It’s not called ‘House of Geniuses’

On March 17, I attended a networking meeting called House of Genius. It was the most fun I’d had in weeks. I spent three hours surrounded by sharp minds, eager to help one another in a productive and non-threatening environment. If you get the chance, take it.

Here’s why.

You’re invited to attend the monthly meet-up along with 18 to 20 others. You arrive, but you’re required to remain anonymous. First names only. No talk about your profession, your education, your background, your expertise. You’re just another person. Yeah, it’s awkward for the first few minutes as the crowd gathers. It’s amazing how much of our identity is wrapped up in our professions.

The group convenes around a table and receives a five-minute presentation by a group member with a business issue he or she would like to solve. The audience asks questions; the presenter responds. Audience members throw out suggestions while a scribe takes it all down for the presenter. Audience members shout out “plus-one” to ideas they endorse. They say “minus-one” to those they don’t—and they explain why.

The process repeats with two more presenters. Our group heard from the executive director of a nonprofit looking to diversify its fundraising; a local school district teacher seeking ways to evaluate a novel high school entrepreneur program; and a startup food product maker looking to make the leap to expand production.

The beauty of the process is in the anonymity. Everyone’s ideas are welcome and equally valid. Nobody self-censors because they think their expertise can’t compete with the person’s across the table. Everyone brings their own perspectives and all of them are valid. House of Genius is a international organization with chapters in 31 cities.

It was fun to joke about being one of the “geniuses” invited to that month’s party. Organizers even gave us “genius” stickers (I gave mine away). But the beauty of the process is that it’s a house of genius—one genius. And the genius is in the collective mind of those assembled that night.

It’s a notion reflected on the main House of Genius website: “The true ‘genius’ is in the collaboration—you’ll be amazed at the power of thinking that is evoked from the structure of the sessions and the synergetic format.” Indeed, I was.

Only at the end of the evening does the “reveal” happen and the attendees properly introduce themselves. Then, there’s beer.

I hope I get invited back sometime. You can potentially get the chance to attend by registering on the St. Louis chapter’s website. You might try hitting them up on Twitter @GeniusSTL.

And a h/t to my friend and colleague Daniela Velázquez for extending the invitation.

6th issue of Out & About is out and about


The second-quarter edition leads with the Spirit of St. Louis Air Show and STEM Expo.

I’ve been fortunate to have a relationship with the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce for going on two years now. That relationship has enabled me to work with the chamber on its quarterly community news magazine, Out & About. The magazine had been published for many years with a partner company the chamber had relied on.

When that relationship ended, I was invited to consult with the chamber to remake the magazine into a quarterly (it had been bimonthly) and to create content that was more singularly focused on the Chesterfield community.

We reviewed a wide variety of publications around the St. Louis area and within Chesterfield to get a notion of what the sweet spot for Out & About would be. I worked with Executive Director Nora Amato and a small team of chamber members who are involved in publishing and marketing to arrive at these conclusions:

  • Chamber’s Mission: The publication would need to reflect the chamber’s mission, which is articulated simply as “Connect, Learn and Grow.” (Read Nora’s column about this in the April 2015 edition.) The chamber exists to help its members do those things. One way the magazine fulfills that mission is through editorial and advertising opportunities to reach residents of the community and through packaging Out & About promotion/advertising with other chamber sponsorship opportunities.
  • Distribution influences content: Given the distribution model (postal delivery to the 63005 and 63017 ZIP codes of Chesterfield), the content would also have to have a general interest focus. In other words, it’s not only business oriented content; it’s for the general Chesterfield resident.
  • Schedule affects content: The chamber did not have the capacity to publish Out & About more often than quarterly. That meant the content had to be feature-oriented, with a long shelf-life. So, for example, rather than running a comprehensive list of events in the magazine, we publish highlights of the biggest community happenings and provide links to online resources that can offer more. We are careful to make sure chamber events are prominently displayed.

I’ve been pleased to have the chance to work with the chamber now on our sixth issue together, the April-June 2016 edition, which will be hitting mailboxes any day now. You can find online versions of all six editions here.

I’d also like to give a shoutout to St. Louis-area designer Anna Keith, who designed the last two editions of the magazine. She’s been a dream to work with.