WILLIAMS: Lessons learned from our friend Denver Hutt

Keywords Opinion / Viewpoint

WilliamsExtraordinary person. Friend. Leader. Denver Hutt has been remembered in many ways this week. All are appropriate and grossly understated. On Twitter, Peter Dunn (@PeteThePlanner) shared a bit of wisdom from “our friend Denver Hutt.” In a conversation the two had last year, Hutt challenged, “If you want to change Indiana, invest in the people and businesses that represent the change you want to see.”

hutt-denver-mug.jpg Hutt

Hutt was the change we wanted to see, and there is plenty of wisdom that can be drawn from her work helping build Indianapolis’ innovation community.

• Everyone can innovate. Hutt firmly believed that Indianapolis is a city where anyone can make a difference. It doesn’t matter your age or your role. We all have good ideas and, like Hutt, we are all capable of asserting ourselves in this community to drive the best ideas forward.

• Be connected. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s strategy for success is to meet lots of people without trying to extract value from them. “If you think about each person as a new dot on your canvas, over time, you’ll see the full picture,” he said. Hutt lived this philosophy out in all she did. Each person Hutt met was a new dot on the canvas, and she excelled at connecting those dots to paint a full picture.

• Innovation doesn’t happen in the boardroom. If you want to build connections that drive change, get away from your desk and out into the community. In an IBJ interview last year, Hutt spoke about the important role socializing plays in building a collaborative environment. “[Speak Easy] members grab beers, hang out and are more social at the end of the workday. They put their guard down. They discuss business problems. That’s great.”

• Help others innovate. Hutt was probably best known for her mission to “meet cool people doing cool things.” She not only made it her mission to discover all the cool things in her community, she also made it her mission to help grow those cool things. Asking, “That’s awesome; how can I help?” goes a long way when networking.

• It’s OK to push back. If everyone agreed on everything, there would be no change. Progress needs a little friction. She understood the importance of healthy dialogue and knew when to challenge the ideas of others. A lot of progress was made in the conversations and initiatives that involved her.

Personally, Denver Hutt was one of the most valued dots on my Indianapolis innovation canvas, and I always looked forward to sitting down to share what each of us was up to. Hutt was wise beyond her years, and was always helpful when working through an idea. She knew what to do next, whom to call next or usually both.

Even before this last fight for her life, Hutt was an inspiration. I always admired her community leadership and have done my best to model her approach of seeking out connections with cool people doing cool things.

Every city needs more Denver Hutts. They are the glue that connects a community and the catalysts for a thriving center of innovation. Hutt painted a very full picture with the dots she collected. We should all be inspired to continue adding to that masterpiece.•


Williams is executive director of Centric, an Indianapolis-based innovation think tank.

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