These Ideas from Day Two Will Change the Way You Think


BHSI fellows Alex Niemczewski and Rose Wang with some of Wang’s edible grasshopper at “In Conversation: Social Entrepreneurship.”

Day Two at Chicago Ideas Week explored yoga, love, education, entrepreneurship, urban planning, vegan cooking and so much more. It featured sound meditation, laser engraving, DIY bikes, two neuroscientists, our five BHSI fellows and eleven CEOs. But most of all, Chicago Ideas speakers challenged everyone to change the way we think, whether we want to succeed in business, find love or change the world. Here are six ways you can change the way you think.

Stop and Listen

“Entrepreneurs are doers,” Whole Foods CEO John Mackey told the audience at The World With(out).

“The only way to hear about other people’s experiences is to be a listener,” said host Amanda Seales at A World With(out). Listening to others is vital to understanding—whether you’re trying to understand the marketplace, the needs of marginalized communities or even just have friends. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey told World With(out) participants, “You can find inspiration from anyone you meet if you go into that experience openly.” Later, at our Love and Friendship Talk, interpersonal communication expert Deborah Tannen talked about how secrets can often be the “currency” of closeness, while psychologist Eli Finkel noted, “people with highly diversified social portfolios seem to have statistically an overall better quality of life”

Do One Thing Well

Rafat Ali with Innovating from Within host Ali Velshi.

At our Innovating from Within Talk, Skift CEO Rafat Ali talked about how your business isn’t “small” if it’s a big part of the lives of those who really care about it. Flywheel CEO Sarah Robb O’Hagan echoed these sentiments, explaining how Flywheels’ focus on people for whom exercise is part of their daily lives allowed her company to not only meet their needs better but also managed to attract an even bigger base.

Feel Like an Owner, Not a Renter

Janice Jackson, Eva Moskowitz, Doug Tuthjill and Kate Grossman take part in conversation on how to cultivate effective education reform.

At our Education panel, Doug Tuthill, the president of Stand Up for Students, aptly asked how to get people to care enough about public schools that they feel like “owners,” not “renters.” BHSI fellow Jahmal Cole at the Social Entrepreneurship Conversation also made an analogy when talking about having a passion for and responsibility toward a cause: if it’s pouring rain, one salesperson might decide not to go out because rainy days are terrible for sales, while another might look out the window and be convinced a gloomy day is a great day for selling—especially if the other salespeople stayed home.

Embrace Failure

Sarah Robb O’Hagan, CEO of Flywheel Sports, spoke about learning from your failures at Innovating from Within.

The entrepreneurs at Innovating from Within couldn’t say enough good things about failure, which they felt had positive outcomes instead of negative ones. Rachel Roy considers failure an opportunity to push her business in the direction it needs to go in, while Sarah Robb O’Hagan proclaimed “failure is my fuel!” and proved it by gleefully listing off her failures as an executive at major corporations and what she learned from them—and then urging the audience at the Harris Theater to “leave here tonight committed to failing at something.”

Don’t Underestimate What’s Possible

Choreographer Quinn Wharton takes Chicago Ideas participants behind the scenes of the Joffrey Ballet. 

If you doubt that things that were once unimaginable are now possible, you weren’t at our Breakthroughs Talk, where bionanotechnologist Ramille Shah explained how she and her team made a mouse ovary with 3D printing technology and then implanted it to allow a sterile mouse to give birth. At Day Two of Chicago Ideas Week, we learned to not be afraid to go where our minds—or bodies—take us. As ballet dancer and choreographer Quinn Wharton told participants at today’s Lab Backstage with the Joffrey Ballet, “A part of your brain turns on when you see someone else dance that makes you want to dance too.” Also keep in mind that perceived limitations might actually be strengths. At the Love and Friendship Talk, Kim Katrin Milan explained that she and her husband Tiq Milan “didn’t feel bound by traditional institutions because they never included us in the first place.” But because they don’t have a traditional marriage (Kim is queer and Tiq is trans), they can take their union to new places in terms of how it functions and exists.

Set the Stage for Change

Charles D. King talks to Ali Velshi about breaking down boundaries in the entertainment industry. 

The panelists on Day Two’s Can a City Work Like a Startup? panel agreed that in addition to having bold leaders, what was needed for organizations to affect change was an infusion of new thinking. The speakers who wrapped up Day Two at Innovating from Within exemplified both. While Fences producer Charles D. King convinced Hollywood bigwigs to let him tell the stories his community needed to tell, Bobbi Brown changed the male-dominated makeup industry when she created the first natural lip color. “It’s not about how you look, it’s about how you feel you look,” Brown has always said, and to end the evening, she offered us all some succinct advice: “Stop talking about it, just do it.”




Jennifer Boudinot is a freelance writer and entrepreneur focused on the changing workplace, disruptive business practices and cocktails—yes, cocktails. She's also a book editor and a best-selling ghostwriter.

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