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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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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New at BI: There’s a Critical Difference Between Creativity and Innovation

BusInsider-MediumThere’s a lot of confusion surrounding creativity and innovation. “Creative types,” in particular, claim that creativity and innovation can’t be measured. Performance, however, demands measurement so you can identify what success looks like. In a world that changes every two seconds, it’s imperative that companies figure out the difference between creativity and innovation.

You better believe they’re different.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/difference-between-creativity-and-innovation-2013-4#ixzz2QY0GfMAD

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5 Keys to Unlocking Middle-Market Innovation at Middle Market Executive

MMExec-MediumRecently Primed Associates was featured over at Middle Market Executive. Here’s what we had to say about opportunities for innovation in this space:

When it seems that everyone is talking about innovation these days, you would think most firms are already riding the wave. However, most organizations have only begun to dip their toes into the water and are missing a full understanding of the broad range of ways in which they might innovate their enterprise. For most middle-market companies and even large enterprise firms, innovation is too often viewed only as a particular product suite, and that makes sense — when you consider the term “innovation” is closely tied to invention. Innovation has now come to be understood as offering so much more.

 Today, companies must break out of a product-only innovation mind-set. Furthermore, the focus for innovation need not be only physical. In fact, there are five key areas ripe for innovation in most organizations today.

For the full article go here.

 

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Primed Associates, LLC is Presented the ExperienceChange Business Simulation for Free

GlobalTech-Medium

Primed Associates, LLC is offering a unique opportunity to participate in the ExperienceChange change management business simulation firsthand and free-of charge in Princeton, NJ on Thursday 28 February, 2013 at Princeton Public Library.

Adapting to change is a key ingredient for the success of any enterprise. This opportunity is being provided to participants to demonstrate the value that this change management simulation can deliver an organization that is about to launch, or is working through, a large-scale change initiative.

Consider it a no obligation way to experience a best-in-class learning experience that not only delivers learning it also provides an engaging way to practice what is learned so that it may be applied back in the work environment. The offer is open to individuals and up to three attendees from a single organization or company.

For more information see our event registration and our service offerings.

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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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Great post on the power of Priming at FastCompany

Here at Primed Associates we are always looking for others’ takes on the concept of priming. This week we share a great post from the FastCompany site by Martin Lindstrom, who has a new book out, Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy

Here is Lindstrom’s opening about the power of priming in order to increase the likelihood of a desired outcome…

Have you ever been primed? I mean has anyone ever deliberately influenced your subconscious mind and altered your perception of reality without your knowing it? Whole Foods Market, and others, are doing it to you right now.

Derren Brown, a British illusionist famous for his mind-reading act, set out to prove just how susceptible we are to the many thousands of signals we’re exposed to each day. Read more here.

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Innovation Schadenfreude: creating value from the misery of others

The unspoken goal of innovation is to delight. In their delight, the user or recipient of the innovation validates the efforts made on their behalf to dispel their problem. For an innovator the joy comes from recognizing pain, suffering, heartache, or confusion and then conceiving of and designing something that takes that misery away.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then necessity can be one mean mommy, because innovation requires a challenge to address, and by its very nature, innovation has misery at its root.

To feel envy is human, to savor schadenfreude is devilish.

–       Arthur Schopenhauer

Recently there was a slideshow post at the Huffington Post about the top consumer complaints to the FTC (the Federal Trade Commission, a United States regulatory body ). Over the course of 2010, the FTC received a total of 1,339,265 complaints filed. That’s a whole lot of unhappiness. When I first read this list, given my background in customer service and technical support environments, I was not surprised. It included such complaints as credit card charges, prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries, and identity theft (No. 1 by an 8 percent margin).

As I considered the list, I began to think of this as a great opportunity for innovation. Any one of these areas could be a huge goldmine for the willing innovator.

 

Something grim this ways comes

It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.

–       Theodore Roosevelt

What about the industries with the highest number of customer complaints? Well, let’s go to the data. At the top of the list are cellular telephone vendors, equipment manufacturers, and network providers. Given the ubiquity of these highly complex devices, seeing this industry at the top of the list is not surprising. What is more interesting is the fact that banks are near the top of this industry survey, too—ahead of collection agencies and used car dealers. The increasing complexity of available services for consumer banking combined with a less-than-transparent approach to fee implementation might make this an area ripe for transformation.

But the most compelling data from an innovation opportunity perspective is not which industries reside at the top of the list.  The greatest opportunities lie in those industries with the widest margin between customer complaints and the percentage of complaints that are resolved. That is the place of greatest pain. That is also the place where there might be rich human experience that could feed innovative solutions.

The banks’ attempts to resolve the customer issues see them at the peak. By addressing 100 percent of the complaints within 30 days, they’re not leaving much room for customer attrition. While the cellular phone companies have the most complaints, they are also doing a fairly decent job of addressing customers’ needs in a timely fashion. It’s those companies who deliver large physical products (cars, used cars, furniture) who seem to be failing to resolve customer issues quickly enough. Based on my customer service experience, I see a significant opportunity in this space to convert customers through service and support innovation.

Make the pain go away. Make a customer for life.

The enduring unhappiness of the unfulfilled need

What people need and what they want may be very different.

–       Elbert Hubbard

Clayton Christensen described the inherent need behind any successful innovation was a particular “job-to-be-done” by a customer. Here is an article in MIT Sloan Management magazine that highlights the theory behind the approach. The job-to-be-done theory holds that products and services are most successful when they connect a circumstance with a job that customers need to get done. By identifying those jobs people really care about and developing products and services that make it easier to achieve these jobs, companies can identify new markets that they were previously unaware of or that could not be uncovered by traditional market segmentation. The key ”a-ha” is that jobs-to-be-done are actually an indicator of customer pain and frustration.

When you look at the number of complaints in the segments above, you can choose to see a whole world of hurt. An innovator will see something different: They choose to see a realm of possibility.

Complaints arise from an unmet need, which often may be simply resolved, except the customer doesn’t know how to access the solution. Sometimes those needs may be quite complex, revealing a gap in functionality or utility that should be closed. Regardless, each and every complaint represents a unique opportunity to fulfill a job-to-be-done. If these needs remain unfulfilled, not only is the innovation opportunity lost, but the unhappiness will extend to the vendor of the product or service as they lose a customer.

In this light an unfulfilled need is a contagion spreading from customer to customer, and from customer to vendor, the result being a flight to the next possible alternative.

 

WTF? vs. “Can you hear me now?”

Art is not only about angst.

–       John Corigliano

Those enterprises that seek to exploit the deficiencies in their market segment often make significant strides against their competitors. Take Verizon Wireless. (Full disclosure: the parent company, Verizon, is a client.) One of the greatest complaints about mobile or cellular telephones is the poor service reception and the inability to hear calls. J.D. Power and Associates conducts a semiannual study measuring wireless call quality based on seven problem areas that impact overall carrier performance: dropped calls; static/interference; failed call connection on the first try; voice distortion; echoes; no immediate voicemail notification; and no immediate text message notification. Verizon Wireless saw that improvements in these seven areas would yield a significant return on investment, and so they began innovating to directly address these issues.

The result? Verizon Wireless began leading the way in call quality improvement, which gave rise to their decade-long advertising campaign with the enduring tag line, “Can you hear me now?” (The campaign was only retired in September 2010.) Perhaps a more compelling reason than age for the end of the campaign is that shifts in wireless phone usage, including smartphone and texting use, as well as an increase in the percentage of wireless calls being made and received inside buildings, has led to a halt in overall call quality improvement. This already has Verizon Wireless’s eye focused on a new complaint: the limitations of mobile bandwidth. Can you say, “Hello, 4G!”?

Whatever complaints your customers have, don’t disregard them. Take them for the gift they truly are. Because there’s opportunity in their misery, provided you choose to do something about it, and soon.

This post was originally featured here:

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Motivated to innovate: How an organization’s culture can cultivate or crush

While motivation is essentially a self-generated state, the organizational culture of a group or individual dedicated to the pursuit of innovation greatly influences their performance. That culture both dominates and mediates, and if it is not positively addressed, competing motivations and needs can come into play. As has been mentioned previously more than once in the Think Primed Blog, innovation requires the introduction of change into inherently stable systems. Because of this, an organizational culture plays a large role in fostering and sustaining motivation.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.

–       John Muir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maslow%27s_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg

 

To meet those competing needs, an organization must address powerful personal motivators. One of the best models highlighting what’s at stake during this kind of effort is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

So much of organization life takes place at the bottom of this pyramid; the equivalent of “keeping the lights on and the water running.” Which is a great model for an Industrial Age company intent on making an endless succession of the same widgets in a production line. Not many of those companies thriving today, are there?

A step up from physiological needs are the types of organizations that pitch benefits packages addressing the safety and security concerns of their members and, to a certain extent, some esteem needs. Organizations with strong and stable cultures often reinforce the needs associated with love and belonging, yet they have all the fun and dysfunction of families. They’re mostly built for comfort rather than speed, required to respond to changing and dynamic market forces.

The most dynamic and innovative companies seek to work at the highest levels of this model, to get the best from people every day.

 

Price of admission

It’s not enough for an organization culture to provide the equivalent of shelter in a storm, especially not if that same organization wants its members to invest themselves in the success of the enterprise. Prior to the Great Unpleasantness (aka the Great Recession), companies were scrambling to create environments that attracted the best and the brightest. Though many companies today remain focused on that, the majority merely pays it lip service or don’t pursue that practice at all.

These latter companies are minding their reserves and hoarding their resources. This is practice won’t yield significant results at all.

The price of admission to those seeking to create innovation-capable cultures is the same as it has always been: collaborative cultures where people feel safe to share their ideas, where they feel like they can find a “home,” where they are recognized for their contribution, and were they feel they can be their best selves. Charlie Gilkey, author of the Productive Flourishing blog, recently noted that it took him several quarters to come up with his list for a post titled “What I Believe.” The end result is something that reflects what most of us are looking for in our lives. Work is where people spend most of their waking hours, so organization better figure out how to create the conditions for a culture that supports those beliefs he mentions.

One such example of the fulfilling organization, a company dedicated to the principals of loose/tight leadership (small set rules, tightly managed), is the online video powerhouse Hulu. Recently Fast Company magazine ran a great profile online of Hulu’s organization culture, which showed how power is distributed to the lowest organization level possible for effective decision-making and execution. Engagement is driven by the establishment of a small set of performance-based rules that are tightly enforced, while most aspects of organization life are left to the individual or group to design, organize, implement, and process. The net result is an organization that makes people want to deliver their best effort.

We all want to belong

This kind of democratically-biased culture creates a cohesion that is rare in many larger organizations. Usually when start-ups cross the growth chasm (as distinct from the adoption chasm defined in Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm), the transition in revenues or size (over $10 million and over 150 people, respectively) means their flexibility collapses under command-and-control patterns and poorly defined and managed performance expectations. That hasn’t happened at Hulu. They are large, growing larger, and thriving by deferring to their community members.

Organizations that fail to cross the growth chasm come up hard against the reality of being inhospitable. They cease to grow and flourish, because they don’t make room for the strength that others may provide by applying their own unique and divergent talents. The start-up company that fails to grow is usually completely tied to one person’s hierarchy of needs: the founder. The founder is usually on a never-ending treadmill of addressing their most elemental needs for safety.

In Hulu’s case, ownership of issues, problem-solving, and performance management is baked into the culture of this company. Everyone has an opportunity to accept responsibility and accountability for outcomes. Rather than struggling with lines of authority, each person is supported in discovering how they may best contribute collaboratively to the overarching corporate success. This cohesive sense of belonging serves as a path for higher levels of self-actualization, each of which offers material benefit in attaining organization strategy.

 

To be held in high esteem

The path through successive levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy is not necessarily straight, but the value to the company of performing at each successive level is nearly always positive. Provided that each level offers some opportunity for consolidation of the needs met, and that the striving continues upward, value generation will be significant. Given a place to call “home” and the recognition that they do have a place to contribute, many employees capitalize by fostering esteem among their peers.

That focus informs value by playing to the individual’s strengths so that they may be successful and have increasing impact over time. The respect of peers for contributions, whether directly from innovation or as a result of building on an existing practice or procedure, by turn fosters self-respect. This leads to a positive environmental feedback loop—each success creates the opportunity for greater successes over time.

A better you/me/us through self-actualization

At the pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy is the concept of self-actualization. The term originated in a work by Kurt Goldstein called The Organism: A Holistic Approach to Biology Derived from Pathological Data in Man (commence head-spinning now). While Goldstein used the term to describe a state all humans strove to achieve, Maslow used the term self-actualization to describe a desire, not a driving force, that could lead to the realization of one’s capabilities. For Maslow, self-actualization did not determine one’s life; rather, it gave the individual a motivation to achieve personal ambitions and fulfillment.

Taken as a level of development to meet specific personal needs, self-actualization is completely in alignment with effective innovation. Those people who are operating to become more self-actualized are more likely to embrace reality and facts rather than deny truth. This leads to more rational understanding of the root causes of circumstances and a drive towards focusing on problems outside themselves.

When it comes to an understanding of the human-centricity required for effective innovation — the notion that an innovation must have a specific utility in mind — those who firmly address their need to self-actualize accept their own human nature with all its shortcomings, and similarly accept the nature of others with a general lack prejudice. This breeds resilience and a spontaneity that are great innovation traits.

Those organizations that can play to this desire for self-actualization, that recognize the need to become our better selves, will reap the benefits. Command- and control-driven organizations will, by their nature, drive performance from the level of meeting physiological needs of safety and property. Those organizations that treat their members with respect, recognizing their talents and contributions, will enable their members with the freedom to be their best, and in so doing, will make better organizations because of it.

What kind of organization are you building? A safe place? Or a place to become your best self? If you’re interested in more innovation, it had best be the latter.

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Design Thinking Applied – Network of Leadership Scholars & Primed Associates, LLC. Partnering

Primed Associates, LLC. is partnering with the Network of Leadership Scholars, a virtual community within the Academy of Management, to bring scholars and representatives from enterprise together to address real organization issues. Drew Marshall, Principal with Primed Associates will be facilitating a series of challenge-focused sessions using elements of the design thinking process. This conference is to take place on August 10-11, 2011 immediately prior to the annual meetings of the Academy of Management in San Antonio, Texas (August 12-16, 2011).

Our shared goal (in organizing this pre-conference conference) is to enable lively conversations around real issues faced by companies within three inter-connected dimensions: leadership, innovation and sustainability. Our hope is that the research designs and solutions that are generated as a result of these focused conversations will lead to collaborative solutions, potential research projects at the companies, and will lead to wider adoption of evidence-based practice. As one of the organizers, Nagaraj Sivasubramaniam (Associate Professor of Leadership, Department of Management in the Palumbo-Donahue Schools of Business at Duquesne University) noted, “Far too often, academics and practitioners talk past each other, and in attempting to bridge this divide, we hope we can realize the full potential of academic-practitioner collaboration.”

To address this divide, the desire is to capture the spirit of the network – collaborative conversations about issues we care about deeply. To increase the value of these conversations, it was decided to invite companies/public institutions to present a challenge they are grappling with, invite scholars to serve as a subject-matter experts, and utilize a facilitated design thinking framework to explore potentially break-through outcomes.

Participating enterprise organizations are bring challenges to the table such as: developing and leading virtual teams, talent management in quasi-governmental agencies, the application of complexity theory in leadership development, and leadership development to address the void created by the simultaneous planned retirement of a firms group of founders. We will have a mix of academics and practitioners – including participants from additional enterprises who will be participating but not bringing key issues to address. There will also be a blend of different research interests/expertise present as well as several participants from Europe, Asia and Australia, giving this a fairly diverse flavor.

Look for an update in August following the conclusion of this exciting event.

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