After a few days of walking the floor at CES, many things start to look alike. That’s because they are. There were dozens of quadcopter drones from different manufacturers. A sea of 4k televisions all with great pictures. And enough virtual reality glasses to make them stop being a novelty.
In fact, at a conference known for introducting “wow” products, what seemed to be missing was true innovation.
But Eureka Park—the startup area of CES—told a different story. There more than 500 companies, many in the Kickstarter phase, demonstrated their wares. The sizzle of the floor presence of much of CES was gone—replaced by simple 10×10 booths. But the content was king. And while many of the products I saw may not make it big, there was real innovation in that space, from robot bartenders (think Kuerig for booze) to headphones designed for sleeping.
There’s a larger lesson to be taken away from this: innovation can come from unexpected places. It’s not always from the top of the market, or top of an organization. That’s why it’s critical that an organization have ways to tap individuals at all levels—not just Board members, but rank and file members as well—to stay innovative. This can be done in formal processes like member surveys, but don’t discount the equivalent of walking the show floor—just spending a few moments calling new members or staff members to chat—as an easy way to get new ideas.