All innovation starts with an idea. My invention idea of the wrist water bottle actually came to me when I passed out from dehydration while out on a run in the hot Texas summer. As I sat in a hospital bed with an IV, the idea that I should probably have water on me while running was born. Of course I should have thought of that sooner, but I would at least make sure that would never happen again. And I followed through on implementation of my idea to guarantee it wouldn’t happen to other people. An idea in itself isn’t innovation. It’s the implementation of that idea that becomes innovation. Top innovation keynote speakers know this. But it starts with ideation. It starts with an idea.

Top innovation keynote speakers

The best top innovation speakers are the ones who have actually innovated and taken ideas from the creativity stage to the innovation stage. They don’t just read about innovation in a book, but have actually gotten an innovation into the marketplace. Coming up with the idea for a wrist water bottle was the easy part. Getting a patent, and eventually a registered trade dress took years of being turned down by the patent office. Having a mold made and making sure the product worked also took years of testing and re-testing. It took multiple iterations to get it right. The packaging changed several times as well as the name of the product.

Top innovation keynote speakers who have been through it are able to identify with the audience and save them years of a learning curve. An innovation keynote speaker who has never been through it doesn’t really know the true process. There are too many things to know that you have to actually experience yourself.

What do your customers need or want?

If you don’t know what your customers need or want you may be wasting a lot of time and money. Before you start implementing your ideas, you need to find out what your customers want. This should be done before you even get to the ideation stage. Knowing what they want and need will help you to generate ideas based on what will sell in the long run.

Top innovation keynote speakers know to ask customers

You can do this easily by simply asking them. Get out and talk to customers and find out what they need or want. It sounds easy, but you would be surprised how many people don’t ask that question. I assumed that because I needed a wrist water bottle that everyone else who was a runner would also need it. That didn’t always prove to be the case. Luckily I accidentally stumbled on other markets, like the promotional market, the kids market, and the alcohol industry. But in the beginning, I was only focused on runners. It took years of trial and error to find those other customers, which turned out to be my biggest markets.


My invention idea happened because of serendipity. I wasn’t actually looking for a solution to my problem because I didn’t even think I had a problem yet. It was the first time I had passed out from not having enough water to drink. Sometimes an idea will find you and sometimes you have to find the idea. But it usually starts with a problem someone or an organization is having at the moment. You’re looking for answers and you start the ideation process.


This is quite often done by gathering a group of people together for a brainstorming session. Or in my case, it was just me sitting in a hospital bed. But whether it’s just you or a group of people, you have to do some form of brainstorming to find the right solution to the problem. I know some people prefer group brainstorming over doing it alone. There’s no right or wrong answer. Even when I brainstorm alone I find it helps to bounce ideas off of other people. There is always something I will miss if I only count on my own suggestions.

Ask the right questions

When you start an ideation session, begin with open-ended questions.

“What are we trying to achieve in this session?”

“Why does this problem need solving?”

“Why does it need to be solved right now?”

“What do we need to do to solve this problem?”

Lateral Thinking

Creativity expert Edward de Bono first coined the phrase “lateral thnking” in 1967.  It refers to a person’s ability to solve problems by coming up with ideas that you can’t solve through the typical, logical way. I use this in all of my creativity speeches. It takes some getting used to as we all tend to try and solve problems through the same ways we’ve always done it. In fact I hear it often. “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” But that’s exactly why you’re stuck in neutral. It takes extreme lateral thinking to get you out of the rut you’re in. An idea is just an idea until you put money behind it. So, go big in your thinking.

Think wider and deeper

As a top innovation keynote speaker I challenge people to go deeper and wider to find those answers that no one else will come up with. Coming up with radically different solutions is where the gold is. If you’re not thinking in this way, your competition may be and they will jump ahead of you. You have to have lateral thinking if you want to succeed in ideation. You have to go where your competition isn’t going. This takes getting out of your comfort zone and doing some really radical lateral thinking in the ideation phase.

The innovation prototype phase

Before you ever get to the point of rolling out a product or other innovation you need to test it. My original prototype was made out of clay and cost a total of $5.00. I jumped into manufacturing quickly without doing any real testing. Luckily in the beginning I only ordered about 1,000 sets of my wrist water bottle in one color. I was using a thick terrycloth band and a think plastic bottle. There wasn’t even any packaging at the time. I bought some clamshells that really didn’t fit the product and sat in my living room with a glue gun putting them together. They looked awful!

Introduce innovation to your customers

But I ended up getting a big order from a chain sporting goods store, who took all of my inventory. It was a big learning lesson because the product ended up in the back of the store on the bottom shelf and no one even knew what it was. No one knew to ask about the product and they wouldn’t have found it on their own. I wasn’t a big enough company to pay for an endcap and more exposure in the store. So that was my only order from them. But it was a big lesson in what not to do.

After that I went back to the drawing board and looked at the materials and packaging I had and changed it all. I made my own point-of-purchase displays at my expense so I could get better exposure in the stores. It made a big difference. But I might not have thought about it if I hadn’t done a test run in the beginning. A test doesn’t have to be expensive. But you have to do it.

Implementation of an idea

The implementation of an idea is the part that separates top innovation keynote speakers from amateurs. You can’t read about innovation in a book and expect to know the process from the ground up. Creativity and innovation is all about trial and error. This is something inventors who have actually been through the whole process know like the back of their hands. Getting in the trenches and taking a product or other innovation through the entire process of ideation to implementation is something that has to be experienced. You have to be able to identify with your audience and their problems. Top innovation keynote speakers who have been through those same problems will have been through the same issues that the audience is going through.

Top innovation speakers

If you are planning an event where you need a top innovation keynote speaker, do you want a speaker who has just read about innovation in a book, or one who has actually innovated who can identify with your audience and give them the tools to go from ideation to implementation quicker and more effectively? A top innovation keynote speaker who has invented or innovated a product, service or business model that has been proven in the marketplace will best be able to give your audience what they need.

Audience members want to identify with a keynote speaker who understands their issues and can cut their learning curve in half. They’ve been there themselves. And they know what needs to be done to solve problems and innovate to jump ahead of their competitors. A top innovation keynote speaker can communicate the needs and speak the language of your audience.