Every year Chicago highlights the art of invention and innovation. I’m honored to welcome back Tom Kuczmarski to the show. Tom talks about exciting things going on in the realm of Chicago innovation and student invention. If you’ve had trouble buttering your toast, today’s show might have the solution. At the Chicago Student Invention Convention, one student invention solves a simple breakfast hassle. Great and small, Chicago innovation is making a difference and Tom is helping to lead it.
Chicago’s Invention and Innovation Evangelist
Tom’s enthusiasm for innovation is catching. His career is multifaceted. Senior Lecturer at Northwestern University, author, and President of Kuczmarski Innovation. Tom is dedicated to bringing the art of invention and innovation to life in greater Chicago. Co-founder of the Chicago Innovation Awards, he has cheered on Chicago innovation for seventeen years. Recently, offshoots of the Chicago Innovation Awards have emerged. The Chicago Student Invention Convention and the Woman’s Mentoring Co-Op have been huge successes.
Inspiring Young Minds through Student Invention
The Student Invention Convention challenges young students in the greater Chicago area to invent. Students work with teachers in a ten-week program to create inventions that solve a range of problems. It thrills Tom to see these kids engaged in the art of invention and innovation. The exposure to invention and innovation at an early age unlocks their future potential.
Fostering Woman Entrepreneurship and Innovation
The Woman’s Mentoring Co-Op has nearly doubled every year since its inception. This program involves successful women mentoring women innovators who want to grow their business. It’s a way for women to help each other with the unique challenges for women in business and innovation. Tom’s proud of the strength and power created by this new community of Chicago innovation.
Tom recalls a conversation several years ago with the CEO of a major hotel chain. Tom broached the topic of Airbnb as a potential competitor. The CEO dismissed his concern. In the last five years, Tom’s seen a major shift in the thinking of major corporations. Rather than keeping innovation in-house, corporations are opening up. Major corporations are seeing the need and benefit of partnering with startups. That’s where the Chicago Corporate Start-Up Matchmaking program comes into play. It’s similar to the CableLabs Fiterator program, but on a broader spectrum. The Matchmaking program connects corporations with start-ups whose Chicago innovation can bring value.
What Recognizing Others Reaps
Tom likes to recognize others in their innovation and invention. There is power in creating an environment that values people at all levels. His latest book is co-authored with Susan Smith Kuczmarski. Lifting People Up: The Power of Recognition focuses on encouraging people. He sees this as pivotal for leadership now and the future. In fact, he feels peopleship should replace leadership. Leaders should motivate and value the people within the organization. This is especially critical in innovation, which is a team effort.
Just as Tom likes to award and recognize others, the same returns to him. Tom and Susan have already garnered awards since their book’s May release. They received both the Living Now Awards Silver medal and the Carl Sandburg Award.
Innovation Practices with Big Impact
As innovation consultant, Tom highlights two best practices.
- Understand and address consumer pain points.
- Have a cross functional team.
- The more diverse the better with different perspectives and experience.
Tom has done so much for promoting and encouraging Chicago innovation. The Chicago Innovation Awards recognize top innovators. He is opening up new worlds for students introducing them to the art of invention and innovation. Through his efforts and others, Chicago’s women innovators are building a strong community for success.
Interested in tracking what Tom is doing? Visit Kuczmarski Innovation.
Etsy is a company that exists through passion, that of its vendors and vendor customers. The products offered are often niche, handcrafted items. The customers tend to be as passionate as the vendors.
Five Minutes to New Ideas
Does your product invoke passion? Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas. It will help you assess where your product stands in the hearts of customers.