October 14, 2015

Good ideas tend to attract quality people. But great ideas attract the top tier.

Take at look at ASU’s Idea Enterprise.

The program combines teams of ASU’s top thinkers (“Idea Teams”) with successful senior business leaders (“Executive Leaders”) in a collaborative forum discussing ways to help shape and hone the ideas so they can be more successfully advanced into action.

The Idea Enterprise's Executive Leadership list – which includes local people and others from globally recognized companies in the fields of investment banking, business, technology and non-profit ­­– continues to grow with the addition of four new members who comprise EL Pod 2.

“We’ve set an extremely high bar for Executive Leaders – they must be lateral thinkers who are vastly experienced in making things happen in the real world and able to provide feedback with ‘tactful candor.’ And they have to pass the ‘no jerks’ rule,” said May Busch, who chairs The Idea Enterprise and serves as executive in residence in ASU’s Office of the President. 

“The latest additions to the group are as exceptional as our first pod of ELs, and we are privileged to have been able to attract such a dedicated and capable group to help ASU’s faculty and staff make their big ideas flourish.”

Les Brun, chairman and CEO of Sarr Group, LLC, a diversified holding company, is one of the EL Pod 2 members. And at the group’s Oct. 6 meeting in the Ira A. Fulton Building on ASU’s Tempe campus, Brun was asking a lot of questions.

“I’m not bashful about asking questions,” said Brun, who has 37 years of investment banking experience. “It helps me to get a sense of how the presenters have thought of their ideas, and how they react and respond to questions.”

Christopher Wharton and Jennifer Huberty, both professors in ASU’s School of Nutrition and Health PromotionThe School of Nutrition and Health Promotion is part of ASU's College of Health Solutions., were on the receiving end of those questions during the second of three planned sessions. They are partners in Middle Path Life, a blog that promotes health, nutrition, money management and sustainability through moderation. The two want to grow the blog to include a package of services including an exclusive newsletter, books, e-commerce products and online courses.

“I had a specific model in mind for scaling the idea which included external investment, but they (EL Pod 2) recommended another route by using a simpler model instead,” Warton said. “These are incredible people who run large organizations and can offer advice that an academic institution could not. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Jeffrey Pruitt, CEO and founding partner of Tallwave, a Scottsdale-based venture firm focused on making investments in early-stage technology companies, said he is serving as an executive leader to give back to ASU, which is his alma mater, and to see how new ideas take shape and evolve.

“Being able to sit and listen to the problems they are trying to solve and to have them glean from your experience is both fun and inspiring,” said Pruitt, who earned his Bachelor of Science in accounting from ASU and is a Certified Public Accountant. 

“I also like hearing how other advisors solve the problem because not everybody approaches problems the same way. Those different viewpoints show there are several ways to tackle an issue and it’s just not one solution. I’m sure when the presenters leave their brain hurts a little, but at the same time they get a lot of good advice, and all of us at the table get good advice as well. I leave meetings feeling like I’ve learned a lot.”

Brun also likes the constructive and positive approach The Idea Enterprise takes when advising presenters, as opposed to the reality-TV show “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs’ ideas are often ripped apart by a panel for pure entertainment.

“Most of the academics are genuinely good people who have given a tremendous amount of thought to their ideas and can use a leg up to attain their goal,” Brun said. “There is no successful business person in this world who would tell you they did it all on their own without the benefit of being helped by someone else along the way. Being a part of this is as energizing and as much of a recharge of my batteries than anything else.”

In addition to Brun and Pruitt, new EL Pod 2 members include Lisa Daniels, managing partner of the Arizona Practice of KMPG and Judy Jolley Mohraz, retired president and CEO of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

The Idea Enterprise has two meetings planned in the spring of 2016. Interested ASU faculty and staff are encouraged to apply for the spring sessions. Information and applications are available by contacting Chelsea Chamberlain, special projects coordinating senior, at Chelsea.chamberlain@asu.edu.

Reporter , ASU News

480-727-5176