VLI Post: Intellectual Relevance

VLI Post at: VailLeadership.org 

This past week a RoundTable group from Vail met for a regularly scheduled meeting, and the topic of “intellectual relevance” came up.  As a self-selected lifestyle, Vail residents choose a moderately paced way of life to create a daily depth of living that I have not found in other areas. The pace is set by the natural boundaries of nature that protect residents from the physical and mental congestion.  The boundaries though can also create norms that inhibit innovation, growth, and knowledge from global sources.

IMG_5398I was invited to a unique experience outside of Vail this week in Evanston, IL held at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern.  This event called “KIN” references the Kellogg Innovation Network, and it hosts delegates from 21 countries that convene each May for this Global Summit.  The theme for 2015, is “Growth for Good.”  This topic is highly relevant for non-profit leaders, social entrepreneurs, and even multi-nationals who are looking to create sustainable practices that will impact us all.




The knowledge from this event ranges from a Board Member of Finland’s Central Bank, Women Social Entrepreneurs from Afghanistan, the Head of Cloud Platforms for Google, the CEO of Indiegogo, and the former Director of Counterterrorism Finance Programs.  This is just a sample of the over 50 speakers and artists contributing to this intellectual foray.


What KIN has done exceptionally well is to stimulate “community” within the attendees of this conference. The goal isn’t to simply “learn,” but rather to find solutions and connections to advance this learning into practice.  Over dinner the 2nd day, I sat with the former CEO of MTV Films who has followed a passion, and recently started a media firm called We are the Mighty, dedicated to the culture of returning veterans.  The way in which he planned and launched this organization was highly relevant to the Intellectual Renaissance we are developing in Vail, CO.


IMG_5404As I sat listening to a post-program concert at the Music Institute of Chicago, it invigorated my passion to bring this Intellectual mindset to a place where community is already centric.  There is definitely a need to leave your primary place of residence to stay relevant in this highly complex intellectual world, but there is also great opportunity to bring this level of intellect to a place where the boundaries of nature could serve as a campus for global growth that encourages the “human connection.”



Ideas without action


How many times has a friend or contact said to you,

“did you see that cool new product that is everywhere?”

“About 5 years ago I had that exact same idea.”

“I should be a millionaire right now!”

It is so easy to think of things, and with idea-flow being at an all time high through our online channels, ideas themselves may have less value than they once had. In the example above, that one person’s idea ended up having no value due to the lack of action on it.

What I truly enjoyed about my experience recently as a judge of Breckenridge Start Up Weekend is that it was full of people that were mandated to have more than just an idea – by the rules of this competition.

The competition called more the creation of a viable business model to add to your idea. It demanded you think through the team necessary to successfully launch the idea. And finally, it required a working prototype of the product or service.

Since these 6 teams of entrepreneurs form on a Friday evening and present to the judges Sunday evening of the same weekend, the work becomes intense. It forces them to leave “idea-land” and move into product development, market testing, and the monetization of their idea.

The world would be a better place if all those who had “ideas” took them to Start Up Weekend to validate them and to give them a chance. This would finally put an end to the, “I totally thought of that product 5 years ago syndrome.”