Organizers of Bend’s first Innovation Day hoped to inspire attendees to be innovative in their own lives by exposing them to a cross-section of businesses and not-for-profits.
What new innovation results from the event Tuesday at Oregon State University-Cascades remains to be seen, but attendees said they felt inspired after hearing about the work Central Oregonians are doing in sectors such as transportation technology, housing and cannabis production.
Ann Cook, director of sales at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Bend, said she heard ideas about retaining employees and working with millennials that are applicable to her own industry. She also learned about natural-gas engine technology developed by Onboard Dynamics, which she didn’t know existed.
“That makes me really excited for our future,” Cook said.
The event drew 170 attendees, who broke into small groups for speed-dating style conversations about 15 different industries or topics. The conversations were facilitated by local businesses and not-for-profit organizations deemed innovative by the event’s organizers.
Innovation Day was organized by Opportunity Knocks, a not-for-profit business mentoring organization, and was conceived by Preston Callicott, CEO of the software consulting firm Five Talent and an Opportunity Knocks board member, executive director Aly Waibel said. “So this is his brainchild, and we all just picked it up and ran with it,” she said.
Innovation Day ties into Opportunity Knocks’ mission, which is to promote collaborative growth through meaningful connections, Waibel said.
Innovation Day was also supported by the Bend Chamber of Commerce, Technology Association of Oregon and OSU-Cascades, which donated space in its new dining hall on Chandler Avenue, Waibel said.
Callicott, who facilitated discussions on creating an “innovation district” in Bend, said he had doubts about creating a day-long event. “Eight hours is a long time to ask people to brainstorm innovation,” he said. “Everyone seems to be totally psyched. They’re hanging in.”
Matt Smith, an entrepreneur who is building an adventure-planning app, said he enjoyed taking a break from his work on a software startup to hear about challenges in unfamiliar areas, like city planning and the cannabis industry.
“Sometimes just bridging out into other peoples’ problems helps you look at the world a little differently and solve your own problems,” he said.
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