The greatest business lesson I’ve learnt came from the smartest guy I 've had to lock horns with in an interview situation. I thought I’d show you how you can come up with an innovation to solve a problem, grow a business or get yourself promoted.

Let me explain myself by sharing with you a personal challenge I’ve had to deal with lately.

You see, I have a LinkedIn problem. I love the kinds of people who want to link up with me, but I just can’t handle the traffic and the requests to have a chat, a call, a coffee or a meeting. I have a business to run and media engagements and a family to hang out with. However I am in the help game, so I’ve got a LinkedIn conundrum.

Only yesterday I had an ex-student of mine from my teaching days at UNSW, who told me that she, along with her husband, had moved back to Sydney and would love a coffee with me.

Fair dinkum, if I had the coffees my LinkedIn connections would want me to have, I’d be talking like the excitable Latin characters we see on TV. How do the Spanish talk so quickly? Maybe it’s espresso coffee!

Of course, I write every working day on my website Switzer Daily at www.switzer.com.au so I can share my insights with the 150,000 people who regularly come to our site on how to make money, interpret the economy for investing, property-buying or building a business. And sometimes I give politicians some friendly advice, hoping it helps them dream up better policies.

It’s been heartening to see how well the tribe linked to LinkedIn have consumed my observations, advice and commentary, but I hate not being able to respond/help people who ask for a hand.

However, the logistics of individual answering is illogical, so I’ve been thinking about the smartest guy I’ve ever interviewed — Edward De Bono — to see if I can come up with an outside the square solution.

Edward made the advice “think outside the square” or “lateral thinking” famous and my two interviews with him have powered many of my successful innovations.

He argues that the most competitive people are lateral thinkers. That’s why Richard Branson risked his life in ballooning around the world, which helped make the Virgin brand name and products famous. It’s what drove Steve Jobs to force his geek mate Steve Wozniak to make their computer easy for non-geeks to use, and then love. It was the love brand created and the design elements that Jobs insisted be planted in an Apple product that largely explains its success.

When John Symond hired a PR guy and thought he could take on the banks with Aussie Home Loans, that was thinking way outside anyone’s square! And when Anita Roddick saw that a concept such as the Body Shop could work worldwide she was also out there!

So the challenging question I asked myself was: “What could I do to make the connection with a large group of my LinkedIn followers?”

Being someone who has been a great believer of the old saying that “two heads are better than one,” it was likely that 10 heads could be even better, I threw it open to a meeting with my team.

One employee, Pooja, who sits beside me when I’m at my desk that’s amongst my team, said her husband believed that she was lucky, as people would pay to sit beside me on a daily basis to get some insights and advice for free! I don’t know about that, but I took it as a nice compliment. And another team member asked: “why not invite them to a night where you show up, tell a story about your road to where you are today and then simply answer people’s questions publicly? She suggested it might be a two hour gig say 6pm to 8pm where we could have limited seats, say 100 or 200, with first in getting the seats.

If it works then we could repeat it. I’d have to stump up the cost of the venue but she reckoned I’d come up with an “outside the square” idea to make it pay for itself.

I liked the idea, so that’s what we’re going to do. I’m putting out the invite to my friends/connections on LinkedIn to let me know if you want to show up to a night with yours truly. Once we see if there’s an appetite for a “Night with Switz”, we’ll then get a venue and set a time. We’ll do Sydney first then Melbourne and Brisbane after that.

Anyone who can’t make it on the date chosen will be first on the list for our second gig to make sure they get a chance to attend.

So here’s what you do:

Send an email to info@switzer.com.au and put LinkedIn in the subject heading.

And we’ll get back to you.

I must admit, I can’t wait for the big night.

Cheers

Peter (Switz)