If you are in the business world, you’ve likely heard the word “innovate” thrown around a few times.

At the recent UnleashWD Innovation Summit 2013 held at the Venue Six10’s Feinberg Theater in downtown Chicago, the “I” word was put to practical use through the words of 18 guest speakers (referred to as storytellers).

This year’s event was the second UnleashWD summit. UnleashWD’s Dirk Beveridge told me attendance at this year’s event tripled from the inaugural version. This summit attracted attendees from many different realms of wholesale distribution, including a few folks from our industry. The American Supply Association was one of the sponsor/partners of this year’s event and ASA executives Mike Adelizzi and Amy Black were in attendance.

A wave of innovation

UnleashWD bills itself as a conference designed to catalyze a wave of innovation by thinking differently about what your business can become in the future. Another unique aspect of the event is the fact none of the guest speakers have any ties to the distribution industry.

I was present during the morning session on Day 2 and came away extremely impressed by the great information, tips and strategies the storytellers provided to those in attendance. A wholesale distribution business looking for ways to implement new ideas or looking for the catalyst to change gears from the status-quo certainly would benefit from the mountains of great material provided at this event.

The roster of storytellers ranged from Admiral James Stavridis (former NATO Supreme Allied Commander) to author Brant Cooper (“The Lean Entrepreneur”) to social media guru Angela Maiers.

Dr.Ron Ashkenas, a senior partner with Schaffer Consulting, presented 10 barriers to innovation at established firms. A quick sampling of that list included 1) Focusing on short-term results drives out ideas that take longer to mature; and 2) The fear of cannibalizing current business prevents investment in new areas.

“Think about your business through a different lens,” Ashkenas said. “Creating an innovation culture in your business is all about mindset. If you continue to look through the same lens, you will get the same results.”

I had the opportunity to conduct video interviews with six or seven of the storytellers who each took time to provide their take on the subject of innovation and provide important advice for wholesale distributors. Check our video area on this website in the coming days for those interviews. I’ll also have more on the conference in the December print edition of Supply House Times.