When COVID crept into our lives, life as we knew it was forever changed. We have all been affected by this pandemic as a collective. But we have also had very individual and unique personal experiences of it. Taking the ‘busy’ out of life allowed me to think, to look around, and experience life through the eyes of my teenage son.
Our family was spending quality time together, however, I realized that during this time of remote learning when teens can’t physically be together, connection and a sense of purpose are more important than ever. They are key to feeling a sense of hope and inspiration for all of us, but especially teens, for whom peer relationships are so important.
That is when I knew I needed to think big and create something that had a lasting impact.
Start with ‘What If?’
I have always been a big thinker. Back in March, I was inspired by the doers who started with a ‘what if’ conversation. Take, for example, the story of the couple ideating the problem with the N95 mask shortage. She is a doctor and he is an engineer. Together, they discussed the problem over dinner, pooled their collective experience, and figured out how to make a system that decontaminates N95 respirators so they can be used 20 times.
Then there is the Chicago teenager from Walter Peyton High School that founded Connect Chicago days after the Chicago Public School closure. He connects students to seniors through a phone conversation to help combat loneliness. Koval Distillary saw the demand for hand sanitizer and within one week delivered 100 gallons of free hand sanitizer to Chicago Police and O’Hare air traffic controllers.
Know your Why
Understanding your ‘why’ is the first step to ideation. Knowing why you are passionate, why you care, and why you want to spend time on a topic is critical. The ‘why’ will be the heart of your ideas and the motivation to jump through hurdles.
Having founded two companies, I always encouraged my son to discuss solutions to real-world problems. This ideation process allowed him to visualize himself as the next game-changer, empowered to solve big problems that we face in our world today. The experience of verbalizing his ideas gave him the confidence to believe in himself because we were seeking, and respectful of, his input.
I wanted to bottle that feeling of pride and give it to other teens struggling in today’s COVID virtual schooling environment. That’s what solidified the idea to create a community that fosters innovation and a sense of accomplishment in teens.
Surround Yourself with Big Thinkers
Chicago is a town with big ideas and an incredible innovative ecosystem. Luke Tanen, Executive Director, Chicago Innovation, believes that ”In times of crisis, there is usually mass amounts of innovation.” Tom Kuczmarski, co-founder of Chicago Innovation states in a Chicago Tribune article that the key to beating the coronavirus is innovation.
I knew the key to success is empowering incredible people to follow your vision. That’s when I turned to The Chicago Innovation, in particular the Women’s Mentoring Co-Op, to build our very talented team.
Ideas Turn Into Innovation
It all starts with an idea. Will you be on the frontlines making it happen or reading the headlines after it has occurred?
Join us at Teen Innovators as we build a peer community experience where young teens students practice creative and innovative thinking through flexible mentoring and leadership classes that are led by teens for teens. Students discover their passions, solve big world problems, and lead their peers with confidence.