Network Weaving

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How Accidental Conversations Create a Car Full of Zucchini


One of the critical characteristics of Smart Networks is that they have expanding, very productive peripheries. If we look at where we’ve gotten some of the breakthrough ideas in our lives, we’d see that our peripheries are often linked into our core networks from what Jack calls accidental conversations.

At a National Business Incubation Association luncheon many years ago, I sat down next to an "older blonde with poofy hair" . Although I made some stupid assumptions, thinking the conversation would be of no value, I had a delightful accidental conversation. She shared with me a remarkable innovation she had been developing—a Kitchen Incubator, a licensed processing facility where entrepreneurs can rent the use of equipment to make their products. At ACEnet, we had been struggling for a way to help low-income farmers add value to their produce. Light bulbs started flashing — this is a way to help hundreds of farmers become food entrepreneurs!

ACEnet grabbed this idea, developed their own unique adaptation, made their Kitchen Incubator a huge success, and then shared their success with other low-income communities. The result: over 100 Kitchen Incubators around the country, helping thousands of low-income individuals start food processing businesses.

We would love to hear stories from you. Tell the rest of us about an accidental conversation you had that not only expanded your periphery but led to a breakthrough innovation. What is it that enables us to sort through the dozens of accidental conversations we might have every week and discover the seed that will sprout into a prolific zucchini bush, with its seemingly unending bounty of squash?

Joke...
Why do people in Appalachia lock their cars?
To keep their neighbors from filling them with excess zucchini!

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