Monday, February 22, 2010

Meet Different – Exploiting Chaos with Disruptive Innovation!

Well, the MPI (Meeting Professionals International) 2010 Meet Different Conference kicked off in great style on Sunday morning, with it’s opening General Session, featuring Jeremy Gutsche, Innovation expert & author of the popular book, “Exploiting Chaos.” For context, MPI’s event is taking place in Cancun, Mexico through Tuesday.  Unfortunately I am not attending the event face2face, but I am participating as a virtual attendee.

By most accounts MPI really fired up their audience with this first session.  From the moment Jeremy Gutsche hit the stage his energy was both engaging and entertaining.  By the way, the webcast video was of very good quality, and the audio feed outstanding.  There were some logistical issues with the Powerpoint presentation and other visual aids utilized, but that discussion is for another blog article.

The central theme, or thesis (as he described) behind Jeremy’s message is “by leveraging viral trends and methodical innovation you can generate ideas, harness creativity and ultimately exploit chaos.”

Gutsche’s message speaks to the power of innovation as a response to crisis.  Using a mix of humor and wit, he asserts that only by stepping out of our comfort zones and experimenting can we have our hand on the pulse of innovation.  The path to success is often wrought with challenges, and by trying new things we can navigate our way from failure to success. Its about identifying new opportunities.

One of the more nebulous comments made by Jeremy was his opinion that culture trumps strategy in its importance for business results.  It seems to me both play a critical role in innovation.  In my minds eye, there is synergy between culture & strategy… but strategy not grounded in culture would be agnostic.

On the subject of innovation Jeremy cites the following as integral to its process:

  • Maintain an open mind — There is no point in innovation if you think you know everything… Keep yourself open to the complete possibility of what could be!
  • Look outside your realm for cool things/trends  that could spark innovation — Cool is unique, cutting edge and viral.
  • A methodical approach to managing inspiration unleashes ideas

“We know about trends but why don’t we do something about them.  You know about social media but why aren’t you leading in it yet?” — Jeremy Gutsche

Indeed, crisis does create opportunity.  During economic recession, consumers still buy things, they just change the definition of what they need.  They start to evaluate what is important … competitors try new things and tactics to draw business.  Naturally this scenario plays into the events business.

Think about how the influence of online education has impacted organizations like MPI, PCMA or ASAE over the past couple of years.  The onset of online education was at least at some level brought on by the disruptive influences of a tough economy and ensuing innovation.

Continuing the discussion Jeremy Gutsche discussed his thoughts on how to Exploit chaos.  ” Companies need to embrace change and create a culture of revolution.”

Here are some factors that are influential:

  • Perspective – Identify what it is your organization is trying to do?
    • What is your mantra?
    • What do your events look like?
  • Avoid Intentional destruction — this is the “black hole” your organization does not want to fall into.
    • Don’t get so caught up in what your organization does well that you overlook an opportunity to take things to a higher level
    • Smith Corona was cited an example as they got caught up in being the best typewriter company in the world, and became obsolete as a result!
  • Failure — is the beginning of re-invention … a decent proportion of your creations must fail.
    • You Must find a “hill of opportunity, through failure” …
    • Failure is experimentation — try something new you don’t already do.
    • Win like you are used to and fail like you enjoy it.
  • Customer Obsession
    • Make a cultural connection, don’t speak to a person, speak with them, interact with them… that is empowering.
    • Intimately understand your customers — Seek to gain insight into their needs
    • You need to observe your customers in their zone (world).  Watch for patterns and utilize that information to tailor your products and services.
    • Become completely irresistible to a specific group of people (targeted) and they become your evangelists

Closing out this fantastic session Jeremy shared his insights regarding “infectious marketing.”

There are three components to this process:

  • viral creation
    • A product or service is so good that people talk about it immediately.
    • create something that connects  with people and the story will travel faster than ever before.
  • viral medium– Messaging is key to creating a viral effect
    • portray your product or service as average and that is all it will ever be.
    • Very careful word choice makes a big difference in viral and WOM marketing
  • well packaged story
    • What are seven words or less that define what your organization does? This will align your organization’s focus
    • Relentlessly obsess about your story!!! consistent answer becomes your organization’s mantra.

In summary, this was an amazing Opening Keynote Session, one of the best I have experienced in a long, long time.  Congratulations to the MPI team for a terrific job in developing this program.  Also, many thanks to MPI staff for their online customer service.  It  has been impeccable!

Stay tuned for more blog posts as this excellent conference unfolds!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Theresa February 22, 2010 at 10:27 am

Thanks Mike! Constructive feedback and insight from virtual attendees is just as important to us as our onsite guests. We appreciate you spreading the word about these exciting insights Jeremy provided at MeetDifferent.


Michael M McCurry CMP February 22, 2010 at 10:36 am


My pleasure… you and your team have done an outstanding job of embracing the virtual attendees. I am very impressed with the attention you have given to that segment of your attendee base.

I will be posting more articles today and tomorrow. Stay tuned!




Kevin Richardson February 22, 2010 at 11:00 pm


Thank you for (1) providing a great summation of the opening keynote for those of us who could not attend and (2) for highlighting the importance of culture and the maniacal focus on the customer.

All companies say that their customers rule but now more than ever, given the power that customers have we need cultures that celebrate and reward a raving thunder lizard evangelist passion for the customer. We talk today about CRM (customer relationship management) but it’s the companies that move those letters around to CMR (customer managed relationships) that are and will continue to win.

That type of culture will drive great strategy which will yield success.

Looking forward to continuing to follow your posts throughout this event Mike. Thank you for your efforts and commitment.


Michael M McCurry CMP February 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm

@Kevin Richardson,

I like the CMR reference much better than CRM… to me this symbolizes the difference between old school and new school.

MPI really did a terrific job overall with their conference, especially with this opening session which to me was off the charts.

I also really appreciate the personalized customer service they have provided to VAP attendees, it was very obvious they care and want to deliver to this important new breed of attendee!

I always love your comments Kevin, because they are filled with insight and passion for our industry.. thanks so much for contributing!




Kevin Richardson February 23, 2010 at 9:20 pm

@Michael M McCurry CMP,

CMR is new school thinking and will be a differentiator moving forward. Living CMR is all about accepting, embracing and building business around the needs of the customer. While many are all about customer satisfaction I maintain there’s a huge difference between “customer satisfaction” and a customer centrality.

As Tom Peters has quoted in his book Re-imagine: “We want to create raving thunder lizard evangelists for our brands.”

Here’s to the journey as we seek raving thunder lizard evangelists.


Michael M McCurry CMP February 23, 2010 at 9:24 pm

@Kevin Richardson,

I like that a world full of raving Lizard kings :) … ok I admit it I am a Jim Morrison fan.

Cheers to the journey, my friend !




Dave Lutz February 24, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Mike, this post is timely! Jeff Hurt and I are in the final stages of penning an article for Convene for April on disruptive innovation. You’ll have to wait for our spin, but it will compliment this post and session well. I guess it goes to show that our industry is definitely being disrupted.


Michael M McCurry CMP February 27, 2010 at 9:35 am

@Dave Lutz,

Thanks Dave, as always I look forward to the insights of the Blues Brothers of Blogging !!




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