Rolf Smith

Sessions I and III: “On Expedition! The Search for Ideas”

Known as “Colonel Innovation” to his former Air Force comrades, Rolf Smith is an expedition director for the new economy. And he is not alone. Joining Smith at RealTime Orlando is a team of guides in khaki safari vests and no-bullshit boots called the Virtual Thinking Expedition team. Their job this week is to transform the Disney Institute into a rough and rewarding outback where reaching the summit is a feat of strength, creativity, and endurance.


Taking a new and novel approach to RealTime, Smith and his Virtual Thinking Expedition Co. held no fewer than five sessions, including two 6 a.m. experiments called “Fast Forward Exploration” and one post-RealTime roundup called “Keep Moving Forward.” On the last day of RealTime, Smith sat down with Fast Company to discuss expeditions, creative awareness, and human connections:

Why are you here at RealTime Orlando?

It’s very different in the fact that all the presenters have been featured in the magazine. Our idea was to integrate a thinking expedition not as a single event, but to take an expedition from start to finish all the way through. Each time we are up, each session is different. We’ve set up some extra sessions before the activities begin each day and at the end of RealTime to show people tools and techniques for listening and taking away ideas in a new manner. At most conferences, people sit and drool. What they take away is what they manage to remember, and mental ink fades very rapidly. The idea here was to condition people with tools and techniques so they could come away from RealTime with some great ideas.

Where do great ideas come from?

First you must raise your awareness. Then you must get in the habit of writing down ideas that you hear. Typically if you write them down in a notebook, it is too easy to hide away that notebook. That’s why we write things down on little sheets of blue paper that you can carry around with you. Last night, Michael Ray said “We often find our ladder is leaning on the wrong wall when we get to the top.” I thought that was a great idea, so I will turn that into a slide and share it with someone else. The connection of good ideas between people becomes one big idea.

What one message to you hope to convey to the RealTime participants?


Great idea. Write it down. Great idea. Write it down. The second step, which moves them closer to implementation is this: Share it!

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