by Michael Bowers
I recently attended Innovate Columbus. The event, which is part of the Columbus, Ohio Bicentennial "IdUS" celebration, looked at where we are as a community and where we can go. The event was focused on innovation and creativity as the pathway to the future. The speakers were a "who's who" in community building through innovative thought and actions, Richard Florida, Jeff Dyer and Sir Ken Robinson.
Much of the discussion revolved around how communities should embrace and encourage innovation as a driver of economic growth. Richard Florida spoke of the importance of transforming cities and creating a greater sense of "community" that will lead to economic growth. Developing "community" brings together business, creative and students allowing ideas to generate, combine/recombine to create important innovation. This environment allows us to to see connections between seemingly unrelated things that will lead to more innovative ideas.
It is important to develop what Jeffrey Dyer called "discovery behaviors" of "Questioning, Observing, Experimenting, and Networking" which will allow us to actively question the status quo and be more creative. This creativity helps develop and challenge ideas leading to new perspectives. These new perspectives can be shared and developed through networking and connecting with other people and other ideas. This is the root of creativity and creativity leads to innovation.
So where do we find this creativity and innovation? Sure a lot of it comes from large institutions and universities and is often rooted in technology but that is only part of the equation. It is critical that we all recognize the importance of small businesses in our communities as it relates to innovation. Small business owners are what makes up the heart and soul of the community. There are about 27 million small businesses in the United States and these are some of the most creative people you will ever meet. To these entrepreneurs
business growth is more than the quarterly report. It's their day to day. It's their blood and sweat. It's their life. It's ManCans Candles, developed by a 13 year old, to both address a need in the candle market but to also give back to those less fortunate in the community. It's Bebo Naturals developed by the sisters that decided to produce and sell baby food made from "organic" ingredients the way you'd make it in your kitchen, but without all the fuss. It's Developmental Math Group created by the retired teachers that have taken their knowledge and expertise in math and created a learning tool that will help children build their knowledge base and position them for future academic success.
What the typical small business owner does on a daily basis is about being proactive, creative and innovative. They are about making things happen. Small business owners are the innovation experts. They seek out and develop new ideas all the time because if they don't their business will die along with their dreams. They turn ideas into businesses that build and grow communities.
Small businesses are the innovative force that leads to economic growth.