In planning my day at the Omaha YP Summit on Wednesday, I considered what I hoped myself and other attendees could gain from the event. As I reflected, Jon Gertner’s True Innovation article on Bell Labs came to mind. Gertner’s piece elegantly articulated the fundamental ingredients for genuine innovation, by which he means a development that provides a “long-lasting platform for society’s wealth and well-being.” In essence, the ingredients were:

  • Architectural, blending physical and communication space for ideation and implementation, for solitary thought and random interaction.
  • Autonomy and freedom, such that the mechanisms of innovation were not mandated nor were activities directed.
  • Time, because ideas are not responsive to clocks. Indeed, I would add that distraction and time deliberately spent away from the issue often provide the best route to an idea.
  • Community, in the sense of multidisciplinary collaborators.

This blend may not be the only formula for innovation, but as I have suggested elsewhere in these pages, they are important. Moreover, in an era when social groups, communities and businesses are being fed a diet of advice to, as Gertner points out, “’move fast and break things,’ as Facebook is apparently doing, or to constantly pursue ‘a gospel of speed’ (as Google has described its philosophy),” we are denying ourselves that most potent ingredient of all: Conversation.

So my hope for the YP Summit is that we all find the space we need to engage in meaningful conversation, and to continue to embrace that in every aspect of our growth and development.