2020 Conference Keynote

Mindset: The Key to Building a Culture of Innovation

CEOs who desire to build or preserve a culture of innovation need to prepare to be uncomfortable, according to John Sweeney, keynote speaker at the annual CEO Nexus conference and retreat. He noted that trusting your brain may lead you astray.

“Don’t trust your brain, your brain will always take you in the direction of being safe,” Sweeney said. “To grow and innovate, you have to learn to be uncomfortable. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable means not letting your brain get in the way. That’s one of the keys to the process of innovation.”

Sweeney owns an executive training and development company serving Fortune 500 companies.

His corporate training practice was born as an offshoot of the Brave New Workshop, America’s longest-running comedy improvisational theater in Minneapolis, MN.

After years of performing and applying the principles of improvisational theater, Sweeney realized that many of the skills used by successful stage performers could also work offstage in business. The BNW Business Workshops were born.

Sweeney’s observations are supported by the academic work of Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., who has written extensively on a groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset.

In her book, “Mindset – The New Psychology of Success,” she outlines how success in school, work, sports, the arts and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. People with a fixed mindset — those who believe that abilities are fixed — are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset – those who believe that abilities can be developed.

Sweeney and the BNW team have effectively applied Dweck’s mindset principles and the skills used at the improv theater to foster innovation at the highest levels of the business sector. The BNW Business Workshop team translates the skills exhibited by top comics into practical strategies for business leaders at workshops, retreats and conferences across the country and in private training for clients such as Aveda, Facebook, Best Buy and Target. The BNW team teaches business leaders the steps to help their teams be more confident, agile, persistent and open to learning – the behavior-based fundamentals of the innovation process.

Sweeney, the author of “The Innovation Mindset” and “Innovation at the Speed of Laughter” said many people operate from fear, whether by whining or criticizing, or one of the other five fear-based behaviors.

He explained how investing just a few minutes a day, leaders can cultivate the five big behaviors needed for true discovery: listen, defer judgment, reframe, declare and jump in.

The problem is that our brains are designed to avoid risk and resist change in an effort to remain safe.

The remedy?

“Practice, practice, practice,” Sweeney told the audience.

It’s not always easy to learn a new skill; in fact, it can be downright uncomfortable. If you want to build a culture of innovation, Sweeney teaches, you need to get comfortable at being uncomfortable.

“CEOs can develop a story for their business, but then become so comfortable telling that same story they grow complacent,” he said. “Whether you’re a business owner, on a sales team or directing a division, you can be lulled into a false sense of security about the story you’ve been telling.”

Sweeney encourages CEOs to consistently practice their messaging, pitch lines and sales talking points and to customize different messages and stories for each audience. Engaging your audience is not just a social media term, but it’s the face-to-face tool used to build relationships and make connections.

If business owners were playing on a sports team, they would think nothing about practicing every day to improve the fundamentals and innovate new plays or new strategies, Sweeney said. Yet few businesses do the same thing when it comes to examining their message and practicing the behaviors critical to innovation.

“How often do you practice your elevator speech?” Sweeney asked, “Can you grab somebody’s attention in a split-second during networking and presentations with the most up-to-date and relevant information about your business.”

To learn more about Sweeney’s workshops visit the Brave New Workshop.

Conference attendees looking to download the presentation material on better storytelling or the Mindset PowerPoint can access a PDF by logging into the Media Archive section of the website.

 – Steve Quello

CEO Nexus services growing, second stage companies. Our professionally facilitated CEO Roundtable Programs of non-competing businesses focus on strategy, operations, leadership and succession. To learn more visit CEO Nexus.

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CEO Nexus 2020 Conference & RetreatMission Inn fountain
CEO Nexus 2020 Conference & RetreatJohn Sweeney
CEO Nexus 2020 Conference & RetreatPhil Hayes
CEO Nexus 2020 Conference & Retreat
CEO Nexus 2020 Conference & Retreat
CEO Nexus 2020 Conference & Retreat

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