The Business Innovation Factory 7 event in Providence, Rhode island is off and running. For the next two days I’ll be live-blogging from the center of the audience. I’m surrounded by many of the regular people who participate in and drive #innochat (certainly in North America) and I’m looking forward to learning a lot from a wonderful array of storytellers who are scheduled to share.
John Werner, Chief Mobilization Officer & Managing Director of Citizen Schools is sharing his story first off. The power of citizen involvement in large-scale engagement transformation.
Since 1970 the USA has doubled the amount spent on education. The USA still has the largest economy in the world but we have a dropping college graduation rate and far less focus on the value of education. The education debate in the USA is like a field of sqwaking birds while other nations are taking flight and flying out of view in “V” formation.
Citizen Schools is expanding the learning day and adding about 1000 hours to the school year. Rather than increasing the number of hours that teachers work they are reaching out to the community to have citizens teach in middle school classrooms. IN one case a citizen teacher with his graduate school students is teaching how to program in scratch, the language for Lego mindstorms. The Mayor of Boston also participates in the Citizen School program with students providing input on city planning as apprentices. There are currently 1000 apprentices and the drive is to reach 2000 apprentices in the next 2 years.
A strong focus in Citizen Schools is on STEM – (Science Technology Energy Math) which are a foundation for many of the careers of the future. Seeds of innovation. This program focus lends itself to self-directed learning.
Shawn, one of the students that was a part of the Citizen School program took the stage to share a very personal story about his inability to act on behalf of another in distress and implored us, “If you see something, say something”; do something more than what we think we could or should do.
Graham Milner is next up on the BIF7 stage, a man who bleeds WD-40. Graham is the Executive Vice President, Global Development and Chief Branding Officer of the WD-40 company. He shared the story of the creation of water displacement formula #1 and #2 and so on. It only took forty tries to make, yes, WD-40 . The company is a $350M company that is 50 years old and offers only a single product. The product was created for General Dynamics out of a need to address product moisture issues.
The brand is built on the back of thieves (General Dynamics employees were stealing WD-40 in their lunch pails) and natural disasters (through a massive company response to a hurricane.)
You ought not have the people in charge of tomorrow in charge of today because the urgent will always beat out the important. – Graham Milner (vai Walmart CEO)
Graham shared the story of the genesis of the “smart straw” which was born from a need to create a better way to spray WD-40. Born from pain and effort and the response was, “It’s about time.”
Professional photographer Eva Timothy, said, the magic is not in the black box, the magic is the way we see the world. She grew up in Soviet Bulgaria and talked about the inspiration of her grandfather refusing to write for the propagandists who died for his beliefs and his freedom to choose. Her father painted a Beatles mural on the family’s kitchen wall for which he (and they) could have gone to jail.
Timothy showed one of her photos of the US Capitol Building shot from the Library of Congress and says this represented the notion of looking ahead, emblematic of her journey to the USA. Her photo of a mosaic tile reading, “Knowledge is Power,” was seen as a reflection of the need to learn. In her own life she passionately learned English. “There is a moment in life when you are learning and you can’t stop.” English opened up so many opportunities for her.
She arrived in the USA in 1994 – the same year Old Navy was founded – how’s that for a touchstone!? But such a remarkable tribute to her tenacity and spirited pursuit of her dream to come to America.
In her work today Timothy sees history as a window to the future. Her photography focuses on the age of discovery using lenses to reframe the historical perspective in ways that are revealing. Columbus, Da Vinci, Newton and Galileo all offer perspectives for our future. She cited Galileo Galilee as opening the universe to us by his question, “What else might I see?” Her photo captures this inquiry by showing Galileo juxtaposed with his own sketch of the Moon. See her show at www.lostinlearning.
We have so much opportunity to learn today and to take the stories of those who came before to inspire us.
And the last speaker of the early morning session is Jim Mellado, President of The Willow Creek Association which is dedicated to providing leadership staff and volunteers to local church organizations. He talked about his pursuit of becoming an Olympic athlete but found that the church kept calling him. He journeyed to South Korea to witness the world’s largest church with 500,000 congregants. On Sunday this church holds seven back-to-back services from sun up to sun down. The church is considered one of the fundamental contributors to South Korea’s economic and social success.
With his passion, Mellado sees that churches should be a vast source of contribution to society. Not detractors. His vision has been fed by multiple sources, including his reading of a Drucker article on what business can learn from the non-profit sector. The article highlighted the Willow Creek Association and the models and distinctive practices that differentiated it. He became the President of the leadership development program. Early on the Willow Creek Association represented over 50 different denominations, not wanting to change and give up their faith but wanting to learn from each other. Mellado became a student of innovation and a student of the members of his association. From that learning he determined how he could grow the adoption rate of his leadership model. Today there are over 90 denominations who are early adopters of the WCA models. Their theme is always, “Leaed Where You Are.”
The key learning was convincing early adopter churches not to leave their denominational systems because their actions were considered disruptive. WCA said, “don’t leave, we’ll feed you to ensure your success.” And overtime the WCA leadership events grew over time. Today they are simulcast in 280 cities all around the world to reach places that would never see some of these key note speakers, like Gary Hamel, Bill Clinton, Bono, etc.
He spoke passionately about helping others see the power they have themselves to connect, inspire and transform. A fitting way to kick us into the first break of the day.
Second session and we’re back with Alex Jadad a “dynamo in the health care space,” according to Saul Kaplan, Founder and Chief Catalyst of BIF.
Dr. Alex Jadad, Chief Innovator and Founder, Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, shared the life of his favorite superhero as he was growing up in Colombia, his grandfather Ricardo, who was a surgeon. He described his father being air-dropped into remote villages to provide care to women giving birth. His grandfather’s inspiration was to admonish his grandson to be better than him. And in searching for that he ‘discovered’ Dr. “Bones” McCoy from Star Trek fame – “the first to demonstrate to me a wireless network.”
Upon qualifying for medical school his grandfather shared with him some wisdom passed down from professor to professor, “Remember, remember, remember: your mission is to cure sometimes, alleviate often and console always.” And when he graduated he realized that his grandfather could no longer operate as a surgeon as his shoulder was frozen and he had high blood pressure, shortly thereafter his grandfather recognized a tremor, which was the arrival of Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Jadad, for all his searching, could not cure his grandfather’s illness and in doing so forgot to offer consolation. His research on knowledge systems and the use of technology to create diagnostic systems could not deliver what he so much wanted to.
“When you reach 60 if you’re not feeling well, if you’re suffering, shoot yourself!,” were Ricardo’s last spoken words before he received a tracheotomy so that he could eat and breath. And this left Alex if a whole universe of “if only?” questions which led him to end of life care.
If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.
- Mercedes Lackey
He then shared with us his work in with The Maimonides Project which is dedicated to imagining and creating new and better approaches to health and wellness, together, worldwide. In 2008 Dr. Jadad urged the British Medical Journal to seek a new definition for health from around the world. This kicked off a search for a new meaning for health, one that focuses on suffering, its eradication, mitigation, and use (when it cannot be removed) for meaning-making. And they arrived at the following questions:
What makes you happiest? What is your verb? How could you spend as much time doing it, with no regrets? How could your ensure that everyone else can do the same?
Could we build a Noosphere? Piere Teilhard de Chardin.
The delightful Angela Blanchard, President & CEO, Neighborhood Centers, Inc., a Texan and a Cajun shared her passion about creating thriving neighborhoods and communities. She recounted her family’s approach to combating poverty, working hard and giving it all away.
She asked, “What comes to mind when you think of a poor neighborhood?” We give poor neighborhoods new names every now and then, like “blight.” Ms. Blanchard notes that poor neighborhoods are defined by their: lacks, gaps, needs, wants, broken stuff…We catalog the problems only. We seek what is not working. It doesn’t work because you can’t build on broken. The change begins with the first new question.
In recounting a neighborhood in Houston, the new Ellis Island in that it drew populations from all over the world, she described people packing themselves to the USA bringing with them their aspirations, hopes and dreams. All anyone else saw was what was broken and not working. She started with:
- What’s working?
- What strong?
- What’s right?
All of which led to what was working and right and the source of community strength. And with Neighborhood Centers, Blanchard began to rigorously capture what was working with the same focus that others had cataloged the things that were not working. She found that her new story about this community was falling on deaf ears. The first person that she reached wanted help and said that, “I’ve been waiting for you.” And then Hurricane Katrina happened.
Katrina meant 125,000 people flooded into Houston from New Orleans and the Mayor of Houston said, “Just do what you do.’ So they did. They listened to stories of enormous loss who carried with them the few possessions that they could rescue. And then they asked questions about what people had. “Tell us about your strengths. Tell us about your connections. Tell us about what you can do.” This reframing of questions meant that people could now think about a path forward. Blanchard notes that this is not a Pollyanna approach, it meets the needs of communities in distress everywhere. It should be noted that the work of David Cooperrider at Case Western Reserve University on Appreciative Inquiry is reflected in Neighborhood Centers approach.
We are the only species in the world that creates the future out of our own imagination. Blanchard invited us to be a part of a new story.
The President of Babson College, Len Schlesinger, who came to present the collaborated on the research project between BIF and Babson focused on the new definitions of entrepreneurship. Babson is a leader in the entrepreneurship space (leading the undergraduate domain for 15 years and the graduate domain for 8 years.)
Via Hugh Macleod, but originally Jerry Garcia, “Don’t try to be the best you do, be the only.” And this drives Babson with its 2000 undergraduates on campus each year, and it’s ever-growing network and encouragement of entrepreneurship around the world. They desire to have a profound impact on the world by redefining the meaning of entrepreneurship. They do this by…
Articulating, Diffusing, and Proving the method of Entrepreneurship.
Babson is in the business of creating a deeper understanding of the experience of entrepreneurship so that they can spread it as far as possible. Schlesinger highlighted the impacted the leaders of organization development theory and behavior like Henry Mintzberg. The gap between current practice of management and entrepreneurship has been assessed by studying 250 entrepreneurs and their patterns of behavior. The work with BIF was designed to start new conversations and to create programs to support innovation and entrepreneurship everywhere. The range of programs being defined and support is quite remarkable.
Failure is intentional iteration and easier to sell when framed in that manner.
Entrepreneurship is a life skill which needs to be learned by more and more.
Online communities are places for profound connection.
Entrepreneurship is not a word that should be reserved for business owners – a shocking devaluation of the word.
A mentor to Saul Kaplan, Richard Saul Wurman is coming to talk about his new conference – WWW.WWW
Richard Saul Wurman rearranged the set to by illustrated fashion arrive at our need to tell the truth. “We ‘Uh-Hah’ each other to death.” Agreeing where we don’t have a clue. (With a side detour into the nature of human ears.)
“I’m unemployable as I don’t have skill sets. Which means I’m both terrified and confident at the same time.” The desire for comfort brings you down. Don’t try to live comfortably.
Wurman has published about 80 books and he did this by publishing things on subjects that he doesn’t understand. This intellectual curiosity feeds his productivity. This was the genesis of TED and the landmark conferences he created.
His new conference is a gathering without presentations nor a schedule nor PowerPoint nor tickets. He has invited the 100 most extraordinary people he knows and pair them up to have conversations with each other. Without introductions he will pose a premise and they will then talk to each other. When the conversation gets boring, he’ll pull them off stage. It is, intellectual jazz. Throughout which there will be a musical thread directed by YoYo Ma and Herbie Hancock.
This conference is dedicated to pattern recognition. The range of space Wurman talks of creating for conversation is wonderful – it affords room for truth, to capture and share a moment of truth about ourselves with each other. Wurman recommended that we seek out Geoffrey West, the former head of the Santa Fe Institute, to indicate the caliber of the people who are participating.
He also highlighted his next conference will be on prophecy. 25 people will be invited to share a prophecy which they believe and may be able to substantiate. Wurman continues to push and shake the status quo. Witty, profane and intriguing all at once.
Angus Davis has been an entrepreneur for years (since he was 18) He currently working on Swipely.
The relationship with the fear of failure is what differentiates entrepreneurs. Davis went from wanting a Stepford life to one modeled after Ferris Bueler. His after school job was building websites and this was the stabilizing force in his life. It was all he really cared about. Through this he was drawn to Netscape who offered him a Summer internship. Which was unusual, until that time they had only had Engineering and MBA internships. He sought out Mike McHugh, the VP of Technology, who asked why are you going to college, “come and work for us.” So he did.
When he started TellMe Networks with McHugh that was when he truly found out what it meant to be an entrepreneur. He found he had to manage his fear of failure. A perceived cost of failure increases over time. And…we have our first unicorn sighting! Complete with rainbow. No product, no business model, no problem.
Staggering from failure to failure. “We laid people off. We failed at that and had to have another round of lay-offs. We failed at failure.”
Great mention of the NYTimes magazine cover story on failure. “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?” All entrepreneurs are married to success but have ongoing affairs with failure. He cited a TED Talk by the author of “Eat Pray Love”,
It is exceedingly likely that my greatest success is behind me.
- Elizabeth Gilbert
Davis left us with the following: Let’s make better mistakes tomorrow – good advice for all.
Rebecca Onie, co-founded and his the Chief Executive Officer of Health Leads (formerly Project HEALTH) with Dr. Barry Zuckerman, Chair of Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center. Her work is focused on transforming healthcare opportunities by deploying a trained and mobilized corps of 660 college volunteers serving nearly 6,000 low-income patients and their families in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, New York, Providence, and Washington, D.C.
The profound health concerns of these low income people are rooted in the absences of basic rights of life, such as access to food and shelter, and many healthcare providers were practicing a, “Don’t ask. Don’t tell,” policy in response. They simply didn’t know what to do. Health Leads model of intervention is based on a similar model espoused by a doctor in the Mississippi Delta in the 1960’s, Jack Geiger.
Rebecca noted that so many factors need to be aligned. She boiled them down to three areas of focus for Health Leads:
- Amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals talk about logistics. – General Omar M. Bradley
- Health Leads connects social resources with mostly healthy patients, which falls completely outside the current healthcare model. Does this mean that they fall outside the conversation?
- Don’t become the problem we are trying to transform.
Every victory between here and there is so much more significant when the stakes are so high – the transformation of healthcare. Health Leads success is to transform healthcare delivery, how do we innovate and make sure that actually happens.
A social research scientist and Principal Research Scientist at Yahoo!, Duncan Watts shared his research. Starting out as a Physicist, he switched to Engineering and Math before becoming a Sociologist and finally went to work at Yahoo!
Watts highlighted a book written by a social scientist and reviewed by physicist in which the physicist disparaged the domain of social science essentially saying that physicists could solve all these problems “in a trice.” Obviously, the complexity of the systems at play were beyond the reviewer. As Watts explained, social systems are incredibly complex but don’t appear to be complex. He highlighted how crazy it was for former Senator Bill Frist to say, “It’s not rocket science,” when discussing fixing healthcare.
The challenge is to reflect on what we think is obvious – the concept of obviousness is a deep problem because it distracts us from seeing the data right in front of us. Common sense is more of an impediment to innovation and creativity than you would think. Our problem is when we miss-apply common sense to problems that are not concrete, everyday situations. Complex systems are not fit places for common sense to be applied.
Stories are powerful, but that power helps us generalize about the past to make predictions about the future which often leads us into trouble. This works for repeatable situations. But for complex system, history never repeats itself, it is always rife with unintended consequences.
To address this:
- Augment common sense with experimentation
- Policy, strategy and marketing could benefit from a more systematic approach
- Social sciences data constraints which meant problems were intractable can be addressed through data mining available on multiple social media platforms like – Twitter, Mechanical Turk at Amazon.
Watts is the author of Everything is Obvious* (*Once you know the answer)
Complex systems are not fit places for common sense to be applied. – Duncan Watts
Sebastian Ruth, the violinist shared music that inspires him and the ways in which music can reach into people to challenge them to reveal meaningful and personal truths. He asked:
- Can music make us feel something truly new?
- Can that feeling grow in such a way that it changes us?
Ruth explored his influences, people who inspire him, and then had two of his students perform a duet for us, Heather and Alanna, who are a part of the Community Music Works program. They played Summer Solstice Song by Bela Bartok.
Author, Co-chairman, Deloitte Center for The Edge, John Hagel took the lead after the last break of Day 1. He worked with John Seely Brown and is often featured at the HBR Online blog site. He decided to explore some of the distinctions between stories.
He illustrated his views based on three personal stories. He setup the internet practice at McKinsey in the early 1990’s and when he asked other partners if he could speak to their clients about the internet they said, politely, “No.” So instead of pushing his way into clients he wrote a book instead called, Net Gain, which had an interesting effect in that it was widely shared and the McKinsey phones started to ring and clients pulled partners into a dialog about the internet. From a dead start the internet practice became a $500M practice in 5 years.
Hagel’s second story related his childhood obsession with dragging his family out to large construction sites to sit on the huge equipment and imagine what he might build. And then twenty years ago he had the same kind of “builder’s fascination” with the potential for what might be accomplished with the internet. He became increasingly excited by what people could do with the platforms that the internet provided. With the internet Hagel found he could overcome his childhood shyness by developing relationships and community online that evolved into real life community.
The third story Hagel shared was about the United States. He spoke of the risks that people faced and experienced in order to come to the USA to create a new life. He noted how exciting it was that the USA attracts this whole group of people who are predisposed to creating, innovating, exploring, and learning the new. All of which drives the USA today.
Each story Hagel shared represents the difference between a story and a narrative. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Narratives have no end, they are continuously unfolding. The McKinsey story is a true story. The second story was a personal narrative about what excites Hagel to contribute. The third story is a national narrative and they are powerful for inviting participation.
In uncertain times we have more degrees of freedom to change our future and that is exactly when we become most risk averse.
Both the Republicans and the Democrats have gone to a threat-based narrative. Both of which ask us to focus on risk and threat aversion. Hagel proposes a more opportunity-focused narrative (back to Coopperrider’s work – see above.)
Dale Stephens created Uncollege and earned won Theil Fellowships, offering $100,000 to entrepreneurs to drop out of college and pursue their dreams. Essentially he is applying the spirit and practice of homeschooling to higher education. Self-directed, low-cost, participatory, collaborative, and steeped in design thinking.
We’re mortgaging away our freedom to innovate to college debt.
Stehpens noted, “I’m passionate about education but I dropped out of college because the opportunity cost was too high.”
He hacked his education, worked on campaigns, went to France, built businesses all of which he fashioned into his own education experience. He never doubted he would go to college, but found that the idealism he sought was lacking or miss-applied to partying. He found a like minded peer who, also homeschooled, helped him realize that their inability to fit within the college framework was not their problem but lay in a profoundly broken system.
What happens in class stays in class – every day in higher education is like a trip to Vegas.
College is not preparing its graduates for success. Professors are researching. Students are partying. The Development Office is soliciting funds. The Administration is building new facilities to attract more money. – The whole system is broken and is struggling under the weight of misaligned expectations.
Stephens notes that college should be about finding work that you love, that is meaningful to you. The struggle is that college is not aligned to that expectation at all. He quoted Mark Twain: “I never let me schooling interfere with my education.”
Life is a field trip and we don’t need a permission slip.
How much of what you know and what you use came from university, versus from experience. And how many of those experiences did you forgo in pursuit of a degree.
Next up was Fred Mandell, a life change artist. He began with a story of August Renoir who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. Who painted every day into late 80’s assisted by his family. He died after spending the day painting. As he finished he said to his son, “I think I’m beginning to understand something about it.” Mandell asked, do we know what “it” is? This quest shapes our life to our last day and it shaped and formed by a set of poor skills with which we struggle to understand our “it.”
Having been a refugee from the financial services sector, he had discovered how to become a “corporate athlete”, what design firm IDEO would essentially call a “T-shaped person” who was tasked with being an intrapreneur. In his early 50’s Mandell was experiencing a roiling sensation inside him. So, he decided to enroll in a sculpture workshop. Over time he became a sculptor, including holding a one person show. In 2001 he moved away from the corporate role to pursue his art more seriously.
From here he, “entered a period of strange discomfort.” He didn’t know how to explain himself in terms of what he did and persisted in explaining himself in terms of what he was. This triggered a search for what energized him. He discovered his personal mantra: “create, integrate, and make a difference.” This is what he says, “torches my soul.”
When he creates he is both lost and found. He believes he is at his highest and best self when he his making a difference in the lives of others. Mandell also searches for what makes geniuses great. With a co-author, Kathy Jordan, he found those elements that help artists create for extended period of time. This research yielded an interesting view into the narrative arch of artists.
Life change is a fundamentally create process. The core creative skills are, in fact, life skills. Without them people struggle to navigate change in their lives.
The parallels between creating an organization and creating a body of work were remarkable. This became the genesis of a program called the “Innovation Studio.”
Picasso said, “We begin with an idea and it becomes something else.” A mindset that we can apply to our lives.
Matthew Moniz is one of the youngest alpinists. He has been climbing since he can remember. He shared the story of his best friend with pulmonary hyper-tension (PH), Iain Hess, and how he found out learned more about his friend’s disease. He said that climbing gives him a way to experience that kind of feeling.
He shared his affinity for learning about the Himalayas through the porters who loved their lives in the mountains. During this time he met a Korean reporter who gave Matt the idea that he could use his age and his passion as a way to inspire others to work in the field of PH. Matt noted that he chooses to do high-altitude mountaineering while his friend Iain experiences the equivalent feelings 24×7; which gives him a better understanding of what his friend is going through.
Matt gave us a travelogue of his mountain adventures. He seems to have lived more in his short life than many in world. His spirit and youthful passion for his sport are an inspirational.
But wait there’s more! Matt then decided to do 14 14’s (14,000 foot mountains) in 14 days as a way of honoring Iain’s struggle. And in doing this people with PH found a way that they could explain their disease to others. In doing so they raised $25,000 for the Iain Hess Breath Easy Fund.
And yet another decision was to do the 50 highest peaks in each of the 50 states in 50 days. With so many different environments the terrain was wildly divergent. As a result he was names one of the adventurers of the year by National Geographic in 2010. Matt Moniz is an inspiration…and a machine.
See more of Matt’s journeys here.
What a day! A huge round of applause goes out to the storytellers and the great folks at the Business Innovation Factory for their phenomenal effort. Looking forward to Day 2 tomorrow. Below is the Shepard Fairy OBEY mural in downtown Providence, RI. A great piece of art in a great town.