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Three things that smart people said at FEI

June 24, 2014

I attended the Front End of Innovation (FEI) Conference in Boston in May and was wowed by the big-name speakers (who can often disappoint) and inspired by things a handful of unknown-to-me experts had to share.

It’s likely because I’m easily distracted that I have found Twitter to be one of the most useful tools for maximizing my time a conference. If I’m tweeting constantly, I’m listening hard to the speakers for meaningful quotes. I’m also seeing what resonates with other attendees. And following and being followed during the sessions definitely eases the anxiety of breaks and meals when I have been able to seek out my fellow Tweeters, skip the awkward stuff and just talk.

The other great thing about using Twitter during a conference is that my sent Tweets serve as my conference notes. Scrolling back though my tweets from FEI, I found three quotes that still strike me as powerful and worth sharing.

“Humility and vulnerability are essential for innovation. You can’t think you have all the answers”  Daniel Pink

This falls in the "big-name guy exceeding expectations" camp. For many innovators, “Why?” and “Why not?” are favorite questions. Mine too. “I don’t know” is my favorite answer. I’m not afraid to admit that.

“Innovation can only happen when you are playing offense”— Michael L. Tushman, Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
Tushman’s perspective is that innovation cannot happen when an organization is under pressure, ala “Quick, we need you to create something awesome!” It is only when a company is strong — strategically, financially and resource-wise — that it can, and should, start to “fall forward” into the scary zone of new opportunities. If a new thing is NEEDED to save the firm, it is way too late.

For many innovators, 'Why?' and 'Why not?' are favorite questions. Mine too. 'I don’t know' is my favorite answer. I’m not afraid to admit that.

“We started the company like a bunch of pyros”— Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot 
Bre Pettis is my new Twitter crush (@bre). As CEO of MakerBot, he talked about the early years of company and needing to move it from Seattle to Brooklyn because “people don’t go there to relax.” He intentionally seeded the company with people who wanted to do stupid things, beyond breaking things. He was talking REALLY crazy things—like setting things on fire. And he himself describes “jumping off a cliff and building the airplane on the way down” as the ethos that drives the company. I love that. Pettis also gets credit for the best acronym of the conference—IRLAFK (In Real Life Away From the Keyboard). And another reason my heart flutters — check out The Cult of Done Manifesto, completed in 20 minutes because that is all the time Pettis and his wife, Kio Stark, had to finish it.

I’m inspired all over again reading these quotes and visiting the websites of those who uttered them. The world often disparages the ideas communicated in sound bites. In my Twitter-paced world, sound bites are the perfect length to make an impact on an easily distracted audience — or at least me.