brainstorm graphic
Image: OMSI

“Being crazy is the seed for other ideas…”

FROM THE WHEELS TURNING BENEATH OUR VEHICLES TO THE GADGETS CONNECTING US ?to the world, every day—indeed, every second—we enjoy the fruits and hard labor of human innovation. We often shine a spotlight on discovery, occasionally on the discoverer. But all too seldom do we turn on a penlight and search for the finer-grained influences, inspirations, and serendipity—not to mention the sprouts of insanity, small and large—that breed a profound breakthrough.

Six months ago Portland Monthly and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) joined forces for just such an exploration. We queried our readers and experts in numerous fields to put together a list of 130 leading Oregon innovators, then assembled a panel of five community leaders with a wide-angle view of the future: Skip Rung, executive director of Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute; Erin Flynn, vice president for strategic partnerships for Portland State University; Tom Manley, president of the Pacific Northwest College of Art; Allen Alley, cofounder of Pixelworks; and Nancy Steuber, president of OMSI. Together with the panel, we narrowed the list to 12 game changers from a spectrum of disciplines who, in large ways and small, are shaping the horizon. And then we started asking questions—about what they do and, more important, how they do it.

Throughout October you can discover the answers: in a series of Monday-evening conversations at the Bagdad Theater (see schedule below) and an interactive display at OMSI, as well as in the pages that follow. We hope you will be inspired to discover new creative paths in your own life. —Randy Gragg