What I Learned From 15 Minnesota Companies

Over the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to take part in a very rewarding networking and career development program called the Leadership Minnesota Series. This program, sponsored by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, invites 35 participants annually to travel around the state for a deeper look at the industries and companies that drive Minnesota’s economy.

My group consists of large company business leaders, small business owners, HR leaders, and other key players from companies all over MN. And the common thread that each of us share is curiosity. We are unshakably curious about what makes Minnesota business’ tick. We want to know what drives our state’s economy and what lessons we can take back to make a positive impact on our own companies.

Along with satisfying my curious mind, it just so happens that this program has been an opportunity to have a lot of fun along the way. Throughout five sessions, held over 6 months, the class explored 15 different Minnesota-based companies to gain a further understanding of their individual goals, industries, and adaptability to Minnesota policy changes.

We’ve seen how iron ore is mined. We’ve watched trees be turned into paper. We’ve been in medical device research labs, and even contemplated what attracts visitors to Sugar Lake Lodge vs. the Mall of America – all while learning valuable business principles to take back to our own professional lives. The inquisitive HR nerd in me simply couldn’t be happier.

As my group and I explored different organizations, I couldn’t help but identify with each of them and compare their challenges with those that Versique might face. In my reflection on the sessions I’ve realized that each of these companies – just like my session-mates and myself – have a common thread that binds them. No matter the company size or industry– from universities to power plants – each company expressed the key to continual growth as a focus on one crucial factor: Innovation.

Innovation is not only the spark behind each company’s creation, but it’s also the largest factor in whether or not they will outperform their competition.

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Now it’s time to look in the mirror. Ask yourself, “Am I doing enough to be innovative within my company? Within my team?” I imagine your response might look something like mine: “I could be doing more.”

Once we admit that we could all be working towards a more innovative work life, it’s time for the next question: “Why aren’t we?” It’s tempting to fall back on the excuse that we are simply too busy with our day-to-day tactical work, or even that we just don’t have innovative ideas. I would bet that if we truly (and honestly) examined the question, most of would say, “My ideas might fail.”

I challenge each of us to try to overcome negative thinking. The fear of failure is a part of innovation. It may be cliché to quote Steve Jobs, but along with a pretty innovative track record, his take on innovation is spot on: “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

So yes, you might run into roadblocks, but maybe that’s the key. Just try. Everyone has self-doubt, but we can’t let self-doubt stifle the amazing things just waiting to be created.

Chris Dardis is vice president of Versique HR, and has over 10 years of experience in the talent acquisition industry. He is passionate about delivering unmatched service to his candidates, consultants, and clients. Having both corporate and agency experience, Chris has the unique ability to understand his clients’ needs and offer strategic consultative solutions.

He can be reached at Chris Dardis

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