Monday, April 20, 2009

Tina Seelig - What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

Host Bobbi Emel describes Dr. Tina Seelig's visit to Kepler's:

Wow, the April 17th event with local author and Stanford professor Tina Seelig was unlike any other I’ve hosted! Tina (“please don’t call me Dr. Seelig, I’m just Tina,”) seen at right with me getting my picture on the blog again, teaches courses on entrepreneurship and innovation at Stanford and is an extremely popular professor on campus. She’s popular just about everywhere, it seems, as evidenced by the large crowd of almost 200 people who turned out for the event, about 60% of whom knew Tina personally. All were in good spirits as Tina and her husband, Mike, graciously brought champagne for the audience members who wasted no time in partaking.

Introduced by fellow Stanford professor, Bob Sutton (The No Asshole Rule,) Tina started out as if this were an innovation class at Stanford by having the audience do a warm-up exercise. They were to find someone they didn’t know in the audience and take 3 minutes to find “one amazing thing about that person.” Soon, little groups of people were chatting eagerly and learning intriguing aspects of each other. One person shared that she had talked with a man who had invented a new application for the iPhone. The man then held up his iPhone to show the amused audience his rolling banner text on his own iPhone. (When he came up to Tina in the signing line after the event, he showed her the phone which was scrolling, “Good job, Tina!” across the screen.) Another woman said her conversation partner had invented a new kind of snowshoe. Tina knew him as she interviewed him and relates his story in her book.

The only one who wasn't energized by this opening was canine guest, Juno, seen below, who was a quiet and gracious member of the audience during the entire event.

After the warm-up, Tina took a short time to tell the “real, secret story” behind the motivation and publishing of her book and then answered questions from the audience. She is a very high-energy, outgoing, friendly person and I was pleased, but not surprised, when we sold out of her books.

What I Wish I Knew When I Was Twenty is an easily read book that encourages the reader to look at problems as opportunities and to open up one’s imagination to possibilities. Rife with stories of successful entrepreneurs and her own students at Stanford, Seelig expands the creativity genre started by A Whack on the Side of the Head and Thinkertoys.

Tina told me that she never knows how the assignments she gives her students will turn out and that she never gives the same assignment twice. For example, one of the assignments she gave her students was to form teams which were then given five dollars and the assignment to generate as much money as possible from those five dollars in two hours. The students came up with amazing ideas including standing in line at popular restaurants for reservations, then selling those reservations to people farther back in line. Another team stood outside the Stanford Shopping Center with a sign that read, “Stanford Students for Sale: Buy One, Get Two Free.” They did everything from helping carry shopping bags to providing an impromptu brainstorming session for a woman with a business problem.

However, the next time Tina gave this assignment, she handed the student teams ten paper clips and gave them a few days to generate as much value as they could from the clips. Again, the responses were amazing. But, you’ll have to read the book to find out what happened…

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