A Big Plug from OVO Innovation

Mindcamp Random

OVO Innovation is Jeffrey Phillips’ organization. Jeffrey devoted part of his latest monthly newsletter to us and how wonderful Mindcamp was. Clearly he’s a deeply perceptive and intelligent man! Here it is quoted in full. Here’s a link, too, to sign up to get Jeffrey’s newsletter on a regular basis.

from OVO newsletter by Jeffrey Phillips/OVO Innovation, October 2009
The Innovation Gymnasium

I called Mindcamp the innovation gymnasium because the word gymnasium means more than we typically use it for in the States. In Europe, the word means a school that focuses on educating the mind and the body. To me, that’s what Mindcamp did for my innovation muscles. It stretched my mind and my body, and brought me back energized. Mindcamp is the brainchild of Tim Hurson and the folks at Thinkxic. Regular readers of the newsletter will know that I recommend Tim’s book, and when he suggested that I submit a speaking topic at his Mindcamp I was thrilled to have a chance.

What is Mindcamp?
Frankly, I’m still trying to puzzle that one out. The website says that Mindcamp is a “four-day micro-university for personal, professional, and organizational creativity – a feast of 90-minute concurrent sessions presented by the best creativity leaders in North America and world-wide.” It was all of that and more. Better than an innovation conference since many of the participants had the chance to speak. Better than a training program given the breadth of topics and the interactivity. And, best of all, it occurs on a very fundamental basis, stripping away a lot of the overhead that is unnecessary to focus on the interaction and education. After all, in what other innovation conference could you get to sleep in a yurt?

My top takeaways
The recurring theme is that creativity and imagination in business is important, and yet so often neglected. While innovative types like John Mackay from Whole Foods schedule blocks of time in their calendar to think and imagine new products or services, the culture in most firms actively discourages any creative thinking exercises, and even when these are done they are often half-hearted attempts that are assumed to be failures before they even begin.

Another take-away: there are many creative thinking techniques and methods that can be deployed. I attended several breakouts that used analogies, collages, NLP techniques and many other methods and approaches. There’s no “one size fits all” approach, find the method that seems right for your firm or your circumstances. Another takeaway – creativity and imagination are infiltrating the corporate world. At the conference I met people from Disney (no surprise) but also American Express and other financial firms as well as other Fortune 500 firms. Most of the practitioners in attendance have worked with large corporations, so the concept of creativity is definitely working its way into every business. Why? There’s no alternative. To tap the best thinking and to differentiate from competition, every firm needs to get the best possible thinking it can from its employees, partners and customers. Using the same old tools and methods guarantees the same old results. Introducing more creativity and imagination is crucial for new ideas.

Improving innovation conferences
MindCamp is the model for what an innovation and creativity conference should be. No flashy banners, no “booths”, no executive, gold-plated sponsors. Just a lot of committed people who are really passionate about innovation. Unlike a lot of conferences where people turn up to gather information but don’t engage in the proceedings, people at Mindcamp were engaged and exchanging ideas and information all the time.

There are a couple of other “MindCamp” like events occurring this fall and into the spring, in case you are interested. There will be a program in Florida and in Atlanta, and of course there is the CREAconference in Italy in the spring. If you can attend one of these, I’d encourage you to go, or plan for MindCamp Toronto next fall.