BIF Announces a Reimagined Summit Experience

In the spirit of transformation, BIF is excited to announce that in 2019 it is shifting from a single Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, RI, to create opportunities to inspire collaboration and innovation through smaller, more intimate gatherings across the country.

“One of our core principals relies on the power of storytelling. The Summit has been a space to collide with individuals from a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences and in 2019 we will focus on deepening relationships with those both in and outside our network to support our goal of bringing inspiration where it is needed most – health care, education, and public services, to create value for our most vulnerable populations,” states Chief Market Maker, Eli MacLaren.

In lieu of hosting a single event for a select audience, BIF will be leading a series of smaller, more intimate gatherings over the course of 2019, creating more spaces to connect with changemakers across the United States and enabling more random collisions of unusual suspects. “The Summit has always been more about community than an event,” states Saul Kaplan, BIF Founder and Chief Catalyst. Going on to say, “In order to truly create the conditions for collaborative innovation, we need to harness the untapped potential of our purposeful networks by creating more conditions where leaders and changemakers can connect face-to-face, to share, ideate and experiment together.”

By focusing on smaller spaces for connectivity, BIF will be taking our superpowers of storytelling and transformation to new audiences. It’s time we go from tweaks to transformation in more spaces across all silos. BIF is excited to embark on this next chapter of inclusiveness and connectivity across the US.

BIF will be announcing dates and locations in the coming weeks. To bring BIF to your town, contact Elizabeth Rodgers at elizabeth@bif.is. Looking forward to seeing you soon!

 

About the Business Innovation Factory:

At BIF, we believe that design strategy is critical to developing, iterating on, and spreading new models. It is an approach that helps leaders determine what to do (or make), how to grow, and where to innovate (both in the immediate term and the long term). It helps leaders work in environments that are rapidly changing and relatively volatile. Design strategy enables adaptable and flexible action plans, inherently building more resilient organizations. Ultimately, through design strategy, organizations build the capability to reimagine and actively reinvent themselves to be consistently relevant.

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Catalyzing Reactions from BIF2018

There was something palpable in the air surrounding BIF2018. Like many summits that have come before it, our focus has always been to create more community than event. To share in our purposeful networks to catalyze a reaction and spark greatness within the audience, to go out there and bring a renewed sense of hope, belonging, and courage allowing participants to go home and spread their learnings with others.

Usually, by the time the Summit hits us in full force in September, we at BIF are too focused on ensuring everything falls into place to fully grasp the impact of the two-days we have set in motion. It is only until well after the stage lights have dimmed and the hoards of changemakers who have descended upon our great city of Providence have scattered back to their collective outposts across the U.S. that we get the chance to fully reflect.

But this year, there was an undeniable sense that something was different. More exciting. That the change we’ve been so desperately seeking for our most vital social systems might finally be breaking through to an even higher ground. It could just be that the timing couldn’t have been better, that this was exactly what we all needed as a community. Or perhaps this year, in particular, the caliber and diversity of both story and storyteller were far and above what we could have ever hoped for.

Whatever it may be, it’s safe to say that all of us have left changed. Inspired. Hopeful. Ready to self-organize and create the conditions necessary for all of us to freely combine and recombine our capabilities to make the world a better place.

And that change starts with you, our community, through words, actions, and movements, Here are some of the takeaways shared by our audience.

  1. Stranger in a Strange Land: An Educator’s #BIF2018 Adventure by Trevor Aleo
  2. Reflections: One Month Post BIF by Deb Mills-Scofield
  3. BIF2018: How Connection Drives Innovation from Greg Satell
  4. BIF2018: Connecting, Catalyzing And Colliding Communities by DK
  5. How Our First Instincts Can Hamper Our Capacity To Act Wisely And Innovate by Kare Anderson
  6. Design + Strategy = A New Good Story by Eli MacLaren
  7. Let’s Catalyze Something Bigger Than Ourselves by Founder & Chief Catalyst Saul Kaplan
  8. The Biotech Innovation That Will Transform Society Has Arrived: An Interview with Andrew Hessel

Our goal? We want to come together to strategically build a roadmap for transformation through our collective networks with you. Don’t know where to start? If you have a vision, we have an approach.

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Breaking the Silence from the (Unintended) Consequence of Political Correctness

At BIF, one of our core beliefs is that a good story can change the world. By sharing our insights and perspectives, we can connect, inspire, and transform to enable purposeful networks. Guest contributor Ann Keehn shares her thoughts and emergent takeaway from BIF2018:

One emerged theme from BIF 2018:

Breaking the silence from the (unintended) consequence of political correctness.

George Carlin wrote, “Political correctness is America’s newest form of intolerance, and it is especially pernicious because it comes disguised as tolerance. It presents itself as fairness, yet attempts to restrict and control people’s language with strict codes and rigid rules. I’m not sure that’s the way to fight discrimination. I’m not sure silencing people or forcing them to alter their speech is the best method for solving problems that go much deeper than speech.”

Alan Simpson noted that “Political correctness is like wearing duct tape on your mouth because if you really are a person filled with hate, prejudice, and bias […] then that stuff comes through like a fissure through a volcano.” As a young boy, Alan Simpson’s father (a Boy Scout troop leader) took his son, Alan, to the Heart Mountain Japanese internment camp (a part of our American history we were so powerfully reminded of in Julian’s songs) to hold troop meetings because “those imprisoned were also American boys.” It was during this time that Alan Simpson and Norman Mineta (an imprisoned Japanese American boy) began their life-long friendship; Alan became a Republican senator and Norman a Democratic congressman – both fighting for freedom of speech and against discrimination.

I heard several of the storytellers putting out their own story, unpacking their own biases, and asking us to have the courage to have the conversation. Name it, talk about it, find a way to make it better for all. They called for a greater recognition of structured bias in our systems, but also the recognition that “we” are the systems. That it begins not with solving the problem of the 100,000 homeless population in a city, but one person handing a token to and seeing that one man or woman who is currently without a home.

I am more hopeful for America’s future when I hear that many conversations are taking shape. That individuals are having the courage to stop the censorship, to take off the duct tape, and to have those often uncomfortable but always enlightening conversations. Sam Siedel’s image of the two worlds back-to-back and Yolanda’s poem reflect these ideas because they retain the complex beauty of our world while challenging us to see in a new way.

Ann Keehn
Health Services Director of Operations & Senior Consultant
John Snow, Inc.

John Snow, Inc., and our nonprofit JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., are public health management consulting and research organizations dedicated to improving the health of individuals and communities throughout the world. Our mission is to improve the health of underserved people and communities and to provide a place where people of passion and commitment can pursue this cause.

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Design + Strategy = A New Good Story

In 2010, my mind was blown by the inaugural TEDWomen — I mean literally blown. My brain hurt, and I was off-balance and discombobulated, as my brain raced with many powerful insights. I was grateful for the plane home, so I could process and make meaning of what I’d heard, creating a new practice:

Whenever I leave a conference, I make a list of no more than 5 insights that are so powerful that I must act on them. I create an intention for what that action looks like, define the barriers and risks of acting in new ways, and hold myself accountable for starting.

As Chief Market Maker at BIF, I am blessed that two days of innovation storytelling is part of our annual Fall cycle, and so this practice continues for me after each BIF Summit. I am also blessed that I get to process the learnings and insights with a team of Experience Designers, and incorporate them into our work with institutional leaders. Not everyone is so lucky, and it had me wondering how this formula of inspiration, design, and strategy could be useful to our audience too, so I wanted to make a proposition.

Here’s why:

I regularly facilitate conversations about business model innovation. I use BIF’s methodology to teach teams and groups how this methodology can make transformation safer and easier to manage. The goal is to inspire confidence in transformation (versus the well-known approaches to incremental innovation) and to teach a few fundamental behaviors required to be successful:

  • Transformation requires shifting your lens from your core business model and taking a human/user-centered approach.
  • Recognize that your initial solution design is only partially right, and move as rapidly as possible to real-world prototyping to fix the rest.
  • Focus on scale only once you have figured out what the “it” is; too often, we let questions of scale surface and create resistance to trying something new before we even know what the new is and how it works.
  • All of this is relevant to the design process — a process of seeing anew and a bias towards action.

The second part is the internal strategy, meaning:

How do even seasoned innovation leaders create the conditions for and the permission to do transformational work?

The reality is that one of two conditions will exist in institutions. In the most ideal and least common, the CEO will recognize the institutional imperative to explore new business models as part of the innovation agenda. In the least ideal and most common, the innovation leader (Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, etc.) will want to ensure that transformation is part of the innovation portfolio, but unfortunately, their efforts are not supported, resourced, or declared at the leadership level.

Then what?

Building on my own experience as a seasoned intrapreneur and the work BIF has done to explore the entrepreneur experience, (a) we know how hard it is; and (b) we have a few recommended strategies:

  • Stories mobilize others to act. Share them early to test the waters. Grow them to build ground and resources. Make them visual. Make them personal — enabling others to connect through authenticity and vulnerability.
  • A sense of a belonging is hard to find within — there is a reason innovators are known as rebels and disrupters. Search for tribes. Carve out gold in the grey space — physically and virtually — across business units, silos, and disciplines.
  • You have to earn the freedom to act. Be prepared for resistance, and confront it with listening ears. Recognize that you won’t win all the time, loss happens. Know when it matters.
  • Strengthen your organization’s response system through your own actions. Overcome self-doubt. Reframe failure as intentional iteration. Have patience, and be eternally optimistic.
  • Differentiate know-what and know-how. Recognize the two types of knowledge building. Be prepared to unlearn and de-educate, especially while working within existing organizational constructs. Draw from life experiences.
  • Make it easy for others to invest. Be strategic in finding executive sponsorship. Create an opportunity to vet and evaluate routinely. Seed a sense of collective contribution.

So how does this relate to your BIF2018 experience? Because here is what is going to happen:

  • You will hear stories from 32 storytellers who will blow your mind, inspire your thinking, and shift your lens.
  • You will connect with your tribe, and be incredibly optimistic about the possibilities to transform.
  • Without the strategy part of the equation, you’ll go home and be disenchanted with the ho and the hum of business as usual.

That’s where we come in.

Following the Summit, I will happily jump on the phone with you to: (1) quickly help you identify the key challenges/barriers to transformation; (2) define the core behaviors and strategies that will help you navigate them; and (3) help you frame a narrative for how this design and strategy might come together to alter your institutional trajectory.

Design + Strategy = A New Good Story.

It’s all part of making transformation safer and easier to manage. Welcome to the community.

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Let’s Catalyze Something Bigger Than Ourselves

September is a beacon of light for us every year. At BIF, we pride ourselves in living and breathing the human side of innovation day in and day out, but it’s really our Annual Collaborative Innovation Summit that reminds us of our shared purpose.

It touches our souls, refreshes our outlook, and energizes us for the hard transformation work ahead. For those of you that are new faces in the crowd, you’ll soon experience what we mean. And for those who have returned year after year, I can’t thank you enough for strengthening our growing network of human-centered innovation junkies. Together we can change the world.  

We believe in the power of random collisions of unusual suspects, or what we at BIF like to call making a RCUS, to tap the limitless potential in the gray spaces between us. There’s no telling the heights we can reach together by coming here and connecting outside our usual silos, from all walks of life, experiences, and viewpoints – all catalyzed by the 32 incredible personal stories of transformation we’re about to experience on the #BIF2018 stage. Every year I’m reminded that this isn’t just about who attends or even who is up on stage, but that it’s about catalyzing something bigger than any one of us. It’s about engaging and collaborating as a purposeful network to unleash the adjacent possible. To connect, inspire, and transform.

True to our vision, #BIF2018 continues to remain more community than event. Our community knows that innovation is a team sport and understands the value of connectivity. We can’t get better, faster if we don’t do it together. To make change a reality, it’s up to all of us to make it happen. I believe in the untapped potential in all of us and look forward to these two days every year, knowing that the best is yet to come. Let the inspiration begin!

BIF2018 Collaborative Innovation Summit

One of our core beliefs is that a good story can change the world.  We’ve never prescribed what our storytellers have to say and nor will we. At #BIF2018 we are modeling how to enable self-organized purposeful networks. It’s up to us to accept the responsibility to convert random collisions from the Summit into powerful and purposeful collaborations. You decide what your takeaways are, what insights to act on. How to engage and inspire others. Inspiration is personal and it’s up to participants to decide where it comes from, who to connect with, and how to emerge with a renewed sense of purpose. Let’s make a RCUS at #BIF2018, because that’s how the magic happens.

I have high expectations for where we can go from here. Transformation requires an emotional connection to the work. When we feel connected and involved in the story, there’s no telling what we can do together. The time for transformation is now. Let’s make our networks more purposeful and committed to transforming our important social systems, including healthcare, education, and public services.

Together we will catalyze something bigger than any of us individually. The more we connect, share, and experiment together, the greater our impact will have on more people’s lives. What if innovation isn’t about inventing anything new after all? What if it’s about creating the conditions for all of us to more freely combine and recombine our capabilities to make the world a better place?

If a good story can change the world, let’s start with our own. Welcome to #BIF2018!

Forbes Named BIF2018 Top 5 Conferences To Expand Your Mind


An Interview with #BIF2018 Storyteller Mark Brand

We had an opportunity to catch up with Mark Brand, CEO of MB, Inc. and highly anticipated storyteller at BIF2018. Passionate and purposeful, Brand talks to us about the power of connectivity, combining purposeful networks, and some of the fascinating endeavors he’s taken on.

Last year you wowed us at the BIF2017 Summit, coming out in full force with your journey. Tell us a little about your experience and what it was like to be a part of the Summit?

For scope, I’m terrible at vetting folks and on top of that, am a Canadian who’s been buried in my work for a decade. I attend events and based on what I speak about and who I’m with, the universe and all its soldiers (I’m looking at you Saul & Yarrow) line me up with great people. I was hanging out on day two last year and a gentleman who I recognized started talking to me about real upward mobility, not band-aid entrenchment solutions, for marginalized populations. He said, “You need to help us out in New Mexico”, and it still didn’t click at the time, I just had a crush on his brain and his vision. Turns out he founded Fast Company and he’s the Mayor (of Santa Fe, New Mexico) now, so I think he knew what he was talking about.

Another discussion I had was with the team at Peace Love Studios that’s led us to partner further. What I’m getting at here is everyone at the conference is truly about change and impact. Being able to share my story to accelerate others work was a real gift that’s still giving.

Mark Brand at BIF2017

Since your time at BIF2017, we’ve seen you take on some incredible new endeavors: a new role as Professor of Innovation at USC, cooking at the Vatican as Executive Chef for Pope Francis’s Laudato Si Challenge; tell us a little more about what you’ve been up to – and where you find the time to do it all?

Time is our most valuable resource, so it only made sense for me to find out how to get all of mine back. I did, and am now focused solely on scalable projects that will impact all of society, and teaching or speaking to those who can do the same. My role as Professor at USC is teaching doctoral students of social work how to approach the work they’ve been doing, some for decades, and flip it on its head using design methodologies and no bullshit real-world experience. It’s the most rewarding work to be teaching those who are in it, with so little resource, but all the passion.

Rome was incredible. I got to cook for 400 global leaders and through my menu and words discuss solutions from agriculture and people to climate change. Folks often look at the traditionally “Barriered” as a burden, but they’ve got it all wrong. They’re the solution, and I got to share that on a stage I could only have dreamed of prior. I’m a deeply spiritual, non-religious dude, so it was extra special to have this group bring me in. It shows that purpose and impact trump affiliation, pun fully intended.

I also became certified as an Integral Facilitator this year from the Ten Directions program, which has taught me how to use my whole body as an instrument and how to mediate the hardest of conversations. When you start to use all of your senses, kind of like a tuning fork, you can achieve so much more because you don’t waste time on, well, time wasters. Intuition plays a big role, trust it.

At home in Vancouver the partnership of our Social Hub, Save On Meats, and charity, A Better Life Foundation, served its two millionth meal to those in need. Two Million. When people say small businesses can’t make big changes, we beg to differ. The programs now feed between 900-1300 people a day and we couldn’t be prouder of the work where it all started and continues to grow. I have an incredible team of people.

Where does that take you now? Talk to us about what you’re working on.

Everything is the short answer. I’m working more than ever and feel better than ever. This summer I’ve been spending a ton of time in NYC and as of the fall am bringing my company and charity stateside, with the intention of building brick and mortar centers akin to Save On Meats in every single neighborhood that needs one. We’re also taking my Greasy Spoon Diner series National and International to Australia, where I’ll serve as Entrepreneur In Residence for the City of Sydney this fall for 2 weeks.

My digital platform PAL has found partners with DOMO and Fairshare and we’ve been nonstop this last 6 months working on getting the data we need to start to end homelessness in a city by city case using emerging tech that is simply incredible.

We launched HATCH Europe a few months back and I’m super excited to see my dear friends and family Kimberly, Charles, James, Phillip, Holley, Vika, and Quentin all from the network joining BIF this year. They’re insanely beautiful and impactful people that are going to blow the audience at BIF away.

You know Saul, 5 years ago, I couldn’t get people to amalgamate impact and business mentally. It was church and state. Now it’s all anyone wants to talk to me about and I’ve seen a massive change not only in normalized vernacular but hunger from people with wealth and power to do real, sustainable good. Not just write cheques. I’m over the moon with the state of things and really appreciate how you and BIF show up to help the conversation.

We’re excited to have you back on stage at BIF2018. What are you going to share this year?

It’s all Top Secret. I’m doing a talk that’s deeply personal and that I’ve never done before. I’m very excited to share it.

What does the Summit experience mean to you? How would you describe it?

It’s an opportunity to embrace new perspectives I don’t get exposed to. The conference is challenging whilst supportive, it’s engaging whilst also disruptive. I’m certain I’ll end up in all the heated discussions I had no idea I wanted to have again.


Register for the BIF Summit to hear Mark alongside 32 remarkable storytellers and you’ll leave inspired and ready to transform yourself, your company, and even the world.
Connect. Inspire. Transform. Register #BIF2018


Healthcare Storytellers to Watch at #BIF2018

This September 13-14, 500 innovation junkies will convene in Providence, Rhode Island to listen to 32 storytellers share their passionate stories about transformation at the annual Business Innovation Factory (BIF) Collaborative Innovation Summit. BIF’s Patient Experience Lab is most excited to listen and learn from these 5 speakers from the healthcare industry:  

Andrew Hessel

Andrew Hessel

Andrew Hessel is the CEO of Humane Genomics Inc., a seed-stage company developing virus-based therapies for cancer, starting with dogs. Andrew is also the co-founder of Genome Project-write, an international scientific effort working to engineer large genomes, including the human genome. He is also a Distinguished Researcher at Autodesk Life Sciences and a faculty member at Singularity University.  Andrew is a reputable speaker helping people understand the biotech industry. He enjoys presenting to groups with government, academic, and commercial backgrounds. Check out Andrew at BIF 2016

Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia

Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia

Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia is the Executive Director of the Cook County Department of Corrections where she oversees mental health strategy. The Cook County Jail, located in Chicago, is home to 2000-2500 inmates suffering from mental illnesses. Nneka focuses her work to slow the rate of mentally ill individuals re-entering the prison system by developing the Mental Health Transition Center to build a system of support for inmates re-entering the community. She became warden of the Cook County Jail in the Spring of 2015, emerging as one of the first clinical psychologists to run a prison, understanding how a large portion of the jail’s population suffers from mental illness. Read more about Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia here.

Darden Smith

Darden Smith

Darden Smith is a singer-songwriter, a founder of a non-profit, an author, and a return BIF Summit speaker. Darden has produced 15 critically-acclaimed albums in his 32-year career. Mental health is often hard to talk about, however, Darden is helping American heroes tell their story, release often invisible pain and forge new connections. His non-profit, SongwritingWith: Soldiers helps soldiers and their families cope with the aftermath of combat by using music as a form of expression. Darden is an accomplished speaker and often shares insight into the lessons he learned as a singer-songwriter, how he re-made himself into a non-profit founder and entrepreneur, and his evolution as an artist. Check out Darden at BIF 10.

Ken Falke

Ken Falke

Ken Falke is a 21-year combat veteran of the US Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal community and retired as a Master Chief Petty Officer. Ken’s passion for taking care of his fellow vets led him to develop Boulder Crest, America’s first privately funded wellness center that assists combat veterans and their families. Boulder Crest focuses on an alternative approach to treating PTSD and depression. Ken is also an accomplished author and recently released his book, Struggle Well which focuses on post-traumatic growth. Ken is highly respected around the world as an innovative and forwardthinking leader on the subjects of wounded warrior care, military and veteran transition, counterterrorism, military training, and innovative technology development.

Emily Levy

Emily Levy is the CEO and founder of Mightywell, a company that aims to “turn sickness into strength”. Her products allow patients to live a more comfortable life by helping them to maintain their dignity, health, and confidence through functional and stylish apparel and accessories. At Mightywell, Emily encourages a strong, digitally-driven community where peers can talk about their experiences and find strength in each other.

 

This year’s BIF Summit will be a welcome place for healthcare innovators and leaders to connect and find inspiration to transform the industry. Are you a healthcare leader who shares BIF’s passion to innovate and transform? Email Will to talk about this year’s Collaborative Innovation Summit

Connect. Inspire. Transform. Register #BIF2018


BIF Announces With GoLocal Live: #BIF2017 Summit Storyteller Series

The Business Innovation Factory (BIF), in collaboration with GoLocal, announces a media partnership for #BIF2017, BIF’s Annual Collaborative Innovation Summit held in Providence, RI this September 13-14 at Trinity Repertory Company, including a six week #BIF2017 Summit Storyteller Series on GoLocal Live featuring interviews with inspiring #BIF2017 storytellers leading up to GoLocal broadcasting live, for the first time ever, from #BIF2017 at Trinity Rep Theatre on September 13-14, 2017.  

BIF and GoLocalLive will debut the six-week #BIF2017 Summit Storyteller Series starting this Friday, August 4, 2017, leading off with the co-founder of Fast Company, Alan Webber. Now in its’ 13th year, #BIF2017, like previous summits before it, has attracted high-profile storytellers from across the country, including this year Walt Mossberg, veteran tech journalist from the Wall Street Journal; Carmen Medina, former Deputy Director of Intelligence at the CIA , and Richard Saul Wurman, design icon and creator of the TED Conference.

“We’re thrilled to have GoLocal as a #BIF2017 Media Partner and to debut the #BIF2017 Summit Storyteller Series on GoLocal Live this week” Saul Kaplan,  Founder and Chief Catalyst of BIF explains. “The BIF Summit enables 500+ innovation junkies from around the world, and many more connected online, to learn from inspiring storytellers who share genuine stories about their personal transformation journey. #BIF2017 enables participants to engage in stories of transformation, connecting with each other to accelerate our own transformation journeys and to make a difference in the world.  At BIF, we believe that in order to transform our most vital community systems in education, healthcare, and government, we need to make our self-organized networks more purposeful .”

 

At #BIF2017 on September 13-14 GoLocal will simultaneously live stream the entire Summit, all 32 stories over 2 days, as well as featuring GoLocal Live interviews during the summit intermissions and breaks. “We’ve been broadcasting with Saul for a series we’ve dubbed Mr. Innovation, airing every Monday afternoon, so the partnership with BIF seemed like a natural fit. We’re excited to try something new and bring the greater stories of transformation to our incredible viewers,” Josh Fenton, CEO and co-founder of GoLocal explains.

Why attend? #BIF2017 experience is designed for inspired learning. It takes place in a theater, not a hotel or conference center. There’s only one track, so everyone shares a common experience. Attendees expand their networks with both storytellers and attendees during our long breaks, meals, and reception with over 80 percent of attendees being thought leaders, CEOs, Presidents, or Senior Leaders in their field. Tickets for #BIF2017 are on sale now.  Register today and be ready to leave feeling inspired.


Inc Calls BIF2016 One Of The ‘Most Innovative Conferences of 2016’

A good story can change the world, we say. That’s why we produce the BIF Summit every year.

A good story can change business as well, says Inc magazine.

Inc writer Michael Schein included the BIF2016 Summit on the magazine’s list of the 10 Most Innovative Conferences of 2016 —conferences “where business leaders turned for unparalleled access, inside scoops and pure innovation.”

Schein wrote:

“The BIF Summit adds a twist to traditional storytelling. Thirty-two heavy-hitters from myriad industries gather each year to share 15-minute stories about personal growth, overcoming hardships, and laying the groundwork for future opportunities.

“This self-proclaimed community of “innovation junkies” provides a space to make connections, tap into unrealized potential, and build meaningful relationships through a shared sense of struggle.”

We couldn’t agree more. See for yourself — you can watch the videos from all the BIF2016 storytellers here.

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The BIF Summit ‘Unlocks The Doors Of Possibility’ – Dara Goldberg

Guest post by Dara Goldberg

During September 14-16 — in just two weeks  more than 500 people from all sectors, countless industries, and myriad locales worldwide will descend upon the beautiful Trinity Repertory Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island, to experience the Business Innovation Factory’s BIF2016 Summit. You should be there too — and here’s why.

The BIF Summit is your physical and mental door into the unknown and the unexpected. The BIF Summit is a place where we can discuss and consider wildly exciting notions — that anything is possible when it comes to rethinking and rebuilding business models, that we can build and rebuild social systems that will serve everyone, everywhere, the whole world over — in a profoundly better way.

The BIF Summit is a safe, welcoming space where ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ are forbidden, where egos, titles, fame and fortune, hierarchy and competition are checked at the door, and where ‘not knowing’ is a welcomed frame of mind.

The BIF Summit is your ticket to a braintrust of individuals who are not afraid to think out loud, to question, to challenge, to share, to agree and disagree, to care about one another, and to interact with everyone on an entirely level playing field.

Enter the BIF Summit, and you enter a world filled with ideas, practices, and manners of thinking — about your work, yourself, your community, and the world — that you would never have considered or even thought possible.

The BIF Summit is the key that unlocks the doors of possibility,  unleashing that wondrous, daring, creative part of your own brain. You know, that part of your brain that rarely gets its due, and is not confined by boxes, expectations, and rules. That sacred place in your brain that knows no self-doubt, fear of judgment, preconceived notions, or outmoded assumptions.  The part where curiosity, wonder, a ‘we’ mentality, flexibility, and optimism naturally occur, where questions are more valued than answers, where ambiguity, perplexity, and non-linear thinking are celebrated.

Over the course of those two days, your brain — and your heart and soul — will be nourished, re-energized, challenged, and moved, perhaps even to tears, by stories. The BIF Summit’s storytellers are ready and willing to be vulnerable with you. They’ll share their bold, edgy ideas and experiences, their successes and failures, and their sometimes grand, sometimes more modest perspectives on how we can think, act, work, and live in different and markedly more meaningful and impactful ways.

The BIF Summit storytellers will push you to the edge of your thinking and help you find comfort there. But equally provocative and fulfilling are the stories you share with the people you meet throughout the two days. In the interactions BIF refers to as ‘Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects’, you’ll find yourself conceiving, sharing,  and learning about new ideas and ways of thinking. You’ll collectively bring new ways of thinking to life.

Toward the end of the two days, as people start to realize that their incredible Summit experience is coming to a close, the energy in the room is, surprisingly, far from somber and low. Rather, the atmosphere continues to build in a powerfully positive way, as everyone gets even more excited and emboldened to take all that they have gained from and contributed to the BIF Summit home with them, and help spur the change they now know is possible.

I truly hope to see you there.

Connect. Inspire. Transform. Register #BIF2018


Wanda McClure on the BIF Summit: Thinking Beyond The School Silos

The BIF Summit is designed to allow attendees to break free from their silos. There are storytellers and stories, not speakers and presentations. There are no pre-set theme s or topics. Within this environment, attendees can boundlessly explore new ways to make themselves, their businesses, and our world a better place.

No matter your title, no matter your line of business, everyone who attends the BIF Summit benefits. Take Wanda McClure, for example. A longtime educator, Wanda is a School Designer and Professional Development Specialist for EL Education, formerly Expeditionary Learning, in the Atlantic region. She’s been to the BIF Summit for a few years running.

I asked Wanda to tell us, through the lens of an educator, why go to the BIF Summit?

Wanda’s answer: Educational leadership can become stagnant. The BIF Summit inspires me to think differently and ask questions like, How does innovation and strategy play into K-12? What do students need to be successful? How can we engage school leaders to participate in innovation? What part does strategy and innovation play in transformative, disruptive change?

In my experience, most schools and school districts make incremental changes, rather than disruptive or transformative change. The BIF Summit expands my thinking and inspires me as I work with leaders in education to help them understand how change happens, how we must move from incremental to more disruptive and progressive changes. The BIF Summit reminds me that we need to be intentional disruptive as we work toward change in education in order to allow teachers and students to truly become changemakers who create a better world.

Every storyteller comes to the BIF Summit with a unique story. So does everyone who attends. Yet in those diverse, random collisions of people and stories, we all share a commonality of humanity.

I love being a part of the RCUS team where those collisions of thought happen. Participating in that commonality reminds me how we are humans ‘being’ on a journey through life. I’m prompted to reflect on the big questions: How am I using my voice as a force for good? How can I apply the collective wisdom of these innovators to my task as a human being?

Connect. Inspire. Transform. Register #BIF2018


Matt Murrie on The BIF Summit: The Element of Surprise

The BIF Summit is designed to allow attendees to break free from their silos. There are storytellers and stories, not speakers and presentations. There is no pre-set theme or topics. Within this environment, attendees can boundlessly explore new ways to make themselves, their businesses, and our world a better place.

As Co-Founder and Chief Curiosity Curator of What If…? Matt Murrie is a guy who asks a lot of questions.

Matt has been to the BIF Summit before, and he’ll be at #BIF2016, September 14-15. I spoke with Matt to ask the question ‘Why go to the BIF Summit?’

Matt’s short answer: People. To go a little deeper, the unique collections of people in one place. The BIF Summit gives me access to those people. At the Summit, I have time to spend with this unique collection of people, sharing stories and ideas. Everyone is at the BIF Summit for a reason and everyone has a purpose. But there’s also an incredible element of surprise over the course of those two days.

I am mind-blown each year when I look at the attendee list before heading off to the BIF Summit. I always like to be the dumbest person in the room — I learn more that way. The BIF Summit gives me that opportunity.


BIF Summit Scholarships Are Now Available!

Every year BIF awards a limited number of both complimentary tickets and discounted tickets to our summit to students and community members who are unable to pay our full registration. To be considered for one of these tickets we ask that you fill out the application form and tell us why you belong at BIF2016!

We’re excited to announce Cale Birk as this years first Community Scholarship recipient! We asked Cale why he’s excited to attend BIF2016 and his response was nothing short of inspirational.

Cale writes: As a high school Principal, I had been trying to develop a model for a ‘demonstration school’ where teachers would be encouraged to take pedagogical ‘risks’: working together to design and implement new approaches in their classrooms that were potentially very different than traditional methods.  

However, I wasn’t getting a great deal of traction on my idea. It was at that point that I happened across Saul Kaplan’s book, The Business Model Innovation Factory. I read the book in a weekend, and the idea of ‘the adjacent possible’ made so much sense, especially considering the model that I had been playing with. And after doing a little digging, I discovered that the Business Innovation Factory put on an annual summit, and that was it, I needed to go to BIF! I knew that I had to try to find some way to get to BIF 2016.  

Cale will be making his way to the Summit all the way from British Columbia, Canada and says he’s looking forward to seeing everyone at BIF2016!

 Applications are reviewed on a first come first serve basis. Tickets are limited. Click on the link below for more details.

 

 

Connect. Inspire. Transform. Register #BIF2018


Four Healthcare Storytellers to Watch at the #BIF2015 Summit

Basit Chaudhry, MD

As a medical student, Dr. Basit Chaudhry became certain that before a better, more humane healthcare system could be built, a technological problem needed to be solved: a way for healthcare providers to discover and deal with all the information required to provide optimal care. Dr. Chaudhry went on to get his Ph.D. in health services research and informatics and later became a medical technologist at IBM. Most recently, Dr. Chaudhry founded Tuple Health, which offers technology and services to medical providers, payers, and purchasers. Tuple is a step toward solving the problem of organizing what we know about medicine and making it freely available to those people who need it. Technology alone can’t solve the problems in healthcare, but Dr. Chaudhry believes that technological innovation can help us develop a system focused more on wellness than treating illness.

Sophie Houser

The summer before their senior year of high school, Sophie Houser and Andy Gonzales created the video game Tampon Run as their final project for a coding summer intensive with Girls Who Code, an organization trying to close the gender gap in technology and encourage girls to discover the creativity and power of coding. Tampon Run, a simple game that uses humor and satire to combat the societal taboo around menstruation, went viral when Houser shared it with friends on a simple website in September 2014. Houser and Gonzales have been written up all over the world, given a TEDx talk, won a Webby People’s Voice award, and a Tribeca Disruptive Innovators Award. Sophie, a native New Yorker, graduated from Bard High School Early College last spring and has just started her freshman year at Brown University. 

Stephen Keating

Steven Keating is a doctoral candidate at the MIT Media Lab who is developing novel platforms for 3D printing, synthetic biological fabrication, and designed growth of the next generation of products. Curiosity drives his research and also saved his life through the accidental discovery of a baseball-sized, cancerous brain tumor found in a voluntary academic scan. In recent months, Keating has become a vocal advocate for an open-access health system that gives patients the right to see and share their own medical information with providers, supporters, and researchers. “It’s the power of knowing what’s happening to you,” he says.“ We have Google Maps to help us get to the grocery store, but for cancer, there’s no direction. We follow whatever our doctors tell us.”

Michael Samuelson

Michael Samuelson is an author and an expert on leadership, health and wellness, patient experience, health policy, and disease prevention. Practicing what he preaches, he is an avid world trekker who has logged high-altitude mountain adventures in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, and the US — all after the age of 50, and after being diagnosed with cancer. Health is not an end in itself, he says, but merely a vehicle for what brings meaning to our lives. Similarly, staying healthy can never be about metrics for weight, blood pressure, or cholesterol. Such abstract indicators fail to provide the answer to a simple question: How are we doing in life, really?

Connect. Inspire. Transform. Register #BIF2018


The BIF Summit: ‘Weaving The Tapestry Of A Shared Experience’

Here at BIF, we can hardly wait for September, when the annual BIF Collaborative Summit happens — and if we, who put on the Summit every year, are excited about it, imagine how excited the Summit-goers are! We’ve asked some past participants, and a few first-time attendees, to describe this excitement. Up now: Shelley Paul, Head of Trans-Disciplinary Learning at the Atlanta International School.

We asked Shelley one question: What is it about the BIF Summit that excites you the most? Here’s her answer:

The stories! Story is at the heart of humanity, no matter where you’re from or what your experience is. BIF Summit stories are not about ideas, but about a journey and an experience the storyteller had, with transformation woven into the story.

After 32 storytellers, you’re saturated, in a really good way. But by the end, you also start to make a narrative arc of the whole event. That narrative arc is woven into the tapestry of your experience, and everyone else’s too, to create the collective, shared experience. Even when you’re not a speaker, you feel utterly essential to the experience. You and everyone else are where you are meant to be, to create the shared experience that is meant to be.

And it’s a shared experience from the minute you get there, until long after you leave, because you carry it back with you. I still think of Irwin Kula and Dorie Clark and Camille Beatty from BIF10.

I’m blown away by way lack of hierarchy is designed into the BIF Summit. You don’t feel funny talking to the storytellers. You can tell them how they affected you, and you can tell they’re glad to hear it. You feel like you’re as big a part of the Summit as the storytellers are.

I’m not going back to the BIF Summit, I’m coming home to the BIF Summit, returning to the place where all these amazing sparks and inspirations and stories happen.

 

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Four Education Storytellers to Watch at the 2015 BIF Summit

A selection of who to watch in and around education during the BIF Collaborative Innovation Summit.

Larry Rosenstock

Few schools have gained as much attention as Larry Rosenstock’s High Tech High, recently featured in the documentary Most Likely to Succeed.  With the support of the Gates Foundation and other organizations, Larry has helped create a school that puts students at the center of their learning with a project-based curriculum.  At High Tech High, students are empowered to play roles as scientists, engineers, and designers.

With 20 years of teaching experience, Larry knows the challenges of innovating inside highly structured environments.  His work in education has set a precedent for experimentation and innovation within our education system.  Larry doesn’t want every school to be like High Tech High, he wants every school to experiment like High Tech High.     

Jaime Casap

As Chief Education Evangelist at Google, Jaime focus is bringing technology into classrooms and using the Internet as a tool educators can use to empower their students to be lifelong learners and problem-solvers.  

Raised in the crime-ridden, poverty-stricken NYC neighborhood Hell’s Kitchen, Jaime finished college,  beating the odds that a first-generation American would be able to do so.  Education is the ‘silver bullet’ for escaping poverty, he asserts, and no matter where students come from, in one generation they can use education to reach their dreams.  

Jaime has shared his passion for education and technology all over the world, including a recent White House speech, which can be found on his blog.

Chris Emdin

Chris Emdin’s art is his ability to create a deep connection with students.  Chris believes the “magic” of teaching —  the ability to perform and engage with students, can be learned by visiting the masters: barbers, hip-hop artists, and preachers.  

Chris brings equity into his classroom by asking students what they need without making assumptions and allowing them to offer feedback to critics of his teaching practices.

Chris is also a pioneer of hip-hop education, which reimagines and transforms education using the principles of hip-hop. You can find Chris on his tweetchat #hiphoped at 9 PM EST every Tuesday night.  

Carlos Moreno

Originally from the Bronx, Carlos has spent his time learning and teaching in Rhode Island.  Currently, Carlos is co-director of Big Picture Learning in New York.  

Carlos doesn’t want equality for all students and insists that we fight inequality in our schools with inequality.  Education systems that try to bring a one-size-fits-all model to education harm students more than they help, especially those already at risk.  Carlos suggests that the best way to prepare students for the future is by creating very different learning opportunities for them.  Carlos is setting an example by having his school assess the talents and interests of students, and create a learning program that is personalized to each student.  

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The BIF Summit: ‘Random Collisions That Celebrate The Commonality Of Humanity’

The Summit prompts me to reflect on the big questions: How can I apply the collective wisdom of these innovators to my task as a human being?

Here at BIF, we can hardly wait for September, when the annual BIF Collaborative Summit happens — and if we, who put on the Summit every year, are excited about it, imagine how excited the Summit-goers are! We’ve asked some past participants, and a few first-time attendees, to describe this excitement.  Up now: Wanda McClure, a school designer and professional development specialist at Expeditionary Learning, K-12 education nonprofit.

We asked Wanda one question: What is it about the BIF Summit that excites you the most? Here’s her answer:

Hearing the stories of people from all walks of life. Every storyteller comes to the BIF Summit with a unique story. Yet in those diverse, random collisions of stories, there’s a commonality of humanity that relates to my journey as a human “being” and prompts me to reflect on the big questions: How am I using my voice as a force for good? How can I apply the collective wisdom of these innovators to my task as a human being?

I love the random collisions of unusual suspects, interweaved with the commonality of humanity. Where else would you have Richard Saul Wurman, Irwin Kula, Daniel Pink, and Camille Beatty? You’d never get that lineup at a regular conference.

And that’s precisely the point of the BIF Summit: there are random collisions. There are networking opportunities, and stories and conversations about topics specific to growing a business and making deals and the things that you’d do at normal conferences.

But it’s also an intensely personal experience, shared by all the unusual suspects, that celebrates the best thoughts of humanity on bettering the world.


#BIF2015 Summit: ‘I Want to Learn from the ‘Wow’ Moments’

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn how I can have greater impact on the human condition.” 

Here at BIF, we can hardly wait for September 16-17, when the annual BIF Collaborative Summit happens — and if we, who put on the Summit every year, are excited about it, imagine how excited the Summit-goers are! We’ve asked some past participants, and a few first-time attendees, to describe this excitement.  Up now: Dara Goldberg, who is a speaker and trainer, and also a writer who writes about leadership in the social and human age of business for publications such as Switch & Shift, the Huffington Post, and Forbes. 

We asked Dara one question: What is it about the BIF Summit that excites you the most? Here’s her answer:

I see the BIF Summit as an energy-­filled, refreshingly provocative event that brings together an extraordinary collection of people who are making our world a better place. I’m most excited to meet these amazing people and hear their stories. I especially want to connect with people who are committed to and actively helping to cultivate new generations of social leaders at all organizational levels, in all industries, all across the globe. I want to hear their insights, experiences, advice, and groundbreaking ideas. 

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn how I can have greater impact on the human condition. The Summit storytellers and attendees have such diverse vocations and avocations, as well as backgrounds, guiding beliefs, and life experiences. Some work with individuals, while others build, rebuild, and bring new life to communities, large organizational systems, or the world at large. I aim to learn from all the stories shared, onstage and off; the ideas that emerge from informal conversation; and the sparks flying from people’s ‘wow!’ moments. I want to learn new ways to be more effective in my efforts to help individuals, teams, and companies thrive. 

 

 

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#BIF2015 Summit ‘Jars Loose Cherished Assumptions’: Adam Hansen

BIF Collaborative Innovation Summit is a tremendous opportunity to blast through the innovation-impeding cognitive biases of availability bias, confirmation bias, status-quo bias, and unconscious framing

Here at BIF, we can hardly wait for September, when the annual BIF Collaborative Summit happens — and if we, who put on the Summit every year, are excited about it, imagine how excited the Summit-goers are! We’ve asked some past participants, and a few first-time attendees, to describe this excitement. Up now: Adam Hansen, who’s heard all about the Summit from colleagues who’ve attended and is “STOKED to attend The Summit”. Adam is Principal and VP of Innovation at Ideas To Go. 

We asked Adam one question: What is it about the BIF Summit that excites you the most? Here’s his answer:

Adam Hansen

Every now and then we’ll have the chance encounter, the serendipitous meeting that provokes breakthroughs in ways we hadn’t anticipated. Or we’ll hear the random off-the-cuff comment that cracks open a whole new area of thought for us. We cherish these precisely because of their infrequency and perceived stroke of luck for us. But it would be great to not to have to rely on being in the right place at precisely the right moment to get that kind of creative fuel.

The Summit is deliberate, not accidental. Planned, not random. We get the richness and diversity of perspective that we have formerly associated with luck and happenstance. The Summit is the right place, at the right moment, and we actually get to plan for it!

The distinct perspectives of the #BIF2015 Summit storytellers — poetry, mathematics, healthcare, online leaders — cannot help but jar loose our cherished assumptions, baked-in preconceptions, and limiting frames.

After all, creativity is combinatorial. Borrowing element Q from domain X and bringing it into home domain Y, then playing out the natural extension of that, is often enough to create something really interesting and valuable. We’re on the hunt for Uniqueness and Relevance, and it’s best to solve for Uniqueness first, then iterate to beef up the Relevance. Sounds complicated, but it looks like all you have to do to get this kind of transformative experience is to just listen to the storytellers and engage with the other attendees.

#BIF2015 attendee have a tremendous opportunity to blast through the innovation-impeding cognitive biases of availability bias, confirmation bias, status-quo bias, and unconscious framing. And if you want to talk about how innovation is affected by cognitive biases, please track me down at the Summit (and yes, it’s this easy to prepare for serendipity!).

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Spreading the BIF Summit Excitement: Doug Williams

“You never know what BIF storytellers are going to talk about, and you can’t foresee how someone’s story will affect you.”

Here at BIF, we can hardly wait for September, when the annual BIF Collaborative Summit happens — and if we, who put on the Summit every year, are excited about it, imagine how excited the Summit-goers are! We’ve asked some past participants, and a few first-time attendees, to describe this excitement. Up now: Doug Williams, who has attended two previous BIF Summits. Doug is Director of Research at StratCommRX and Chief Research Officer at Innovation Excellence.

We asked Doug one question: What is it about the BIF Summit that excites you the most? Here’s his answer:

“I love the sense of anticipation I feel when stepping into the Trinity Theater. At other conferences, I find myself reading through the schedule, identifying the sessions I want to attend based on who the speaker is, where they are from, or the subject. But that doesn’t apply at BIF. Don’t get me wrong: the list of BIF storytellers is often peppered with plenty of bold-face names, as well as senior people from big-name brands. What’s different is that you never know what they are going to talk about, and you can’t foresee how someone’s story will affect you. There’s an element of surprise with every storyteller who takes the stage, and that makes BIF fun and engaging in a way that is different from any other conference I’ve attended.

“My first BIF Summit was shocking. I went into it completely blind, without expectations. By the first break on Day 1, I was overwhelmed by what I had seen and heard. Four people all had done something really cool in their lives, something significant, something that made a difference. Was I inspired? To be honest, the answer was no. I felt inadequate. What had I done that was worthy of sharing with the masses? Nothing that could compare with the four stories I had just heard.

“But over the course of the day, my attitude changed. And by the end of Day 2, I realized something. The reason I didn’t have a story to tell is because my story isn’t finished yet. And two years later, it’s still not finished. And that’s okay.

“I attended my second Summit last year, as part of the #RCUS crew. (That was my first clue that I had done something right in my rookie year.) I saw lots of familiar faces, shared hugs and smiles with friends I hadn’t seen since the prior year, sat in my same seat in the theater, and was similarly blown away by the stories I heard from the stage. My familiarity with the event did not overshadow the sense of anticipation I had for what was happening on the stage.

“What was different in my second year was that I started feeling anticipation before breaks, lunch, and cocktails. At BIF, people network  but what I’ve found is that they network for YOU, not for THEM. This is not a “what’s in it for me” crowd. This is an enabling crowd full of people who think about what you tell them and find ways to help, whether by offering a kind word, a quick brainstorming session, an introduction to someone else, or a deep conversation about What Really Matters.

“My third BIF Summit is less than two months away. That sense of anticipation that I love is starting to build. I’m looking forward to all the things I know will happen, and I can’t wait to find out the unknowns that will unfold before me.”

 

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So, an Arm Wrestler, a Professor, and a Ski Mountaineer Walk Into the BIF Summit…

…as well as a poet, a food writer, the chef of a nonprofit food truck, a global security advisor, and a Google executive. The epic snow-melt is underway in Providence (yay!), and that means it’s the time of the year when we get serious about recruiting storytellers for the BIF Summit! We’ve made a significant start so far. Please welcome our first storytellers:

Rick Benjamin, a poet, essayist, and teacher, currently serves as poet laureate of Rhode Island. He teaches or has taught at Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, the MFA Program in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College, in many schools, and in community &assisted living centers. He also serves as a Fellow at New Urban Arts — an after-school arts mentoring program for Providence high school students. His poems and essays have been published in PRØOFWatershed, the Providence JournalTongue, 350.org, The Writer’s CircleAmerican Poets in the 21st Century: The New PoeticsUrthona: An International Buddhist Journal of the ArtsPoem, Home: An Anthology of Ars Poetica, and La Petite Zine.

Joshua Davis, co-founder of Epic magazine and contributing editor for Wired, loves an adventure, arm-wrestling, bullfighting, sumo, sauna, and backward running. His book Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, And The Battle For The American Dream, has been made into a movie that will be released this year. His documentary, “The Beast Within,” about his attempt to become the lightweight arm-wrestling champion of the world, won Best Documentary at the 2003 Telluride Mountain Film Festival.

Chris Emdin, an Associate Professor in the Mathematics, Science, and Technology department at Columbia University’s Teachers College, prepares teachers for STEM classrooms, conducts research in urban science education, and coordinates both the Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. and the #HipHopEd social media movement. The Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. are focused on bringing attention to transforming teaching, learning, and engagement in science by using hip-hop culture to create science competitions among youth in New York City public schools. The #HipHopEd movement focuses on engaging the public in conversations about the intersections of hip-hop and education.

Marc Goodman, global security adviser, and futurist, focuses on the disruptive impact of advancing technologies on security, business, and international affairs. Marc founded the Future Crimes Institute to inspire and educate others on the security and risk implications of newly emerging technologies. Marc also serves as the Global Security Advisor and Chair for Policy and Law at Silicon Valley’s Singularity University. His new book Future Crimes: Everyone Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About Itexposes the alarming ways criminals, corporations, and even countries are using new and emerging technologies against us. Marc received an MPA from Harvard University and an MS in Information Systems Management from the London School of Economics.

Simon Majumdar, food and travel writer, is best known for his frequent appearances on The Food Network and for his best-selling books, Eat My Globe and Eating for Britain. His recurring role as a judge on “Cutthroat Kitchen,” “Iron Chef America,” and “The Next Iron Chef” has earned him the title of Food Network’s “toughest critic.” Simon’s latest book Fed, White and Blue documents his trek across the United States to find out what it really means to become an American, using what he knows best: food. Simon was a storyteller at BIF8; see a video of his talk here.

Andrew McLean, ski mountaineer, has been pursuing steep skiing challenges in remote locations for more than two decades. As a ski mountaineer, he climbs peaks before skiing down them, and his trips often involve spending weeks or months camped in cold, snowy locations.  A veteran of 20 expeditions and hundreds of first descents, Powder magazine voted McLean as “One of the Greatest Skiers of Our Time.”  He also designs mountain climbing equipment and uses many of his own inventions while skiing.  He is also the author of The Chuting Gallery – A Guide to Steep Skiing in the Wasatch Mountains, which was the first skiing guidebook devoted to steep-ski mountaineering.

Ivy Ross, head of Glass at GoogleX, works to answer two rather simple-sounding questions. Can technology be something that frees us up and keeps us in the moment, rather than taking us out of it? Can it help us look up and out at the world around us, and the people who share it with us? Previously, Ivy Ross was Chief Marketing Officer of Art.com, as well as EVP of Marketing for the Gap brand, and Creative Catalyst for all brands within Gap, Inc. Ivy also has held senior creative and product design positions at Disney Stores North America, Mattel, Calvin Klein, Coach, Liz Claiborne, Swatch Watch, and Avon. She was one of nine executives selected by Fast Company to represent the new face of leadership and selected by Businessweek as one of the 25 most innovative global business leaders working within a corporation. Ivy was a storyteller at BIF2; see a video of her talk here.

Julius Searight, Founder and Director, Food4Good, lived in 13 different foster homes before moving into his adoptive home at the age of three, an experience that left him gravitating toward community service. A 2013 graduate of Johnson & Wales University, in 2012 he won Startup Weekend and in 2014 he won the Johnson & Wales University Shark Fest pitch competition, the Get Started RI pitch competition by Cox Business and Inc. magazine, the Johnson & Wales Outstanding Young Alumni Award, and was a contestant on the Food Network’s “Great Food Truck Race 2014.” An AmeriCorps alumni, he is now a local chef fighting to end hunger in his own community one plate at a time with his nonprofit, Food4Good, a mobile food truck that serves paying customers during the day and turns into a mobile soup kitchen at night.

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Nicole Radziwill Speaks on the Power of RCUS

The storytellers will make your heart sing…and make you cry. You will make friends, you will develop new contacts, and you might even embark upon a journey that takes you places you never could have imagined. – Nicole Radziwill

We want our Collaborative Innovation Summit filled from stage to seats with people sharing transformation ideas and stories,” says BIF Creative Catalyst Saul Kaplan.

After all, it was out of the Summit that the hashtag #RCUS was coined — Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects. And from now until the Summit takes place in September, we’ll run a series of short interviews with former Summit attendees who’ll tell us in their own words why the BIF Summit is a must-go event and how #RCUS has changed their lives. Next up, Nicole Radziwill, Assistant Professor of Integrated Science & Technology at James Madison University, finishes the RCUS story series with an epic tale of serendipitous connection.

Here’s her answer to the question, Why got to the BIF Summit?

What I like most about the BIF summits is that they are magical. The storytellers will make your heart sing…and make you cry. You will make friends, you will develop new contacts, and you might even embark upon a journey that takes you places you never could have imagined. My long and meandering tale aims to share some of this magic with you — and I truly believe it’s only beginning.

A BIF RCUS story always starts with a “Patient Zero” — and the person who started the cascading ripple of an impact that’s changed the direction of my life to date is BIF8 storyteller, Valdis Krebs.

I can’t even remember how I met Valdis, but I know it was online and most likely in early 2008. I was a Ph.D. student working on my dissertation, using the methods of network analysis to develop a metric that would assess whether the quality of an academic journal was improving — or not. Valdis is an expert in network analysis, and I was honored to receive his guidance and develop a friendship. After he participated as a BIF8 storyteller he was bubbling about his experience!

“You’ve got to go!!” he told me. “You would fit right in. These people are all highly engaged, interesting, down-to-earth innovators and they’re all doing something different. You should plan to go this year. Really.”

Valdis is an expert matchmaker in his social and professional network. He’s one of those people that you really should listen to when he makes a comment like that. I didn’t make it to BIF8, but I was definitely intrigued, so I watched some of the videos online. I started to get that effervescent feeling of excitement that comes when stories spark subtle and profound insights that pervade your entire being.

Then, in November 2012, I got a message from BIF’s Chief Catalyst Saul Kaplan — who wanted to chat about my views and experiences in relating quality to disruptive innovation and business model innovation. We didn’t have an agenda when we talked, but he was just such an inspirer that I knew at the end of our conversation — I needed to put BIF9 on my agenda for September of 2013. And I did.

And that’s when the real RCUS began — the magical, serendipitous chain of BIF Summit-enabled collisions that’s connected me with my tribe of free-spirit innovators.

In March 2013, my partner Morgan and I presented a workshop at the headquarters of the Burning Man Project in San Francisco. We shared insights and techniques for how to bring the spirit and principles of the annual Burning Man event in Nevada into higher education. After the talk, James Hanusa and Heather White from the Burning Man Project introduced us to Evonne Heyning, who was working on a startup in Los Angeles to help people better personalize and manage their learning paths. They also told us that we really needed to meet Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, who was experimenting with new models for education and engagement in his Downtown Project in Las Vegas. (But how would we ever meet Tony? I had no idea. It seemed completely impossible.)

In May 2013, I told Valdis this was my year. I was going to BIF9. Would he be there? If not, did he know of anyone I should meet? He told me not to worry — I’d meet exactly who I needed to meet. Later, in August, Morgan and I spent the week at Burning Man in a camp organized by Evonne Heyning.

BIF9 was just three weeks after Burning Man. I was convinced that nothing could compare to the intellectual transformation I’d experienced out on the playa — that there could never be a group of people so engaged, so stimulating, so full of the desire to reshape our world through new models for business, and education, and inter-being. But I was wrong!

That’s what I found out when Peter Hirshberg got on the BIF9 stage to share his visions for the new cities of the future, the kinds of models that were paraded proudly at World’s Fair events in the past. As a key example, he provided Black Rock City, the temporary city created by Burning Man participants every year! He had been camped close to us on the playa just a couple of weeks earlier — and so had BIF9 storyteller Ping Fu, the advisor to Marc Andreessen and leader of an inspiring 3D printing company!

As I stumbled through the Trinity Rep Theater into the next BIF9 coffee break, in a daze of excitement to be around such intriguing and passionate people, I overheard the guy next to me say to his friend, “Wait for me, I just want to say something to Tony Hsieh really quickly.” I looked to my left, where Tony stood only five feet away.

Of course, I took the opportunity to say hi. I told him that James and Heather from the Burning Man Project had encouraged me to meet up with him to find out more about the Downtown Project. “Oh, that’s great!” he said. “Talk to Amanda Slavin over here, and tell her to get you signed up for Catalyst Week in March. We’re having a lot of the Burning Man Project people visit then.” Catalyst Week was another amazing experience — and we got to spend even more time with Peter Hirshberg, the speaker we had also met at BIF9.

But the serendipitous connections didn’t stop there. At Catalyst Week, we spent time with Duleesha Kulisooriya, who is Head of Strategy and Research for the Deloitte Center for the Edge. He works with and co-authors books with John Hagel, a BIF7 and BIF10 storyteller, so we’re very excited to spend some time with John soon. Turns out, John is also friends with our Burning Man camp coordinator, Evonne Heyning — and we camped with Duleesha at Burning Man just a couple of weeks ago!

The storytellers are not the only amazing people you’ll meet at BIF — the attendees are also top-notch. One of my favorite connections from BIF9 is Matt Murrie, the guru of the “What If?” conferences. (Everyone should follow him on Twitter at @MattMurrie — his feed is fun and inspiring.)  Matt also connected me with Steve Cooperman, whose Black Mountain SOLE project seeks to create alternative educational environments. All of us who are interested in reinventing the experience of higher education is really starting to come together for beautiful discussions. I can’t wait to see what new models come out of it.

The RCUS at the BIF Summit catalyzes so many ripples of impact! Morgan and I are so excited that BIF10 is coming up in just 8 days. We can’t wait for the next batch of random collisions…or to see what they stir up throughout the rest of the year to come.


Andrea Meyer Speaks on the Power of #RCUS

The storytellers, even luminaries, don’t disappear immediately after leaving the stage. They stay and chat with participants. They listen to the other storytellers and engage in real conversations. – Andrea Meyer

“We want our Collaborative Innovation Summit filled from stage to seats with people sharing transformation ideas and stories,” says BIF Creative Catalyst Saul Kaplan.

After all, it was out of the Summit that the hashtag #RCUS was coined — Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects. And from now until the Summit takes place in September, we’ll run a series of short interviews with former Summit attendees who’ll tell us in their own words why the BIF Summit is a must-go event and how #RCUS has changed their lives. Next up, long-time friend-of-BIF Andrea Meyer, who is president and founder of Working Knowledge, a well-known innovation tweeter at @AndreaMeyer, and co-author of Present Yourself: Using SlideShare to Grow Your Business.

Here’s her answer to the question: Why go to the BIF summit?

What I like most about BIF Summits are the interactions. At other conferences, luminaries such as BIF storytellers Dan Pink, Clay Christensen, and John Hagel appear only on stage. But at the BIF Summit, the storytellers, even luminaries, don’t disappear immediately after leaving the stage. They stay and chat with participants. They listen to the other storytellers and engage in real conversations. 

I also like the format of BIF, in which storytellers, not speakers, tell stories, not canned speeches. BIF’s founder, Saul Kaplan, encourages storytellers to tell personal stories, and he himself models the thoughtful authenticity that characterizes all of BIF.  He shares his insights, passions, frustrations, hopes — not just bullet points — and so do the storytellers. If there’s a phrase that encapsulates the BIF community, I’d say it’s “smart with heart.”

Many innovators face stiff organizational resistance when they try to offer a new way of doing things. It’s a lonely battle trying to lead change and get others on board. At the BIF Summit, however, innovators find like-minded others. Everyone “gets it” and people support each other. Such encouragement is tremendously uplifting, and it extends after the Summit ends because people remain friends, stay in touch, and indeed often return to BIF to see each other year after year. The fact that storytellers themselves also return to BIF proves that they, too, value the atmosphere.

I attended my first BIF on the recommendation of a friend, and I have returned four times now. Most of the time, I go to experience the serendipity of the “random collisions.”  One time, however, I went with a specific purpose:  To speak with some of the storytellers and attendees to get their input on a book I was coauthoring, called Present Yourself.  At BIF8, storytellers Alex Osterwalder, David Macaulay, and Felice Frankl all offered insights and quotes on visual thinking for my book, and attendee Dean Meyers became one of the case studies we used.

Whether you go with a purpose or go for the RCUS, I encourage you to go!


Marty Baker Speaks on the Power of #RCUS

“We want our Collaborative Innovation Summit filled from stage to seats with people sharing transformation ideas and stories,” says BIF Creative Catalyst Saul Kaplan.

After all, it was out of the Summit that the hashtag #RCUS was coined — Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects. And from now until the Summit takes place in September, we’ll run a series of short interviews with former Summit attendees who’ll tell us in their own words why the BIF Summit is a must-go event and how #RCUS has changed their lives. Next up, longtime friend-of-BIF Marty Baker, Senior Manager of Global Digital Content for the Hershey Company and Chief Catalyst and Owner of Inotivity, an innovation consultancy.

Here’s his answer to the question: Why go to the BIF Summit?

The DNA of the BIF Summit is stories shared. Compelling, inspiring, and transforming stories about how innovation and innovative thinking is making a difference in the world.

BIF10 will be my sixth BIF Summit Experience — and much like a roller coaster ride, it never ceases to be exciting and the experience is over much too soon. I want to start with the opening lines of a blog I wrote about Jeffrey Sparr, one of the presenters at BIF8:

“Most innovations arrive in public in dress clothes. They are bangles and baubles that don’t reflect the often-perilous road it takes to succeed. You also don’t hear the words ‘innovation’ and ‘courage’ used together. Jeffrey enthralled the audience at BIF because he turned a mental disorder into art and in turn is helping hundreds of people living with similar disorders to thrive.”

Jeffrey isn’t a famous name in the innovation world, nor does he seek recognition in a conventional way. His innovation is a labor of love and sanity in often-insane world.

This is the magic of every BIF Summit I have attended. There are the names you know like Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Mark Cuban, and author Dan Pink. But there are names you probably don’t know. Like Jeffery Sparr and innovators like Angela Blanchard, who will also be a BIF10 storyteller. As President & CEO of Neighborhood Centers, Inc., she led a community development framework throughout the Houston region to impact over 500,000 people a year.

Or innovators like John Donoghue — The Henry Merritt Wriston Professor and Director of the Brain Science Program at Brown University. John and his team created an interface that enabled a paralyzed woman to move a robotic arm simply by thinking. It wasn’t science fiction — it was science.

So why attend BIF10?

Because you never know which story of passion, determination, and focus will transform and inspire you. It may a single story. It may be the curious intersection of many stories. Or it just may be saying hello and talking with Jeffery Sparr at lunch.

The BIF Summit. Nothing transforms like a great story.


Jonathan Follett Speaks on the Power of #RCUS

“We want our Collaborative Innovation Summit filled from stage to seats with people sharing transformation ideas and stories,” says BIF Creative Catalyst Saul Kaplan.

After all, it was out of the Summit that the hashtag #RCUS was coined — Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects. And from now until the Summit takes place in September, we’ll run a series of short interviews with former Summit attendees who’ll tell us in their own words why the BIF Summit is a must-go event and how #RCUS has changed their lives. Next up, longtime friend-of-BIF Jon Follett of Involution Studios, a software UX design firm, and author of Designing for Emerging Technologies, which will be published this fall.

Here’s his answer to the question: Why go to the BIF Summit?

The BIF Summit gets better every year. This will be my fourth BIF Summit coming up. From day one I’ve felt very much at home when I come to the BIF Summit. I go to a lot of conferences for my job, and it’s the one conference I go to that I look forward to. Part of the reason is that I think the people who attend the conference know that cross-pollination between different professions, different industries, and different types of people is a really powerful thing. You can pretty much go up to anyone at the BIF Summit and start a conversation and be glad you did. That is a really rare thing. I’ve never really encountered that at any other conference.

I find the collision part to be purposeful rather than random. It’s a purposeful cross-pollination of like-minded innovators. It’s not THAT random. It’s more like bees and flowers. It’s only random because you don’t know which bee is going to pollinate which flower. But like bees and flowers, the cross-pollination WILL happen. It is a random collision, but you’re going to be talking to another innovation junkie, someone who shares a like-mindedness in their desire for innovation. And you know they’re probably pretty smart because they’re at the BIF Summit in the first place.

You’ve got these geniuses on stage, these incredible storytellers who will give you a new perspective on everything from brain science to putting together playgrounds for kids. Also, you have the genius of the smart crowd that amplifies what’s being said on stage. You’re getting a continuous, really high-quality level of intellectual stimulation and analysis, because of the high caliber of the speakers and the fact that they stay and engage with people after their talks.

I also find the BIF Summit to be very relaxing, but it takes me time to wind down. After a while, I ask myself, “why am I still checking my email?” If you’re a professional, an entrepreneur, someone who’s making a lot of decisions for a business, it takes time to disengage, to relax, and enjoy the experience. So give yourself 12 to 24 hours to wind down, unplug, and enjoy. That’s Day 2 for me.

If you’re interested in innovation or intellectual pursuits or just being a continuous learner, you should go to the BIF Summit. It’s like the college experience should have been — a lot of intellectually curious people connecting with each other.


#BIF10 Storytellers Featured in TIME.com Series

This summer we’ve been honored with the opportunity to publish a series of articles in the Business section of TIME.com. For the series, BIF’s Chief Catalyst Saul Kaplan and our wonderful Brown University intern Nicha Ratana have created a series of interviews with BIF10 storytellers that explore their approaches to innovation and the importance of the BIF Collaborative Innovation Summit.

Here’s the series so far:


What We Mean by ‘the Power of #RCUS’

I’ve been interviewing past BIF Summit attendees, especially repeat attendees, for a series on #RCUS. The #RCUS hashtag means “random collisions of unusual suspects.” Here’s a bit of background on that idea:

We believe that if we bring diverse people together and get them in the same room listening to stories of transformation, then give them time to connect with each other and share their own stories of transformation, they’ll spread that transformational spirit out into their communities and the ensuing wave of creativity will change the world for the better.

We know this sounds like a pipe dream. And that’s one of the reasons we created this “power of #RCUS” blog series — to share real #RCUS stories that make the idea more tangible.

Here’s where you can find the #RCUS stories on this blog:


Jen Hetzel Silbert Speaks on the Power of RCUS

“We want our Collaborative Innovation Summit filled from stage to seats with people sharing transformation ideas and stories,” says BIF Creative Catalyst Saul Kaplan.

After all, it was out of the Summit that the hashtag #RCUS was coined — Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects. And from now until the Summit takes place in September, we’ll run a series of short interviews with former Summit attendees who’ll tell us in their own words why the BIF Summit is a must-go event and how #RCUS has changed their lives. Next up, longtime friend-of-BIF Jen Hetzel Silbert of Spartina Consulting and the Learning401, an “organizational change consultant, facilitator, and trainer who has an unshakable belief that people can create anything they set their minds to.”

Here’s her answer to the question: Why go to the BIF Summit?

The people I have met at BIF during the conversations at the break, over lunch, over coffee, in between storytellers, have radically changed my work and have helped my network to explode.

Go to the BIF Summit because of who you are going to accidentally, serendipitously sit next to, have coffee with, meet during breaks. Go to the BIF Summit because of the conversations that will be started as a result of the amazing storytellers you’re going to see on stage.  Anyone can watch those stories on video, on the livestream after BIF. But being in the room, to make and watch the sparks fly, is something you cannot get by sitting in your home office.

The people I have met at BIF during the conversations at the break, over lunch, over coffee, in between storytellers, have radically changed my work and have helped my network to explode. But, my network has exploded in ways that are relevant to what I want to be doing. This is no speed-dating like they do at the Chamber of Commerce for Friday coffee — no insult meant to the Chamber of Commerce! But, it’s the people who go to the BIF Summit that make the difference.

And, the conversations start at BIF, but it’s what happens after the Summit that gives them life. I couldn’t be more grateful. I look at my LinkedIn network, my quasi-Rolodex of contacts across social media, and my address book and the majority of them are connected, if not directly, then somehow indirectly, by the crowd at the BIF Summit.


Lois Kelly Speaks on the Power of #RCUS

At the BIF Summit, you can leave your language at the door and just talk. – Lois Kelly

“We want our Collaborative Innovation Summit filled from stage to seats with people sharing transformation ideas and stories,” says BIF Creative Catalyst Saul Kaplan.

After all, it was out of the Summit that the hashtag #RCUS was coined — Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects. And from now until the Summit takes place in September, we’ll run a series of short interviews with former Summit attendees who’ll tell us in their own words why the BIF Summit is a must-go event and how #RCUS has changed their lives. Next up, longtime friend-of-BIF Lois Kelly of Foghound, a “guide, facilitator, and thought-provoker” who helps organizations and their people change and grow. Lois is a co-author, Along with BIF6 and BIF9 storyteller Carmen Medina, of the upcoming book Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within.

Here’s her answer to the question: Why go to the BIF summit?

In our work, we get in these silos, whether the silos are in companies or in industries. So if you’re in healthcare you say to people, “Do you have healthcare experience? No? Oh well, no.” And then we fall into our comfort zones. We start hanging around with people just like us. Even on social media, people start following people who think just like they do. So you don’t often get the opportunity to be with people who are different. But the BIF Summit is a safe environment where you can talk about everything or nothing. I love talking about everything and nothing! Sometimes when you talk about nothing with certain people, it turns into something.

We all have our work, we have our jobs, which takes up a huge amount of time. We have our neighborhoods of people we feel comfortable with. We live in the suburbs so it’s not like you’re waiting at the bus stop with a bunch of different people. When I grew up I would see many different people  everyone walked down to the bus stop. On our street we had housepainters, MIT professors, truck drivers, engineers, and they would all walk down to the bus stop together. They would talk about sports, what they were doing. The interesting conversations are among people who have different perspectives.

And even if you don’t share the same ideas, there’s something about when you get to know someone as a person, you might not agree with them, but it’s fun to converse with them. Whereas I think with our politics and media and social media, it’s like, ‘I’m right, you’re wrong.’ Win or lose. I think if you know people as people, you actually think about the ideas more. If you don’t know them as people, if it’s just a tweet, you just miss it.

The other thing I like about the BIF Summit is really hearing ideas. It’s a bullshit filter. At some industry conferences, you just hear the “party line” and you have to be “on” all the time. At the Summit, you don’t have to be “on” and other people aren’t “on,” either. There’s no bullshit, no jargon, no industry-specific language that siloes you. You can leave your language at the door and just talk.


Deb Mills-Scofield Speaks on the Power of #RCUS

“We want our Collaborative Innovation Summit filled from stage to seats with people sharing transformation ideas and stories,” says BIF Creative Catalyst Saul Kaplan.

After all, it was out of the Summit that the hashtag #RCUS was coined — Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects. From now until the Summit takes place in September, we’ll run a series of short interviews with former Summit attendees who’ll tell us in their own words why the BIF Summit is a must-go event and how #RCUS has changed their lives. Next up, BIF board member and BIF9 storyteller Deborah Mills-Scofield. A former Bell Labs scientist who is now a consultant and venture fund principal, Deb connects people, ideas, and businesses. She is a proud Brown University alumna who mentors students, as well as a prolific writer who publishes in the Harvard Business Review, Switch and Shift, Innovation Excellence, and more.

“The BIF Summit is the ultimate interdisciplinary happening. ” — Deborah Mills-Scofield

Here’s her answer to the question: Why go to the BIF summit?

To me, the BIF Summit is a humbler, more intimate version of TED. It’s where you can talk to people doing amazing things and there’s a sense of inclusion between the participants and the storytellers. People share ideas and learn new ways of doing things from different industries that you can apply to your own. At the BIF Summit, people treat each other as peers and are really anxious to learn from and give to each other. It’s a great critical mass of people from so many walks of life for you to learn from, that’s hard to find anywhere else, frankly. It’s the ultimate interdisciplinary happening.

Some specific examples: John Hagel (who is also a BIF10 storyteller) was a guru of mine growing up. I had read his stuff and knew his writing. At BIF6 I was standing in line for Tony Hsieh’s Happiness Bus right behind John Hagel and was starstruck. I introduced myself, calling him “Mr. Hagel,” and he said, “call me John,” and I said, “I don’t know if I can!” We were able to develop a professional friendship that’s now more of a personal relationship. I can actually call him “John” now! And my relationship with Whitney Johnson came about because I saw her at the BIF Summit, and she’s helped broaden my perspective and ways of thinking.

Whitney and John were more into technology, but Carl Størmer — I never would have crossed paths with him if not for meeting him at BIF9. He would not have been in my normal day-to-day! But now we’ve co-written stuff together and become very good friends.

I’ve been able to get my clients to go to the Summit, and it’s broadened their perspective. But I tell them, “this isn’t about our work, I don’t want to see you at the Summit. I already know you!” At the BIF Summit, random collisions are not just for me, but for my clients too. And I’m happy to say the connections go both ways as well — Liza Donnelly and Matthew T. Fritz, both of whom came to BIF’s attention through my network.


Tim McDonald Speaks on the Power of #RCUS

“We want our Collaborative Innovation Summit filled from stage to seats with people sharing transformation ideas and stories,” says BIF Creative Catalyst Saul Kaplan.

After all, it was out of the Summit that the hashtag #RCUS was coined — Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects. And from now until the Summit takes place in September, we’ll run a series of short interviews with former Summit attendees who’ll tell us in their own words why the BIF Summit is a must-go event and how #RCUS has changed their lives.

Up first: Tim McDonald (@tamcdonald). Tim builds communities, not networks, through relationships that create movements. As the Purveyor of Purpose at Be The Change Revolutions, Tim helps build communities and ignite movements on the No Kid Hungry account to make #NoKidHungry a reality. Previously, Tim was Director of Community at The Huffington Post.

Here’s how Tim answered the question, “Why go to the BIF Summit?”

Three things:

1. Open your mind to new ideas.
2. Connect you with amazing people.
3. Never feel like a stranger from the second you walk in.

I knew a few people who were going to be at the BIF Summit, but I got there after it started, toward the end of the first day. I didn’t know what to expect. As soon as I walked into the lobby area, the few people who were there were coming up and saying “hi” to me. So before I even sat down, I met people. They were strangers, but there didn’t feel like strangers! And then it seemed like there was a chance to connect with someone different every time I turned around.

Right afterward I went back to New York on the same train, by chance, as a couple of other people who had been at the BIF Summit. I went immediately to the Work Revolution Summit and began to run into people I had intended to meet at the BIF Summit but hadn’t had a chance to. I met Whitney Johnson and she said, “I have just heard that you know everybody.”

A similar thing with Matt Murrie (who I didn’t meet at Work Revolution Summit). We didn’t meet at the BIF Summit but we connected because of the BIF Summit.

Those connections have just developed further, into 3rd- and 4th-level relationships I’ve developed just because Matt and I were both at the BIF Summit, made a connection and stayed in touch.

The BIF Summit is unlike any other conference. It’s a combination of things that makes it different. Amazing people go there, and you can easily connect with those amazing people. I’ve committed to putting myself in unusual, uncomfortable situations because I went to the BIF Summit and saw the benefit of doing that.


BIF-8 Q+A with Simon Majumdar

With 19 days left till BIF-8 we’re ready to connect with our storytellers. Simon Majumdar, traveler, bestselling author and Food Network Star has a perfect recipe for transformation. Get a taste for his innovation journey with this recent Q+A interview, before he whips up the main dish on the BIF-8 stage.  

Talk about a defining moment of inspiration for yourself or your organization

My defining moment came at the end of 2006 when I experienced what I now realize was a nervous breakdown caused by many factors.  I found and old notebook with a list of goals to achieve once I turned 40 (have a suit made on Saville Row, run a marathon etc etc)  At the bottom of the list were four words “Go Everywhere, Eat Everything”  That is now the mantra for my life and was the motivation for my first book ‘Eat My Globe”

How does your network keep you creative

I now have an amazing network of Food Network colleagues to whom I look for inspiration, not just for ideas, but also for improvement.  I am a great believer in “humbly seeking out the company of excellence” and find that if I do, everything I do improves because of it.

We here at the Business Innovation Factory are all about passion. Love what you do? Or do what you love?

I am lucky enough to do both.  But, you have to invest in yourself to do it.  I spent my entire life savings to travel and eat around the world, but it has put me in the situation where I now, basically eat for a living.  Not everyone is that lucky, so my advice is, whatever job you do, do it 100% and take satisfaction from that.

We know the importance of transforming business models, can you give us an example of a personal transformation?

the whole “second act” of my life has been a transformation.  I went from being a miserable, miserably single 40 something publisher in London to being living in LA, being married to the woman of my dreams and appearing on National TV.  I have worked very hard to get here and made commitments that perhaps some others would not have been prepared to make, but I also acknowledge both the hard work of others who help me along the way and the enormous good fortune I have encountered to get here.

We learn by doing, how do you test new ideas? 

Ideas are like recipes.  You keep testing them until they are perfect.  I am also a great believer in sharing ideas and goals.  By telling people close to you, it makes them real and helps you focus. Also, you never know who might be able to help you along the way.  They can’t do that if they don’t know what you are trying to achieve.

Do you embrace vulnerability? How do you use it as an asset?

I have always felt vulnerable in my career.  I am one of those people who expect everyday someone to tap him on the shoulder and say “Oi, you shouldn’t be on TV, get back to working in the bookstore (my first job)” It is a great motivator and helps me always give 100%

What’s the biggest obstacle to innovation? How do you get past that obstacle?

The biggest obstacle to innovation is comfort.  People get to a point where they are comfortable and then settle there.  Life should be about challenges, fears of failure, battles to succeed and the immense feeling of satisfaction when you do.


How to Have your Audience at Hello (Sam Horn)

The bloggers have spoken–the BIF summit rocks! Last week Amanda Fenton eloquently discussed her excitement in anticipation for BIF-7, now please turn your attention to Sam Horns’ take on the power of storytelling! -Katherine Hypolite   

One of the best conferences I’ve ever attended was BIF-6, held in Providence, RI and hosted by Saul Kaplan of the Business Innovation Factory.

Saul and his team collect an eclectic mix of pioneering thought leaders ranging from Tony Hsieh of Zappos to Alan Webber, co-founder of Fast Company, Jason Fried of Rework and Keith Yamashita, who believes many of us “fritter away our greatness.”

Each presented a TED-like 18-minute presentation introducing their latest invention or insight.

I was on the edge of my seat for the entire two days.

There was a recurring, underlying theme to each presentation. These visionaries had either:

A) seen something wrong and thought, “Someone should DO something about this. After being bothered about it for a while, they finally concluded, “I’m as much a someone as anyone. I’LL do something about this.”

B) witnessed something that wasn’t what it could be. They thought, “It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s got to be a better way. An easier, greener, more satisfying, profitable way. And I’m going to come up with that way.”

I’ll be featuring some of their intriguing stories in upcoming blogs.

For now, I want to share the opening of the individual who did the best job at winning buy-in the first 60 seconds.

Are you wondering, “Was this someone who’s given hundreds of presentations, who’s done lots of media?”

Nope. The person who had us at hello was a surprise.

She walked to the center of the stage, centered herself (literally and figuratively) and stood tall and confident until everyone in the room gave her their undivided attention.

Then, flashing a playful grin, she said, “I know what you’re thinking.”

Long pause.

“What can a 7th grader possibly teach me about innovation?!”

Big smile.

“Well, we 7th graders know a thing or two. Like,” and here she spoofed herself, “how to flip our hair.” At this point, she tossed her long hair over her shoulder.

The crowd laughed, (with her, not at her). Everyone was instantly engaged and impressed with this young woman’s moxie and presence.

“We also know we have the power to make things better if we put our minds to it. For example . . . ” and she was off and running.

12-year-old Cassandra Lin had us at hello.

The Cliff Notes version of her story is that she and her class discovered the clogged sewer pipes in their city were the verge of causing a disaster because so many restaurants and industrial companies were pouring their F.O.G (Fat, Oil, Grease) down the closest drain.

After doing some research, she and her classmates started T.G.I.F – Turn Grease into Fuel – an award-winning recycling effort that generates money for needy families.

Read the entire article at Sam Horn’s blog


Soaking up the Learning: BIF-6 Summit Recap

Boundary-breaking, silo-jumping, diversity-crazed, passionate, courageous headcases. That’s who catalyzes change. Despite the continued turmoil of our global economy and the daunting task that still lies ahead for so many companies to rebuild, fearless and sometimes deeply moving (Keith Yamashita, you are a gift) optimism prevailed during this year’s BIF-6 Summit. Innovators are a unique bunch. The glass is ALWAYS half full.

Our thanks to everyone – storyteller and participant alike – who made the Summit the best ever. We now move from presentation to conversation and connection. On the BIF-6 portal site you will find:

Cruise through these pages to listen and learn about the BIF-6 storytellers, comment on what you have heard, connect with each other and let’s keep the conversation going.

Connect. Inspire. Transform. Register #BIF2018


First of BIF Summit Talks Debut on TED.com

The first of BIF’s Summit talks has debut on TED.com. The first video–an amazing piece from BIF-5 storyteller Carne Ross–was featured today. This marks the official launch of BIF and TED’s new content sharing partnership. TED has begun publishing select videos from BIF’s Innovation Story Studio archive and past BIF Summits on the TED.com website. TED is also the official on-line content partner for the 2010 BIF-6 Summit, held this year on September 15-16.

Carne was one my favorite storytellers from the 2009 BIF-5 Summit. Take a few minutes to watch an inspiring talk about his career as a diplomat for the UK and his bold decision to resign over the misuse of intelligence in Iraq. In response to this experience, Carne created Independent Diplomat, the world’s first independent, not-for-profit diplomacy services organization.

As the BIF Summit on-line content partner, TED will select a subset of BIF Summit stories to syndicate through its TEDTalks web portal. TED will also select stories from past BIF Summits to run throughout the year. All of BIF’s video content is shared via BIF’s Innovation Story Studio, an on-line repository of hundreds of videos, podcasts, interviews and narrative stories about innovation from across the public and private sectors. All BIF-6 videos will be available on the BIF site immediately following the Summit.

“TED.com hosts over 700 amazing talk videos that have collectively been viewed some 250 million times — and we’re thrilled to add talks from BIF to the mix, through our content partnership program. The Business Innovation Factory Summit, with its focus on strong storytelling, just delivers great video. This content partnership was a natural choice for us,” says Emily McManus, editor of TED.com.

Watch Carne’s talk on TED.com

Connect. Inspire. Transform. Register #BIF2018


BIF, TED Join Forces to Share Video Content; TED to Serve as On-Line Content Partner for BIF-6 Summit

BIF and TED have embarked on a new content-sharing partnership. This summer, TED will begin publishing select videos from BIF’s Innovation Story Studio archive on the TED.com website. TED will also be the on-line content partner for the 2010 BIF-6 Summit, held this year on September 15-16.

The BIF Summit, now in its sixth year, is the annual gathering of BIF’s national innovation community. The BIF Summit brings ~30 storytellers together for a two-day conversation about what it takes to create change, offering participants a unique opportunity to transcend the boundaries of silo-ed thinking and forge new alliances with potential collaborators. In 2009, Mashable.com named the BIF Summit one of the seven top places in the world to connect with best minds.

As the BIF Summit on-line content partner, TED will select a subset of BIF Summit stories to syndicate through its TEDTalks web portal. TED will also select stories from past BIF Summits to run throughout the year. All of BIF’s video content is shared via BIF’s Innovation Story Studio, an on-line repository of hundreds of videos, podcasts, interviews and narrative stories about innovation from across the public and private sectors. All BIF-6 videos will be available on the BIF site immediately following the Summit.

“TED.com hosts over 700 amazing talk videos that have collectively been viewed some 250 million times — and we’re thrilled to add talks from BIF to the mix, through our content partnership program. The Business Innovation Factory Summit, with its focus on strong storytelling, just delivers great video. This content partnership was a natural choice for us,” says Emily McManus, editor of TED.com.

 

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Stories Can Change The World

“Facts are facts, but stories are who we are, how we learn, and what it all means.”  My friend Alan Webber, Co-founder of Fast Company and author of Rules of Thumb, has it exactly right.

Storytelling is the most important tool for any innovator.  It is the best way to create emotional connections to your ideas and innovations.  Sharing stories is the way to create a network of passionate supporters that can help spread ideas and make them a reality.  We remember stories.  We relate to stories and they compel us to action.

Storytelling is a core value at the Business Innovation Factory (BIF).  We believe that advancing our mission to enable system change in health care, education, and government is critically dependant on our ability to create, package, and share stories from our work.  Everything we do is about storytelling and our Innovation Story Studio is one of BIF’s most important capabilities.  By openly sharing stories about the process and output of BIF’s work we are strengthening our community of innovators and becoming more purposeful with every new story.

It is no surprise that BIF’s annual Collaborative Innovation Summit is all about storytelling.  I will never forget meeting with my friend and mentor Richard Saul Wurman (RSW) to get his advice prior to our first summit five years ago.  As an innovation junkie, it doesn’t get any better than having RSW as a mentor. He founded TED for heaven’s sake.  I went to the meeting prepared with an approach that I had worked on for weeks.  As an MBA, of course, I had a matrix, with speakers organized by theme.  RSW heard me out and could only shake his head saying, Saul, you have a lot to learn about how to create an emotional connection with an audience.  He patiently told me to throw away the matrix.  He said it was as simple as inviting people to a dinner party.  Ask speakers that you want to have dinner with to share a personal story that you are selfishly interested in and invite others to listen in.  RSW has been a storyteller at every summit we have hosted.

I love RSW for that advice.  That is exactly what we do.  No PowerPoint presentations, no matrix, just stories.  One glorious story after another in no particular order, from storytellers (not speakers) sharing personal and raw insights about what innovation means to them.  After about four to five stories back to back with no boring Q&A to break the rhythm we take a long break where all of the storytellers and participants can interact, connect, and share their own innovation stories and experiences.  No breakouts, flip charts, or prescriptive assignments.  It is up to the 300 participants to decide what is compelling and which connections are most interesting and valuable. The most interesting collaborations every year come from connecting unusual suspects that find value in the gray area between their interests and disciplines.

Every year one of my favorite things to do is connect with each of the storytellers to discuss the upcoming summit and their stories.  I am almost through these calls for our upcoming summit, BIF-5, on October 7-8.  Talk about a kid in a candy store.  To talk with each of these innovators is inspiring and a great joy.  Check out the BIF-5 storytellers and you will see what I mean.  These innovators are asked to give speeches all of the time.  Many of them have written books and do speaking tours.  They all have PowerPoint presentations in the drawer and a stock speech they can give in their sleep, which they are not allowed to use at a BIF summit.  I always find our storyteller’s reactions interesting when they discuss preparations for sharing a story versus giving a speech.  They all say that it is far more interesting and challenging to tell a story than to give a speech.  Regardless of their fame on the speaking circuit, there is always trepidation in their voices when we discuss their stories.  Every storyteller over five years has said that they are excited to hear the stories from the other storytellers and will be glad when they are done sharing their own. That is why they take the gig.  It is a refreshing break from the grind of the speaking circuit.  Storytelling is harder but more personally rewarding.

I can’t wait to hear the stories at BIF-5.  All of the stories will be posted in the BIF Innovation Story Studio along with the videos from BIF-1 – BIF-4 so everyone can access them.

BIF-1 storyteller and storytelling expert Steve Denning says, “People think in stories, communicate in stories, even dream in stories. If you want to get anything done in an organization, you need to know how to use the story to move people.”  I agree with Steve, stories can change the world and storytelling is the way to make it happen.