Innovative technologies were at the forefront of this Imagination Conversation as the conversation on creativity in Sarasota continues.

This was the second Imagination Conversation I have attended over the last few months. The first Imagine Conversation I attended was about the Creative Culture in SarasotaJeff Hazelton from Lucid Global was hosting and sponsoring the event which was fitting considering the topic of this conversation was innovative technology.

In case you don’t know, Lucid Global is definitely walking the walk when it comes to innovative companies in Sarasota. My mind gets blown up a little bit more every time I find out more about the different things they are doing at Lucid Global.

The event was well intentioned, there was a good mix of people participating in the conversation. It was very much like other “think tank” style gatherings I have been to in the past. there is always a broad mix of people that show up to these things. Some who are actually walkers and thought leaders in their industry but many others are just talkers who like hearing their own voice. The conversation was somewhat interesting and only slightly educational and was once again captured in amazing images by Van Jasmin at and Erin Johnson from Moon Dragon Studios.

You could tell that the people there were interested in driving the conversation on innovation in Sarasota but there were also people there that might have just wanted an afternoon off of work and had no real clue about anything going on in the creative or innovative industries; in Sarasota or elsewhere.

There were a few reoccurring themes throughout the conversation so Ill outline the conversation and then give you my take on how this all plays out, if any of it matters and why you should care.

Topics of Conversation

General Overview

The general overview of all of these conversations is to get people talking about how to brand Sarasota as a creative, innovative and cultural hub. This one was specifically focused on innovative technology but broadened out in to a more general discussion on building awareness, executing ideas and showing the world the diversity of creative talent in Sarasota Florida.

Attracting The Youth

Throughout the conversation people kept asking how we can attract more young people to the area as a whole. How to not only attract new talent but also how to retain the talent that manages to find it’s way down here. Much of this is in line with what all of Sarasota is talking about these days. Along with overcoming the stigma of a retirement community, attracting and retaining new talent in Sarasota was a big part of this Imagination Conversation.

Imagination-ConversationDriving Innovation

With Innovation as the driving force behind the entire conversation it would make sense that it came up frequently throughout the entire conversation. What does it take to spark innovation? The answer might be different for everyone but as a group we talked about many of the major driving forces behind innovation. With Jeff as the moderator for this portion of the conversation we all started to dive in to what drives innovation.

  • Need: Everyone knows that necessity is the mother of invention so it would make sense that the group thought that innovation was also driven by need.
  • Freedom: In order to innovate you need to free your mind and free yourself from self imposed limitations. There was talk about the resilience of children because they don’t have self imposed restrictions. In order to truly  be innovative you need to free from all restrictions, physical and mental.
  • Confidence/Conviction: It goes without saying that you need both of these things to succeed in any business, let alone creative and innovative businesses. Having the confidence to hear “no” and the conviction to keep moving forward is what separates the winners from the losers in this industry.
  • Passion: If you are not passionate about what you are doing you will be exposed rather quickly. You have to genuinely be passionate about what you are trying to do or you might as well quit now.
  • Insanity: Are you crazy? You are not a true innovator if you have not heard this once or twice before. You have to have some level of insanity to be willing to do what no one else will to see your product or idea become a reality.
  • Permission to Fail: Some people don’t need permission, they just do it. I am not talking about those people. In business and especially when dealing with innovation you want to have the freedom to fail (preferably failing fast and early) and the ability to understand what caused the failure and either change directions or try something new.
  • Pain/Difficulties: Whether acknowledging that pain is caused by or inspires innovation is no stretch of the imagination. You have to be willing to overcome adversity in order to innovate and there are a number of innovations that can be directly attributed to someone’s desire to make something easier and more painless.
  • Resilience: You have to be able to keep on going no matter what. The moment you think you have failed and quit trying is the moment you fail. that doesn’t mean you should continue chasing bad ideas, just that you have to give them a chance to succeed in order to know if they are bad or not.
  • Be Fully Present: You have to be living in the moment and in your idea. You cannot sit on the sidelines and pretend to be involved to truly innovate. You should be almost childlike in your obsession with your idea or innovation.
  • Stubborn: This does not give you the right to be a dick! This just means that you are probably going to hear “no” a lot and you have to be willing to believe in your idea regardless. You should be a sponge and learn as much as possible in order to adapt and grow but you should definitely be a stubborn sponge and question the premise for others’ resistance to your efforts.
  • Perspective: Multiple perspectives are a good thing. Taking a look at a problem from all angles is the only way to ensure that your solution is robust and effective. Assuming that you can see all the angle without actually looking at them all is a little like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube blindfolded.

Reaching Critical Mass

The thought that we had to achieve a critical mass in order to attract and retain young innovators in Sarasota was brought up continually. The consensus was that there has to be momentum behind the creative movement so people don’t feel like they are going out on a limb to chase their dream in an obscure field. We talked about trying to build a technological community, much like a Silicon Valley, where people would come knowing that if the job they were moving here for didn’t work out they might be able to find another in that same industry and not have to move away again. Let’s face it, no one likes moving, let alone long distances with the thought that they are only going for one purpose. People kept bringing up the “Eco-System” that we need to create in order to support the type of growth and change the direction of Sarasota as a city.

There were other things we talked about but the general topics of discussion centered around those major points. I really just laid them out so you could have an understanding for what I am about to tell you. If the truth scares you, you can stop reading here and know that it was a great meeting, people talked about innovation and as far as you know it was awesome. If you want to know how I really felt about it, keep reading.

Just Another Conversation? 

I started out telling you about the different types of people that attend these types of events. Some of them are there to voice an opinion, some to meet new people and others for a free meal, an afternoon off of work and a chance to hear their own voice in a crowd. I do always question the motives and intentions of people at events like this because I understand that there is always a motive. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that everyone has an agenda and reason for doing what they do.

I understand the thought process behind getting creative people together to brainstorm and discuss action items for sparking innovation and changing the direction of Sarasota as a city but when is enough – enough? When is it time to tell the people who like to get together and talk to go do it somewhere else so that the people who are out doing it can do so without the added weight of their ignorant interference.

One of my favorite quotes is “Those who say it cannot be done should stay out the way of those who are doing it”. That is not to say that anyone that was at the conversation is getting in the way, or ignorant but clearly some of them were not aware of everything that is currently taking place in this city or I think the overall direction of the conversation would have been much different.

There were so many times that people asked how we can do all these things and create that culture of innovation and what we had to do to attract and retain young talent and it was all I could do to stop myself from standing up and screaming “WE ARE DOING IT”!

How long have people been talking about driving innovation and sparking creativity. Re-branding the city and making it viable for future generations. How many conversations do we have to have before someone realizes that everything they are talking about is already taking place behind the scenes.

There are a number of innovative and creative companies just inside the walls of the HuB. Every business in this building is taking steps forward towards what everyone else is “talking” about doing. There are a number of companies outside of the HuB who are doing the same thing and it you can’t feel the pent up entrepreneurial frustration that is swallowing this city by now then you are not close enough to it to make a difference.

Imagination-conversation-Sarasota-creativityIt Already Exists

Everything we talked about during this last Imagination Conversation is already happening. Maybe not to the level that everyone would like but nobody knew what Silicon Valley would become while it was being built. There are a number of people positioning themselves politically and commercially to take this city to the next level. There are a number of candidates running for office in the City of Sarasota whose views are in line with creating a vibrant city and sharing it with the world as well as many people on the private sector just waiting for the opportunity to execute their visions for this city.

There are more young professionals getting involved and taking a stand for the change they want to see. We are starting our own businesses, speaking out against the establishment and showing the city that we will be listened to. Think of the reach that is available to us online and through social sharing. I am not talking about Facebook here either. I am talking about real social sharing as in friend to friend. The grass roots kind. The kind that starts a groundswell that will eventually be the momentum that everyone kept talking about at the meeting. It is like being in a tsunami out in the middle of the ocean. You don’t realize the water level rising until you get to land and realize that the little ripple that started on the other side of the ocean has now become a 20 foot wall of water ready to devour everything in its path.

The problem is that people only see what they want to see when it comes to things like this. They are not immersed in the industry, they are not living in the moment and most definitely not living in the present. How then could they ever really know how innovative anything is when they are stuck on the past and wondering who is going to take that first step. Little do they know we started this race long before they even knew there was a race being held.

Why It Matters?

My goal for this article is not to offend anyone who attended the Imagination Conversation or anyone involved with organizing the event. The purpose of the article is to get people to understand that while others are talking about going out and doing something amazing, there are a group of us actually doing it.

It is great to get involved in a conversation about innovation but it is a whole other thing to go out and do something about it. To get involved in the local politics and make sure that the people controlling the direction of the city are listening to the community itself and not a group of people set on crushing creativity and growth in general. To take a moment and seek out others who are pushing the limits of creativity and ingenuity in Sarasota and find ways to support them. To get involved in more than a conversation  to actually act on those conversations and take a step forward in changing the city and quite possibly the world.

It matters because it is happening one way or another. The question is will you be a part of it or will you keep talking about it?

What do you think? Did I get it right? Wrong? Is there a tsunami of creativity coming to a head in Sarasota? Leave it in the comments! 

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