade secret protection can be had for such things as customer, vendor, or supplier lists. This is true because your customer lists are something that you benefit from keeping away potential competitors. 


If a competitor could obtain your customer list and just solicit them, the competitor would have lessened or eliminated the need for advertising expenses because they are starting with a targeted list of people who are already predisposed to being interested. 


Trade secrets are easy to protect because all the law requires is that you take reasonable precautions to keep the information a secret. What is reasonable will vary depending on the value of the business information, but keeping things such as customer lists in a filing cabinet in a locked office and stamping the file “Confidential” are relatively low cost efforts and should be employed. Any other efforts you take are certainly helpful, but you must do something. 


So, what is the downside of trade secret protection? As with many thing that are easy to acquire, they are also easy to lose. As soon as the trade secret is no longer a secret, you have lost all protection. Trade secrets are indeed fragile. So this means that while you can and should keep trade secrets, and take reasonable efforts to protect them, if other forms of intellectual property are available you should at least consider them. 

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Innovation in Meetings and Events – Festivalization

Innovation in Meetings and Events – Festivalization

I just got back from Charlotte, North Carolina where I was the innovation keynote speaker for the NC Festival and Event Association’s Showfest 2019. The conference was packed and it was great to see such a fun and receptive crowd. These were people who took copious notes and brought them back to their teams to implement. 


According to Bureau of Labor statistics, the event industry is expected to increase in the U.S. by 11% between 2016 and 2026. Outlook about the future is positive and 85% of event planners are optimistic about the future. The meetings and events industry has a lot to celebrate! They are riding high!


This is why now is the time for meeting and event planners to innovate. I’m usually hired to go into companies, industries and organizations that are being disrupted. They are usually at the point where they’re spiraling down in a sea of change that they can’t get out from under. Don’t give me wrong, there’s never a bad time to innovate, but innovating when you’re on top can keep you from getting to that downward spiral to begin with. This has saved many industries from the brink that people had written off.


It’s much better to focus on innovating when things are going well because you have more of what you need, which is resources, talent and time. When a company is down, people tend to want to leave a sinking ship, so you may loose some of your top people and not have the time and money to implement any good ideas you do have.


Once people get to the top there is a tendency to rest on their laurels and start thinking that disruption will never happen to them. The outlook is rosy and their bank accounts are too. “We’re invincible and we’re not worried about the future or competition!” This is dangerous thinking, my friend. 


All industries, all companies, and all organizations will be disrupted at some point. They will all go through some kind of change. And anything can change your business – technology, customer tastes, competition, government regulations, counterfeiters, the weather, etc.


The time to think about innovation is when you’re riding high, so you can stay ahead of the curve and remain flexible when it comes to changing trends.


I’m happy to see that one current trend is festivalization – an integration of festival elements into a business event. Even though the festival audience I spoke to were there for solid business takeaways, they integrated it with fun and interactive workshops and general sessions. The audience wanted to be involved and learn in a more tactile way, which is part of the trend of festivalization. The attendees want to be immersed in an experience they will remember.


According to CWT Meetings and Events “a wonderful resort in an exotic location is no longer enough- a complete buy-out is becoming critically important for some planners to achieve maximum attendee experience.”


It’s known that younger audiences tend to favor experiences over things, but the attendees I met at the festival conference were all ages and were all into the interactive experience. 


As an innovation keynote speaker I like to get audience members on stage for improv and involve the rest of the audience in content participation, which is another critical aspect of festivalization. It closes the gap between entertainment and business. When the audience feels like they are more of a participant in the event, they tend to want to share it more, which is good news for meeting planners who want a broader social media reach. 


The meetings and events industry is changing. Are you prepared?


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Innovation in Education

Innovation in Education

Years ago I was invited to a private screening of “Waiting for Superman” where teachers in the audience were free to express their true feelings. This was before I started speaking on innovation in education. What I learned from the teachers in the audience is still a problem now that I hear from teachers and administrators. Innovation is a buzz word that’s thrown around, but rarely implemented. 


It’s not that unusual. I hear it in the corporate world too. What I hear from teachers and employees is that bureaucracy makes creativity and innovation almost impossible. Creativity doesn’t fit neatly into a box that always has a definitive outcome. And failure isn’t a positive trait in that industry. As I found out when I got all A’s except an F in math.


But there are schools out there that are embracing creativity and innovation and outperforming the competition. One such school was the Rialto school district in CA. I was hired as their innovation keynote speaker for their school district business conference. Employees were encouraged to get out of their comfort zone and be willing to fail in order to generate new business ideas using improv and creativity games. 


Innovation starts at the top, and if education leaders want to get new, fresh ideas from their employees, they have to be open to them having some bad ideas along with the good. The more ideas you have, the better the chance of getting a good one.


Here are 3 schools that are implementing innovation in education:


Carpe Diem Schools: The Carpe Diem classroom is designed like an office setting, with students learning from their computer in a cubicle. Part of the day is spent doing online work, but at their own pace. If a student is blazing ahead of the rest of the class, they aren’t held back, but are put into the next grade level of work. An example is that a student may be in 6th grade math, 7th grade English, and 8th grade history. Where they’re falling behind they can get more help from the teacher to catch up, and actually graduate early if they want to. The kids have said that it’s incentive to work harder and ask for help where they need it.


Clintondale High School: Clintondale High School has one of the most innovative ideas I’ve heard in education innovation. It’s an example of not falling into the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mode. So, the typical way of doing homework has always been that the teacher gives a lecture at school and then gives the students homework to take home. The problem is that many students who need help with homework may not have parents there who could help them. Also, one of the main things kids hate about school is the homework. So, Clintondale decided to flip things around. They do the homework at school where they have access to the teacher if they need help. And then watch the lecture at home online. This has reduce the failure rate in English by 33%, reduced the failure rate in math by 31%, and reduced the failure rate in science by 22%. This is a brilliant example of why you should always look at things from another angle. 


The Steve Jobs School: The Steve Jobs School is self-guided instead of having everyone learn at the same pace. Rather than feeding the students knowledge, teachers, who are called coaches, actually coach the students instead. Parents and coaches meet every six weeks. The lessons take place on an iPad and technology, math, science and engineering are taught alongside creativity and problem solving.


Waldorf School of the Peninsula: The most interesting school on the list is one that is innovative because it uses the techniques of the past. You would think the tech giants in Silicon Valley would send their kids to the most tech savvy school, but most of them actually fork over a huge amount to send their own kids to a school that doesn’t allow technology. No computers, tablets or smart phones are allowed. Subjects are taught using creativity, arts, games, and exploration – use knitting to teach math, and games to teach language. Topics like resilience, problem solving and social and emotional intelligence are favored over rote learning. They equip students with the skills to navigate a fast-changing future.


The future of education will be more diverse and personalized. The more choices students have, the more innovative education will become. Parents will always want the best education possible for their kids, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more money. It does mean thinking outside the box for a better way to learn.

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The Value of Prototyping in Research and Development

The Value of Prototyping in Research and Development

Last week I was the innovation keynote speaker for the James Hardie Research and Development Conference for their scientists and engineers. I normally don’t show anyone my first prototype, but I wanted to show how simple prototyping can be, and the value of prototyping in research and development.


A prototype is an original model of something from which other forms are developed. Depending on how complex the prototype is, it can test a new concept, or in my case, it served as a visual sample that designers could use to make a final product.


When I first came up with my idea for a wrist water bottle, I tried to explain the concept to people, and most just couldn’t visualize it. They were picturing a regular water bottle strapped to your wrist. This is because we tend to see what we already know. Scientists refer to this as “structured imagination”. In other words, when we try to imagine something new and unique, our brains are still stuck in existing concepts and ideas. That’s why everyone pictured a regular, existing water bottle strapped to the wrist. Most people simply cannot picture a brand new concept. And you don’t want them to imagine the wrong concept. This goes for products, websites, scripts, books, and any other creative endeavors. No one else is going to imagine exactly what you imagine in your mind.


I knew if I was going to explain what it was I would have to make a prototype model so it would be obvious. A first prototype doesn’t have to actually work, so it can be made of anything. I went to the art supply store and bought a variety of supplies to work with like clay, string, popsicle sticks, paper clips, styrofoam, ribbons, etc. 


The first wrist water bottle design was made of clay, ribbon and an off-the-shelf cap. 





It was bulky and goofy-looking, but once people saw it they were instantly able to visualize the concept. It was also the first and only prototype I made before taking the clay model to a mold maker. Making the prototype enabled me to go from an abstract idea in my head, to a physical item I could hold in my hands. It was also helpful to be able to see where the flaws were instantly as opposed to guessing about them.


One of the flaws I wouldn’t have guessed was in the weight of the bottle when filled with water. By putting the heavy clay prototype on my wrist, I realized it would have to be a little smaller since it would be filled with water. It had to be just the right size. Not so big that it would be top-heavy, and not too small, so you would get enough water for a normal run.


The mold maker was also better able to see the concept and instantly figure out where the flaws were and how to fix them. The same goes for designing a website, marketing materials, video games, or anything else that will be handed off to a designer to make a final product. The TV and film industry uses storyboarding in order to show visually what the entire product will look like. In fact, we did a storyboard for the TV commercial we used for the wrist water bottle before we shot it.


My main goal as the innovation keynote speaker was to prove to the scientists and engineers that prototyping didn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming, risky or expensive.


One valuable thing about prototyping is that you get instant feedback. When I showed people my clay prototype, people had lots of questions. By actually seeing something that would resemble the final product, they were able to see things I hadn’t thought of. Having a good prototype allows you to make changes before you invest a lot of money in a product. So prototyping is actually less risky.


Prototypes don’t have to be expensive. The one and only prototype I had cost less than $10. If you’re just making a prototype to show others a general idea of what it will look like, it can be made out of materials from an art store, like I used. A working prototype is more expensive, but can be done using 3D printing, fabrication and off the shelf parts, like I did with the cap. It will still be less expensive going this route first before investing a lot of money in a final product. If you find out something doesn’t work you can easily fix it in this stage. 


The process with the wrist water bottle went through several stages of design and change before the final finished product, even though I did get the product on the market when it was in the beginning stages of design and packaging. Software companies do this all the time with version 1.0, 2.0, etc. Here is the final retail version, which has now sold almost a million units around the world:


wrist water bottles

wrist water bottles


The basic design of the bottles and the caps didn’t change, but the material of the bottles and the bands did change. The original bands were made out of terry cloth. They were soft, but didn’t stay on very well and were thick and bulky, which made threading them through the loops difficult. 


The idea for the new bands came from the medical industry. One of the most important concepts about innovation is that you should always be looking to get ideas from other industries. By looking in the medical industry I was able to find a material called vel-stretch that was thinner and more durable. It’s easy to thread them through the bottle loops and they fit more snugly than the terry cloth. 


I was happy when several scientists and engineers came up to me after the speech and said they were now excited about prototyping. They were finally convinced that it wasn’t as complicated or risky as they thought. My journey through the invention process itself was long and difficult, but the prototyping part was rather quick and easy, and was the least expensive part of all.

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Halloween Innovation

Halloween Innovation

People love the tradition and rituals of holidays. It’s a comfortable time of doing something we’ve always done year after year, and usually involves family and friends getting together for a structured event. It’s a time when the uncertainty of life becomes certain, if only for a day.


But that doesn’t mean innovators can’t add some newness to the holiday. After all, we live for not doing it the way it’s always been done. As an innovation keynote speaker I’m always confronted with structured organizations who say “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. This is why I advocate adding innovation in baby steps. Keep the traditions and rituals, but try something new. Don’t change everything, just experiment with creativity a little at a time. This is especially true for holidays, like Halloween. 


One way to innovate, especially if you’re new to innovation, is to take each element of something and find a way to innovate it. For example, for Halloween you would have candy, costumes, trick or treating, events, decorations, movies, etc. Here are some examples of Halloween innovation:


Vampire Cruises: Holland America offered a special cruise for fans of the undead by putting together a vampire cruise. This included a vampire ball, scavenger hunt and charity auction, along with special screenings of vampire movies and educational speeches on the topic of vampires.


Haunted Hayrides: The Haunted Hayride took the tradition of hayrides and added a level of fright to it to come up with one of the biggest Shark Tank deals ever. 1031 Productions started out only doing haunted Halloween hayrides, but after Mark Cuban’s investment of $2 million dollars they’ve expanded into doing haunted sleepovers and other unique live events. 


Knotts Scary Farm: The amusement park Knotts Berry Farm capitalized on the holiday theme and turn their whole park into a spooky, ghoulish event once a year.


Halloween Candy: When trick-or-treating started in the 1930s and early 1940s, children were given homemade goodies like cookies, cake, fruit, and nuts. 


In the 1950s, candy manufacturers saw an opportunity to promote their products, which were more affordable than giving out homemade treats. In the 1970’s wrapped candy was seen as a safer alternative.


Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without candy corn, which is so popular it even has it’s own holiday on October 30th, to honor the production of 9 billion pieces of the iconic confection. It was invented in the 1880s by a Wunderlee Candy Company employee named George Renninger. 


Since then, Halloween candy has seen its share of innovation from giant gummy rats to candy bags of blood and bug encrusted lollipops. Adults can indulge in candy corn jello shots.


Trick or treating: Halloween projection videos can now turn your ordinary house into a haunted house with the click of a button thanks to Total HomeFX™, which is a brand of Productworks™ LLC. It’s founder, Kenneth McCorkindale, wanted to bring technology innovation to the holiday tradition.



A modern Halloween invention from Snapchat uses technology to find the most popular trick or treating spots in your neighborhood.


Halloween Costumes: The custom of wearing costumes on Halloween is as old as the holiday itself. It originated with the Celtic festival of Samhain, where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. Halloween costumes have gone from the simple bedsheet ghost to pretty much anything the imagination could dream up, including costumes for dogs, like the ones created by Eugenia Chen, of Pandaloon, who ultimately got an offer from Shark Tank investor Daymond John. 



Halloween Decorations: 


Want to create a spooky mood for trick or treaters or party guests? Use this spiderweb maker:Forum Novelties Webcaster Gun II Combo Fake Spiderweb Shooter, Black

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Innovation in Home Care

I was pleased to be the innovation keynote speaker recently at the Rocky Mountain Home Care Conference in Beaver Creek. The topic “Turning Your Employees Into Problem Solvers” was well received by a packed crowd of people in the home care and hospice industry.


One of the things I like most about being a speaker is being able to research and learn about so many different industries. And I learned a lot about the home care industry that I didn’t know. A statistic from AARP says that 90% of older adults say they would rather stay in their own homes as they age. For people who aren’t frail enough to need around the clock care, but do need some help, home care is a perfect solution. And innovation in home care technology is increasing. These can be broken down into active and passive technologies.


Active technologies require someone to activate the device. Passive technologies allow a patient to be monitored without having someone around to activate it. This can include devices such as sensors and cameras.


GreatCall Responder is a wireless device that helps give older adults added security wherever they are. It connects to highly trained response agents who can pinpoint their location and send help if needed.  www.greatcall.com


Older adults who live alone often have to remember to take certain medications. This is where the TabSafe System comes in handy. The base unit allows the pharmacy or caregiver to load medication into a cartridge, and its patented design allows only the right amount of medication to be dispensed. The TabSafe Personal Health Website contains all of the data concerning the various medications and keeps track of things like scheduling, drug contents, and when the prescription needs to be refilled.


Another safety innovation is a product called Fire Avert which automatically shuts off a stove when the smoke alarm goes off. It was invented by Firefighter Peter Thorpe who was tired of responding to unattended stove fires that could have been avoided. For older people who are living alone, (or anyone else, for that matter), this innovation could be a lifesaver.


And for the home care provider, there is a mobile app from AtHoc which will summon help for the worker or their patient at the touch of a button on their smartphone.


The home care industry will continue to evolve and be disrupted as all industries are. But even as new technology makes their jobs easier, the human touch and human connection will always be needed. That’s one thing that never changes.

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Why Associations Need to Innovate

Why Associations Need to Innovate

Associations are a legacy business, like newspapers, and the TV industry. And they have all enjoyed many years of success without being challenged…until now.


Early roots of associations could be found in craft guilds, churches, and trading groups. Guilds were formed to protect the interests of merchants and craftsmen. Guilds provided skills training and lobbying, much like you see in associations today.


But guilds were disrupted during the Industrial Revolution when they no longer served their purpose. Mass production became more important than making a quality product, and we’ve been going down that road ever since.


Like all innovation and disruption, things go in cycles. After the Transcontinental Railroad began linking trade in the East to the West, trade associations sprung up to deal with expanding markets and competition. Associations were back in business and remained unchallenged for decades until the Internet came along.


The Internet has disrupted more than one business. Legacy industries like newspapers and associations are especially susceptible to disruption through technology. Thanks to online content and education, and social networking like Linked In and Facebook groups, new potential members may wonder what your association has that is unique and different. That’s where creativity and innovation comes in.


All aspects of your association can be innovated, from your memberships to the events you put on, to the content you provide. According to Kellen, the association management group, there are numerous streams of income you can innovate, such as:


  • Continuing education
  • Training, workshops
  • Webinars
  • Selling mailing lists
  • Advertising
  • Vendor workshops
  • Sponsorships
  • Vendor programs


Today’s associations are being challenged with members who are looking for more value for their membership dues. By giving them something they can’t get anywhere else, you are increasing your value, and will attract more members.


I will be the innovation keynote speaker for the .org Innovation Summit. Check out this promo video:


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The Surprising Reason for Lack of Women Inventors

The Surprising Reason for Lack of Women Inventors

At a recent innovation keynote speech I gave to Fortune 500 women executives, sponsored by Cognizant Technology Solutions, we examined some of the reasons fewer than 19 percent of all patents in the world are secured by women. This isn’t patents held by a single woman, but patents that have at least one woman listed on them. Fewer than 8% of all patents have a single woman as the primary patent holder.


This is still a dismal number, but better than it was 40 years ago when only 3 % of patent holders in the world were women.


In doing some research into why this number is so low, I discovered that, even though things have changed enormously in society for women, we still have a long way to go when it comes to intellectual property ownership.


When patent Law was passed in 1790, women were granted the same privileges as men. Even though single women could do whatever they wanted with their patents, married women didn’t have the same rights. Their husbands owned everything, including their patents. It would take another 50 years for the laws to change and 130 years for women to even get the right to vote!


So, now that women can vote, own property, and invent, why don’t they? Between scientific studies and my own personal polling, I discovered that the answer wasn’t what I thought it was. The obvious answer is that there is still a very small number of women in STEM careers. But that doesn’t answer the question about why there are so few women inventors.


According to an article written by Karen Frenkel for the Association for Computing Machinery in 2013, “women with such degrees are barely more likely to patent than women who lack them.”


I’m a patent and trade dress holder, but I certainly don’t have any kind of background in science or engineering. Even though my product isn’t technology based, you still don’t have to have a STEM degree to have a technology based patent.


A great example of this is Hedy Lamarr, inventor of spread spectrum technology for use in radio guided torpedoes. Her background was the same as mine…actor. She had no formal degree in science or engineering. She simply saw a problem that needed solving, (safely controlling torpedoes with a radio signal), and was able to apply the system of electro-mechanical technology of player piano rolls to come up with a solution.


The World Intellectual Property Organization, global experts in IP policy, completed their study of gender in inventing and found higher numbers of women inventors in biotech and pharmaceuticals. The women patent holders in biotech was an impressive 58% and in pharmaceuticals it was an equally impressive number at 55%.


But the least women patent holders were found in mechanical elements at 11%, transport at 13%, Machine tools at 14% and engines at 15%.


According to WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, “The new global data give us a baseline for understanding the role of gender in the filing of international patent applications, which is one metric used in measuring a country’s innovative capacity. These data prove that a gender gap exists and it needs to be addressed”.


This brings me to why I feel there aren’t more women inventors. It’s the same reason there aren’t more women in STEM careers. As far as we’ve come in society for women, there is still a lot of bias that remains. When I ask people in the audience to name an inventor, I rarely get anyone who names a woman inventor. Women have invented all kinds of things that have shaped our world, but they don’t get the same recognition male inventors do.


Also, girls aren’t encouraged to invent. One way to change that is to make inventing cool. Get girls involved at an early age. After leading several Girl Scout creativity workshops, I can tell you that I was very impressed at how creative and innovative the girls were. We need more of that. More programs for girls to get them involved and excited about inventing. Women have a lot to contribute to the world and we need more women inventors.


Inventions are created because someone had a problem that no one else had solved. So women, the next time you come across a problem that no one else has solved… invent it yourself.  Because your invention just might change the world.

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What I’ve Learned as an Innovation Keynote Speaker

What I’ve Learned as an Innovation Keynote Speaker

For the past five years I’ve worked with corporations and associations as an innovation keynote speaker. The speeches are very interactive with the audience, with games and improv, so no two are ever the same.


I’ve worked with children’s hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, scientists, engineers, and banks as an innovation keynote speaker. I’ve had all age groups in the audience from small kids to a pair of 90 year old twins.


And I’m always surprised by the amount of creativity they will unleash when given the chance. Even people who claim they don’t have a creative bone in their body.


Here are some of the things I’ve learned from both management and employees:


  • Innovation isn’t consistent – The day I show up for an innovation keynote there’s a lot of excitement about trying something new and being able to just let go and have fun. I always tell the audience that there are no wrong answers and they’re allowed to be as wacky and zany as they want to be. But unfortunately it’s usually not kept up. People tend to fall back into the “That’s the way it’s always been done” mode, and the fun, creativeness makes way for bureaucracy. It happens so often I’m thinking maybe there’s a reason why creativity and innovation isn’t kept up. Big corporations are in business to make money. Maybe they think taking time out to be silly and coming up with wild, out of the box ideas, isn’t a good use of time… until they go the way of Blockbuster and Kodak. I’m sure the Royal Typewriter Company could never have imagined they would be disrupted by innovation. In 1957 they had sold over 10 million typewriters and they were riding high. Most companies don’t even think about innovating until it’s too late. Innovation is something that needs to be done on a consistent basis.


  • Employees want to be creative – I do several improv exercises where I ask for a volunteer from the audience. At first most people are hesitant to do it and look around to gauge a reaction from the boss. The most creative employees are the ones who are given lots of encouragement to say what they think. Creativity can’t be contained. You have to be free to say what you want in the brainstorming room without being fired. Once they get the go-ahead, those employees who have been stifled start to blossom on stage. This is the kind of creative productivity managers could get from their employees if they allow them to let loose occasionally and do some free flow creativity for an hour a day or at least once a week.


  • Lack of incentive – I’ve had people come up to me after a speech and say that they really enjoyed it. But then they whisper “but we don’t get paid any extra to come up with good ideas”. Good ideas don’t cost the company money until they are implemented. And if an employee does come up with a brilliant innovative idea that would make the company money or save the company money, they should be rewarded. It doesn’t have to be much and it might not even be monetary, but at least they should be recognized for their achievements. Reward those creative types and they will continue to be a valuable asset to your company.


If I had to think about what my purpose in life is, I would have to say that my mission is to spread the joy of creativity and help turn as many people as possible into innovators. One of the best ways I know to do that is by being an innovation keynote speaker. The world will never run out of good ideas and with all the problems in the world, we need more problem solvers.




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Women Inventors Who Changed the World

Women Inventors Who Changed the World

As you sip your morning coffee you probably don’t give any thought as to how the actual process of coffee brewing came to be. If it wasn’t for a frustrated housewife in Dresden, Germany, you might have to brew your coffee by wrapping loose coffee grounds in a cloth bag and boiling water around it. Suddenly you have a much better appreciation for Melitta Bentz’s invention.  


She knew there had to be a better way, so she cut out some paper from a notebook and stuck it in the bottom of a pot that she had poked full of holes. Then she poured the water over it. This filtered out the bitter taste. It worked and she started manufacturing her “coffeemakers” and selling them at local fairs. They were a hit.  


Most people think of Marie Curie as a scientist, but she was also an inventor, and the only person to win two Noble prizes. She invented a chemical process for extracting radioactive material from ore and she also discovered radium.  


Anyone who has used a personal computer can thank Admiral Grace Murray Hopper for inventing the first computer compiler. This dramatically changed the way programmers wrote software. They no longer had to write time-consuming instructions for each new software package. She developed COBOL, which is the first user-friendly computer software program.  


If you take your lunch to work in a brown paper bag you have Martha Knight to thank for it. She invented the machine that produced them. She was also the first woman to fight and win a patent suit after a man stole her design and put his name on it. He couldn’t imagine that a woman could create such a complex machine. She went on to invent several other machines and tools.  


Only 15% of patents belong to women, but the list seems to be growing as women are encouraged to invent. As they say “necessity is the mother of invention” and the world needs more women inventors.

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