At VMworld, Wikibon spent a lot of time talking looking for customer proof points and discussing innovation. This week, I have the opportunity to attend BIF-6, a conference of inspiring storytellers who live in the innovation realm. BIF’s chief catalyst Saul Kaplan started out the conference with a warning that “innovation” must not become a buzzword, or no one will be innovative. Just like cloud computing, it’s not so much about the definitions, but the actions, processes and results that matter. There were no silver bullets in the stories, but rather compelling unique perspectives on innovation, passion and ideas to help change the world.
Access to information is not a problem. As Fast Company founder Alan Webber stated, “Content isn’t King, Context is King”. Webber talked about the media industry and how news is in full retreat since information is becoming a commodity. The problem is that there are few original voices and too many fake themes in the news.
24×7 news isn’t news, it’s noise -Alan Webber
The real value that is needed is not more people with opinions, but the context to make sense of the news. The challenge is that not only do we need people who can do deep investigative reporting, but also an audience that is willing to consume it and a market that can support it.
One success story was shared not long later in the form of the pair of photojournalists Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio. They have travelled the world, taking photos and telling stories about food and cultures. Their book What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets has photos, stories and a breakdown of the caloric intake – a nice mix of visuals, analytical data and emotional stories. When telling their stories, they have to balance their desire to weave in a narrative vs. simply letting the stories come through. Menzel’s advice is read the coverage, look at the photos and to think for yourself. Sound advice for everything that you read.
The connection to tech is easy for me to make – the difference between information and consumable knowledge can be a big gap in many places. The Wikibon platform was created to be an independent place to allow the community to crowd-source knowledge and cut through FUD. As an example, PosDev winner Joe Onisick updated the Edge Virtual Bridging wiki.
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh rode into Providence on the Delivering Happiness Bus Tour (photo on the right). Zappos is a $1 billion success story, but Hsieh says that their success has nothing to do with shoes or online sales, rather it comes from the passionate engagement of his employees to the company mission which is to provide the very best customer service. Zappos posts their core values on their website – #9: Passion Is The Fuel That Drives Us And Our Company Forward. He said that company culture can create sustained high performance and that if you get the culture right, the rest will happen naturally on its own.
Author John Hagel (see 10 take-aways from his book, The Power of Pull) stated that there is not enough depth or understanding of passion. In facing unexpected challenges, without passion, obstacles will be hidden or ignored rather than conquered.
Passion … demands our engagement and will settle for nothing less. It propels us forward, giving us both the energy and courage to welcome any challenge as an opportunity to test ourselves, regardless of the risk. -From John Hagel’s blog
Hagel quoted a recent study that only 20% of the workforce is passionate and that the number of passionate people is inverse to the size of the organization. Most companies only thinking about breakthrough technology or product innovation, they must also think about organizational (culture) innovation. Passion can be seen at a number of tech companies, when I sent a note out on Twitter, a member of Dell’s cloud team was fast to respond that they are passionate in their work. I’ve written before that the virtualization revolution is being led by vAgents of Change. Incremental changes can happen in any organization, but for a revolution, you need passion to conquer inertia of the legacy way of doing things.
Change the World
Babson President Len Schlesinger said that we have two options – sit and think or act. In face of increasing uncertainty, the traditional way of thinking our way into action doesn’t work. Entrepreneurship is the best tool we have, it equals action. Don Tapscott (who was a big inspiration to start me blogging when he attended EMC’s first Innovation Conference to discussWikinomics) presented via Skype to share the story of how he got into digital media and to discuss his latest book. In 1981, Don was ridiculed for saying that computers would change the world since no one believed that managers would ever learn to type. In his latest book, Macrowikinomics, he states that the industrial economy has run out of gas and that the internet has come of age. Lots of institutions are stalled and they need more than a tweak; they must be reinvented around collaboration and openness.
There were so many great quotes and stories that need to be shared and integrated into action. As Saul said in his introduction, his goal is for Innovation, Collaboration and Experimentation.
In the 21st century, to be relevant, we must get better faster. -Saul Kaplan
The videos from the event are expected to be up in the next 2-3 weeks and the audio is online now, so be sure to check the BIF-6 website.
Photos via my iPhone 4
Disclaimer: I am attending BIF-6 on a free blogger pass which gives me free admission (conference includes meals and a copy of Hsieh’s book). I am under no obligation to write.