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.
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.