Some BIF-2 reflections…
The last two days and 34 presentations about innovation (in all sorts of forms) were, as expected very inspiring. The conference had its wrinkles to be sure – most notably ongoing audio troubles and rather ambivalent introductions by the co-hosts – but on the whole it was a very well organized event featuring a top-tier line-up of talented, ambitious and accomplished people. All but a few of the presenters were great, which is not an easy thing to achieve when both the quantity and diversity of speakers is so large and so varied. Kudos to Saul Kaplan and the team at Business Innovation Factory in Providence for their hard work and a thank you for including bloggers like me in the mix.
A few common themes and threads emerged from the talks. The main one, I would say, is that innovation is action. It is hard work and courage and perseverance. Many of the presenters were presenters of course because they’ve accomplished (or even failed at) something. And that’s perhaps the obvious fact – just do it. Another common message was that we are now in an interdisciplinary world. Expertise and research and culture absolutely must come together. And coming together spawns further newer innovation. A third common point was that there are some massive challenges – education, health and the environment, to name a few – that require smart still-to-be-determined solutions. In my opinion, the standout storytellers were Ivy Ross, Tim Westergren, Larry Keeley, Jane Fulton Suri, Jeneanne Rae, Bob Ballard, Dean Kamen, Frans Johansson, and Michael Singer.
It’s worth mentioning that there’s something very exciting happening in Rhode Island. Sure, the event was hosted by an non-profit arm of the state’s economic development group and they were of course promoting the area’s merits but still the optimism of the many Rhode Islanders attending and speaking was palpable. They’ve wisely taken the state’s small size and everyone-knows-everyone reality and shrewdly positioned it as an innovative advantage. Innovative business, science and technology can happen more easily, more personally and with less red tape in Rhode Island exactly because it is smaller. A state laboratory, so they say. Of course, proof will be in the pudding but a place on the map to keep a close eye on.