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Emory alum Rohit Bhargava explores innovation, ‘non-obvious’ trends at The Hatchery

Emory alumnus Rohit Bhargava, an entrepreneur and best-selling author, returned to campus for the first time to give the keynote address at the fall kickoff party hosted by The Hatchery, Emory Center for Innovation.

Bhargava, a 1997 graduate of Emory’s Goizueta Business School, opened his talk with a story about the 1968 Olympics, the first time an athlete performed the high jump by going over the bar backwards. Dick Fosbury made that historic jump, and it became the dominant technique going forward. 

“What kind of person thinks about doing it differently?” Bhargava asked. “That’s what innovators do.” 

The Hatchery Fall Kickoff Party was all about doing it differently. Inviting innovators from across the university, The Hatchery hosted a full day of events to celebrate and support the Emory community’s involvement in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship. With festivities that included a photobooth, cotton candy and even a petting zoo, the event helped attendees to expect the unexpected.  

Bhargava’s keynote was the highlight of the day, drawing an audience of Emory students, faculty, staff, alumni and industry leaders from across Atlanta.

“The people who understand people always win,” Bhargava said, summing up the lessons he learned after graduation. He traced that theme from his time as a waiter through to his career in spotting innovation trends, authoring eight books and speaking in front of audiences at SXSW, Microsoft and NASA.

Bhargava followed his personal journey by sharing several of the major trends he has seen develop over 10 years of research and countless interviews in industry and entrepreneurship settings, including “ungendering,” “revivalism” and “instant knowledge.” Bhargava defined trends not as predictions of the future, but as “curated observations of the accelerating present.” To understand trends, he encouraged the audience to become “speed understanders,” able to spot patterns across the stories and data they ingest. 

A few lucky participants were gifted one of Bhargava’s three best known books (“Non-Obvious Mega Trends,” “Beyond Diversity” and “Always Eat Left Handed”), and he spent more than 30 minutes answering questions from the audience.  Asked for his advice to college students, he offered the following: “Figure out what you really hate doing. When you’re a student, you have a lot of pressure from outside, and internalize that in your priorities. Start moving toward studies and work that will allow you to do more of the things you like to do.”

Rohit Bhargava has stated that his dual studies at the Goizueta Business School (international marketing) and Emory College of Arts and Sciences (English literature) helped to form the interests and skills that propelled him to become the “Non-Obvious Thinking” entrepreneur he is today — someone who has built successful publishing and innovation businesses through skills as a critical reader of trends, compelling communicator and powerful marketer.

In addition to authoring books on a variety of topics including business and diversity, Bhargava also teaches a popular course on storytelling and marketing at Georgetown University. He has delivered guest lectures at many prestigious schools including Stanford, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and now Emory.

After the keynote, the space was filled with students well into the evening, enjoying pizza and King of Pops, as well as a DJ complete with karaoke — because as The Hatchery knows, inspiration for the next big innovation often comes after kicking back and having fun. 

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