In Between and Next

In Between and Next

A focused approach to seeing the future offers hope for the work ahead.

I just returned from the EY Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Springs—the Ferrari of business conferences (more on that reference). The annual conference brings together business leaders, innovators, and investors and culminates with the national Entrepreneur of the Year awards. It’s the sort of event where the person next to you in the buffet line is quite likely working on a cure for a rare genetic disease or developing facial recognition software that will make it possible for retailers to not only know your name and age but assess your brand preferences and mood. 

This heady space can be incredibly energizing while also making even a successful CEO feel like an underachiever. Ernst & Young flew in Late Night host Seth Meyers to emcee its awards ceremony and as the comedian joked on stage: “These entrepreneurs share how they started with nothing and are now grossing $50 million. What I want to know is what happened in between?” 

Meyers really should have joined me at one of the forum’s afternoon workshops on “Mapping the Future” led by Pascal Finette, co-founder and CEO of the boutique advisory firm be radical where he helps clients “unlock their full leadership potential.” He led us through an exercise designed to help people think more deeply about the dynamics of disruption. We were told to pick a current issue or trend. My table chose the labor shortage. We made a list of ramifications, starting with the obvious, like more demand for automation. Then Finette challenged us to go beyond the initial cause and effect and examine the implications of the implications. More technology liberates workers and leads to flexibility, an opportunity to pursue new skills. We quickly got to a place of dreaming up “semester abroad” type training programs geared toward professionals. Not the most earth shattering implication, but the exercise of methodically peering into the future made identifying those $50 million ideas seem more tangible.

Of course, looking ahead can also veer into dark places: inflation, higher taxes, less human connection. But at a conference of high-achieving serial entrepreneurs, challenges become opportunities. 

Pascal Finette, co-founder and CEO of be radical, challenged us to go beyond the initial cause and effect and examine the implications of the implications.

I asked Entrepreneur of the Year regional winner Tyler Lorenzen, CEO of Minneapolis-based pea protein producer Puris, for his biggest takeaway from the Strategic Growth Forum. “Simply the rate of change the future will bring,” Lorenzen says. “So many brilliant people focused on shaping the way humans share this planet.”

Agreed. As much as I was inspired by many of the formal sessions and speeches, the in between times at the conference proved even more valuable: sitting next to a stranger at lunch and discovering shared connections, interests, needs, and opportunities. Or, in the case of Kristen Denzer, founder and CEO of Minneapolis-based Spanish immersion day care Tierra Encantada, debating cats vs. dogs. (We agreed to disagree, but the informal exchange instantly gave us a memorable point of connection). “My biggest conference takeaway is how important it is to build your network,” Denzer says. “I met several other CEOs from Minnesota who are doing amazing things, and while the companies are vastly different, we are all dealing with similar things. That network helps you to problem solve and get advice from those who have lived it.” In this issue, we asked other local leaders to share the events they look forward to attending in person again, and what makes them impactful (Meetings and Events).

There are challenges ahead. Executive editor Adam Platt checked in with epidemiologist Mike Osterholm (Q&A) to find out just how concerned we should continue to be about Covid. And our 2021 Person of the Year, Tawanna Black, candidly discusses the steep hurdles we face when it comes to achieving equity and inclusion.

 But knowing that leaders like Black are willing to speak the truth and do the work should give you confidence in our business community and optimism for the year ahead. I hope that’s your takeaway from this issue, which also includes our annual TCB 100 list of change agents, innovators, builders, and next generation talent. These are the Minnesotans who lead us into 2022 with purpose and resolve.

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