Ideal Business Design – The Innovation Garage


Ten Years of Faith, Learning, and Gratitude

I’m runnin’ down a dream. That never would come to me. Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads. Runnin’ down a dream.

– Tom Petty

August 30th, 2022, represents a landmark milestone for The Innovation Garage. Ten years in business. Ten years since stepping out into the unknown and starting something.

In contemplating what to write about for the tenth anniversary, this article is written with a specific intent—sharing what we are learning and answering some FAQs about the journey. Many attendees have been asking these questions in client sessions, large groups, and individual discussions. One of the best ways to provide the answers is to write about them.

As a long-form reflection, this article also represents a celebration of effort. We share outcomes of the elements in our ideal design and what we continue to learn each day.

Shared later in this article series, you will find a top-ten list that is pressure tested in the real world, even after ten years in business. The Innovation Garage assembled this “top 10” learning list based on thousands of conversations—and hundreds of cups of coffee. Advice from close, trusted colleagues you might not know. As well as wise sages and influencers that you may have heard of at some point. In capturing this insight here, it might be that you have heard it all before. We are hopeful you will pick up some new context and insights that will be helpful.

We share these learnings, backstories, and what we consider as True North Principles. When designing your ideal adventure, use the lessons learned as pin drops to your roadmap of very own Hero’s Journey. Consider this a helpful traveler’s guide for your own experience. If you are looking for encouragement in finally taking that “big leap of Faith” for yourself, use these learnings as fuel. 

As we now pass this ten-year “valley of death,” it is valuable to look back for a bit. With a business model understood yet continuously evolving, it’s an excellent time to reflect and capture the immense learnings and experiences from the last ten years.

What factors led up to The Innovation Garage’s ideal design?

A few years before our founding in 2012, after much personal reflection, it was realized that, very deep down, a self-disruption was required. A moment of complete clarity can manifest if you spend time thinking and working backward from where you are. Then visualizing where you want to be. If you picture yourself much older than you are today and reflect on your life, you can imagine the regrets you could have. This working backward method provides the fuel to be present in the moment and to be in touch with want you don’t want to miss out on in your life.

During that process, it became increasingly clear that exploring opportunities with others and seeking different people to connect with and collaborate with was essential, at least on a professional level. It’s a feeling of knowing something has to change, although you’re not exactly sure what needs to change. 

During these times, an idealized redesign is an excellent method to apply to your work and daily life. It uses the burning platform concept on what you do. One of the best methods to reinvent and recreate is to know when you should set your platform on fire to start something new.

A necessary part of this mindset is thinking it’s always better to lead, design, and build opportunities with others rather than wait on others. Or, in the worst-case scenario, if you are working as a team member in an organization, having that organization do it to you. A realization that if you actively push your boat away from traditional employment and the falsely advertised security of the corporate shore, it might be the more secure path. 

Even today, over the last few years, with the world doing what it is, a new adventure is always a good idea. We need to continue crafting and re-creating uncharted heroes’ journeys. Redesigning the journey every few years helps to keep life exciting. It is also essential to build up your confidence that you truly are on a more secure and rewarding path. 

As with anything new, there is never a “good” or “right” time to start. It is essential to accept this as a reality and eventually get on with it. Starting a business at any time is fraught with peril and unknowns. And, if being truly honest, you are always concerned if it will work out. 

It is pushing past the fear and trusting in Faith to give it a go that provides fuel for the adventure. Give it a try and see what might happen—seeing what learning will occur along the way. Always keeping a mindset to do your best and be grateful for whatever happens.

It is also necessary for the experiences to be authentic- Analog and not digital. Analog means that all the senses experience and feel it. All of it. The good and the bad. Such pursuits will deliver excitement, joy, frustration, and potential disappointment.

Take pencil and paper in hand and sketch your vision of what delivering value to others could look like, and be very intentional in the redesign.

Once the concept is in place, the next step may be considering a business name. The Innovation Garage’s evolution as a business name and entity was organic and unscripted. See this link to read more about our founding story.

Once establishing the name, you might question if the name has any value or uniqueness. So to test our name out, we did what designers do. 

We asked some “what if” questions. We designed a low-risk experiment to test a theory and look to prove out a hypothesis.

  • Step 1: What if we print up some T-shirts with the name?
  • Step 2: What if we walk around someplace with many people and get feedback?
  • Step 3: What if the results are promising?

With a $30 investment in three t-shirts, we chose Makerfaire 2012 at The Henry Ford for the test.

It’s a classic example of a demo day and the power of a simple and low-cost prototype. From that one-day event, many folks offered feedback about the name:

What’s The Innovation Garage?

That’s a cool name. 

I like that name. What do you do there? 

Great Name. Are you hiring?

Cool shirt. Where can I get one?

Can I take off this shirt now? I’m tired of people asking me about The Innovation Garage. 

Theory and hypothesis confirmed. Now what?

Up next, look to make it official. That means registering the newly tested entity name with the Secretary of State as a formal business.

As mentioned earlier, building a business should be about having extraordinary analog experiences. Sending the paperwork in the mail wouldn’t do. Making the drive and having the experience is recommended as part of the plan.

So, on a cloudless blue sky day in August of 2012, driving the two hours to the offices of the Secretary of State and officially filed the business name. Entering the multi-story office building near the States capitol, I took a number and placed the paperwork in the window. After about twenty minutes, the clerk called out The Innovation Garage. Returning to the window, the clerk asked a few questions and confirmations and proceeded to stamp the paperwork officially. A loud “ca-chunk” echoed in the tiled marble room, making the name and entity official. Approved paperwork and a legit legal entity handed back. 

Above all, ensure that your design creates as many unique analog experiences as possible. 

In our next post, we will discuss the elements necessary in designing a business for the long haul.

Most creatives like musicians, entertainers, designers, educators, and yes, consultants, are, in their way, striving to design and provide a great user experience. And by participating in the experience, the designer is hopeful that the user truly learns and gains a meaningful outcome. We strive to do the same each day. 

Our mission is to Make Things, Make Things Better, and Teach Others.® We will keep on this path of Faith, Learning, and Gratitude and see where it will take us. 

And, as Tom Petty encourages, keep running down a dream. 

At The Innovation Garage®

We help organizations grow. Providing education, tools, technology, and expert consulting in change management for strategy, innovation, and supply chain. Guiding leaders from startups to the Global Fortune 500 to intentionally self-disrupt their offerings and organizations. Delivering world-class education, tools, and technology on how to craft business operating systems focused on long-term profitable growth. 

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Article Reference Statistics

Innovation, Jon Washington, Leadership, mindset, Strategy, The Innovation Garage
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