What do innovators have in common?

A few weeks ago, I got a call from Susan Lee.

You don’t know Susan?

Well, you should.

Susan is the CMO of The Nederlander Organization, the founder of Camp Broadway, the Executive Producer of The Jimmy Awards, one of the engines behind Audience Rewards (Broadway’s only loyalty program), and more.

In other words, she is a super passionate person who has dedicated herself to expanding and building the audience of tomorrow.

So, she called . . . and duh, I answered.

I was honored when Susan told me she was inviting me to participate in the event held yesterday as part of Advertising Week, called The Innovator’s Forum.  The Forum was a group of about 30 marketing “Thought Leaders” in both the profit and non-profit sectors of our industry.  It was sponsored by The Nederlander Organization and The National Corporate Theatre Fund, led by an innovator himself, Exec. Director, Bruce Whitacre.

What happened during this 7-hour marketing-fest?

We discussed RenGen, and multicultural marketing.  We talked new ways to bring brands to the sponsorship table, when they didn’t even know where the table was the year before (check out Long Wharf‘s tactics for ideas).  We talked metrics, and money, and ways to make the consumer feel more like he or she is at the “center of the universe.”

It was an inspiring day, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.

But the most inspiring part of the day wasn’t the specific action item we all walked away with.  The most inspiring part of the day was seeing the faces of the other folks in that room.

What did they all have in common?

There wasn’t a scowl on one of them.

In the ‘free-speech’ wrap-up at the end of the day, a colleague of mine brought up exactly what I was thinking, which was that everyone . . . everyone . . . in that room was an optimist.  This room knew more about the huge challenges facing our industry than most, yet they all still believed there was a way to make things better, and most importantly, that the fight it would take would be worth it.

This forum could have been the biggest bitch fest our industry has ever seen.  And then, it would have been like so many other sessions I’ve been to.

But it wasn’t . . . and that’s when I realized that the “change agents” of the world have to be optimists, otherwise, they would never be motivated to get out of bed in the morning.

And the real innovators, like Susan and Bruce, are the ones that usually never go to bed in the first place.

How do you see the world in which you work?

  • Trevor O'Donnell says:

    Great post, Ken.
    I’ll happily second your endorsement of Susan Lee. She is a Broadway treasure who has been working tirelessly – and, yes, optimistically – to make the industry more successful for many years. There should be a Tony Award for people like Susan and the first one should go to her.
    I’m an optimist because I’ve seen first hand that the untapped audience is massive, and that all we have to do is speak to new audiences in a language they understand and give them the access they need. We’re slow to do this and that can be a drag, but you’ve reminded me how important it is to stay focused on incremental successes.
    Keep up the great work!

  • Having worked with Susan on this project, I second all the great things said about her. But I think it’s really important to acknowledge and support those in the trenches practitioners who are laying the new pipelines. It was a privilege to be part of this event and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
    Thanks, Ken, for spending the time and energy to support this!
    Bruce Whitacre

  • I’m delighted that you share my sense of thrill to experience cultural innovators finding and connecting with each other. You’re right. It was an important event, and I am so glad I can say I was there at the very first one. Here’s hoping Susan and Bruce persist. But then…that’s what they do so well. It’s why they invariably succeed. So what else do innovators have in common in addition to optimism? Tenacity. Glad you were there, Ken.

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