Filed under: arts and creativity, Charlotte, community services, innovation | Tags: Charlotte, enventys, innovation, levine museum, startup weekend, UNCC
Posts have been less frequent than intended as of late, but I wanted to post two events that are happening here in May.
The first is Charlotte Startup Weekend over at Enventys Friday the 14th through Sunday the 16th. If you’re looking for an excuse to stop talking about your great business idea and actually start doing something about it, then this is for you. Billed as a “un-conference,much in the same vein as Barcamp, this partners entrepreneur types with developers in teams to get pitches up and running.
Also affiliated with UNCC is a panel event on May 19th at the Levine Museum called “Charlotte’s Creative Class: How Innovation Can Lead the Queen City Beyond the Recession.” Yet another discussion about this town’s identity post-financial crisis, but this time through the lens of Charlotte’s creative class.
Filed under: arts and creativity, Charlotte, innovation, Uncategorized | Tags: amelie's bakery, area 15, brainstorming, Charlotte, creativity, ideation, imaginon, innovation, magellan idea center, the light factory, wachovia
Innovation experts stress the value of conducting ideation sessions offsite, where participants focus on the task at hand and are removed from their day-to-day distractions. Brainstorming in a unfamiliar, yet relaxed environment really gets those alpha brain waves moving.
The economy undoubtedly presents a cost challenge, and it may seem like a luxury to whisk away your most productive employees for a day. However, I’ve seen dramatic differences in idea quality when teams downgrade to ideating in an internal conference room. In light of that, I suggest a few affordable creative spaces in Charlotte, all of which cost far less than a boring hotel ballroom and worth the investment for results.
The Best Buy: Magellan Idea Center
Located just outside Uptown in the Atherton Lofts, this space was designed with ideation in mind. (They also use it for focus groups and other types of market research.) It’s a huge space packed with creative stimuli (magazines, toys, and local art) and has smaller spaces ideal for breakout exercises. Lots of amenities are included, like coffee, snacks and tech equipment.
The Local: Imaginon
One of the benefits of having a session in a children’s museum is that it encourages your participants to think like kids again. Frank Blair of PLCMC suggests choosing one of the round rooms, adjacent to the courtyard, to have a session outdoors. Note that meetings technically have to be open to the public, so it may not be ideal for super-secret topics, but would be a nice place for brainstorming with potential customers.
Runner up “public” space: The Green at Wachovia
The Extra Sensory Experience: Amelie’s French Bakery
Though I haven’t had a workshop here myself, I imagine it would be a lovely place to host one, especially with the tasty treats so close by. And it would be a neat option for teams who are most creative during non-business hours, since they’re open 24/7.
Runners-up: The galleries at the Light Factory or the studios at Area 15 in NoDa (site of local meetups and barcamps.)
I’d love to hear about spaces that other folks in the area have tried. Post them in the comments!
Filed under: branding, Charlotte, community services, consumer behavior, financial services | Tags: branding, charity, Charlotte, NPR marketplace, toys for tots, wachovia
I was walking down Tryon the other day and I noticed that a Wachovia branch was promoting their holiday gift cards and its program with Toys for Tots. So, for every card you buy, Wachovia donates $1 to the charity. (Full disclosure: I used to work for the bank, but I didn’t know anything about this program, so I’m speaking purely as a consumer here.)
I’ve seen (and participated in) lots of local events tied with toy donations within the last week (here, here, and here.) It made me stop to think about why these toy donation tie-ins are so appealing to everyone (aside from the assumption that the Marines do a bang-up job of getting their mission out.) Here’s a few reasons:
- The concept is dead-simple. Bring a toy, get in for free or at a discount. Make a purchase, a portion goes to charity.
- Joy is involved. Taking 30 minutes to run out and pick up a toy for a child sure beats doing laundry. Not to mention the joy in store for the recipient.
- Your dollars get more value. This NPR Marketplace story captures this concept well. In tight economic times, it’s hard to justify making a purchase that seems unnecessary or making a straight donation at a register. By doing it this way, then the money does double duty.
A lil’ something for the tots, and a lil’ something for me. And good karma for the sponsoring brand. Everyone wins.
(Given that this is a seasonal post, no promises that the event links will work forever.)
Filed under: Charlotte, community services, empathy, Uncategorized | Tags: austin stonestreet, Charlotte, entrepreneurship, h2 workforce, hiring for small business, james gray
As if small business managers didn’t have enough on their plates, local Charlotte firm H2 Workforce built a solution around a common pain in the hiring process.
After selling their previous company, WorkWireless, to its next biggest competitor, serial entrepreneurs James Gray and Austin Stonestreet translated their expertise from running their own business into a springboard for a new one. H2 Workforce offers a lifeline to hiring managers in small businesses (who don’t have the luxury of a dedicated HR department,) by bundling a menu of services to screen potential candidates through drug screens, background checks, and even skills tests.
Sure, it’s not rocket science, but Gray understands how a simple solution like this can save customers tons of time. He’s felt the challenge of finding the right candidates for a sales force himself. He shared a story about a hiring mistake he made after overlooking some basic skills (I’ll have to leave the details out to protect the innocent!)
What’s next for them? They want to tackle the pains in the rest of the process: managing documents and interview feedback amongst a distributed team. Stay tuned for more innovations in their arsenal.
Filed under: Charlotte, community services, empathy, science and technology, Uncategorized | Tags: agastha, Charlotte, electronic medical records, health care, Mohan Korrapati
Last month, I connected with Mohan Korrapati of Charlotte-based Agastha to learn more about his quest to lead the field of electronic medical records. The health care debate brought renewed focus on the category, but Agastha’s been improving their product for over 7 years, implementing their software in Charlotte practices and elsewhere.
5 minutes into a conversation with him, you realize that Korrapati has experienced the pains that patients face. He just wants to simplify the complexities that make existing record systems annoying and inefficient. At practices who use an Agastha solution, you probably don’t have to fill out forms over and over, or maybe you’ll get a message to let you know that an appointment is coming up. And for the staff, the system might alert them if a patient has missed a critical appointment or has been prescribed a dangerous combination of medicines.
Where other major companies like Microsoft or Cisco have just been talking about electronic health records for years, Agastha credits their fast progress to its agility and a feedback loop from providers. They seem to have built a culture of frequent prototyping and learning often found in truly innovative teams.
Filed under: Charlotte, consumer behavior, delighters, empathy, information design, Uncategorized | Tags: airport, Charlotte, delighters, familiar, gps, mental model, NY Times, parking, parking lots
I saw this lovely sign over in the Green Parking lot in Uptown Charlotte the other day and I couldn’t help but smile. It was an unexpected yet ever-so-helpful delighter designed to help me remember where I parked.
Sometimes I’ll type a quick note in my phone to remind me where the car is. Or, in especially confusing lots like the Long Term lots at the airport, I’ll even GPS-tag the location. But when you’re in a hurry, nothing beats a simple picture with a caption, “It takes two to tango” to burn the image in my head.
Besides helping me find my car, this sign also reminded me of two NY Times articles I had seen recently:
- I find myself thinking often about how to make it easier for people to try a new product or service, and sometimes it’s appropriate to bring in something familiar to help transition folks from an older mental model into a new one.
- Of course, in the spirit of planning for unintended consequences, an article about the sad possibility of losing your navigational prowess when of adapting a common technology like GPS into one’s everyday life.