Create the world you want to live in—#BIF9

2013-09-18 10.28.10When one is compassionate it has profound affect on the severity, occurrence and length of disease. Dr. James Doty, the CEO and Founder of CCare shared that this has been identified scientifically to be true.

He asked, how can a privileged, white, male have a leg to stand on in the face of the ridiculousness of the lawmakers in Washington DC who have little understanding of physiology expounding on women’s reproductive health? By declaring where they stand. Doty declared: “I am a feminist and a humanist.”

Every person has a right to dignity, to flourish and to thrive.

Doty made it very clear that everyone will suffer in their lives. He said, as others have before him, that it is our lot to suffer but it is also within our nature to care and intervene to alleviate the suffering of others. Human gestation and the need for care developed the depth and the range of nurturing required for humans to survive.

These social bonds also resulted in the development of culture, society and religion, and this paradigm has worked for the last several hundred years. But it is not a sustainable model. Change happens over generations and we are experiencing a tumult of change. When people are authentic and connect with others based on who they are, they derive the maximum benefit from those interactions. When we are compassionate our immunes system is boosted. These behavior traits will ensure our continuity.

Observing another being compassionate results in you being more compassionate.

Doty left us with a recitation of the following poem by Nancy R. Smith, “For Every Woman”

For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong, there is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.

For every woman who is tired of acting dumb, there is a man who is burdened with the constant expectation of “knowing everything.”

For every woman who is tired of being called “an emotional female,” there is a man who is denied the right to weep and to be gentle.

For every woman who is called unfeminine when she competes, there is a man for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity.

For every woman who is tired of being a sex object, there is a man who must worry about his potency.

For every woman who feels “tied down” by her children, there is a man who is denied the full pleasures of shared parenthood.

For every woman who is denied meaningful employment or equal pay, there is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human being.

For every woman who was not taught the intricacies of an automobile, there is a man who was not taught the satisfactions of cooking.

For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation, there is a man who finds the way to freedom has been made a little easier.

Evan Ratliff shared three powerful lessons:

  1. Sometimes you have to create the world you want to live in
  2. You have to appeal to or assume the better nature of your audience
  3. You have to go all-in

He, and his partners have created a new publishing site called The Atavist—and to do that they found that they needed to create a new platform to be able to tell those stories which is call Creatavist.

Ratliff shared more of his motivations in an interview after sharing his story here:

Primed-in-5-logoPrimed in 5 with Evan Ratliff

 

 

 

 

There came about a movement for long-form storytelling online across both old and new media which Ratliff recognized. More and more people are looking to tell these kinds of stories. The people who care about what you have to say will give you their attention and loyalty.

Bruce Nussbaum is a Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of Design in New York City, is a former Managing Editor at BusinessWeek and blogs for Fast Company and Harvard Business Review. He taught third grade science in the Peace Corps in the Philippines and studied anthropology, sociology and political science in grad school at the University of Michigan. At BIF-9 he shared the power of transforming the world around us through our intention. His new book is Creative Intelligence.

When we think about what is meaningful to people, big data can give us information but without cultural context it can be misleading.

There is a huge difference in generations. And what is meaningful to each of them. The fastest way to change an organization is to change generations, at the very least you need multi-generation teams. You also need to pay attention to the translation and transition between the two. You are inattentive at your own peril.

2013-09-18 13.36.25Xiao Xiao took the bench at the piano and then simply plays, along with herself! She developed a new piano media enhancement as part of her work on her PhD with the Tangible Media Group at MIT, the result is the Mirrorfugue.

For Xiao, she sees the utility of mapping analogies for music – classical = score, jazz = more sparse but based on theme. Both of which can describe landscapes and terrains like cities. The projection of yourself onto the city occurs in the same way that projection onto music creates layers of meaning leading to unique interpretations. And is so doing transporting your audience to new realms.

The way we understand things is fundamentally shaped by the way we capture our experiences. With the proliferation of recordings it precipitated a shift in the art of classical performance from interpretation to correctness, taking the energy out of the music. You more easily recognize wrong notes rather than the energy of the interpretation.

The approach to classical music that is thematic is the order of the day, but it is in the variations that the true meaning lies. Themes and short form interpretations lack the physical, emotional and intellectual engagement of variations.

Two prove her point Xiao played with two others across the Mirrorfugue! Brilliant! Bach Two Part Inventions.

futurama-6Peter Hirshberg of Re:Imagine asked, how do we turn our cities and into platforms for innovation? By way of an answer he shared the notion of the World’s Fair as an immersive form. The 1939 World’s Fair in New York was perhaps the worlds greatest World’s Fair. A canvas like no other. The vision was a very controlled and structured one—certainly as offered by GM.

The notion of turning the city into a lab was also shared by Walt Disney – see EPCOT at Walt Disney World as a classic 20th Century example of that. A community of tomorrow that will never be completed. The future was to be given to us by American enterprise and not something that could be co-created. The present day version of the city of tomorrow should be something like Burning Man. It’s 60,000 people to a desert. You have to participate (no bystanders) and you have to reframe the world.

Make ideas worth stealing.

Art becomes a tool to fundamentally reframe how we see the world. The next World’s Fair is the one we create ourselves.

Saul Kaplan moderated a discussion between Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos & Bill Taylor (Founder of FastCompany magazine). Taylor has come to BIF 7 out of 9 times. A writer and an editor who loves to meet people who are not in the headlines every day. This is an important part of his year. Hsieh has been to BIF 3 times and has shared his story, too.

life-is-beautiful-festivalOctober 2013 is the 20th Anniversary of the FastCompany business plan. To celebrate they are hosting a mini BIF. The theme is “What are you working on?” Best-selling novelists, TV network directors, investors (Tom Peters), gadflies (Seth Godin) will be participating. Taylor sees himself as being a skunk at the garden party, “It is hard and difficult to make deep-seated, long-lasting change,” but you have to talk about that so that you can be ready for the hard and challenging work involved.

Hsieh shared the challenge of transforming downtown Las Vegas and the serendipity of meeting someone who was leaving town because she didn’t want to work in casinos any more. They funded her lunch spot. He also shared the promotion for the Downtown Las Vegas, Life is Beautiful Festival – a multiple focus festival. He spoke to the action of making change a reality.

The last storyteller who shook up the room was Rabbi Irwin Kula founder of Clal, who said of his honorific: “It’s like any title, it is being rapidly deconstructed today.” Much in the same way he said, we need to innovate in religion. As secular spaces become sacred. And the most religious are the least.

Religious leadership has nothing to offer because we are reinventing religion. Through that reinvention how the hardware of humanity gets used will be very dependent on the software of humanity.

Cognitive and physical enhancement also demands moral enhancement.

We have to be disruptive moral innovators. As with most religious leaders Rabbi Kula left as with more questions than answers…

What do symbols mean? What do practices mean? Do they work or do you become a bastard. What would it mean to be incented by acceptable behavior?

How do we disaggregate wisdom and practices that designed to help us become wiser, kinder and gentler? How do we move people from the cathedral to the bazaar? Real religion is happening in our lives all the time. How do designs reflect the products that shape consciousness and awareness? We need metrics on what practices work.

When the fastest growing religion is “none” – how do we engage our complete selves in ways that are meaningful to us and to those around us? Which regardless of religion is what BIF-9 was all about—engagement to make shared meaning.

My recommendation: come and be a part of the story to unfold in 2014. You won’t be disappointed.

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Risk is critical for change but the spectrum of acceptable risk is personal—#BIF9

Stacy-PearsallThe range of risk explored, for the sake of self-discovery and innovation was quite extraordinary at BIF-9. It was humbling to see the extent to which people placed themselves, and their sense of self, at risk in the pursuit of revealing new truths.

Combat photographer, Stacy Pearsall opened with a story about joining the military and the elite combat photography troop and through her work received a traumatic brain injury in Iraq. The acceptance of death as a possibility was necessary to do her job and led to her project documenting, “America’s unsung heroes.”

Pearsall described her camera as one of the most powerful weapons possible. That said, after her traumatic brain injury, she discovered that there was a gap in what it meant to be a veteran and how veterans are perceived. She began to photograph veterans to be able to help broaden the definition of what it means to be a veteran and what their needs are in society today. The Veterans Portrait Project was created and she is self-funding the effort.

She wants no other veteran to experience what she experienced in her journey to recovery.

Through her Charleston Center for Photography, Pearsall teaches disabled veterans by giving them the tools they need to feel better about themselves. She finds inspiration in others and the ability to help and exhorted us to do something today—and together.

The concept of a bias for action was very much in play over the two days. Scott Heimendinger, started out as a passionate food blogger and fell into the traps of scrambling for SEO and page views, etc. It wasn’t great, but as Scott noted, doing work is good.

Doing work is important, even if you are not sure what you are doing.

In 2009 if you wanted to cook sous vide at home it cost $1200 to buy a lab device. It shouldn’t have cost that much. Make magazine published his slow food DIY project and he unlocked the Maker merit badge as a result. Heimendinger found the “right pond” to swim in through a process of taking more and more small risks on over time.

As someone who is very risk averse, I have come a long way.

Over time he created a molecular gastronomy cooking club and is establishing Culinary Jam Sessions. Jet City Gastro Physics, just filed its first patent on the way to making better French fries. Along the way he took a Modernist Cuisine course and snagged an internship during which he met Nathan Myhrvold former Microsoft CTO and molecular gastronomist, who created a guide. Now, after directly telling Myhrvold that he should hire him, Heimendinger is working there are as Director of Applied Research and recently had an amazing launch on Kickstarter for his $199 sous vide cooker.

For more on this topic listen to my post session interview with Scott.

Primed-in-5-logoPrimed in 5 with Scott Heimendinger

His efforts were rewarded by taking a series of risks that were manageable over time. All it took was bold passion and being unafraid to be passionate.

 

 

 

That kind of dedication and passion is something that Angela Maiers sought to tap into during her story. For Maiers, the act of contribution changes us. She sees that the moment we realize we have what someone else needs, in that moment our humanity is cemented.

To frame her story she noted that somewhere between preschool and grad school we have learned to hide our genius. And we need to change that. Then she launched into sharing the tale of a great project she conducted with some high school seniors on the last day of school before Summer. Maiers actively asked them to tap into their own genius, to risk a little by committing to something bigger than them selves. What occurred was nothing less than astounding. The students stayed for two days even though school was well and truly out for the year!

Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just changing the world.

The students felt that they were needed and were going to do something about it. Fifteen social enterprises launched and they all believed in themselves and in each other. By taking a risk they became invested in their own genius. And some of the participants joined Angela on stage at BIF-9 to share their own takeaways from the event and share their own stories, “These two days were really important to me…” which was great to see. Another risk taken…

FutureProjectIf Angela Maiers exemplified the process of leading others to recognize and take ownership of their own genius, Andrew Mangino illustrated the results of that journey of discovery from the student’s perspective. Arising from his work as a student journalist Mangino shared his path to eventually founding The Future Project,

 

 

 

High schools aren’t living up to what we all know they can be. Too many students drop out. Even more are disengaged daily. And the current thinking–to blame more teachers, impose more rules, and inject more money–just isn’t working.

At The Future Project, we see the problem simply: Our students aren’t pursuing their dreams. We’re out to turn high schools into Future Schools, where students develop the skills to do just that.

Here are the nine lessons he learned on the way:

  1. When we discover a passion, we discover we can do anything.
  2. Young people learn most when they are changing the world
  3. Schools are not really broken. They are working just as they were designed to work. And so they must be re-invented. [The performance system. Duh]
  4. A nation build on infinite possibility doesn’t feel like it.
  5. The most unjust gap in modern America is the inspiration gap. (seen as a luxury)
  6. The most solvable gap in modern America is the inspiration gap.*
    *But it is going to take a movement to do it.
  7. We don’t have to wait for permission to start.
  8. Nothing happens without a great team.
  9. It’s time for a new kind of leader in America—someone who stands for you.

The Future Project asked, what if there were dream directors? Now they have 16 dream directors across 4 cities in schools. Standing up for the infinite possibility of young people exemplified by Marielle, a student who stood up and began to transform her own school,

I have been a dreamer on stand-by for a long time. And that ends today.

Another way of looking at risk was presented by JoAnn Stonier, Chief Privacy Officer with MasterCard Worldwide. For Stonier, risk is not an immovable concept—it is highly fluid. One of the great challenges she sees for us as we innovate in an age of big data is that the risks to our privacy are not fully known and are not being considered widely enough to influence public policy and private behavior.

“The right to be let alone” arising out of the Gilded Age, is the early precursor to the right to privacy and at the time it was needed to create a retreat from the world due to the encroachments of the Industrial Age. That right to holding private some aspects of our identity and the data that is the manifestation of it is even more important now. Last year Stonier had spent the Summer months addressing the encroachment into private data by the NSA.

We are having these conversations because of the nature of the changes in our society today. Law lags innovation—they are never the solution.

If we look to law we are going to be waiting a very long time for a corresponding support. We need to be wrestling with what is at risk now. Privacy matters and it needs to be a part of the conversation for all who are innovating so that we can ensure that our own risk tolerance can be managed.

Perhaps Steve Blank captured the reframing of business risk best. As the author of The Four Steps to the Epiphany and The Startup Owner’s Manual, Blank has been uncovering the ways in which those who take risks to begin new enterprises go about their work. He noted that Joseph Campbell identified the hero myth in multiple cultures as essentially the same story. Campbell recognized the pattern in the data.

Blank did 8 start-ups in 21 years. At no time was he looking for patterns, as he had his head down the entire time. Yet he did identify patterns.

After retirement Blankbegan sitting on boards and had one a series of private investments over the course of time he began to write his memoirs. While writing he identified a pattern emerging that no-one else had ever called out.

For the last century everyone had been striving for success is by treating start-ups as smaller versions of larger enterprises.

He offered a countervailing view. He noted that no business plan survives first contact with customers and that the only people who use 5 year plans are VC’s (venture capitalists) and Soviet-era countries.

The best start-ups went from failure to failure learning as rapidly as they could. Blank observed the “pivot”—times during which companies changed strategy by changing the people (firing the VP of Sales) and recognized that there needed to be a different way of handling the failure as a result of risk taking.

What we should have been doing instead of firing the person we should have been changing the plan.

On their first day, Blank said, every start-up is a faith-based enterprise based on guesses and no processes to test those guesses. There is no way you are smarter than the collective intelligence of your customers, so experiment with them. Make the risk to the enterprise manageable by learning as fast as you possibly can.

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Problem-finding is more powerful than solution-creating—#BIF9

One of the skills that rose to the fore over the course of BIF-9 was the concept of problem-finding. In an age of relentless performance improvement and waster mitigation, solution creation has been the default position of most enterprises and their employee members. At BIF-9 we learned that solution creating is all well and good but if you are solving the wrong problem, or if you haven’t framed the problem appropriately, you will waste a whole lot of time, energy and resources—possibly evening compounding the very thing you were trying to improve.

I am not often moved when people share deeply personal experiences in public forums. When Whitney Johnson took the stage and revealed a deeply personal and tragic story from her life I had misgivings primarily driven from my own discomfort with bearing witness to her grief. The story she shared wove beautifully into her exploration of the notion of “showing up,” — being present and fully in the moment rather than paying casual attention to participation.

Do I dare disturb the universe? T.S. Elliott

Johnson noted that you can not give up without dreaming but you cannot show up unless you dream. The key is that you have to show up to make the kind of difference that you want to make in the world. When we show up we open ourselves up to disappointment and failure. Being a victim is a pretty seductive plotline.

Dreaming is at the heart of disruption. In order to make the leap from one learning curve to the next you have to show up.

Community SolutionsIf showing up is the first step in appropriate problem-finding then moving from symptoms to root causes is the next. People mostly spend their lives managing the symptoms of problems but very rarely address the causes, said Roseanne Haggerty. While working with homeless youth in Times Square in New York City Haggerty discovered that without a home to go back to the issues of homeless could not be addressed by interim housing solutions. A permanent home solution was required.

To highlight the importance of the right question, Haggerty shared a powerful story of her own experience providing support to homeless people in Time Square. A woman on staff called from Bellevue Hospital, she said that a service-resistant person, Sarah, had informed her that Haggerty was her next of kin. When they finally connected in person, Haggerty asked why Sarah had been service-resistant, she found it was because the right questions had not been asked. “You didn’t ask me if I wanted a home,” stated Sarah.

This lead to the realization that we needed a solution that we hadn’t recognized before.

They created a new project using an ex-military intelligence officer who mapped the homeless in Times Square and through the application of data mapping and management they developed appropriate individualized solutions to the needs of the homeless. 100,000 Homes Campaign came out of this effort. This resulted in communities becoming energized by providing long term solutions based on the right processes, learning tools, and collaborations. From the housing efforts you can move towards long term systemic solutions that address the problem at heart.

Solutions can arise out of the most remarkable realizations.

A human rights lawyer who is the CEO of a luxury fashion brand, Paul van Zyl grew up in apartheid South Africa. His parents said they lived in an evil society and it was their moral obligation to change it. He became a lawyer to change a system that demanded to be changed. There were few business leaders who were admirable role models; lawyers offered a more viable role model alternative.

Maiyet logoWith partners, van Zyl created a luxury brand, Maiyet (after the Egyptian Goddess of Truth and Harmony)  that is found on social justice and economic empowerment. At BIF-9 he shared a story about the Varanasi silk weavers in India, and noted that Varanasi is a seed bed of cross cultural and religious collaboration. The hand woven silk is some of the most beautiful in the world, and was in danger of being wiped out by low-cost Chinese manufacturers across the border. Maiyet seeks rare skills from unique and unexpected places in the world and have partnered with NEST to be able to bring products to market in a sustainable way. Working with David Adjaye to design and build a custom facility in Varanasi to ensure that this culture and these skills don’t die off.

You need to combine design with training and support and also access to markets, said van Zyl. Then you create real value:

  • Value for artisans – they are paid what they are worth
  • Value for brands – access to things of extraordinary and unique beauty
  • Value for consumers – ownership of things that would otherwise be unavailable.

While Pauk van Zyl offered solutions for ensuring cultural longevity, Carmen Medina tackled the need to transform the culture of one of our own lasting artifacts, the corporation. Along with her partner in crime Lois Kelly, Medina presented the case for Rebels at Work, a movement dedicated to unlocking the potential of those who question the status quo inside the corporate sphere (also, see the way in which David Butler, at Coke, is sowing the seeds to capitalize on this concept.)

There is a worldwide conspiracy for the preservation of meritocracy. Not all are conspirators but many of us are unwitting co-conspirators.

Medina noted that most of the people talking at BIF are independent agents. They are usually trying to change systems from the outside. They are building alternative models and creating places for people to go. Those who are heretics at work need to learn to be uncomfortable so that they can do similar work insider their companies and organizations. The world needs rebels at work now more than ever, because we cannot tear down everything and replace it with something new. We don’t have that kind of time. We must change what we have and unlock the value already resident in our organizations.

As we shift the dialogue about our organizations and our roles in them, we can begin to reframe so many of the things that we take at face value. The challenges of managing our health and how we age were two additional areas that were presented for reframing.

The CEO of VisualMD, Alexander Tsiaris, showed us the power of visual information in changing the choices we make about managing our health. VisualMD is the NIH meets Pixar. It is a home for visualization artists, fine artists, researchers, high-level programmers all working in concert with a collection of huge amounts of data – they produce 150TB for every project they do. His company tells stories based on the data —it is story that gives the soul to the data.

The beauty of visualization is that it speaks to everyone.

Tsiaris believes we have to change the paradigm, using storytelling at the beginning of the spectrum to help people tell stories about what is going on inside their body. VisualMD created an ecosystem that helps people build a story about themselves which can be a part of an holistic educational system about personal health. If all your personal health records can be supplemented by a whole range of relevant sources and resources they can help you contextualize your health state.

Little stories from big data that explain little things going on inside your body so that you can understand the implications and be un-intimidated by the process.

As Tsiaris showed us the power of information in reframing how we see ourselves, Alan Webber, co-founder of FastCompany magazine and author, shared the value of reframing the public and private discourse we have about aging. The conversation is not about aging. It’s the wrong label. The categories are wrong for the way we live today. It’s about living and how we choose to live our lives. It applies not just only retirees, it is everyone no matter where they are in life’s journey.

This is not about career. It’s about making all the transitions over the course of a life and is explored in Webber’s book (co-authored with Richard J. Leider), Life Re-imagined. The conversation needs to be about how to cope with pain and possibility—answering the question, “What’s Next?”

To that end Webber offered “What’s Next” words to live by:

  • Choice
  • Curiosity
  • Courage

Everyone’s life is an experiment of one – no one can tell you how to do it.

No one should do it alone – everyone needs someone to help them with their experiment.

A good question beats a good answer. How are you seeking out the right questions so you can focus on the right problem? And who are you asking to help you on the way?

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Business Innovation Factory 9 — #BIF9 – The Gift of Stories

Business Innovation Factory

Business Innovation Factory

Lessons in Innovation (and Life) from BIF-9

On September 18 and 19 I had the great good fortune to be in the room for the Business Innovation Factory’s annual symposium/happening/gabfest/love-in, BIF-9. What transpired over two days was a phenomenally inspiring exploration of the ways we can engage ourselves and others in the creation of breakthroughs to make our world a better place. Yes, I know this sounds hyperbolic. The simple fact is that this event was a shock to the system in unanticipated and exciting ways.

 

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.  – Hannah Arendt

As the founder of BIF and the host for BIF-9, Saul Kaplan framed the experience at the outset citing the need for catalysts and recognizing the need to include youth in the co-design of solutions, “they will, after all, be the ones to inherit this world after we depart.” BIF-9 continued to drive home the expectation that this was an occasion for “random collisions of unusual suspects” in service of new and better ways to address the most pressing social, economic and business issues of the day. It did not disappoint.

Over the course of two days there were over sixteen vignettes during which individuals and small groups shared their personal stories, presented their work, held conversations. The storytellers ranged from Easton LaChapelle a prosthetic roboticist and student who is seeking to revolutionize the way in which prosthetics are developed, to Rabbi Irwin Kula who exhorted the audience to seek new ways to engage with the practice of faith and spirituality in that they are being rapidly disintermediated. We also managed to pull off a live Innochat, streamed via Ustream and moderated by Renee Hopkins.

Rather than providing a blow-by-blow account of the presenters (a not-so-subtle incentive for you to sign up for BIF10) here are five of the broad lessons I took away from this experience:

  1. The value of your network is how well you use it for others
  2. Everything is an opportunity to experiment, learn and grow
  3. Problem-finding is more powerful than solution-creating
  4. Risk is critical for change but the spectrum of acceptable risk is personal
  5. Create the world you want to live in

Each of the lessons is explored in a separate post (one a day the week following BIF-9). Take a look at some of the surprises shared by the great storytellers and ask yourself, “What story could I share that might inspire another?” We all have a story (or more to share). What’s yours?

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Business Innovation Factory – 7 #BIF7 – Live blogging Sept 20

And we’re off! Saul Kaplan, “Anyone interested in being inspired today?”

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.)

Visit: www.businessinnovationfactory.com/elab

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:

  1. Amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals talk about logistics. – General Omar M. Bradley
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

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Innovating Event Participation through Social Media: expanding the impact of SXSW, World Innovation Forum & more

Over the last two years I have had the good fortune to be drawn into the world of live-blogging at events. I came into this as a result of trying to figure out how to maximize the value I was gaining from using Twitter. To be perfectly honest, when I first saw Twitter and the kinds of messages people were posting, I thought: “Great. Another platform for the terminally self-involved and ego-centric to shout, ‘Look at me!’” But after exploring it some more, and heeding the advice of folks like Chris Brogan, who advocated the use of Twitter as a tool for keeping connected with subjects that were of interest and importance to you, I found my way to #innochat.

For those of you who don’t know, #innochat is a weekly Twitter chat held at noon (USA Eastern Standard/Daylight Time) every Thursday. Each week a topic is determined, a framing post is created in support of the topic with links to appropriate resources, and some key questions are identified to prompt and guide discussion. Usually the person who identified the topic also writes the framing post and moderates the chat on that day. Between 50 to 150 people “show up” to wrestle with a core concept each week. In the space of an hour we may have nearly 1,000 tweets. In short, it is a great online event which rarely disappoints in terms of engagement, energy, and enthusiasm.

What does this have to do with event participation? Good question.

This chat model is an adjunct to a wider series of Twitter chat and live event integrations which are expanding the impact and engagement of those events beyond participants in a room. One recent example is covered very well by Angela Dunn (aka @blogbrevity) who wrote a series of great posts at Pharmaphorum on “How to make your conference social”. Angela’s most recent post focuses on the establishment of a bloggers’ hub and how to effectively participate in an event as a blogger. You might even see someone you know being interviewed.

Angela Dunn interview with Renee Hopkins & Drew Marshall

The great thing about Angela’s advice is that it is practical and useful no matter what type of event you run. This is drawn directly from her own experience as a blogger at multiple events and this post specifically focuses on the great work of George Levy, VP of Online Marketing for HSM Americas, who created the Blogger’s Hub at the HSM World Innovation Forum three years ago. From a full-blown, multiday conference to a focused internal event for innovators in your organization, integrating social media expands the scope of the conversation and broadens its utility to a much wider audience. The key is to be clear about your objectives for participants both in the room and further afield.

As part of my volunteer work helping to coordinate #innochat sessions, which I fell into, I have also been asked to participate as a live blogger for internal company events. Francois Gossieux, founder of Human 1.0, invited me to participate in one such event for a technology innovation company that incorporated a range of bloggers, the host company, and client participants in the room. By engaging bloggers, the company created a much wider platform for its small event, inviting participation from around the world to share in the experience being generated in a hotel conference room in Orlando, Florida. This event leveraged social media in a way that meant the host company had a broader reach and greater impact than a typical trade show event or internal product launch would ever have had.

Another off-shoot from my #innochat experience was taking the online chat to a live setting at the South By South West Interactive Festival (aka. SXSW) this year. Renee Hopkins, one of the long-time contributors to and hosts of #innochat invited me, Gwen Ishmael, and Jason Sutton to participate in a Core Conversation at SXSW on Business 101—focused on making money as a small enterprise or solo entrepreneur. Now, the way Core Conversations had been designed by the SXSW organizers was to have them be audio-visual-free zones: The rooms were set up in the round (all the chairs facing each other in a large circle) with no AV equipment. Being the innovators we are, the #innochat team on the ground immediately subverted that.

We set up a projector and omni-directional microphone in order to live-stream the conversation in the room. We also had Gwen and Justin cover the #innochat hashtag live while Renee and I integrated comments from inside the room with questions, comments, and suggestions from the wider #innochat community. Our experience at SXSW had been that if audience members were dissatisfied with their in-room experience, they would quite rapidly employ the rule of “two feet” in that they could walk out at any stage. We started with a packed room (over 100 people) and we ended up with people sitting on the floor around the room by the time we finished. The dynamic between the room participants and those following and engaging with the chat stream at #innochat was great.

As people left, some said it was the most engaging session they had been to so far.

How are you maximizing the use of social media to increase the impact of your efforts?

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SXSW – The social focus in innovation

This week I had the good fortune to be asked to co-moderate a session at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, TX. Based on a set of criteria laid out by the festival organizers – apparently as an expat Australian living in the wilds of central New Jersey I ticked some boxes on the diversity chart – I was afforded a front-row seat at the 25th anniversary of a remarkable event.

I won’t tell you all the things that I saw, simply some highlights. What I will say is that for all the pontificating about whether SXSW had jumped the shark, or whether the value was in the room or outside the room, I felt that for an event this size SXSW was one of the better managed conferences I have ever attended. Assistance was readily available should it be required. People were generally courteous. The opportunities to learn were plentiful, and yes, those opportunities were both in the presentation rooms and out on the street in cafés, bars and restaurants, too.

I was not able to devote more than three days to my SXSW experience and given how much I did I don’t know how anyone can pull themselves together for the full ten-day Platinum program. With all the parties involved it would be a shattering experience which would require another ten days vacation for recuperation.

Speakers heard
There is something about conferences with a reputation that makes speakers lift their game. To fail (or is that, FAIL?) at SXSW would certainly be a career limiting move. One of the highlights was seeing June Cohen, the Executive Producer of TED Media, share the journey that the TED conference has taken as it has become a platform for sharing the inspiring and thought-provoking from around the world. Ms. Cohen’s passionate exploration of the challenges of taking TED content “radically open-source” was engaging and intriguing. What TED is and what it is becoming are fast becoming two very different ecosystems. I’m looking forward to watching and learning more over time.

From the sublime to, well if not ridiculous, the profane was the experience of Gary Vaynerchuck live. The large ballroom in the Austin Convention Center was filled with Gary V acolytes and had all the atmosphere of a tent revival meeting. Mr. Vaynerchuck did not disappoint his fans or those new to the experience of him live. He strutted and stormed across the stage and ventured into the audience to spread the love. By turns charming and crass, witty and snide, he kept the audience locked into his always present but not-quite-overt sales pitch for his new book The Thank You Economy. As a New Jersey resident I love his enthusiasm. As a business person I love his story. Certainly the man knows the cardinal rule of the entertainer (no, not working with animals and children) – leave ‘em wanting more.

Rather than providing more speaker recaps, I’ll leave with a brief overview of Bruce Sterling’s closing speech. Now, I as a long time fan of science fiction, I am a huge fan of Bruce Sterling’s writing. I had never seen him live, but knew that his connection to SXSW was long and deep. He did not disappoint either. In a speech that was part angry polemic and part trickster diatribe, Mr. Sterling spared no mercy in skewering Washington, DC politics, Italian politics, politics in general, corporations specifically, and another SXSW speaker J.Craig Venter directly. One of his earliest pearls was that, “all the political language has been rendered toxic.” As a writer, if your use of language is restricted it means you’re a party to organized deception. And Mr. Sterling was not to be silenced. Go here, for a very neat Twitter capture by Jon Lebkowsky. http://www.phibetaiota.net/2011/03/bruce-sterling-at-sxsw-2011-brilliance-on-twitter/)

Another highlight directly connected to the speakers, panelists and presenters was the sponsorship by the advertising giant Ogilvy, of a series of visual note-takers from ImageThink who attended and documented nearly 100 sessions over three days. Their output is phenomenal. See here for a link to the efforts.

Connections made
As mentioned earlier, I was invited to participate with Renee Hopkins, the Senior Editor of Texas Enterprise in the co-moderation and facilitation of an Innochat live core conversation. Core conversations are meant to be topic-focused but wide-ranging full group discussions. Our topic for the day was, “Business Model 101: How do you make money?”

Not knowing what to expect we knew that we needed to bring some technology into the room, which was not provided (on purpose) for core conversations. The intent by the SXSW organizers was to keep people focused on dialogue and not technology. That said, we need to stream a live feed from the #innochat Twitter feed as that was the heart of our initial pitch. We managed to do that and have Gwen Ishmael and Justin Sutton from Decision Analyst, Inc. in the room moderating the live stream and bringing participants into the room by highlighting specific tweets. With over 100 participants in the room and a good many online our discussion was lively and over all too quickly (see: Vaynerchuck – “…leave ‘em wanting more,” above.)

For me, however the main highlights from attending SXSW was making connections with people I know online from Twitter in real life and from past lives. A group of innochat leaders were able to connect in real life over food at Threadgill’s North (I highly recommend the meatloaf with garlic cheese grits.) It was great to take a set of relationships from one technology space offline and have just as wide-ranging and robust discussion. I also had the good fortune to experience dinner with a former co-worker (and friend) and her husband. I was treated to the spectacular views from the deck of The Oasis, which have to been seen to be believed (as does the décor of the currently being refurbished and expanded establishment.) And if you ever get the chance to see The Carper Family play live at the Hole in the Wall I highly recommend it!

All in all, experiencing a place like Austin making accommodations for the masses of conference attendees while retaining its sense of self was wonderful. The mix of music, film and digital media folks made for a vibrant combination and the energizing discussions filled with opportunities to learn, with friends and queuing strangers alike, made it a great experience.

I look forward to returning next year, if not sooner.

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SXSW Interactive – Primed Associates will be there

For those of you who don’t know, Drew Marshall at Primed Associates is actively involved with #innochat, one of the most active chat groups on Twitter which meets every week on Thursday at Noon USA Eastern Time. One of the things that makes #innochat so engaging is that it attracts those who are keenly interested in innovation from around the world. Each week a new topic is presented, a framing post for the topic is posted on the #innochat site, and the group focuses on some key questions the topic raises.

At innochat we covered a wide range of subjects in 2010, such as:
• Collaborative Innovation – hosted by @Renee_Hopkins on January 11
• Explore the relationship between design thinking & innovation – hosted by @estephen on February 18
• Can we learn to be innovative? – hosted by @PaulSloane on March 18
• The Role of Consumers in Innovation – hosted by @Gwen_Ishmael on April 22
• Discovery-driven planning is a plan to learn – hosted by @Brioneja May 27
• Complexity vs. Complicated tackled with good design thinking – hosted by @jpamental on June 17
• Innovation Process Models – hosted by @SSusman on July 8
• Innovation Backwards: Leading Entrepreneurs to Innovation – hosted by @Renee_Hopkins on August 19
• Setting Cultures That Foster Open Innovation Crowdsourcing – hosted by @Gwen_Ishmael on September 9
• Crossing the O (Operations) Gap – hosted by @DanielleCass on October 14
• On building innovation communities – hosted by @AndreaMeyer on November 4
• Time-Value of Innovation and the 24 Hour Customer – hosted by @ExponentialEdge on December 9

To say it is fast and furious would be an understatement.

Well, with the idea that even those involved in #innochat can benefit from an change in perspective to drive their own approach to innovation, Renee Hopkins, one of #innochat’s current leaders (along with Gwen Ishmael and our technology guru, Jason Pamental), decided to create an #innochat event for SXSW 2011 Interactive. Here she is in her own pitch to the good folks at SXSW:

The regular Thursday noon Innochat has become hugely popular on Twitter. As founder of Innochat, I propose a live session with a mixed panel of innovation experts and entrepreneurs in which we’ll discuss business model theory and business model innovation and design as they pertain to specific start-ups and established companies. We will gather volunteers beforehand, entrepreneurs and representatives from existing companies who are willing to discuss their process of business model innovation and eager to get advice from the panel of Innochat experts. Business model innovation is a hot topic currently because entrepreneurs are discovering that without a clear picture of their business model success remains elusive. And established businesses facing threats are discovering that redesigning their business models may be the only thing that will save them. This topic is of particular interest at SXSW because many attendees are either startups or come from companies threatened by the rise of digital publishing of all kinds — the music industry, print media, the film industry, and the software industry, in particular — companies that critically need new business models to survive.

Needless to say, Renee’s pitch was accepted and she and Drew Marshall will be moderating this core conversation on Monday March 14 at 12:30PM (Austin time which is Central Standard Time). We hope to see you there. Or, see you participate on line by following the #innochat hashtag on Twitter.

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Co-creating innovation—a better participation experience

To further the appreciation of culture among all the people, to increase respect for the creative individual, to widen participation by all the processes and fulfillments of art—this is one of the fascinating challenges of these days.
John F. Kennedy

Innovation, certainly open innovation, is an invitation to participate in a shared experience of co-creation. It asks everyone involved to come to the table ready to fully engage and give of themselves to the best of their ability. This doesn’t happen of its own accord unless there are some basic elements in place to create an environment in which trust can be generated over time. One of the ways to create the conditions for trust is to orient the environment toward the participants, to make it as accessible and engaging as possible.

The process of creating an engaging environment may begin with relative simplicity, but as anyone who specializes in environmental psychology will tell you, it can become quite complex over time. This interdisciplinary field of psychology focuses on the interplay between humans and their surroundings. In the need for the acceleration of creating an innovation space that supports the formation of trusting working relationships, the primary focus is on one attribute in particular: prospection. As defined by Daniel Gilbert in his book Stumbling on Happiness, this is “the act of looking forward in time or considering the future.”

Anticipating is (almost) everything
Prospection is driven most explicitly by our ability to imagine—a critical ingredient in forming innovations—and an environment that invites this positive behavior is one in which innovation may not only take root, but thrive. Like its root word, prospecting, prospection is concerned with anticipation of some type of benefit. In the case of innovation, that benefit is, a novel solution to a compelling need that generates value.

To generate the kind of positive outcomes we seek in our organizations, this process of anticipation needs to be jointly experienced. As a driver of behavior, anticipation increases enthusiasm, often with a corresponding ability to delay gratification that can move like a contagion across a group. Factors that contribute to bias toward anticipation are making thinking visible—the actual in-process outputs of the innovation experience—as well as creating a way to stage the development of ideas over time. Seeing and feeling the results of ethnographic research in terms of videoed interviews, or the volume of Post-It notes concepts generated via brainstorming, or the material outputs from a prototyping exercise can all contribute to the physical reinforcement of a positive outcome.

This kind of anticipation, the focus on prospection, can be self-fulfilling. It generates a momentum that is difficult to create or sustain without the benefit of physical cues in the environment. With them, the pace of innovation may be accelerated.

How else might we better support broader participation in innovation?

Collaborative toolkits
Such happiness as life is capable of comes from the full participation of all our powers in the endeavor to wrest from each changing situation of experience its own full and unique meaning.
John Dewey

For some organizations, creating comfortable, relatively quiet locations where participants can always meet, with food and beverages available to share and materials to support creative output, yields positive outputs. Why? By establishing differentiated spaces for innovation activities, the behavior that occurred in those spaces is also differentiated. Some organizations pride themselves on the diversity of their physical spaces. Advertising agencies have been known to create unique, client-centric spaces, in which they will focus on the products and services of those clients. Product development consultancies also create divergent work environments as mental and emotional triggers to support the creativity desired for innovation. One such firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Inventionland, has created a workspace filled with pirate ships, raceways, and tree houses. This may seem quite trite until you learn that Inventionland is the inspiration for 2,000 to 2,400 brand-new inventions each year licensed and secured by businesses.

The provision of work spaces that support innovation participation is not relegated to the physical world only. Consider the impact that online collaboration tools may have on people who are not geographically co-located. Most social networking sites have support capabilities for group or project organizers—SharePoint has long been used for this purpose, Google Aps like Google Docs is used to do this, too. Even tools like WebEx or Adobe Connect offer ways to use virtual whiteboards. Sometimes it may be as simple as a series of emails to support team members that can make all the difference in fostering participation. The key is to choose those structures and tools that will be most meaningful given the organization culture in place in your enterprise.

With the appropriate environmental conditions in place, fostering innovation participation becomes an easier prospect. Be clear about goals and the tools required to meet them. Be clear about the skills necessary to achieve your goals and the people who can provide them. Create a space to act as a crucible to bring them together and get out of the way. With the stage set, and managed, co-creating innovation will be something to look forward to and the opportunity to delight will present itself.

What environmental conditions and tools do you recommend for fostering innovation participation in your enterprise?

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Is it hot in here? A review of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire by Braden Kelley

For those of you who don’t know Braden Kelley, he is one of several thought-leader, whirling dervishes in the innovation space. Braden is the founder and executive editor of the innovation hub, Blogging Innovation, and most recently is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire: A Roadmap to a Sustainable Culture of Ingenuity and Purpose. This readily accessible offering is focused on getting the fundamentals of innovation right. It directly addressed key obstacles that cripple innovation in organizations, regardless of their initial innovation successes.

It should be noted that I know Braden and admire his work in innovation. That said, I purchased the book myself (Kindle edition) and have every intention of offering a clear perspective. When I make recommendations I fully understand that my reputation is on the line, too. So, I am pleased to be able to offer a strong endorsement for this book. For anyone interested in innovation in their organization, the ideas presented matter.

One of my favorite features in this obviously well-researched effort is the devotion to case studies. Braden uses the case studies to both highlight best practices and shortcomings in innovation and the wide range makes his thinking relevant to people across all industries and levels in organizations. Interestingly, while many authors have positioned Apple’s journey as one of a paragon of innovation virtue, Braden takes the time to truly unpack and review Apple’s overnight innovation success. His attention to detail means that we begin to understand how hard innovation can be, even for the best, and what we can do to address the blockages to success head on.

Now, for those hoping to find a silver bullet for innovation success, this book is not for you. Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire is focused on providing the reader with practical, incremental steps that can be taken to build innovation effectiveness over time. There are no quick fixes. There are no simple solutions. On offer is solid advice, clearly presented. It is not ground breaking, but to perfectly clear, that’s not what is needed. People need to understand that for innovation to matter in an enterprise and to be sustained over time the basic tenets that Braden identifies and clearly explains need to be in place. Without them the opportunity to fail will present itself quite readily.

The book’s natural progression from vision and strategy through to organization psychology and innovating under crisis conditions makes this a useful guide to keep at hand as you continue on your innovation journey. Braden notes, and I wholeheartedly agree, that there are fundamentals without which you will not be successful. He clearly describes the challenges and offers sensible solutions for addressing them. His approach is to create the culture and systems and processes that will support innovation for the long-term.

Perhaps one of my favorite sections is titled “Saying No in the Right Way.” So many times I have seen the passion of innovators in organizations run aground on the negativity attendant with the strategic (and sometimes, not-so-strategic) decision-making surrounding which opportunities to pursue and which to abandon. Braden addresses the ego inherent in people sharing and evaluating their ideas in a public domain. He also notes that sometimes the smartest people in the room have the least capability to explain or develop their ideas in order to make their invention an innovation reality. The approach he recommends is to foster trust by understanding the skills that people bring to the table before you go down the innovation road as well as set clear expectations for the process of selection. All of which requires preparation.

Ultimately, the investments you make in creating clear communications around your idea evaluation policies and processes, and in maintaining their transparency, will be repaid tenfold. Innovation ideas will continue to flow only as long as there is trust and faith in the healthy operation of the process.

Which is the heart of the matter. If you want to innovate you cannot simply jump in and expect the best outcomes. You need to think and prepare. That does not mean you must prepare to perfection. But you do need to have the elements in place, the basic framework that will support your collaborative efforts, to keep your innovation efforts heading in the right direction. Like a bonfire, innovation burns best and brightest when it has a stable structure to which you can keep adding fuel. If your organization is struggling to get its innovation efforts off the ground, or if you feel it has lost its way, then you should take a look at Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, it will help your business rebuild its hidden or lost innovation capabilities.

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