Facility helps spur creative meetings
Gus Valen, a 37-year-old Middletown resident, had some time on
his hands in August when his wife, Kelly, traveled to Tennessee to
visit her mother.
So Valen, chief executive and managing partner of the Valen
Group, did what any serial entrepreneur would do. He created a new
company: Blue Ocean Facilities, a meeting place for innovation and
an extension of his Blue Ash-based strategy consulting firm.
Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky is the unheralded center
of corporate entrepreneurship - or entrepreneurial behavior within a
corporate structure - for the nation, Valen knew. But the region had
little space for creative off-site meetings.
"I've never liked the word 'retreat,'" Valen says. "It means back
away, put down your weapons, that sort of thing. Off-site signifies
exactly what it means. You get out of your normal environment
because people tend to be myopic in their normal environment."
The motif of this 2,200-square-foot meeting room in Blue Ash has
as much to do with catching big fish as catching a big idea.
That's the point, too.
"Big ideas are about breaking the rules of normal thinking,"
Valen said. "You have to get away from the office, away from your
normal environment to do that."
The problem of innovation, ultimately, is a people problem.
How do you create new products and spur creative risk-taking when
organizations and companies loath risk and have systems in place to
discourage risk behavior?
Successful innovation almost always requires three critical
components: the right people, the right process and the component
usually missing from most innovation programs -- the right
Unlike the hunt club motif of most centers Blue Ocean has vibrant
colors, contemporary art and multiple seating areas for adaptable
Other elements are more sublime:
Dry-erase boards have wheels so groups can swap boards and
Markers, dozens of markers, everywhere. "Usually, if you hold the
pen, you have control of the meeting," he said. Not so when there
are a few dozen markers scattered around.