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Preparing to Receive and Learn

Aaron Keller and Angela Dirks travel to Boston next week for the 14th Annual Front End of Innovation Conference. Below is Aaron's first blog post for the conference website.

The Front End of Innovation is looming over us next week with the possibility, opportunity and perhaps obligation to learn. We are wading into the choppy cold waters of uncertainty, both as human beings and members of a larger organization. If your "happy place" is introverted activities of listening, learning, reading and staying far away from human interaction, don't worry this is a good place. If you're salivating at the opportunity to meet new people, talk to everyone who will listen and shake at least 100 hands, this can also be a great place for you.

We, as Capsule, want to hear from both of you in equal portions. We'll be looking for interesting stories in the creases of the larger conversation at FEI. If you've got an interesting story to share, we'd like to hear it over coffee or in between sessions.

We bring our historical perspectives, our agenda of hopes and desires and perhaps something to record the experience. If you find yourself so immersed in a speaker, completely forgetting to take notes, we've got you covered. If you’re wondering what's the best way to get the most out of this event and bring it back to the boss and the boss’s boss to show value, we've got you covered. The Front End of Innovation is a physical experience with digital time capsules left for you here and in other social media platforms.

This is my fourth Front End of Innovation experience and while this may not be a record, it does give me a pedestal (or small soapbox) to offer some advice. The event, like any immersive learning experience is overwhelming to the human brain. It is a full sensory experience layered on an event designed to give you the most current views of how the first seeds of innovation start to grow.

If you're falling asleep (its happened), then you’ve spent too much on drinks the night before. We suggest keeping this limited or rely heavily on what the FEI team posts on the blog.
If you're not learning, then you've not opened up that arcane device known as your noggin. We suggest challenging yourself to do something you've never done before, as it has a tendency to open the nostrils of the mind.
If you're not having fun, then you may need a new career or a new perspective on what you've already got in life. In this case, we suggest you volunteer at a food shelf during the evenings while you're in town.

If you've spent a lifetime learning the sociology of organizations or just observing them from inside the machine, this event will still give you new insights. It does require you to bring a few things to the table to make this work out for you and the conference.

Bring a note taking device, digital yes, but physical is preferred. There's just something beautiful and engaging for the mind in hand written notes.
Some form of identity to get you in the door and when someone asks you who you are. Sure, you can leave business cards behind and never make any new friends, but you'll regret it later in life.
A smile and a brain seem obvious, but sometimes its hard to keep the smile when the brain has been bombarded by so much information. While the human brain is the best "big data" processor on the planet, it does still get overwhelmed and start giving off bad signals.

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All of our carrier pigeons are out at the moment, so you'll have to make due with a button.