The 2017 IDEAcademy Challenged Us to Think. Again.


Northeast Tennessee welcomed the IDEAcademy back again this year for a two-day event presented by Eastman and East Tennessee State University’s College of Business and Technology. The event is part of an ongoing leadership development series endowment by Eastman to provide free, world-class leadership training to our communities in our region.

Local, regional, and national thought leaders came together on Monday, September 11th and Tuesday, September 12th to give “Ted Talk” style presentations on topics relating to leadership and innovation, including:

This year’s line up of speakers was exceptional and included professors, founders, and students. These individuals came from backgrounds in city government, education, and entrepreneurship. Each speaker brought something unique and insightful to share with attendees. There was truly something for everyone to take away – whether they worked for a large corporation or owned a small business.

The theme of this year’s event was “Think. Again.” which was designed to challenge each of us to drive innovative thought and collaboration. The sponsors stated that oftentimes, “It’s those moments that make us pause that push us to greatness.


The IDEAcademy was thrilled to welcome this year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Clayton Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. One of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth, Dr. Christensen is the architect and foremost authority on disruptive innovation. His theories and business expertise have shaped and inspired some of the greatest innovations of our time.

Dr. Christensen presented the topic, “Competing Against Luck,” where he addressed how do companies know how to grow and how do they create products that they’re sure customers want to buy. A prevalent topic discussed was that “Customers don’t buy products or services; they ‘hire’ them to do a job.” We’re successful when we understand the job for which the customer needs to hire.


The outstanding lineup of speakers included (click each name to read a summary of their presentation and a brief bio):

Dr. Shawn Bergman, Founding Director of the Office of Research Consultation at Appalachian State University

Etta Clark,  Vice President, Global Public Affairs and Policy, Eastman

Dr. Heather Cook, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the City of Kingsport

Brant DeBow, Cofounder and Chief Technology Officer at BiTE interactive

Brittany Ezell, Head Coach, East Tennessee State University Women’s Basketball

Jeff Little, Assistant Professor, Department Head, Entertainment Technology Program, Northeast State Community College

Clay Prewitt, Vice President and Creative Director at The Tombras Group in Knoxville, Tennessee

Sydney Ross, Sophomore Roan Scholar at East Tennessee State University

Wynne Tyree, Founder and President of Smarty Pants, an international market research and strategic consulting firm

Not able to make it to the IDEAcademy this year? No worries! The entire event was live streamed on their Facebook page. Click here to watch part one and here to part two of the event!

Follow the IDEAcademy on Facebook for updates throughout the year or find them online at

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