It was the early 2000s, and ePrize founder Josh Linkner was facing a golden opportunity to close a major business deal for his upstart marketing agency.
As he recounted in his March 23 keynote, "Harnessing Innovation: Turning Raw Ideas into Powerful Results," at the 37th annual IHRSA conference in San Diego, Linkner found himself on the same flight as an executive from packaged foods company Conagra Brands, which ePrize had long been attempting to win over. If that wasn't enough, the executive coincidentally had a first-class seat right next to Linkner.
Oddly enough, Linkner realized the executive's wife was stuck in economy seating toward the back of the airplane.
Instead of claiming his seat next to the executive in an attempt to "seal the deal," Linkner did a "judo flip"—an unexpected, against-the-grain business move that no one could have seen coming, he said.
He gave his first-class seat to the executive's wife. She was so grateful as they exchanged seats, Linkner said, she began to cry tears of joy.
When the flight landed, Linkner received a message from his colleagues: The Conagra executive had signed a deal to work with ePrize. Linkner's judo flip, a small act of gratitude, had favorably swayed him.
In his keynote, Linkner explained how this moment changed his entire career as an entrepreneur. It taught him not to simply "think outside the box" but to always and methodically search for what he calls "Option X."
Your colleagues, your training and your industry at large may tell you to claim the airplane seat and make the hard sales pitch, Linkner said, but what about Option X? What about the variable no one has considered? In this case, it had been the executive's wife.
In his talk, Linkner encouraged attendees to "adopt the role of the disruptor," especially in the rapidly evolving fitness industry. He also warned attendees to not become "intoxicated" by their past successes.
Linkner outlined his five core mindsets of innovators:
- Every barrier can be penetrated.
- Video killed the radio star. (Let go of the past in favor of what is possible.)
- Change the rules to get the jewels.
- Seek the unexpected.
- Fall seven times, stand eight.
"It is the time to double down on a creative path toward success," he said.
Linkner was the third of four keynote presentations at IHRSA, which ran from March 21-24 at the San Diego Convention Center. The March 21 keynoter, Lisa Bodell, author and founder and CEO of futurethink, spoke on "Kill the Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution." The March 22 keynote presenter, Leah Busque, founder and executive chairwoman of TaskRabbit, spoke on “Making Ideas Happen.” Closing out the show on March 24, Isaac Lidsky, founder of Hope for Vision, spoke on “Eyes Wide Open.”