Innovation Relies on Hope

Friday, April 15th, was an amazing day for Cleveland, Ohio: the 2nd annual TEDxCLE.  Let’s put this in perspective. The theme was “Guardians of the Evolution: We are the guardians of Cleveland’s future; We are responsible for its evolution; Success is only possible through collaboration.”

The logo was based on the Hope Memorial Bridge’s “Guardians of Traffic” powerful historic sculptures. The metaphor of the Hope Bridge AND Guardians is real and happening now. Let me recap some of my favorites because they highlight the necessity of Hope for Innovation for any community and organization.

The theme was set with Ari Maron, driver of East 4th Street project, on the wonderful future for urban Cleveland. He is one of those that has great dreams and visions for Cleveland AND actually does something about them.

His challenge? The people in the community make a world-class city happen; put your ego aside and go for it. Since Ari has done what he advices, his words are powerfully real and hopeful.

One of my favorite talks was by Matt Hlavin of Thogus, ‘not your father’s injection molding company’, on the New Industrial Revolution.  He’s changed the rules of the game…they are an engineering company that also manufactures, and with some cool (very) rapid prototyping equipment for polymers and metal. As Matt said, “It’s no longer about mass production, it’s about mass customization.”

He wants the next generation to think manufacturing is cool, so he invests in coops and interns, providing housing (all they need is gas and food money). Taking care of his people--giving them the tools, training, and support to succeed--is critical.

One of the many benefits includes innovative health and wellness programs for employees and their families. For Matt, success is the day one of his employees tells him they’re leaving to start a company because of what they learned at Thogus. This ‘little manufacturing’ company in Avon Lake, OH, is so leading edge that internationally renown author Steve Denning cited Thogus in his recent book, Radical Management as leading the way in innovating management.

Next was a series of national to local talks on building community through historic preservation. The panelists (Hannah Belsito,Rhonda SincavageJeff Siegler, and Thomas Starinsky) talked about the connectedness that history provides to community. A Knight Foundation study, The Soul of the Community, stated that aesthetics, openness, social offerings play a greater role in selection of community than just safety.

Historic preservation is an economic driver – it brings in people, art, nature, culture and business. It manifests itself emotionally – in the intangible, which is not easily measured. This is a great example of the difference between 20th century outputs and 21stcentury outcomes. While new businesses are a very important output, the outcome is a thriving community – a virtuous cycle of passionate people that collaborate to make a stronger community.

The Cleveland Art Museum’s new director, Dr. David Franklin, gave a magnificent talk about why museums still matter (not that he had to convince many of us in the audience). He started with a photo of a 5,000 year old sculpture, The Star Gazer, and then brought out this little 5” tall figure – right in his hand. Next, he brought out a 6,000 year old statue of a little woman.  11,000 years of history on stage.

Museums matter because they engage, they tell stories of the past, present and future. Museums provide a ‘place’ for people to engage with art, art with art, to reflect and ponder and see true authenticity – in real life, not virtually. Think about it – in a museum, it’s so easy to strike up a conversation with a total stranger about a piece of art.

Museums inherently connect us – to each other, to the past, present and future and create a sense of joy and wonder. David concluded his talk with, “We’ll be waiting for you; we’re in Cleveland, and we’re free.” And oh, by the way, in 2015, the museum will display ALL of Monet’s Water Lilies – all in one place – talk about utopia!

There were many other great talks, as you can see (and soon watch) on the TEDxCLE site. I don’t know if my friends, Hallie Bramand Eric Kogelschatz, realized the amazing connection between the Guardian statues as a metaphor for re-innovating Cleveland and the Hope in the Hope Memorial Bridge (even though it’s named after Bob Hope).

If it was deliberate or serendipitous, it doesn’t matter – it is the perfect metaphor for Cleveland…and for your city, your business, and your community. Hope looks to the future, rooted in facts, not fantasy, based on experience, learning and application.

So please take a few minutes to share your hopes are for your business, organization, community in the comments below. Think about the talents and treasures around you - I'd bet your hope is based on some real evidence...go for it. The more we share, the more Hope, the more we can make a difference and impact!