The Forum

The Forum Newspaper Ė June 28, 2003


N.D. Native Looks to Generate a Few... Bright Ideas
By Gerry Gilmour

"Judge intelligence by the answers given to questions. Judge Creativity by the questions asked." -- Gerald Haman

Gerald Haman is a big believer in North Dakota. "Iím always telling people about the great things that happen in North Dakota, and the value of doing business in North Dakota," the Chicago man says. Haman is the man known nationally in business circles as "Solutionman." The University of North Dakota alumnus will be in Fargo next month to help his home stateís leaders identify solutions not only for their own businesses but for getting the stateís economy in high gear. Haman on July 10, at the Fargodome, will lead Innovation Growth Day, a day- long event sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Commerceís Division of Economic Development and Finance. The event closes with an hour-long "Thinkathon" designed to generate ideas for growing North Dakota. Ideas that will be presented to North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven. Those ideas will be knocked around by North Dakota leaders at a smaller session July 11. "I donít know of any other state in the country thatís doing something like this, using people from inside and outside the state to develop ideas for growth," Haman said from Chicago this week. "We want to plant some seeds. Rick Forsgren, director of the Traill County Economic Development Corp., was among the first to sign up. "I try to go to these seminars, because this is where you learn new things and I always find the networking worthwhile," Forsgren said. Linda Butts, director of the North Dakota Division of Economic Development and Finance, said representatives of businesses and organizations from around the state are encouraged to attend. "We want them to bring an organizational challenge to address or a problem to solve. If they have a strategic plan sitting on a shelf, bring it and find new ways to implement it," she said. Butts and other North Dakota officials hooked up with Haman in early March, at a state-sponsored event in Chicago for North Dakota natives living there.

Haman owns SolutionPeople, a Chicago-based business consulting company. He also operates his "Thinkubator" there, which North Dakota officials toured during the visit.

"Itís so innovative, so out of the box," Butts said of the "Thinkubator," a specially-designed meeting space Haman uses to help business leaders form corporate solutions.

SolutionPeople, is featured in a chapter of the bestselling business book "Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force." His "KnowBrainer," a pocket-sized cardboard brainstorming tool, is used by the likes of Bill Gates of Microsoft. Haman is a native of Towner, N.D.

After graduating from UND in 1982 with an honors degree in business, political science and speech communications, Haman worked first for Procter & Gamble and then for the now-defunct consulting and accounting firm Arthur Andersen. He formed SolutionPeople in 1989.

Haman has worked with 160 of the Fortune 500 businesses. Notable clients include Adidas, Dow Chemical and Motorola. In working with financial services company Capital One, Butts said, Haman helped teams identify $74 million in savings and $10 billion in potential new sources of revenue.

"What we saw with Gerald is proven results," Butts said. The seminar being offered here costs as much as $1,000 a participant in larger cities.

"Participants will leave with a plan for innovation and a design for implementing that plan," Butts said. "When we help our stateís existing businesses increase productivity and profitability, we grow the economy of the state."