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A Matter of Looking Up Innovation

Feb 27, 2019

A few years ago, when I was headed to my inaugural coaching event with the fun-loving folks at SxSW at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, I confessed to a good friend that I was anxious about what to expect from the innovators as well as myself.

The friend simply said:

“Look up.”

I immediately thought this was a ‘Trick Ben’ prank to get me to walk around Las Vegas staring at the ceiling. Then my friend added:

“When you are walking in, or standing in line at the front desk… LOOK UP”

Weeks later when I arrived at the Bellagio amid the very real (usual Vegas) distraction — I remembered my friend’s advice and…

I looked up.

With a simple tip of my head I was in another world. The Bellagio lobby’s ceiling is the home of Dale Chihuly’s magnificent Fiori di Como, and gazing up at it, I was immediately transformed into a scuba diver — swimming below the water lilies, miles away from any thoughts of checking in, producing a photo ID and a credit card or stressing about whether I had prepped enough for the upcoming sessions.

Over the course of the next couple of days, whenever I passed through the lobby I employed this new lesson in shifting perspective. On one trip, I tried “Look LEFT”, and I was surprised to find the stable mermaid or swimming horse.

The next day I tried “Look RIGHT.”  This time I saw a plated zoo in the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. The gallery featured a number of Picasso’s one line animals.

Eventually, I realized another important lesson in Looking for Innovation was TIMING. I passed by the gallery when it was closed, so I was only able to make out a glimpse of the drawings on a few plates in the gift shop. My schedule did not allow time for me to return when the gallery was open. Even so, the effortless appearance of his one-line zoo made a lasting impression. I have gone back to those drawings I saw on plates as a source of inspiration.

Looking back on my time at the Bellagio, I can see a number of simple lessons for innovators and entrepreneurs.

1. LOOK UP. LOOK LEFT. LOOK RIGHT

In our professional lives, we tend to focus on the task at hand and not the things around us. But sometimes the more we focus, the less we see. When that happens, take a beat and turn your attention to what’s around you. It can be something large or something small. Then redirect your thoughts back to the task at hand and see if things look different. I’ve found they usually do, and I can find the inspiration I need.

2. MAKE TIME

Take the time to adjust your perspective. Inspiration may be closer than you think. While still standing in line at the Bellagio, the small step of looking up or looking left or looking right led me to scuba diving with lily pads, swimming laps with a horse or visit with animals from a magical zoo.

3. DON’T WAIT

Facing the locked door at the gallery, I missed out on being eye to brushstroke with one of my favorite artists. That disappointment pales in comparison to being stuck in a perspective that locks you out in your innovation endeavor. You may find yourself unable to open the “locked door” that leads to a first investor, critical assistance with a milestone or key partnership opportunity. Like me, outside the locked door, peering through the glass — you will only see a glimpse of the opportunity that lies at a distance and just out of your reach.

Here’s to you and your success in whatever part of the innovation and entrepreneurship playground you find yourself. I hope to find you looking up, looking left and looking right… regularly.

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