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Big Ideas

99U Conference 2011: Key Insights on Idea Execution (Pt. II)

How building trust helps us take more risks, why being called "crazy" is really a compliment, and how to lead with possibility.

More insights on making ideas happen from the 2011 edition of the 99U Conference

Laura Guido-Clark onstage at the 99U Conference.

LAURA GUIDO-CLARK /// Principal, Laura Guido-Clark Design

At Laura Guido-Clark’s design studio, she focuses on the color, materials, and finish, working with companies like Apple, Dell, DWR to “skin” products. Guido-Clark shared her thoughts on how to “get closer to your DNA” to be true to who you really are, and hone in on the creative projects that will have the most impact.

  • “60% of what I do is about ‘passionate consulting’ and 40% of the time, I focus on my dreams.”

    Actually setting aside a percentage of your time to work on projects unrelated to your day-job (however much you may love your day-job) will ensure that you accomplish what really matters to you.

  • Spend less time on what to do, and more on how to be.

    Be mindful about yourself and your actions: Are the things you’re spending your time on consistent with the person you want to be?

  • “When fear and doubt come into play, you have to lead with possibility.”

    Guido-Clark spoke of a trying period a few years ago, after which she re-emerged with a new outlook on her life and work (and a new business plan). Don’t retreat in fearful moments, seize them as an opportunity for self-examination.

  • “What are you doing to create more meaning for yourself?”

    In design, Guido-Clark doesn’t consider herself a “producer,” but a “maker of meaning.” She left us with this open-ended question to consider.


Linda Rottenberg onstage at the 99U Conference.

LINDA ROTTENBERG /// Co-Founder & CEO, Endeavor

Linda Rottenberg co-founded Endeavor to fund high-impact entrepreneurs from emerging markets around the world. As a global non-profit, Endeavor helps small and mid-size businesses take it to the next level, helping creative business owners make ideas happen and raising GDP in the process. At 99U, Rottenberg spoke about fighting against resistance and following through on our crazy ideas against all odds.

  • If you’re not being told you’re crazy, you’re not thinking big enough.

    Crazy is a compliment.  If you’re thinking big, it’s natural for the idea to sound extreme, since you’ll be changing the status quo.

  • Stalking is an underrated startup strategy.

    Rottenberg joked about hiding outside a men’s bathroom, waiting to talk up a potential investor when he emerged. She was joking, but the lesson came through: Dogged persistence and a bit of envelope-pushing are necessary to push bold ideas forward.

  • It’s not easy being a pioneer.

    If there’s a precedent or exact formula for what you’re doing, your idea isn’t very innovative.

Michael Johnson onstage at the 99U Conference.

DR. MICHAEL B. JOHNSON /// R&D Lead, Pixar

As an R&D Lead at Pixar, Michael Johnson develops the tools – for storyboarding, animating, rendering, etc – that help the Pixar team start the process of bringing stories to life on-screen. Throughout his talk, Johnson stressed the HUGE role that iteration plays in the creative process at Pixar, while emphasizing how the right tools can help people collaborate more efficiently and effectively.

  • “One third of our movies have taken about 7 years to make.”

    Rigorous persistence and uncompromising creative standards are perhaps the most notable features of Pixar’s creative process. As one of the company’s founders put it: “Quality is the best business plan.”

  • Iterate early and often.

    In the early stages of creating a film, the creatives at Pixar iterate over and over again. Using the tool Pitch Docter, they will go through sometimes more than a hundred thousand storyboards to create a single film.

  • “If people are getting mad at each other, there is an opportunity to help.”

    As a toolmaker, Johnson sees an opportunity wherever conflict arises. If there’s tension in the room, that means there’s a way to innovate with the tools that support the creative process.

  • “How can we make the users visibly better at their jobs?”

    This is a question Johnson is constantly asking of himself. If he’s doing his job well and creating great tools, what they’ll ultimately do is make people look better.

Patrician McCarthy onstage at the 99U Conference.

PATRICIAN McCARTHY /// Founder, The Mien Shiang Institute

Patrician McCarthy, as founder of The Mien Shiang Institute, teaches the ancient Taoist technique of Medical Facial Diagnosis, or “face reading,” to the mainstream. McCarthy taught us how being self-aware and learning about our innate gifts and challenges can help inform our decisions and teach us how to better approach personal and collaborative situations.

  • Why “face-read?” Because we make things happen by knowing who are are.

    How do you work best? What are you like when you’re collaborating, or when it’s time to execute your ideas? Our own faces can provide a deeper level of self-awareness.

  • “People in business don’t often rely on their natural gifts. They try to innovate like someone else does.”

    Learn how you will be most effective, rather than replicating what’s worked for someone else.

  • “Facial Diagnosis” improves productivity in the workplace.

    Tailor how you work with each coworker by making discoveries about their workstyle. Recognizing gifts and challenges will make for better collaboration and smoother execution.


Simon Sinek onstage at the 99U Conference.

SIMON SINEK /// Leadership Expert & Author, Start With Why

An expert in communities and leadership, Simon Sinek studies why people do the things they do, and what makes some people so much more impactful than others. Sinek illuminated truths about how we make decisions, and how to stretch the limits of what we can achieve by forming communities we trust.

  • How we navigate the world depends on who we trust.

    From mundane choices to major life decisions, we rely on advice and influence from the people we share common values with.

  • “We surround ourselves with the people, products, and brands that say something about who we are.”

    Having preferences and making decisions actively puts out signals about who we are. These choices become identifiers, helping us find the people who share our values.

  • When we’re surrounded by people we trust and who trust us, we’re more willing to take risks and experiment.

    Finding a situation conducive to risk-taking and exploration is the only way we can progress as a race; our very survival depends on it, Sinek says.

  • “If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.”

    These tenets of trust and group dynamics are as important in business as they are in our personal lives. As Sinek says, “100% of customers are people. 100% of clients are people.”

–> KEEP READING for more insights from 99U 2011

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Comments (3)
  • Rcorey

     Sounded and looked like a great confrence!! 

  • interior design decoration

    It is very nice that the speakers shared their own point of views in this conference. I admire how Ms. Rottenberg express her strategy through sense of humor. I must agree to what she was saying that dogged persistence and pushing are important to highlight the bold ideas.

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