Unconventional Thinking: House of Genius NYC

Jordan Phoenix was a panelist at the April 2013 House of Genius NYC session.  That night Fiestah, Wedge Technologies, and Kno Clothing presented challenges. Here are some of Jordan’s thoughts on the session:

In recent years, the idea of crowdsourcing has picked up a significant amount of momentum. If you’ve ever used 99designs for logo creation, or used Wikipedia to look something up (who hasn’t), then you understand the value that emerges when large groups of talented people make small contributions to the bigger puzzle.

The House of Genius is essentially an environment to crowdsource good ideas. A diverse group of panelists from different backgrounds come together to help three entrepreneurs find solutions to their most pressing business challenges.

To make things interesting, you are not allowed to tell anyone what your work background is (or even discuss work at all during breaks) until the very end. I believe that breaking your normal routine definitely forces you to think differently, so hey, anything that can spark more creativity is worth a try.

After each entrepreneur presents, there are a few minutes of discussion during which every panelist gets to throw in their two cents. Some of the ideas are relatively straightforward, while others can be way outside-the-box and unconventional.

I’m an unconventional kind of guy. I think that’s most likely why they asked me to guest write this article (and come to the event in the first place). Predictability is boring! So, to stick with this theme, I’ll explain one of the “out of left field” ideas that I gave to a presenter.

Wedge Technologies is a renewable energy company that creates a new variety of wind turbines. Their main customer base consists of large organizations in the United States and Europe. The challenges were many: too much red tape in the US, too expensive to store wind energy at a competitive price versus subsidized oil, customer skepticism about wind technology efficiency in general, and so on.

They considered looking into serving markets in developing countries, but price was too much of an issue to make it feasible.

A giant light bulb went on in my head. I drew up this diagram to clarify my idea:

Business Model Flow Chart

Inspired by the cutting-edge strategies that Paul Polak and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus have used to serve people at the bottom of the pyramid, I realized that a pivot and partnership could serve Wedge tremendously. Though the people who need energy most in developing regions may not be able to afford it right now, the users of a microfinance platform like Kiva could come in to invest in such projects. This would enable the recipients to create a wide variety of new entrepreneurial ventures that were previously unfeasible due to a lack of electricity; and begin to unleash their massive amounts of untapped creativity and human potential. A portion of their profits go back to pay off the microloan, and they are no longer trapped in the dire straits of poverty.

The presenter seemed very satisfied with the potential idea of utilizing their technology not just for the benefit of the environment, but also to empower those who need it most.

Being able to be a part of this type of thing is what gets me out of bed every day.

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About Jordan Phoenix
Jordan Phoenix is a social entrepreneur, speaker, and personal development coach. He has launched the Knowledge is Power leadership retreat, the Start Living personal development group, and most recently founded Project Free World, an online social innovation platform that aims to provide the proper food, rights, education, and environment to every person on the planet.

Project Free World utilizes index scores to highlight the most critical issues in each global region; connecting people with the most innovative crowdsolving tools in order to create their own grassroots projects. His work has been featured in publications such as the New York Observer, the New York Post, the Times of India, and MindBodyGreen. You can learn more about Jordan’s work at his blog, uncommonsense.is.

Jordan can be found on Twitter @jphoenix24

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