Highwire takes on Chicago Ideas Week

Chicago. We’re known as the “Windy City,” home to deep-dish pizza, the cursed Cubs, thick accents (“Da Bears” anyone?), cold winters and tireless work ethic. The Chicago of today is born from a hard working, Midwestern “no quit” attitude, striving to be a center of culture, business and knowledge. This is certainly the case for innovation across industries in this city, including business, technology, education, medicine, science, and more.

Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) is proof of this, bringing together hundreds of the world’s brightest thought leaders during a week-long extravaganza of informational sessions, classes and over 200 world-renowned speakers such as Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Cameron & Tyler Winklevoss, and Eric Lefkofsky (CIW co-chairman and Groupon CEO).


Two of the sessions we attended in particular stood out. Here is a quick recap of some takeaways that we believe are valuable across all aspects of work and personal life:

“Entrepreneurship: How I did it” A session with Eric Lefkofsky, Slava Rubin, and Scott Case

Eric Lefkofsky kicked this session off by stating, “Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the country,” and he could not have been more spot-on. At the core, entrepreneurs have a fire in their belly that not only moves them into action, but also sparks a desire to innovate in the people around them.

Lefkofsky is well known for his success leading Chicago’s fastest growing start-up, Groupon, but his experience building other companies has not always been such a walk in the park. In fact, he says that three out of four of VC backed companies end in failure, and the great entrepreneurs are defined by how they respond to failure.

Co-founder & CEO of Indiegogo.com, Slava Rubin, echoed Lefkofsky’s statement by saying, “It’s not always about the idea, it’s about the execution and hustle.” A focus on action has propelled so many entrepreneurs and business leaders to be as successful as they are. An idea for a company or product might not always stand out from the beginning but you will never know the full potential of an idea until you pour everything into bringing it to fruition.

During the evening session, we heard from Scott Case, Co-founder of Priceline.com who shared his belief that one key ingredient necessary for a great company is a strong network and community.

“Scientific Breakthroughs: Infinite Possibilities” A panel presented by the University of Illinois

This session may have had “scientific” in the title, but the talks provided valuable advice around leadership, creativity, teamwork, problem solving and how to truly be an innovator.

Breakthroughs don’t have to be monumental in size to make a huge impact –the seemingly mundane everyday breakthroughs from everyday people are what advance us culturally, scientifically, technologically and entrepreneurially. Even the smallest idea can morph into one that changes lives. Releasing fear of failure and embracing the idea of a broader definition of what a breakthrough is – a changing, living idea – is fundamental to success.

So overall, what did we learn? We learned that Chicago is magnetic, pulling in an incredible crowd of leaders, speakers, innovators and attendees from all over the globe. The city is embracing innovation, as evidenced by events like this one. Chicago leaders from all walks of life are encouraging entrepreneurs to take charge and establish a new creative, idea-driven community. We learned a great deal from attending Chicago Ideas Week and are anxious to begin applying the lessons learned to both our professional and personal lives. We’re excited for the future of our great city, and can’t wait to see what it holds for us.