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Originally published September 4, 2011 at 10:00 PM | Page modified September 5, 2011 at 10:37 AM

Innovation blogger expands website | In Person

Braden Kelley just moved his blog, Blogging Innovation, the most visited blog on innovation in the world, to a broader website. Kelley orchestrates the site while juggling his consulting business, speaking obligations and writing career — all from his home in Issaquah.

Seattle Times business reporter

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When Braden Kelley was a boy, he got excited the minute he stepped into an airport. He thought he'd be a pilot one day.

But his eyes weren't good enough to fly, the Air Force told him. He joined the Navy instead.

The Navy provided him with an education and the opportunity to travel the world, even if he wasn't doing the flying. He got jobs with a few global technology companies and soon found himself wanting to "shake things up" within the organizations. He went back to school and was drawn to every innovation class he could take.

And now the 41-year-old does his work from the ground. He just moved his blog, Blogging Innovation, the most visited blog on innovation in the world, to a broader website. Kelley orchestrates the site, which one reader described as being to innovation what Amazon is to books, while juggling his consulting business, speaking obligations and writing career — all from his home in Issaquah.

Big topic

Merriam-Webster defines innovation as a new idea, method or device. Kelley says it's not that easy.

"Innovation is such a big topic, and it means so many different things to different people," he said. "It's all about businesses learning and getting better at what they're doing."

That's why he started Blogging Innovation (blogginginnovation.com) in 2006 after moving to Seattle from London.

The Portland native went to the University of Oregon after serving in the Navy and received his MBA at the London Business School.

He landed in Seattle six years ago to be closer to family after the birth of his now 7-year-old daughter and has since enjoyed the area's "vibrant tech community and economy."

Reaching out

Kelley was the only author featured on his blog for three years. In 2009, he reached out to other bloggers, asking if he could include their work on his site.

His blog became a collection of more than 3,000 articles on innovation and management from more than 150 contributing authors from around the world.

"Traffic got to the point where it seemed wasteful to keep it all to myself," he said. "The purpose is to make information available and get best voices I had access to."

Blogger Matt Heinz, who has his own consultancy in Redmond, Heinz Marketing, said Kelley has probably picked up about 100 of his articles, which focus on sales and marketing strategies, with titles like "How top sales people are using social media" and "Your customers aren't listening."

"I trust him," Heinz said about Kelley. "There are not a lot of people I would let just pick up my stuff and run it."

Ranked No. 1

Plus, many more eyes now see Heinz's work. PostRank, a website that ranks the popularity of other sites and blogs, listed Blogging Innovation as the No. 1 innovation blog in the world before Kelley started redirecting visitors to his newly launched site, Innovation Excellence (innovationexcellence.com).

He knew the blog had grown enough to try something new and more complex. In July 2011, the blog received 471,792 unique visits, up more than 5,000 percent from January 2009.

He launched Innovation Excellence Aug. 1, moving the blog to the site, where he plans to add webinars, case studies, videos, white papers, presentations, a directory, a marketplace and more.

"He's done a great job of pulling together the thinking of a lot of people into one location," said Stephen Shapiro, a Boston consultant and author of four books on innovation. "It's why people go to Amazon. You can get every book in the world in Amazon. He's done the same thing in simplifying the process."

Management thinker

Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, remembers a "lovely" video interview he had with Kelley, which is posted on Kelley's site.

"I get way, way too many requests to be interviewed to do all or even most of them," said Martin, named one of the top 50 management thinkers in the world by The Financial Times and Forbes.com in 2009. "Braden's work and reputation were strong enough for me to agree to do one with him."

Kelley also wants to use the website to build his social-media following. Right now, he has about 11,000 Twitter followers and more than 7,000 LinkedIn group members.

Generating revenue

The site should provide Kelley with more opportunities for generating revenue. A directory of businesses will provide viewers with an overview of companies related to innovation or management. Each of these companies pays $500 a year to join the directory.

He said the site also offers sponsorship packages, which include a directory entry, ranging from $2,000 to $20,000 a year. Banner ads are available. Kelley said it's too early to tell how much money the site will generate. So far, he has 12 directory entries and three sponsors. The revenue will be reinvested into operating and growing Innovation Excellence, he said.

Personality, author

Kelley may have become an online media personality, but he's probably more well-known within the innovation community as author of the book "Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire," published October 2010 by John Wiley & Sons. "I wanted to provide a book that helps people identify and remove barriers to innovation and is an innovation primer for people who are looking to get started," he said.

In addition to taking his work online, Kelley is a consultant. And a good one, according to Jim Gascoigne, Microsoft's digital marketing director. Gascoigne was introduced to Kelley in 2008 through Wunderman, a customer-marketing agency.

Kelley worked with Microsoft for more than a year and a half, helping Gascoigne figure out how to communicate with 500 million Windows Live users.

"He is very up with the times, he's out there in the community, he understands social media and the marketplace, which is always a good insight to have, and he's a good thinker," Gascoigne said. "He makes you actually think about your business by asking good questions."

And now Kelley uses those talents to advise business through his public speaking at company events, conferences, workshops or panels.

His first appearance was at the Seattle Biz Jam in 2007. Now, he speaks about once a month, in places as far away as Belgium or Dubai. And each time he walks into an airport before jetting off to his next engagement, he still gets excited. Being a pilot wasn't in the cards for him, but he thinks he was meant to travel around the world, helping businesses, he said.

Melissa Powell: 206-464-8220 or mpowell@seattletimes.com

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