By Mary Aviles
Last month, Sandra & I attended the Marketing Research Association’s Corporate Researchers Conference (CRC) in St. Louis. We were thrilled to share the stage with Stephenie Gordon of Schlesinger Associates and Jill Donahue from Nestle Purina North America–two of the most entertaining and supportive colleagues I know! Among the many highlights, I LOVED the Wells Fargo session (a study in how to do authenticity right and capitalize on historic trends), the Hallmark session (she was CHOCK full of practical, ingenuous, affordable nuggets), the Gongos session (loved that it was in Prezi and found his concept of CONSUMAN and the Chief Aggregator function in companies intriguing).
Chasing CRC St. Louis with TEDXDetroit, I spent the whole week learning about fostering innovation–and the timing felt like a significant point of inflection. Undoubtedly, the atmosphere of both conferences was incredibly upbeat and invigorating. In addition to stimulating my intellect, I kept thinking about how elemental individual personal mindset is in achieving organizational goals.
The power of an individual’s mindset was ever present at TEDXDetroit. First, Rita Fields spoke about her experience surviving poverty and she advised us to, “Live with your future selves in mind.” Then, Push Goddess, Sharina Jones, shared her story of overcoming her own personal tragedy by encouraging those around her. She talked about work she’d done–essentially resulting from observational research–to help equip children with wheelchairs so they could get to school in countries where they had none. The incredible epilogue to her talk was when 11th grade student, Alden Dean, followed with his own talk about designing a wheelchair stroller for disabled parents in his high school applied STEM class.
With both organizational and individual impact in mind, I was left wondering: I’m only one person. And, I don’t work in a large organization. As a consultant, often working alone in my home office, what can I do to inspire change?
Two answers surfaced during a walk with a friend.The link between walking and creativity is not new. And, I typically walk with friends–many of whom are professionals who work in different functional roles across several disparate industries. It occurred to me that these walks often involve active discourse, something like the lab or the network Trendwatching suggests here. My walking partner shared that she’d been so encouraged by the story I told her about Wells Fargo’s public relations research that she was looking for a way to apply it in her own organization! I often feel that way at the end of these walks, equipped with something new and immediately applicable, reinforcing the TED mantra that “fresh inputs really do lead to fresh ideas.” And, it’s powerful to feel like I have the ability to make even a little positive impact on someone’s day.
The second answer to what I can do is embedded in the first. I can approach both my professional and personal lives with enthusiasm and genuine appreciation. I keep a quote up in my office to remind me of this:
“It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do…think about the miracles in your own life, and be grateful for them.”
– Lemony Snicket, The Lump of Coal