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Tag: Innovate Mississippi

April 21st, 2015

80/20, Pecha Kucha, Play-Doh, and purple hair.

At the risk of the MWB Blog looking increasingly like a tavern, I feel compelled to write a postmortem on our latest #MWBeer30 event. Jon Fisher, Donnie Brimm, and Bethany Cooper from Oxford-based FNC gave a great talk reviewing many of the practices and protocols their company has put in place designed to stir innovation and creativity. I think attendees of this event (4/17) will agree that it really was inspiring to hear a Silicon Valley-esque approach to innovation being undertaken by a company who is committed to being headquartered in Mississippi.

Like I’ve said a million times before, Silicon Valley was an apple orchard 60 years ago. There’s no reason we can’t turn the Delta, red clay hills, pine woods, gulf coast, and mini-Appalachian landscapes that are Mississippi into something at least equally as impressive. And I don’t want to gloss over the fact that FNC – like so many other thriving entities – is committed to a robust corporate headquarters in our state. The company counts the majority of the top 20 banks in the U.S. as clients utilizing their applications. They are rapidly expanding operations into Brazil and Canada. I have a feeling new products are in the offing. FNC basically invented a category and is the market leader. Not bad for Oxford, Mississippi. Heck, that wouldn’t be bad for Oxford, England.

But back to the main point, the latest #MWBeer30. We had a great crowd attend representing Innovate Mississippi, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Clarion Ledger, EatShopPlayLiveJXN, C Spire, and various other highly innovative individuals. After a brief announcement about TEDxJackson 2015 (coming 11.12.15) and watching the newest Star Wars Trailer (yes, it looks uber cool) the folks from FNC took the floor. Here’s what we learned from their 6 minute 40 second presentation:

1. A 6-minute, 40-second, 20 slide presentation is called “Pecha Kucha.”

MWBeer30_JonFisher_Wormhole

Here’s Jon Fisher from FNC getting into their talk. Many of you may be familiar with the “Pecha Kucha” approach. I was not. This is a presentation that consists of a total of 20 slides and each slide lasts no more than 20 seconds. Jon’s pictured here taking us “through the wormhole” that is FNC’s innovation process. The story I was told was that #MWBeer30 was the first time these guys had used Pecha Kucha in a talk… and they didn’t practice, either. They really had it down seamlessly, so I don’t know that I necessarily believe that “we didn’t do a run-through” story. Either way, they nailed it. This was a highly effective and engaging way to present information, so three cheers on the style points!

2. Play-Doh isn’t just for kids anymore.

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Bethany Cooper of FNC talked specifically about some of the (dare I use the phrase) out-of-the-box exercises that the company utilizes to get the creative juices flowing. These include actual Play-Doh planning sessions. Don’t be skeptical. There’s a reason four-year-olds think they can do anything.

Other hyper-cool practices FNC has implemented include developing and maintaining their own internal Innovation Team, an annual all-night hackathon called The Forge (props to Jon Fisher for having a product from The Forge now in development), and their implementation of the “80/20” work principle. The latter of these, being a concept pioneered by 3M and really made famous by Google, roughly states that an employee has the freedom to spend 20% of their time working on pet projects they believe will contribute to a company’s mission, outside of “sanctioned” job functions.

3. People will show up and talk… for beer… (and for other reasons, too).

Many, many apologies to FNC, but I didn’t learn until they pulled into our world headquarters about 2:45 p.m. that they had actually missed out on the annual FNC crawfish boil to some speak to the attendees of #MWBeer30. I hate the thought of making someone miss their own event like that, but I will also say that we’re not BYOB. We had great craft beer (much of it brewed here in the great state of Mississippi) on hand for sampling. There are so many innovative people in Jackson and across Mississippi that we feel honored to provide a forum to evangelize the growing nature of our state’s knowledge economy, the great creative assets that we possess, and the how companies, organizations, and individuals are really fostering a culture of innovation.

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Tasha Bibb (top) and Lynlee Honea (bottom) were among a contingent from Innovate Mississippi who attended #MWBeer30. Innovate Mississippi is a great organization who are champions of innovation culture and entrpreneurialism across our state. Always very glad to see these folks in attendance.

4. Mississippians are engaged and ready to support our knowledge-based companies. 

Plain and simple, we (Mississippians) get a bad rap. “We’re a backwater…” “we really can read and write…” “thank goodness for Arkansas…”.¬† Well we say phooey on all that nonsense. And apologies to our friends from the Travelers State, no disrespect intended. I’m just trying to convey the point here that we’re poised and ready to springboard into a prominent place in the 21st century.

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Here’s Donnie Brimm from FNC talking. Donnie and the rest of the FNC crew got peppered with questions after their 6 minutes and 40 seconds were done. And I don’t mean peppered in a “Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes GOTCHA” kind of way. The people at #MWBeer30 were genuinely curious and supportive of¬† great knowledge-based business like FNC and wanted to know more about the industry, the development aspect, and especially what kind of stumbling blocks had the company encountered in implementing a real culture of innovation.

They say that an indicator of creativity and intelligence is the ability to ask great questions. That being said, we certainly had a highly creative and intelligent group of people who attend #MWBeer30. Being a connoisseur of great craft beer is simply a plus. By the way, our craft beer is courtesy of the great guys at LD’s Beer Run, serving a huge selection of local, regional, and national craft brands. Stop by and see them if you’re ever in the neighborhood.

 

 

5. Star Wars The Force Awakens looks super cool.

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One of the warm-up acts for FNC’s presentation was screening of the new trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To quote Mississippi icon Marshall Ramsey, “I watched it at least a dozen times and I felt my heart swell when Han said, “Chewie, we’re home.” To quote MWB VP Keith Fraser, “OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod.” Yes, it certainly sends chills throughout your spine. The folks gathering at MWB world heaquarters gave a standing ovation after the trailer. Well, technically they were already standing, but I feel certain if they could have levitated, they would have.

6. It’s ok to hire people with purple hair.

This was actually a happy little coincidence of parallelism. A couple of years ago FNC CEO Bill Rayburn was giving the luncheon keynote talk at Innovate Mississippi’s annual luncheon. During his impassioned delivery (those of you who have ever heard Mr. Rayburn give a talk know exactly what I’m talking about), he made the statement – I’m paraphrasing here – that in the new economy we have to get over not hiring people because of things like tattoos and purple hair and instead be meritorious in our approach. Basically, hire the most creative, innovative, and driven person for the job at hand.

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Well MWB new hire Erica Robinson just happened to show up at her first #MWBeer30 sporting a rather glamorous “Friday wig,” as she calls it. Everybody loved it. She’s a great addition to our creative staff and innovative culture and certainly the embodiment of how not to let individualism and self expression be an impediment to raising your organization’s intellectual talent. Can’t wait to see this Friday’s colour-de-jour.

In fact, one of the best TEDx talks I’ve heard was given by purple-haired Heather Crawford at the TEDxAntioch event I also spoke at in 2014. Check out Heather’s talk here, titled “You really ARE what you eat.”

Correction, 1:37 P.M. Also do not be afraid to hire people who’s names are spelled in unconventional ways. I just realized her name is actually “Hether Crawford.” Our apologies, Hether.

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So anyway, a great time at April’s #MWBeer30. Again, many many thanks to FNC for sending down some of their most impressive folks to give a great 6-minute, 40-second presentation. We’re already working on the agenda for #MWBeer30 in May, so if you want to keep up with this and other #MWBeer30 events, please opt into our MWB Tap special alter system. Cheers!

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Ray Harris (MWB), Tasha Bibb & Lynlee Honea (Innovate Mississippi), various unidentifiable pairs legs.

All photography via MWB’s Tate Nations.

December 17th, 2014

The MWB Podcast


Brought to you from the Creative Cafe at Maris, West & Baker, we’re excited to launch the MWB Podcast! The show, dubbed a weekly 17-minute exploration into the world of creative chaos and enigmatic innovation, debuted it’s inaugural episode with special guest Dr. Sumesh Arora of Innovate Mississippi. Show host Tim Mask and Dr. Arora discussed the theory of diffusion of innovation and how it can be used within and extension model to spur creativity and economic development.

New MWB Podcasts will be posted weekly to the SoundCloud podcast platform and will be available via the MWB website. Each week a special guest will discuss some aspect of creativity and/or innovation relative to a wide range of topics including digital literacy, art and architecture, economic improvement initiatives, technology, and many, many more. Semi-regular show segments include monologues, feature profiles on companies and organizations that are engaged in innovative projects, and “The Coolest Thing I’ve Seen” series.

We invite you to tune in each week to the MWB Podcast. If you’re interested in making a guest appearance on the show, by all means please contact us.

April 22nd, 2014

MWB speaking at eTech Conference

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Randy Lynn and Tim Mask from Maris, West & Baker will be presenting sessions on digital media and eCommerce at the upcoming eTech Conference, May 8, 2014 at the Clyde C. Muse Center on the Hinds Community College Rankin campus. Randy will be discussing best practices for Search Engine Optimization for eCommerce enabled sites. Tim will be giving a session on utilizing social media as a public relations and sales outreach tool.

The conference begins at 9am and features industry leaders from digital/technology-related fields across Mississippi. Attendance is limited. Click here to register and learn more about eTech 2014.

 

April 7th, 2014

TEDxJackson: Coming November, 2014

Mississippi has never hosted a TEDx event before. As of 2014, that’s all about to change. MWB is among a small group of organizations and individuals that have worked to make TEDxJackson a reality.
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With our application granted this month, the stage is set for TEDxJackson to happen November 6th in the Fondren neighborhood.

The spirit of TED is all about “ideas worth spreading.” TEDxJackson will remain true to that mission. The theme for this event is Fertile Ground, a reference to the great opportunity that exists in Mississippi. The committee is currently working to recruit a diverse range of speakers both from inside and outside the state. Talks will focus on ideas relevant to the global TED community, but subjects will center on issues that connect with the needs and interests of Mississippi – health, education, creativity, and the economy.

A website for the event is currently under construction, and information about attendance applications and tickets will be available soon. Anyone interested can, in the meantime, connect with TEDxJackson through social media platforms, listed below.

twitterbutton TEDxJackson on Twitter

facebookbutton TEDxJackson on Facebook

Organizing committee members include our agency, C Spire,¬†Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, Innovate Mississippi, with additional participation from the Jackson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the Mississippi Development Authority.

Jackson Attorney David Pharr has taken the position as lead organizer of the event. You can read a great interview David gave about plans for the event.

TEDxJackson is an independently organized TED event.

December 12th, 2013

Digital Skills Set Stage for Mississippi’s New Creative Economy

CodingforKids

We understand the importance that innovation and creativity play in creating an expanding and thriving economy. As 2014 has been proclaimed the Year of the Creative Economy, we want to emphasize how important creativity and creative thinking will be beyond what is traditionally thought of as “creative” jobs. Mississippi is rich in art and architecture, music, writing, and fine art compositions of all sorts. We are equally as creative in our approach to innovating business and industry.

Examples abound. Recent ones. Dr. Hannah Gay thinks outside the box at University of Mississippi Medical Center and implements an HIV treatment regimen that will likely one day prove to save millions of lives. Academics in Oxford have an idea for a software product that literally revolutionizes the mortgage origination business: Thus is born FNC, one of the fastest growing private companies in America. Also on that list is Bomgar, an IT support technology that is the brainchild of a few college students and which has grown to be a model of the digital economy. This creative innovation extends to large corporations, as well. Mississippi’s energy and aerospace clusters are second to none. As Governor Phil Bryant often says, “Man may walk on Mars, but he’ll go through Mississippi to do it.” Virtually every commercial airplane operational in the world today contains a component that was either produced or tested at Mississippi facilities.

How do we ensure that creativity and innovation drive our economy even farther, faster? How does Mississippi effectively position ourselves to be a leader in the 21st Century knowledge economy? As we celebrate 2014 as the Year of the Creative Economy in Mississippi, we believe that we must take a creative look at how we are preparing our youth to win in the world of tomorrow.

HourofCodeJust prior to 2014 being declared the Year of the Creative Economy, the month of November, 2013 was proclaimed as “Mississippi Innovation Month.” A series of events throughout the month highlighted the creative and innovative things happening in Mississippi’s public and private sectors. As one event for the month, MWB teamed with the Mississippi Department of Education and Innovate Mississippi to host a series of coding workshops at schools across the state. Through a partnership with Highland Elementary School in Ridgeland and Ridgeland-based IT company Venture Technologies, one of the workshops focused on training educators in how to teach coding to elementary students. We believe that in order for Mississippi to lead in the new economy, we must ready a workforce familiar with the digital skills that will likely dominate it. Hence, our commitment to the initiative.

Through their participation in a national contest sponsored by Code.org, Highland Elementary was actually awarded $10,000 and spent the week of December 9th participating in an “Hour of Code” initiative. (See story here). The purpose is ultimately to draw attention to the kinds of digital skills education that will ensure Mississippi maintains a highly competitive workforce well into the future.

The simple fact is that innovation, education and creativity cannot be separated. The most creative among us are the most influential innovators, and vice versa. A creative solution to 21st century workforce and economic development likely means incorporating things like coding into our educational system.

We should all be proud that Mississippi is taking a leading and visible role in this effort. For more information on how you can get involved with Mississippi’s Creative Digital Skills Education initiative, please contact us.

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November 20th, 2013

Creative Organizations & Innovative Mississippi Companies

bomgar-enterprise-remote-supportBoise State University rose to prominence by having a creative football team. Seriously, if you’re not a college football fan and don’t understand the reference, just check this David and Goliath-esque clip moment from the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. Let’s just say, Boise State showed quite the innovative way to come back and win a football game against a monster opponent.

It’s no surprise then to know that when Boise State needed an innovative remote IT service system, they called upon one of the most innovative companies available: Mississippi-based Bomgar. As part of Mississippi Innovation Month, we are highlighting companies, organizations, and individuals who are helping Mississippi become a leader in the 21st century Knowledge Economy.

Learn more about Bomgar supporting creative/innovative operation here.

Boise State Football=creative, innovative football team.

Bomgar=creative, innovative Mississippi digital services company.

Show your support by tweeting using #MSInNov.

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November 15th, 2013

Mississippi Innovation Economy Twitter Forum on Coding Workshops

#MSInNovAs part of Mississippi Innovation Month, MWB is sponsoring a Twitter forum to discuss November’s Hackathon Saturday and coding workshops being held for students and teachers across the state. The forum will take place on Tuesday, 11/19 from 7PM – 8PM via @MSInnovationEco, using #MSInNov to follow. Anyone with an interest in promoting digital job skills is encouraged to follow, participate, and engage.

In conjunction with Mississippi Innovation Month, a collaboration of innovation-focused entities including Innovate Mississippi, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Mississippi Department of Education,  Maris, West & Baker, Venture Technologies, school districts in Rankin County, Jackson County, Jackson Public Schools, and the Highland Elementary School PTO helped to produce a series of workshops focused on introducing students and teachers to digital job skills that will prove essential in the 21st century knowledge economy. Student workshops are being held through Jackson Public Schools and Jackson County Schools on 11/16, with a Coding for Teachers workshop being held at Highland Elementary in Ridgeland on 11/16 as well. Another student workshop is being held by Rankin County Schools on 11/21.

MWB VP/Digital Creative Director Randy Lynn (a Highland Elementary parent) helped to organize the “Coding for Teachers” workshop being held on Mississippi Hackathon Saturday (11/16). Randy will be the guest expert for our forum discussing the need for incorporating coding and other digital learning curriculum into Mississippi’s educational system.

FORUM:  11/19     7PM-8PM

Via: @MSInnovationEco    #MSInNov

November 14th, 2013

Innovation from within: Great example from a Mississippi Company

TheForgeFNCMWB is one of the supporters of Innovation Month in Mississippi. November was so declared by Governor Phil Bryant in order to highlight the myriad of innovative people, companies, and organizations that are driving Mississippi’s economy to the top. A great example of this comes courtesy of Oxford, Mississippi-based FNC, Inc. It’s called The Forge.

FNC is a software technology company the builds systems giving mortgage lenders and servicers access to the most current residential real estate information available. The company is a national leader in the space, has grown rapidly in the past decade, and is a real success story. What’s more, FNC continues to drive innovation from within with special initiatives like The Forge.

The initiative is open to all FNC employees, and consists of a 23-straight-hour, junk-food infused, caffeine-fueled development fest. During the event, FNC staff focus on developing, creating, and innovating company products and processes which will positively impact FNC customers. And yes, there are prizes and awards.

As we move farther into a knowledge-based economy, companies will find it necessary to make creative investments in internal innovation. It is great to see a Mississippi company leading by example. Way to go, and best of luck with The Forge.

For more information about Innovation Month in Mississippi, please visit msinnovationmonth.com.

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