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Why the leaking of New York Times Innovation Report is a gift—to itself

Certain sections of the Internet worked themselves into a lather this week over the “leaked” internal report on innovation at the New York Times. What followed was a broad cross-section of responses ranging from, “they just don’t get it,” to, “here’s what they need to do to fix it,” and, “here’s what it means as an example to the rest of us”. To call it a provocation would be an understatement.

New York Times Headquarters at night by photogreuhphies -  January 10, 2011 Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

New York Times Headquarters at night by photogreuhphies – January 10, 2011 Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

Regardless of the self-congratulatory tone the report takes at the outset, there are few companies anywhere that would ask the question, “how are we doing in this area?”, let alone would deliver such a comprehensive answer. For this, the Times should be lauded. Especially since they do recognize their own shortcomings almost as swiftly noting that, “…Huffington Post and Flipboard often get more traffic from Times journalism than we do.”

For all the general analysis, and some of it quite specific and valuable (consider the response from Nieman Journalism Lab), there is a lot to learn for all incumbents seeking to innovate in their current markets with their existing business models. However, I think the most value to be gained here is actually on the part of the Times itself. Not only has it done a great job of exacting self-examination, in leaking the report it has also widened the range of possible responses and potential solutions to its concerns.

A more fragile organization might have buried the report, or severely restricted access to it. The Times, being what it is—a news organization, is not going to do that, but what it gains now via leaking the report has paved the way to foster open innovation. Although no specific external partners have been solicited for feedback, the public way in which the report has come to light has fostered some excellent commentary. As a paradigm for using external ideas by building on internal ideas, especially as a firm seeks to advance their technology position, this accidental slide into open innovation is an unexpectedly positive outcome for the paper.

I heard once that Google made a habit of sometimes choosing not to hire every smartest person they could find, instead adding them to a broader network and leaving them where they were in order to foster a more robust technology ecosystem. Mark Zuckerberg also espouses the value of more perspectives, “In terms of doing work and in terms of learning and evolving as a person, you just grow more when you get more people’s perspectives…”. Perhaps this is an opportunity for The Times to recognize the unintended consequences of their report in the public domain might be a whole lot of valuable feedback to help them on their innovation path.

Whether it chooses to recognize the gift of this commentary as feedback remains to be seen. One of the primary rules of feedback is that in order for it to have value a recipient must be ready and willing to listen to it, let alone accept it. As I see it the public response to the leaked report is a gift. Yes, there is certainly a truckload of snark to wade through in order to uncover some observational gems. The challenge will be to see if the Times can take these responses and fold then into their good work.

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Hooray for Failure – Episode 6 – Jake Johnson

HFF_EpisodeIn this episode of Hooray for Failure we chat with Seattle-based, Jake Johnson, the Director of Brand Experience at Phinney Bischoff who wrote an amazing blog post at Medium about his son’s response to failure. We explore fear of failure, the failure associated with learning as a child, and the way in which society at large demonizes failure. It was a true pleasure to spend time with him (twice!! thanks to the less-than wonderful wonders of modern technology). We also share that paragon of entrepreneurial spirit, Richard Branson’s perspective on failure, too.

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Hooray for Failure – Episode 5 – Ishita Gupta

HFF_EpisodeIn this episode of Hooray for Failure we explore the power of fear and how it drives our behavior away from failure with the delightful Ishita Gupta. Ishita  is founder of Fear.less Magazine and Ishita Gupta Media. Fear.less has been called “Fast Company meets Oprah” by its 15,000+ readers, and is the leading digital magazine featuring best-known names in business on how to live without fear. Ishita worked with America’s #1 Marketer, Seth Godin to build her own business helping entrepreneurs thrive, build confidence and make more sales. We also share the story of Jia Jiang, who decided to find 100 ways to create moments of failure as a way of learning.

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Everything is an opportunity to experiment, learn and grow—#BIF9

2013-09-18 17.07.07One of the true pleasures of BIF-9 was seeing the range of experimentation on display. Straight out of the gate we were dazzled by the wise beyond his years, Easton LaChapelle. This young man, with the earnestness of someone out to change the world took us through the development of his robotic prosthetic are and bio-feedback remote-manipulation glove (designed using an old Nintendo PowerGlove no less!). What was most remarkable about LaChapelle’s projects was how quickly he was iterating them, how much knowledge he had to acquire to make them work, and how much he is driving cost out of the equation.

This is someone for whom the pursuit of knowledge is not only valuable act in itself, this is the engine that fuels his ability to innovate.

LaChapelle’s most compelling tale arose out of a time when he was at a science fair and met a girl with a prosthetic whose single servo, single sensor, arm cost $80,000. He responded with a completely 3D printed prosthetic arm that can be produced in a week for $400, is approximately 10 lbs today (planned to be 4-5 lbs), and can be controlled using your brain. The resulting arm shook the hand of the President.

Underachiever. [Not]

Also demonstrating the power of experimentation was the the delightful Ping Fu, CEO of Geomagic. She started Geomagic as a result of the work of Chuck Hull who created the world’s largest 3D printing company. Ping Fu is creating a platform for connecting the real world with the virtual world. She demonstrated her enthusiasm for pushing he envelop of 3D printing by dressing in fashion accessories produced by 3D printing, including rocking some fantastic and other-worldly hot pink platform shoes.

2013-09-18 14.56.39She was not the only person to bring props. Dava Newman, Professor of Aeronautics, Astronautics and Engineering Systems at MIT, also brought props—spacesuits, but these were not your father’s spacesuits. As an engineering professor she studies motion on earth and in space. She brought three spacesuit versions to illustrate the evolution of extravehicular space wear and to discuss the experiments conducted to produce them. Building a suit that doesn’t require the astronaut to overcome the pressure of the suit is the chief concern now that environmental considerations are fully understood. Today she and her team are considering electro-spun designer materials. Spraying asymmetry into the functional membranes layer-by-layer gives them more of the multi-directional movement they are seeking

BIF-9 was not only about experimenting in physical space, it also revealed the opportunities for learning through experimentation between physical and mental spaces

Through the work of his performance art collective, Big Nazo, Erminio Pinque demonstrated the power of changing up reality. He presented mask work and street theatre and delved into the chaos that occurs on a controlled level through that ground-level interaction.

What I’m doing is absurd on a number of levels. There was no business plan. Instead I moved forward with intensity and love of transforming spaces and moments.

The delight in seeing the Big Nazo characters next to children become children was contagious in the room. Seeing the world differently in order to shift the context launched us into whole other directions.

Paul LeBlanc, the President of Southern New Hampshire University, shared his university’s major initiative—College for America that is disaggregating the tertiary education experience. By unbundling college education, College for America is making higher education accessible to a much broader range of student participants.

The USA is behind much of EU and Canada, as LeBlanc clearly identified. He also emphatically made the case that education remains the difference-maker for intergenerational mobility. LeBlanc shared the story of Zac Sherman working making Slim Jims on the midnight shift who earned his Associates Degree for $1250 in 100 days. An exceptional example certainly but one that illustrated the power of will when the economic imbalance is addressed.

Education and a degree changes the trajectory of people’s lives.

In order to recapture that mobility something needs to change: we need to be clear about what needs fixing; we need to consider the power of disaggregation; and, we need to be clearer about how technology can be deployed.

With his pop-up Jazz trio who had not played together before hitting the stage, Carl Störmer, shared the incredibly personal story of his wife’s stroke and the power of giving over to the inspiration of improvisation. He noted that small groups mean solos for everyone – moments to shine, take individual risks—the same can be said in organization life.

Here is a little of the improvised music that Carl shared (forgive the recording, it was captured on a whim and at a distance)

Carl Störmer Jazz Trio 1

Carl Störmer Jazz Trio 2

Create a network and share. Being personal without being private. They built a network of people who could provide just-in-time support. By sharing, people know when and how to help you give you the things you really need.

Control is for beginners – Carl Stormer’s wife

Let go of the notion of where we want to go. And be open to what is going on. True of jazz and true of life. Be open to the implicit and opening order of things.

Mary Flanagan added to the mix by exploring the role of games and game play in helping people understand their world and improve it. She is exploring how people might be moved to be come an effective force for change and presented a game she worked on engage people in considering vaccination—POX.

New technology is boundless but our greatest achievements lie not so much in our breakthroughs but in how these breakthroughs are used to better the world around us.

Her card game, Buffalo, was a fantastic low-tech demonstration of how a game might address stereotypes in sciences.  It directly tackled, Social Identity Complexity. The purpose of the game was to open receptivity to learning about complex social identities. Flanagan believes we can change, even without the desire to want to change. This game helps people recognize their own prejudices based on availability bias. In recognizing that we can begin to change it.

The most surprising storyteller who revealed the power of experimentation as a learning opportunity was the Chief Marketing Officer of The Coca-Cola Company, David Butler. Butler showed how even the largest of enterprises can learn how to experiment and capitalize on their size as a platform for innovation.

Start-ups know how to start but not how to scale. Big companies know how to scale but not how to start.

Butler illustrated the differences between start-ups and larger enterprises…

Start-ups know how to start:

  • Developing assets
  • Rapid learning
  • Exploration
  • Pivoting
  • Lean

Enterprises know how to scale:

  • Leveraging assets
  • Network effects
  • Execution
  • Planning
  • Big

 

To demonstrate how serious Coke is about tackling the start-up mindset, Butler shared the wealth of experiments that they have launched or are about to:

Coke is the first non-tech company that has joined the Start-up Weekend events and sponsoring 10 Maker-focused weekends. They are sponsoring the first start-up weekend in Myanmar. They have created a co-working space inside Coke and are hosting a series of in house unconferences. On top of that they are hosting their first failure conference and first Hackathons inside Coke.

If a company like Coke, founded in 1886, has developed this mindful approach to experimentation and learning, there is no excuse for any other large enterprise not to reinvent itself.

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Hooray for Failure – Episode 3 – Wanda Hopkins McClure, discovery, a little Oracle of Omaha

HFF_EpisodeIn this episode we begin to explore the implications for reframing failure in education. Our conversation with Wanda Hopkins McClure explores the need to value the opportunity to fail and her work with Expeditionary Learning. Wanda is a veteran educator who is deeply passionate about leadership and education and she is a leader in the Atlanta education arena, especially leading EdCampAtlanta. To round out the episode we highlight a moment with the Oracle from Omaha and his fondness for failure.

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Launching Soon – Hooray for Failure!


iTunesHFF_MasterHooray for Failure
is dedicated to exploring how to embrace risk-taking, practice resilience and strive for results in the face of setbacks, catastrophe and outright disaster. Hooray for Failure celebrates the effort required to making the startling, the fascinating and the truly innovative. Without failure there would be no breakthrough. Without failure there would be no success. Without failure there would be no stories to tell. Welcome to Hooray for Failure!

Increasingly when we are working with clients the question arises around how to develop a capacity to embrace risk, and overcome the inevitable failures when we attempt something truly new? One of the best ways to learn si through direct experience and short of that learning from the lessons of others. Hooray for Failure is going to share the stories of people who are visibly successful in their fields as they share how they tackle risk-taking, failure, and practice the resilience required to learn and grow towards success.

Some of the questions we’ll consider include:

  • What is the one failure you remember most? Why?
  • How did you overcome that failure? How do you continue to overcome that failure?
  • What part does failure have in your current success?

If you know of someone who might have a story to share or a lesson to teach based on their experience, please use the contact link and let us know?

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What have you learned?

Regardless of the industry you are in, or your role, the practice of capturing lessons learned should be a regular part of your process, project, program, or strategy review. It helps you and your team avoid the same mistakes and it helps you reframe how you might address issues whether they are similar to what you have previously faced or brand new to you. The best lessons learned should be captured and shared.

Given that it is Summer (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) and that the pace of work might slow (perhaps wishful thinking), it seems like the best time to reflect on what we have accomplished and capture some of what we have learned. This Twitter and List.ly project is a fun and fast way to share some of your innovation lessons learned, in 7 words. There will be prizes for the top 7 as voted by participants. Details below.

Headline for 7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned
 REPORT
51 items   12 followers   38 votes   4.34k views

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned

This July we are sharing 7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned.
You Share. We Learn. You Vote. We all Vote for our Favorites.
The Top 7 will each receive a matted poster of their Lesson.
Tweet your 7-Word Innovation Lesson Learned with #7WILL.
Come to list.ly to Learn (& Vote) Winners announced 31 July.

1

When innovating, look for questions, not answers.

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | When innovating, look for questions, not answers.

submitted by @Renee_Hopkins

2

You can't innovate if you can't change.

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | You can't innovate if you can't change.

submitted by @OBX_Harvey

3

Innovation is fed by possibilities, not routine

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Innovation is fed by possibilities, not routine

submitted by @ajmunn

4

For good ideas you need many ideas

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | For good ideas you need many ideas

submitted by @DrewCM

5

Innovation isn't one thing, it's every thing.

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Innovation isn't one thing, it's every thing.

submitted by @greggfraley

6

Listen and Enliven whilst prototyping and collaborating

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Listen and Enliven whilst prototyping and collaborating

submitted by @BlueRoom_

7

Big Ideas Start Life As Small Ideas

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Big Ideas Start Life As Small Ideas

submitted by @NickKellet

8

innovation and imagination go hand in hand

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | innovation and imagination go hand in hand

submitted by @ajmunn

9

The right people make all the difference

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | The right people make all the difference

submitted by @DrewCM

10

Innovate around a problem. keep it simple

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Innovate around a problem. keep it simple

submitted by @reubentozman

11

Ask questions, listen fully with open mind.

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Ask questions, listen fully with open mind.
12

Spark creativity using techniques from the arts.

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Spark creativity using techniques from the arts.
13

Separate innovation into create, define and execute

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Separate innovation into create, define and execute

submitted by @InnovationFixer

14

Ensure all innovation lessons are seven words

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Ensure all innovation lessons are seven words

submitted by @InnovationFixer

15

Begin with beginner's mind. Keep that perspective.

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Begin with beginner's mind. Keep that perspective.

submitted by @Renee_Hopkins

16

Ask why, why, why, why and why

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Ask why, why, why, why and why

submitted by @InnovationFixer

17

The foundation of innovation: Differentiation and Relevance

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | The foundation of innovation: Differentiation and Relevance

submitted by @OBX_Harvey

18

Share ideas early. Accept and integrate feedback.

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Share ideas early. Accept and integrate feedback.

submitted by @tomspiglanin

19

Observe. That is where innovation begins.

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Observe. That is where innovation begins.

submitted by @OBX_Harvey with a HT to @LoisMarketing

20

View failure as a great learning opportunity.

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | View failure as a great learning opportunity.

submitted by @KJanowski

21

Corporate culture can block any innovation effort

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Corporate culture can block any innovation effort

submitted by @ovoinnovation

22

If You Don't Use Innovation, You Lose!

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | If You Don't Use Innovation, You Lose!

submitted by @greggfraley

23

No one wins embracing entropy and enervation

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | No one wins embracing entropy and enervation

submitted by @DrewCM

24

#7WILL

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | #7WILL

Design thinking, social drinking, #innobeer and #innolinking !

25

Innovation begins with challenging the status quo

7-Word Innovation Lessons Learned | Innovation begins with challenging the status quo

submitted by @ajmunn

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Book Review: Relentless Innovation by Jeffrey Phillips

For an organization to survive and thrive it is not enough to want more innovation, you must have the will to do the work to make the practice of innovation commonplace. Jeffrey Phillips tackles this subject head on in, Relentless Innovation. He offers a path for organizations to make innovation an everyday occurrence in which the whole system of the enterprise is aligned around the discipline of creation.

One of the frustrations for me, as someone passionately interested in fostering innovation in organizations, is the recognition that unless it is addressed holistically over time innovation is driven from most areas of the enterprise. Innovation means change; and change, like all new elements requires accommodations on the part of organizations which are all too often entirely focused on their efficiency and the immediacy of their effectiveness. This leaves little room for innovation to take hold, let alone flourish.

This requires a fundamental rethinking of the way innovation is introduced and addressed over time. In Relentless Innovation, Phillips notes that, “If larger firms…don’t relearn innovation and reintroduce it to their business models, they’ll have little competitive advantage left.” He sees that few firms (if any) can afford to rest on their laurels as the pace of innovation continues unabated. To combat that innovation must become a consistent capability, developed, refined, and supported over time.

In this book Phillips lays out the clearly defined roles and responsibility that executives, middle managers and front line employees have for specific outcomes, ensuring that innovation is everyone’s job. The end result: focused and systemic innovation that becomes business as usual. The reason for that is that sustained innovation is not driven by any one part of the organization or any one role. The myth of the brilliant CEO is exactly that ― sustained innovation is a cultural issue, not an issue of leadership. This is something I emphasize with my clients frequently and consistently.

Perhaps the more revealing insight at the heart of this book is the concept of the impediment of BAU (Business As Usual) to innovation success. When the organization seeks to protect BAU there is no room to innovate and BAU becomes the order of the day. It makes an organization timelessly unchanging and profoundly uncreative in which the people “have a stake in sustaining a common, consistent operating model to achieve results repeatedly.” Phillips rightly points out that the ever-increasing focus on efficiency is in direct competition with innovation; the risk associated with and necessary for innovation is driven from the hyper-efficient organization.

To combat BAU and strike a balance between efficiency and innovation Phillips highlights the value of some tried and true business elements, such as clear vision and a focused strategy. He combines those with what he refers to as a “project” versus a “capability” mindset where the outcomes are targeted and defined by resource development over time. His approach makes innovation a process that is repeatable, sustainable and improvable over time rather than a discrete series of one-off events. Relentless Innovation sees that innovation is to be planned for, accounted for and executed with a clear goal of capturing, reusing and developing knowledge over time.

In that quest for reuse of knowledge Phillips highlights the need for accountability for innovation. Everyone in an organization must be specific about their innovation goals. Executives must link innovation to key strategies, and they must develop measures and metrics to hold innovators—and themselves—accountable. Middle managers must be measured on the performance of their teams in meeting those goals and measures and their team members must be held to account for their contributions to the state of innovation in the enterprise. Without an holistic approach that engages the all aspects of the organization innovation won’t be a fundamental part of the operations it will continue to be an afterthought.

Above all Relentless Innovation asks the reader to strive to seek a balance between the everyday demands of efficiency and the future focused demands of innovation. There is no magic formula for innovation but in his book Phillips offers a very good mirror so we can see where we are deficient in our own practices and how we might choose to become smarter in our innovation efforts. As with all change, adopting this approach is highly likely to be hard, but what valued discipline isn’t?

I highly recommend you read Relentless Innovation. Your organization will be better for it.

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Collaborative Innovation – Primed Associates is a Contributing Blogger

The Collaborative Innovation site is an editorially independent thought leadership community around Business & Collaborative Innovation.  It is sponsored by Dassault Systèmes and produced by Human 1.0. Primed Associates’ CEO/Principal, Drew Marshall, has been invited to contribute.

Collaborative Innovation, has been defined by the originator of the term, Peter Gloor (a Research Scientist at MIT Sloan’s Center for Collective Intelligence) as “a cyberteam of self-motivated people with a collective vision, enabled by the Web to collaborate in achieving a common goal by sharing ideas, information, and work.”

It is a topic that is written and talked about around the world and they decided to offer a place where thought leaders could expand the landscape.  The blog, in conjunction with the Dassault Systèmes Customer Conference 2011 (DSCC) aims to drive and deepen the conversation.

Here are links to the series of posts by Primed Associates’, Drew Marshall, at Collaborative Innovation:

A Twofer from a Hurricane: How Transportation Innovation Might Transform the Energy Sector

Too Smart For Our Own Good: Why choosing wisely is critical in innovation

Placing Innovation Bets: 5 Lessons from 5 Big Players

3d Modeling at Scale – From Aircraft to Embroidery

Launching FashionLab – (ad)dressing haute couture, jewelry and beyond

Trends in Retail Pointing to Innovations in Services

Take a look at Drew’s and others’ posts, there’s lots of great food for thought and participate in the conversation.

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Business Innovation Factory – 7 #BIF7 – Live blogging Sept 21

See Day 1 here. A big thanks to John Werner at Citizen Schools for sharing some of his fantastic photos from BIF-7.

To start the day off I had a great conversation with seat mate and recovering journalist, Helen Walters from Doblin. We covered: Conferences. Curation. Presentation delivery bar being raised. And the Conference Industrial Complex. I love her manner of inquiry.

Saul Kaplan opened the day by reflecting on what the success of the BIF summit means. He noted, “People need to draw their own conclusions because the value is in what you learn as a participant.” Saul also reflected on the fact that innovators, even though they come with deep subject matter expertise, are in constant search for what they are missing. This mindset is something that informs how Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto thinks about innovation and to whom Saul nodded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Umair Haque, Director of the Havas Media Lab and author of The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business, lead the Day 2 presentations by delivering his session live from Pakistan. We talked yesterday about transforming education and healthcare. Haque is focused on transforming the mother of all systems, capitalism.

Haque opened with the fact that Pakistan has ground to a halt due to an outbreak of Denge Fever.

What the religious fundamentalists haven’t been able to achieve in two decades, the mosquitoes have accomplished in two months in Lahore. – Umair Haque

He stated that Pakistan is a functional economy against which he compared the aspirational economy of India. By way of framing his approach to capitalism, Haque quoted from Joseph Shcumpeter’s work, “Can Capitalism Survive?” Schumpeter’s assessment was that no, capitalism cannot survive because the range of needs of human beings is endless and that it will collapse under its own weight. Haque’s additional framing is to offer the concept of the opulent economy and its attendant ills: dumbification, inequity, social unrest, abject poverty. The quest for more, bigger, faster, cheaper, now is going to fade.

In the place of opulence, Haque offers up a model of capitalism based on fitter, smarter, tougher, closer, and wiser. The term he uses is eudaimonia which is founded in “human flourishing.” This transition will take years, if not a decade according to Haque. However the range of change required is transformational

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The artist, screenwriter, and author behind “The Polar Express” and many other books, Chris Van Allsburg came to the stage next. He shared a story about Annie Edson Taylor, the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. [It should be mentioned I have a relative who self-selected from the gene pull by swimming the river that feeds these Falls, Captain Webb who was a British dare devil.] Van Allsburg’s book is called, “Queen of the Falls”

In sharing his journey to creating this book, Van Allsburg talked about the narrative choices he made in conjunction with the illustrative choices, such as superimposing a building into the Falls to illustrate their size. He also discussed how he fleshed out her life’s story and how he captured her journey to the moment she decided to go over the Falls in a barrel. She had no experience in barrel-making or dare-devilry and yet, like most innovators, she had a persistent belief in her own vision and the will to drive it to successful completion.

This presentation offered a glimpse into both the subject of Van Allsburg’s heroine as well as the author artist’s role in capturing her journey in a meaningful and accessible manner. To see and hear how he pulled together the elements of his book into a cohesive whole was intriguing. It was a wonderful and revealing view of the care required to construct meaning.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexander Osterwalder was a pinch-hitter due to the schedule shift on Day 1 with Erin Mote being called away by Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, to go to the West Bank. Alex is the lead author/editor of the book, “Business Model Generation”  which was essentially co-created with a large number of practitioners.

This book arose from Alex’s doctoral thesis which contained the word ontology, which Alex noted is the word that enables you to earn a Ph.D! The first time the book was able to be held by Alex was actually at BIF5 two years ago. And with book in hand Alex found that he struggled to define himself when asked by people – author?, entrepreneur?, public speaker?, academic? None of which seemed to fit. Instead he says he is,

I’m somebody who likes to *break* the rules and make stuff.

Alex provided some statistics to create context for the environment into which his book might be delivered. 1,000,000 books published in English in a year. 11,000 of those are business books. Cumulatively there are 250,000 business books competing for shelf-space. Business books sell 250 copies on average. A highly challenging environment in which to launch a new book.

He identified some of the challenges of business books which sounded like an offshoot of the Goldilocks tale: too heavy, too light, to wordy, to impractical. To break this paradigm Alex and the wider team looked at a very broad range of works for inspiration and sought to cerate a book that they would love to buy. The first step was to hire a designer and assemble a broader team to create and build the ecosystem around the development of the book. The end result is a highly visual book with white space and different ways of laying out the book to engage and attract to ensure the book had a high degree of utility.

The book became the co-created work of 470 people around the world. They also charged for participation and raised the price of the book time and time again from $24 to $81. The last chance payment was $250 in order to have your name in the book before publication. What was the reason for the attractiveness of the value proposition? Being first. Being a part of something bigger. An opportunity to learn from each other.

Instead of a marketing budget, the book project had a built in community of people who were proud advocates for the book in the marketplace. The backbone for bringing the book to light was the internet. There was a freemium offer of a third of the book. Then came the challenge of managing the logistics of dealing with shipping all over the way. The initial approach with a Dutch company was an abject failure and then they went back to Amazon for fulfillment. The initial success attracted a large publisher, Wiley.

The book is available around the world and it has been scheduled to be translated into 22 other languages. The ideas are available around the world and are tearing down the barriers to business everywhere.

This was a great example of building a community to launch a book to the heights of success.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Co-Founder of Futurlogic, Jon Cropper next came up to talk about seduction a distillation of 15 years of his life into 15 minutes. And he survived being tortured by P-Diddy running his company for a year. He shared nine elements that drive seduction:

Self awareness – know yourself

Environmental – the conditions and context of performance

Design – aesthetics matter (the fusion of a simple exterior with a complex interior – “simplexity”)

Understanding – listening and compassion

Communication – the power of great storytelling

Trust – in others and delivering on your promise

Inspiration – create an educational, inspirational operating philosophy

Open – generosity feeds the soul

New – rejuvenation, repetition and constant renewal

Cropper offered a series of personal anecdotes and observations that revealed those things that resonate most deeply with him about the power of seduction within innovation.

Generosity and appreciation create the optimal output performance of your heart.

***

And we’re back from our first morning session and ready for our pre-lunch immersion. The first speaker up  is Andy van Dam. He earned the second computer science degree in the world and is the Thomas J. Watson, Jr., University Professor of Technology and Education and Professor of Computer Science at Brown University. He is interested in exploring the intersection between art and computer science. His focus in this session was using the computer to access traditional artwork that would be otherwise inaccessible.

He examined the special problems of especially large artworks. With a graduate student driving he explored several large scale pieces of art including: a fresco of Egyptian art (an essential form of storytelling), the Bayeux Tapestry, and the Garibaldi Panorama (which was digitized by Brown University.) The scroll was the popular form of entertainment in its day. Measuring 4½ feet high and 273 feet long, the Garibaldi Panorama is one of the longest paintings in the world. The work depicts the life story of Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi, who played a major role in the unification of Italy. The late Dr. James Walter Smith donated the relic to Brown in 2005.

In summer 2007, special funding enabled library staff and technicians from Boston Photo, a leading museum reprographics company, to fashion a makeshift photo studio in the central gallery of the Annmary Brown Memorial. They slowly and surely unrolled the panorama — six feet at a time — in order to take 91 digital photographs. The photographs will now be melded into a continuous image online. The genius of this digitization was the arrival of the Microsoft Surface operating system which had a deep zoom technology allowing an incredible level of accessibility and little instruction required to be able to view and explore the artwork.

There are two modes of access – the walk-up or the viewer mode. The walk-up mode provdes image-only view where the viewer mode introduces additional contextual information, including Ken Burns’-style image inclusion of external data and embedded video. The legibility of the artwork and the additional materials is supported by high definition capture. Additional Photoshop-like tools enable elemental image color manipulation.

The end goal is to create a platform that can be used by museums and galleries to quickly produce similar art work tours. The Tour Authoring Tool itself is like a basic asynchronous editing suite for video, which enables the addition of multiple digital assets. The tool itself is produced by the Brown Center for Digital Initiatives. They are working with the Forbidden City in Beijing on the Ching Ming Festival Scroll as well as other institutes around the world.

Display technology is going to be replaced by organic light-emitting diodes which means all surfaces around us will be interactive for display and immersion purposes. The only question is, “What won’t we be able to do?!”

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Byron Reeves is a Professor at Stanford University; a Behavioral Scientist, Author, and proponent of Interactive Gaming & Virtual Worlds in the Workplace. He came to share his thoughts about gamification and the social implications of the impact of gaming in everyday life and social system change. Reeves is an expert on the psychological processing of media in the areas of attention, emotions, learning, and physiological responses, and has published over 100 scientific papers about media and psychology.

He noted that most people who study TV as academics profess a disdain for the medium. He, however, professed his love for it. (My wife, Jo, and Professor Reeves have this in common!) To illustrate the impact of captivation and engagement he shared a picture of himself in front of a TV and then showed the complete transformation of immersion via the game experience – in World of Warcraft. This captivation triggered the question about what else you could use this kind of captivation for?

In supporting his children at their swim meets he had a fortuitous encounter with J. Leighton Read. And Read asked, “Byron, what’s cool in your lab right now?” Which he did. He described the impact of captivation as represented by gaming. When Reeves asked Read the same question, Read described his exploration of the world of work and the chaos of not knowing how to measure what success looked like until the quarterly (or annual) review. Based on this conversation they decided to collaborate.

How might we wire-up the world of work so that it more closely represented a community-based, collaborative game environment with an epic narrative?

First they needed to address the stereotyping that pervades the conversation around games. The generation that is growing up in the world of games have integrated them into their lives. The addition of narratives and participation within the context of gaming and their integration with work have the potential to transform the business world.

The work that gaming prepares you for is complex. Learning through games, arbitrary information, becomes everyday food for thought and becomes a part of its own reward. Engagement at work is a huge issue and Reeves notes that people will make mistakes. But the amount of work in games is only going to increase. Cisco sales reps play a “Closer” game. IBM teams meeting as avatars on projects. The range of examples Reeves shared was incredibly broad and rich and all of them were supported by huge amounts of information technology.

Reeves noted the danger associated with this effort. The impact of over-engagement and OSHA implications as people develop repetitive strain injuries. Or tax laws given the location of work.

Reeves left us with the question, “What would it be like if work and play were a little more alike?”

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Mari Kurashi is the co-founder and president of Global Giving which connects individual and institutional donors directly to social, economic development, and environmental projects around the world. Mari is doing work on the social entrepreneur front to bring problems into alignment with the available range of solutions.

The questions that Mari is asked are usually framed as “Did you know…?” And her response is that she didn’t have a clue that she would have this kind of impact on the world. To help us understand her journey she recounted her childhood and high school attendance in West Germany and a day trip to see the Berlin Wall. The biggest impact was the way in which the East Germans on the other side of the Wall didn’t turn to look at the people who were looking at them. She was intrigued by this and wanted to understand how a social system could create behavior that was so counter to biological drive.

She became focused on studying and learning about the Soviet Union (primarily to avoid becoming an “O.L.” and Office Lady in Japan as her visa was in doubt.) In the middle of her Ph.D. studies the Soviet Union began to fall apart and she was dismayed by the fact that political science couldn’t predict this outcome. She went to work at the World Bank (a job that she got “on a fluke”) without any idea what the institution did and what economic development entailed. She was one of three people out of one hundred who could actually speak Russian. She was in the right place at the right time.

Her passion for wanting to reverse the regime of communism in the Soviet Union was something that Mari was focused on but her time at the World Bank came to an end – in a last chance innovation program. They created a marketplace inside the World Bank in 2000 which essentially used elements of crowdsourcing. The success of this program was hampered by the inability of the World Bank to focus o this. In this realization Mari decided to leave the World Bank to pursue this concept for addressing global poverty.

The compelling thread that runs through Mari’s narrative is the notion of personal risk. Time and time again she made huge life shifts with little understanding of what she knew or didn’t know. And by approaching her life’s work with beginner’s mind (and what she sees as incredible luck) she made her way in the world.

Mari brought her presentation back to eudaimonia and the notion of how a virtuous, life well lived fits together. She said, you must decide and practice and choose how best to fit these virtues together. Eudaimonia is a deliberate practice for integration of new options that make sense to you over time.

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A long-time BIF attendee and presenter Dennis Littky, Co-founder and Director of The Big Picture Company, began with the words, “Highschools suck.” Littky talked about how the current state of our schools and colleges impacts the least prepared the most. The poor, the disenfranchised, the economically disenfranchised suffer the most from education systems that are inflexible and immovable.

Dennis had one of the students who had participated in The Big Picture Company talked about her personal journey and the power of hands-on learning. She described her education journey interviewing people at BIF and her world travels too. A remarkable perspective on what education might become, if only we have the vision to realize that the tools we need are already at hand. Our minds must change to accommodate new ways of seeing and creating the world.

Littky shared a sobering statistic – every 12 seconds a child drops out of schools. In our time at BIF7 that was 9600 children. A criminal failure of the highest order.

Littky shared his work and his focus on fighting to transform the urban school experience as a way of combating this appalling drop-out rate. His work focuses on connecting with kids, finding out about the, finding their passions, and helping them design education experiences that meet their learning needs. Drop-outs lowered to single digits (from 46% in the Providence, RI school district0 and 100% of students who stayed went onto college. As a result the Gates Foundation sponsored a massive expansion of the program worldwide.

His recent focus was the drop-out rate at the college level. 89% of first generation college attendees drop out. His work is now focused on creating a college that uses the same model of community-based learning and engagement that has been deployed in the secondary schools program. The end result is that the first class of students is graduating this year.

Next up Littky is going to focus on adult education. What a dynamo he is.

He is looking for adult mentors; consider connecting with Dennis via Twitter if you think you have something to offer.

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This ended my sojourn at BIF7.

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