Did you go to Innovation Day yesterday? Because if you did, then let’s talk about how awesome it was — and if you didn’t then let me tell you about it. Put on by Opportunity Knocks, the Bend Chamber and OSU-Cascades with the help of many other organizations, Innovation Day presented a chance to meet innovators from around Bend, hear their ideas and then offer your own.

Whatcha talking about? Oh, just innovation. All. Day.

First of all, we all get stuck in the rut of talking with the same people in our industry or going to events about topics we’re familiar with. It’s human nature, but it creates community silos and frankly, missed opportunities. In fact, there’s some fascinating research by University of Chicago business professor Ronald Burt that highlights the benefits of engaging with people from different social clusters (I wrote some about it for SoFi here).

Innovation Day offered that in spades. The format was simple: 15 tables featuring 15 presenters on 15 topics. Then participants spent 15 minutes at each table, learning about the topic and offering up their own insights. Some of the conversations were inspiring, dot-connecting affairs with people exchanging cards and offering to follow up. Some weren’t. But in all cases, people  met people they hadn’t before (a big hello to Al Tozer, who inspired me with his living building projects) and heard about the challenges and opportunities other industries are facing. It’s good right?

One time I broke the rules and went to a different table. There are no rules at Innovation Day.

Everyone’s agenda was slightly different, but here’s an example of the types of discussions happening:

From Innovation and Technology
Rita Hansen, CEO of Bend-based Onboard Dynamics, discussed the potential for using OBDI’s technology to transform the methane that is off-gassed from landfills into vehicle fuel.

From the Innovation District
Preston Callicott, who spearheaded this event, and Kelly Sparks, from OSU-Cascades, discussed the power of putting innovators in close physical proximity to each other and the opportunities coming up to do so. Ideas floating around: Entrepreneurs-in-residence at big companies and mature companies have satellite offices in co-working spaces.

From Innovation and Cannabis
Oregrown founders discussing the creative models for financing expansion in an industry that’s yet to have federal approval and/or access to big banks. So-called 1031 exchanges are cropping up as a way to funnel capital into cannabis businesses.

From Innovation and Construction
The aforementioned Al Tozer highlighting his 100% sustainable housing project, and how consumers can gradually include more sustainable design elements into their homes. One thought brought up: Talking with appraisers so that these features add to the overall value of the house.

Organizers extraordinaire: Aly Waibel, director of Opportunity Knocks; Preston Callicott, CEO of Five Talent and general person who does lots of things; Katy Brooks, CEO of the Bend Chamber.

That’s a taste, a teeny, tiny appetizer of what was a 15-course meal of discussion, innovation, insights and fun. The organizers plan to make the event even bigger and better next year. And we’ll be there again. Nice work!