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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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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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

***
This ended my sojourn at BIF7.

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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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Interview at Inmagic: Lessons learned from Steve Jobs

3 qualities of innovative companies: Lessons learned from Steve Jobs

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by the good people who run the podcast for Inmagic (Janelle Kozyra, the host, & Hannah Messenger, the producer).  We had an interesting discussion about the differences of innovation between B2C and B2B enterprises. Which eventually led to Steve Jobs, as all things had that week…

When Steve Jobs resigned as Apple’s CEO last week, it seemed he was taking with him everything that makes Apple the innovative powerhouse that it is today. Or did he? Apple is arguably the #1 poster child for innovation. But was it all a result of Steve Jobs’ genius, or rather the culture of innovation he’s developed over time?

Head over to listen to the full podcast (about 30 mins) and see a full transcript.

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Ignite Princeton 2 – 4 minute recap

For those of you who attended Ignite Princeton 2 at the Nassau Inn in Princeton, New Jersey on Wednesday February 9 – Thanks! It was great to see and great to have your support for a fun local event. Thanks to the people who traveled from near and far to participate and present. Without your involvement it wouldn’t have been half as good. A little video recap to share with you…

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Finding the right box—innovation success is constraint-based

Some people are shoppers, some people are spendthrifts, and some people are hoarders. The same can be held true for companies. Some companies are acquisitive, some are profligate, and some hoard resources. There is a special breed of company that chooses to hoard intellectual property—whether they use it or not—or hoards data without thinking about its purpose. Information is only useful when used, and much of it has a surprisingly short shelf-life. A company that is demonstrably hoarding, Generate Company—an innovation-focused consulting firm based in Minneapolis, Minnesota—has taken to hoarding innovation processes. Not happy with creating and disseminating their own processes, they are now collecting them on a grand scale and brokering them. The end result is an innovation database with the superlative title “The World Database of Innovation.” Thank goodness they are not driven to hyperbole.

Setting aside the relative value of such a database for the time being, one very interesting piece of information has bubbled to the surface as a result of this information hoard. It seems that among the 163 different processes for innovation that have been accounted for thus far, common to those that have verifiable data points is that constraints are a significant factor in success. Based on their analysis of the information in their database records, scarcity of resources shows up as the single strongest driver of innovation within organizations in general. The power of constraints raises its head yet again.

Not all constraints are the same
The problem is all inside your head
She said to me
The answer is easy if you
Take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle
To be free…
There must be fifty ways
To leave your lover

Paul Simon “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”

For most organizations, the definition of constraints is usually confined to time, cost, and resources, but there are two other more powerful constraints to be considered at the outset of any innovation efforts: 1) constraint created when we define the challenge we will address, and 2) the constraint created when we define the opportunity we will target. These constraints are anchored in the strategic intent of our organization and in our will to achieve that intent. They lie at the intersection of what we want to do and what we will actually do. This intersection is often a gray area in organizations, filled with miscommunication, poor decisions, and limited attention spans.

Where most organizations get wrapped up in attempting to balance their competing operational constraints is in the direct management and enforcement of the imbalance among constraints, where much of innovation lies. The simple fact remains that if any one constraining factor changes, at least one other constraint will be affected. If the schedule for development is shortened, then the budget will likely need to be increased. If additional features are added, then the risks associated with releasing the product to market will increase, too. Each choice we make is a reflection of the associated constraints within which we manage. But a constraint is also something we can react against. A constraint can provide a foundation for pushing us in a new direction.

An artist faced with a blank canvas, access to all the materials and colors of paint she could possibly desire, and as much time as she wants, will likely find herself unhinged by the freedom if asked to paint whatever she chooses. The range of outcomes is infinite in this setting. If a single choice is made, however, such as a determination on who the painting is for, automatically provides the artist with a frame of reference within which to work. Regardless of the subsequent choices she makes, that first choice of constraint by the artist will directly inform all subsequent outcomes and her eventual success.

Powered by the right constraints
The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.
Arthur C. Clark

The same can be said in product or service development when there is an ill-defined customer or market. In this situation, the product development team, or innovation group, will find itself floundering. Without a clearly defined customer, there is no one to build for, no problem to define and design against, and no way to assess whether or not you have successfully addressed a need. Yet when you look out at the range of products and services available, you might find yourself asking, “Who the heck was this intended for?” The constraint of a specific customer need is missing in action. Design and development efforts disconnected from customer need leads to products in search of a buyer.

A poorly identified customer may wreak more havoc on an initiative than any lack of funds or resources ever could, because it leaves innovation efforts untethered. Without anything to anchor new concepts to, any and all concepts will be satisfactory (or correspondingly unsatisfactory) and the only measure of success will be whether or not the effort is validated in the marketplace through sales. Determining success will be hit or miss, because even the absence of sales doesn’t necessarily mean that the effort is not useful to someone—it simply means that the market was not discovered or defined before an effort was expended.

The absence of a clearly defined target customer also upends the usefulness of managing resource and time constraints. Why bother limiting use when the stakes are so low? Why spend at all? All of which leaves us in the unenviable position of defending the indefensible and delivering the useless. Not exactly the best way to add value, is it?

Joy of constraints
The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.
Igor Stravinsky

Rather than being dismayed by constraints, those determined to innovate must learn to, if not love, then at least embrace them. By embracing constraints and recognizing the value of limits, the effort to overcome them may yield surprising results. Consider the perennial favorite example of those who have a deep and abiding passion for innovation—Steve Jobs. His intense dislike of buttons (he finds them aesthetically unappealing) has driven consumer product innovation in surprising ways.

Four years ago, prior to the release of the iPhone, Mr. Jobs’ dislike of buttons became something of fetishistic side dish in the hoopla over the game-changing nature of that device. It was perhaps most clearly on display when Mr. Jobs unveiled the remote control for Front Row, the media center software for Apple TV, when he reveled in the simplicity of the Apple remote and compared it on a presentation slide to a large, ugly complex remote with more than 40 buttons. “I don’t know that there has ever been a slide that captures what Apple’s about as much as this one,” Mr. Jobs said at the time.

This dislike led to a design constraint, which then led to some remarkable changes in the accepted way we interact with our personal digital devices. We are moving from hunting and pecking on tiny, ill-formed keyboards to swiping, flicking, and wiping our way into and through the information available to us on our nearly buttonless devices. The contact we make today may disappear into the ether, too, with the fast-approaching wave of gestural input-controlled devices, if the most recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is any indication. All because one man with a love of black turtlenecks (if ever there was a design cliché) hates buttons.

Constraints are not our enemy. They are a fact. We can choose to endure them and use them for our purposes, or let them define our efforts in entirely negative ways. Define your purpose in relation to your intended customer and define your outcome in terms of their needs—in so doing, you can move the goalposts and change the nature of the competitive landscape. Make a sandbox of your own devising and discover the creativity inherent in constraints.

How are constraints defined in your organization? How might you make better use of your constraints?

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Ignite Princeton 2 – February 9 – 6:30pm – Nassau Inn, Princeton NJ

Hello! It’s been too long since we had an update. And the news is good…

Ignite Princeton coming to town during Global Ignite Week. We had so much fun last time we’re going to do it all over again. For those of you who don’t know about Ignite events we have some information for you.

We plan on keeping you up to date on the preparations for the second Ignite event to be hosted in Princeton. The second event is on Wednesday February 9 at 6:30 pm at the Nassau Inn in Princeton, NJ.

Here is a link to the invitation – Ignite Princeton 2

Now comes the fun part. We’re looking for up to 80 attendees and 16 presenters. The presentations subjects can and should be as varied and unique as possible. There is no real limit on the type of presentations (take a look at the Ignite website or YouTube searching on the ignitenight channel to get an idea of the variety.)

For immediate questions please contact: igniteprinceton [at] gmail [dot] com or drew [at] thinkprimed [dot] com

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Small Business Big Ambition: Why innovation is no surprise in the smaller enterprise

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
Thomas Jefferson

In times of uncertainty we search high and low for answers to our overarching question, “How do we dig ourselves out of the deep pile of…stuff we’re in?” If there are qualifications for uncertain times, present economic indicators demonstrate that all criteria are not only met but exceeded. And our search for answers (and perhaps a shovel) continues in haste.

With very few macro-economic levers left for government officials and public policy experts to pull as they try to shift the economy into a growth pattern, our range of vision and influence narrows. We won’t find big fixes no matter how hard we look. Larger businesses have cut costs dramatically and now find themselves with large cash reserves, waiting for the economy to turn around. They patiently await orders for more products and services, before they place any orders or invest in anything themselves. Essentially, each large enterprise is waiting for the next firm to blink.

Instead of waiting for bail-outs or big business-driven economic up-ticks, we must turn to one of the greatest sources of scalable economic activity and innovation, the small to medium enterprise, for our answers. When highly functioning, these smaller enterprises know how to: make scarcity work for them (they live it every day); work closely with their customers to meet their most pressing needs; and make rapid learning the activity that gives them momentum in the marketplace.

More with less
No complaint … is more common than that of a scarcity of money.
Adam Smith

In the popular press (whatever that might be today!), it’s difficult to get a firm handle on what’s going on, or better yet, what could go on with small businesses. By their nature, small businesses are harder to classify and quantify than their big business brothers and sisters. If we consider the small enterprise to be a business of fewer than 200 people, it still leaves a bulk of the economic activity of most developed countries and nearly every developing country. These are the firms for whom bootstrapping is not something done only during times of economic distress, but all the time. They know how to stretch a dollar, or euro, or peso. But that’s not the only thing they know how to stretch.

Time, not just money, is a malleable resource, too. How you invest your time—and on what—drives a higher return on investment. For small businesses stretching time, doing more in a shorter period, gives them an economic leg up, especially when it comes to embracing and extending technology. Smaller firms have many advantages as innovation sources because they are quick to adopt new and high-risk initiatives; they facilitate structures that value ideas and originality; and they have a better capacity to reap substantial rewards from market share in small niche markets. This first-mover advantage was created by and for the small enterprise. It enabled them to get closer to customers other firms little-realized existed.

Closer to our customers
There’s a lot more business out there in small town America than I ever dreamed of.
Sam Walton

By decreasing their cycle time, small enterprises can do more for their customers than most large enterprises would commit to. The small enterprise, which usually carries with it a smaller customer base, can remain closer to their customers’ various needs—a distinct advantage over many larger businesses. This means smaller firms can pick and choose where and when to provide innovative products and services. By virtue of their size, the small business can choose to invest a larger proportion of time, energy, and expertise to discover the depth of their customers’ needs, and then pursue those needs by creating innovative solutions.

This closeness to the customer experience is also driven by the need to maximize their share of their customers’ expenditures. By remaining close to the customer, the small enterprise can seize newly arising opportunities to provide value and increase revenues simultaneously. Correspondingly, by seeking to win more business by remaining close to existing customers, the cost-of-sale is driven down, which has a positive benefit to the bottom line: a positive, deep relationship is usually a more profitable relationship. And when there a fewer customers, it’s usually easier to read which ones will be more profitable than not, and that means more effective targeting for higher risk efforts that may yield greater innovation benefits.

Faster mistakes
With any loss, you want to try to regroup and learn from mistakes.
Elena Leon

Which leads us to another reason why small enterprises are a better bet for long-term economic recovery—they are learning machines. For an employee to add to an innovative process, it may take time for them to understand the research agenda of, and challenges faced by, the firm in which they are employed; in other words, an employee may need to move up the learning curve before adding to the innovative activity of the firm. In a smaller enterprise, that learning curve may be much shorter. Existing processes and systems may be much more fluid. The amount of information to be learned and retained as working knowledge may be smaller. Better yet, the social network through which so much learning and experimentation takes place is smaller and easier to navigate, too.

For the smaller enterprise, the whole employee pool can be geared toward discovery. Each interaction, whether with an internal peer, or an external client or supplier, can be seen as an opportunity to explore possibilities. Within that exploration will be a series of hits and misses. This doesn’t mean that the inherent failures associated with trying something new within a smaller enterprise are less impactful—far from it, but it does mean that the recovery from those missteps may be easier and often shorter.

This is not to negate the impact of the larger enterprise on economic recovery, because without them there would be no recovery, as they provide a stable foundation for the broader economy. But it is to the smaller enterprise we should look for more rapid improvements. The smaller enterprise is thrifty by nature, eager to embrace its customers’ experiences, and willing to risk—through innovation—for greater reward. Unlocking the power resident within small enterprises is key to broader economic recovery. We’ll explore some of those methods in future posts.

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