Area Leaders “Get Crazy” at 1st Annual Innovation Summit

Staff Report From Valdosta CEO

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Tuesday was a unique opportunity for area business leaders to envision a more innovative future for themselves and their organizations. The event was the 1st Annual Innovation Summit, sponsored by the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber, Turner Center for the Arts, and the Rainwater Conference Center. 

The program was created and facilitated by area entrepreneur David Peterson of i7strategies.  Attendees heard from a diverse group of speakers on a common theme: How to achieve transformational growth through innovation.

Cheryl Oliver, executive director of the Turner Center for the Arts said, “To foster an environment of innovation means more than not getting left behind in this amazingly face-paced world. It means becoming a pace-setter; that’s vital in the arts/culture world and in the business world. The Turner Center for the Arts has a foothold in both of those worlds, so it’s imperative that we learn all we can about innovation, and make it not only a practice but an innate way of promoting art and doing business. The Chamber’s Innovation Summit 2017 took our thinking to a higher level, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to participate.”

With seven local and national speakers on the program, each giving small micro presentations, attendees all agreed that the format of the program and the value of the content far exceeded their expectations.  “I had no pre-conceived notion of what the program would be but was interested in pursuing innovative ideas for our organization,” said Tim Jones, president of Citizens Community Bank.  “I was really blown away with the amount of ideas that were presented and the high quality of the presenters.  I look forward to bringing more of my senior staff when this event is held again.”

The first half of the program focused on the need for innovative thinking and how it will impact markets, products and customers.  Nationally recognized speakers Lee Wetherington and Peterson challenged attendees to think about the impact of innovation and to consider the broader ecosystem of partners that can radically expand opportunities.  

Speakers Estel Powell and Kevin Moland showed attendees how to fully utilize social media and emerging payments to achieve transformational growth. Led by speakers Jerry Federico and Cachet Prescott, the second half of the program focused on how we communicate from the top down and the importance of recruiting and retaining the best and brightest future leaders.  TedTalk veteran Dr. Kent Gustavson exhorted the leaders to “Get Crazy” and not to let traditional thinking guide their future. Peterson who presented his version of Metacognition, literally “thinking about how we think,” closed out the half-day program.

With a diverse group of area leaders from industry, finance, community services and education in attendance, the sponsoring partners are considering hosting another Innovation Summit in the fall and if there is sufficient support from the community, continuing hosting it on an annual basis. 

“There is so much opportunity for innovation in South Georgia,” said Chamber vice president Betty Morgan.  “Our support of programs like the Innovation Summit perfectly fits our mission and also augments local efforts underway such as the entrepreneurial incubator that is now in formation. We cannot wait for the next Innovation Summit and filling up the main Rainwater hall with area leaders seeking out innovative thinking and specific ideas that can be implemented in businesses right here in South Georgia.”

Tim Riddle, executive director of Rainwater Conference Center, shared  "I found great value in obtaining a better understanding of thought processes, especially with regard to group dynamics and how we all must absolutely understand how predispositions / biases can ”blind" us to possible avenues of success.  We must overcome our blind spots to take a "road less traveled" in our mind."