Listening to Howard Tullman talk is like mining for gold in a darkened Fort Knox; you have no idea where you are, but there are nuggets everywhere.
Last week, Tullman, the CEO of 1871, was dishing these nuggets out freely at his panel for U Chicago's Innovation Week. The panel, "You Don't Want to Be at the Airport When Your Ship Comes In," was free-flowing, with anecdotes and topics ranging from game-changing wearables to the latest digital trends, before ending with his '7 Rules of Innovation.'
Tullman, who INC named the "most accomplished, best connected entrepreneur you've never heard of," established his authority earlier on in the discussion. On top of this numerous credentials across a variety of categories - which were represented in several "holy shit, you did that, too" slides - he also referred to Robert DeNiro as "Bob" and called Steve Jobs "my dear friend." So, yea, he had everyone's ear.
Though the '7 Rules' were the climax of the panel, a few 'Warm Up' nuggets included:
- The emergence of 'Smart Reach,' the ability to engage with  audiences though relevant content at the right time, at the right place. Volume isn't as important as timing.
- The tech being developed around 'Nudge Commerce,' the term being used to describe how sellers get buyers off the fence. Amazon, for example, can tell if you've hovered over a shopping cart for an extended amount of time and then send you discounts and promotions to push you over the edge.
- The importance of innovation over invention. Invention is risky, costly, and time consuming. With innovation, you're taking pre-existing success and making it better, more efficient.
But regardless of how insightful these nuggets were, the '7 Rules' were the gold bricks of the panel. Howard Tullman's '7 Rules of Innovation' are:
Action shot. It was actually more crowded. I just sat in the back corner alone, like a boss.
1. Focus: "You won't be great at anything if you stretch yourself a mile wide and an inch deep." Pick one thing and be great at it. "You need to be a great editor."
2. Start Now & Get Better: If you have an idea - or if there's a problem to solve - just get started. "Waiting doesn't get you to better answers." To reinforce this point, Tullman mentioned how Casio will push a new product to market every 30 days, even if there's a new feature that's right around the corner. "Great artists ship."
3. Feasibility Will Compromise You Soon Enough: Don't listen to people who say that what you're attempting to do cannot be done. "If you're going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance."
4. Don't Try to Get to Heaven in a Heartbeat: In order to innovate, you need to set realistic milestones. "Nothing happens overnight." Tullman was adamant about being patient with the process of innovation.
5. Make Cheap Mistakes and Make Them OK: Tullman used the ol' Jordan quote, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take," and hammered home the importance of "in-game amnesia." Making mistakes, as long as they're addressed, is part of progress. "It's not about being right all of the time; it's about winning." And mistakes will help you win. Tullman also stressed the difference between a mistake and a problem. Mistakes are good. But if the same one keeps happening over and over again, it's not a mistake, it's a problem.
6. Fail Smart and Fail Fast: It felt like if Tullman wanted anything to stick from the panel, it was this point - young entrepreneurs cannot be afraid to fail. "If it's worth trying, it's worth failing."
7. Protect Your Pioneers: Create an environment that protects the people that were there from the beginning. "Let your people do their jobs."
As the panel came to a conclusion, it seemed clear that the audience was armed with questions and that we were in for a pretty long Q&A. But Tullman fielded one question and then ended the panel; he probably needed to go innovate somewhere.