After attending TEDxDetroit 2010, a day of inspiration, fresh perspectives and leaving with a renewed energy, I find myself wondering OK, now what do I do with this?

I started the day listening to the teachings of Jeff DeGraff of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and his framework for defining and developing corporate innovation.  The Michael Porter-esc model for identifying the innovation process with the four distinct competencies of growth, competition, control and collaboration was fascinating.  It was the beginning of a theme for the day:  innovation and change come in a variety of forms.

The schedule for the day was intertwined with speakers and poets, business leaders and musicians, scientists and socialites. The ideas for how we’ll transform this city (yes, we) into the next great metropolis don’t just rest on the shoulders of one person, one idea or one path.  It’s the varied, yet parallel approaches to the innovation process that gives this specific movement its depth and culture.

It was a 13-year old web developer, Will Smidlein who provided an approach that we should all be so lucky to employ.  He said that being a teen entrepreneur is simple; he “just did it.”  He summed up what it means to achieve a goal perfectly when he said, “Accomplishment is having fun and making money.”  A kid after my own heart.  I hope for all of us during the course of our careers and lives that we can say we accomplished something.

So what do I do with this?  I think the answer, like Null Fear would have it, can be simple if I choose.   I came to the conclusion that I am one small tile in a larger mosaic.  The sum of its parts is ultimately what’s most important, but I can’t take for granted that I need to include my tile, my personal stamp, in this mosaic, otherwise it won’t form the picture that everyone in this city and in this state needs right now.

My tile can mean a lot of different things.  I’m not an artist or a poet.  I can’t turn a blank canvas into a narrative of color, but I can bring my strengths as a business professional and leader to impact positive change.  It comes in the form of the knowledge I share, the leadership and guidance I give and my willingness to “do” rather than find excuses not to.  We’ll never get where we need to if we don’t find innovative and genuine ways to leave our mark, our tile, in this city.

— Aaron Petras