Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chamber Dinner with Erik Wahl

Tonight was the annual meeting for the Hutchinson Kansas Chamber of Commerce and artist Erik Wahl was the speaker. I generally enjoy this meeting because there's an interesting speaker - last year it was Frank McGuire - and this year was particularly fun.

Wahl started his presentation by playing a video of Springsteen singing "Born in the USA." While it was playing on the screens on either side of the stage, he painted a portrait of the Boss.

It was fun to see him do it and watch it come into being. You couldn't tell what it was at first, so it was neat to see it appear.

His presentation was about how we can use creativity to increase business. I was reminded of my ramblings about the "Creative Class" book by Richard Florida. One thing he said that really struck me was, "Inventing the future is not a policy or a procedure."

As you know if you're a long time reader here, I despise policies, rules and procedures. I think of them as ways those to crush innovation whereever it might rear its ugly head.

He is saying what we keep hearing - that we must think creatively to come up with new solutions and innovation. Unfortunately, as he pointed out, we spend about 90% of our time using our logical brain. We're taught to come up with "the" answer, not "an" answer. He said we are capable of so much more than we are conditioned to believe.

He pointed out that people diagnosed with dyslexia are four times more likely to become millionaires. He speculates the reason is that because their brains don't work in a linear fashion, they're able to come up with different ideas because they think in different ways. I find that fascinating.

He suggested studying how kids think about the world - they're unbound. He asked the group initially who could draw and no one offered. He said when he goes to a middle school maybe 10% of kids will say they can but when he goes to a grade school all the kids say they can draw.

He said, "The Art of Vision is the science of slowing down." We all run around talking about how busy we are - it's almost a competition about who's busiest. But, he says it's hard to engage our creative brain if there's never any time for it.

Near the end of his speech he played a video of "God Bless the USA" and drew another picture. This time it was on the side of the room where I was sitting so I had a much better view.

The last view in the video is of the Statue of Liberty, and when he turned the painting right side up, that's what he had painted as well. It was very interesting.

My real take-away was a message he gives his three sons. "Stop trying to be perfect. Start trying to be remarkable."

Isn't that a fabulous message? I think it is.

He stayed around and chatted with people (that's him on the right). I was impressed there was no paint on his white shirt since I never seem to paint anything without also adorning myself.

All in all, an interesting evening.

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