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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Mikki WilliamsMy previous entry focused on innovation as a way of helping you stand out in a crowd. I also discussed how wearing a bathrobe at a black tie event can have the same effect.

In my Goal-Free Living book, I interviewed a successful entrepreneur (and now a good friend), Mikki Williams. Mikki is the master at standing out in a crowd. But it is not a tactic; it just comes naturally. Here is a brief excerpt from the book.

I met Mikki Williams in her apartment high above Lake Michigan in Chicago. The first thing I noticed upon walking into her place was that she collected lips. Lots of lips. This is a hobby she started more than 20 years ago, which has permeated her home and work, including a five-foot lip couch (see photo) and assorted other lip accessories—from toilet seats to artwork.

The next thing I noticed when walking into Mikki’s place was Mikki. She had big hair. Really big hair. Mikki is someone who lives by the motto, Carpe diem! She joked, “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. My ultimate goal will be realized when the check to the undertaker—bounces!”

“I like to say, ‘Be outrageous, it’s the only place that’s not crowded.’ That’s the way I live my life. I dress outrageously and have crazy hair. But it’s not that I try to be this way. This is who I am. I am just being me.”

Eventually, Mikki took her life experiences onto the public speaking circuit. But Mikki was not your typical speaker. She looked like Bette Midler and definitely stood out in a crowd. One day she received a call from a Wall Street Journal reporter who was doing an article on the speaking industry during the recession.

“Why me?” she asked the journalist. “Because you stand out. You look different.”

When the article was published, Mikki’s face was featured on the front page! This launched her speaking career.

Too often, we try to fit in with the crowd. We play it safe. But innovation is about taking risks while being true to you. This takes confidence. And it takes the belief that your “style” is what the world needs and wants. Yes, taking this risk may help you stand out. More importantly, it may be the ticket to your success.

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