Conversations to Lead Transformation

A decade is an awfully short time to waste -Part of the Business Innovation Factory genome (Transform)

Saul Kaplan, Chief Catalyst of BIF-7 puts out a call to action at the beginning of the conference: we need transformations, not tweaks. This week, 350 people from diverse backgrounds came together to share stories, passion and ideas about innovation. The big challenges are understood – healthcare is broken, education needs an overhaul, the economy needs more entrepreneurs creating jobs. On the first day of the event, the speakers not only inspired, but challenged the audience. The conversations in the hallways in breaks and in the evening receptions were frenetic – everyone who attends is actively seeking information, new ideas and comparing perspectives. Here are a few of the thought provoking ideas from Day 1:

Often the solution to the big problems requires drawing outside the lines of the current systems. John Werner of Citizen Schools shared how they are bringing in volunteers and extend the school day for middle school children on topics such as S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), arts and design. Companies including Google and Bank of America have invested money and volunteers to help boost the next generation’s skill sets in critical areas. Rebecca Onie of Health Leads explained how they support better health by connecting patients to existing programs for food, housing, clothing or childcare where needed. Rebecca talked about how it is a daunting task to look at transforming the system, in the meantime, there are concrete needs that can be solved through action.

According to Yahoo social scientist Duncan Watts, author or Everything is Obvious (once you know the answer), common sense should be limited to concrete, everyday situations. Trying to explain broader trends or results from large groups based on common sense will fail because there are many complicating variables that are often not easily determined. He made a compelling case that rocket science is actually simpler than trying to understand the effectiveness of advertising or predicting if a book, movie or song will be a hit.

Babson President Len Schlesinger spoke of an extensive research on entrepreneurship that synthesizes ten key themes from 250 startups. One surprising finding is that despite advances in technology and mobile, startups are very dependent on a local and physical community. Successful entrepreneurs learn to intentionally iterate and learn fast from failures or bad market fit. The full report is available here.

Failure is OK:

  • WD-40 is “Water Displacement” formula #40, and a company was built around that one formula with 2000 uses – Graham Milner
  • Serial Entrepreneur Angus Davis stated startups are not all rainbows and unicorns, failures will happen and reacting fast enough and in the right way will determine success.
  • Sports references also showed up a few times including how even the best baseball player is out over half the time and that even Michael Jordan failed thousands of times.

What conversations are you having to lead transformation?

We’re in uncharted territory, where the stakes are high and temptation to play small is higer. With a network of collaborators, the faster we experiment, learn, share and repeat, the faster we’ll succed. We’re going up this curve together.  -Part of the Business Innovation Factory genome (Connect)