The Night Before #BIF8

Once again, I’ve been given the privilege of attending the Business Innovation Factory’s Collaborative Innovation Summit, affectionately known as BIF-8. Once again, as happened the night before BIFs 5 & 6, I can’t sleep. I’m too excited. You see, I’ve been looking forward to this two-day summit for months. The energy, the sheer delight of the participants, speakers and the BIF team themselves in pushing art, science, engineering, business to the bleeding edge and building something new and amazing, things that push us forward as a society, as a civilization. This energy is pulsing through me right now, that anticipation of being delighted in the creative work of men and women from a variety, no, a blurring of disciplines.

I tell my students and co-workers that I come to BIF to fill up my Idea Tank for the year. And it’s a powerful fuel. I’m looking forward to hearing from Susan Schuman of Stone Yamashita Partners. Keith Yamashita’s talk at BIF-6 was the highlight of that summit for me, and I am eager to hear Susan discuss how the SYPartners spinoff Unstuck continues to help us figure out, as individuals and as teams, how to move past The Dip, how to get past those barriers that keep us from becoming the most “us” we can be.

This notion of becoming extends beyond just the self-making of becoming unstuck. There’s also a motif of placemaking for these Unstuck selves that we’ll hear about from Carol Coletta and Beth Coleman. I had the pleasure of meeting Carol briefly at the DGREE conference in 2010 when Carol was with CEOs for Cities, and I continue to be impressed now as I was then at Carol’s commitment to helping communities become Unstuck by harnessing the power of those things that make us most human – our art – and harnessing that to make our places more human as well. Beth’s work in transmedia and digital placemaking (such as her work exploring the city as platform) is an important companion to Carol’s work with ArtPlace. We are digital beings as much as analog these days, and the places we make must reflect this nature as well. To be more fully human, to be truly unstuck, we and our places must reject Digital Dualism (though I suspect BIF storyteller Sherry Turkle will have something to say about that!).

These human spaces and places must have infrastructure to hold them together. Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, and Dries Buytaert, creator of Drupal, will explore critical elements of the transportation and informational mesh that will enable this analog and digital placemaking. But this mesh is human in nature as well. Valdis Krebs, Dave Gray and Carne Ross will all be provoking us to think more deeply about the networks that connect us, the possibilities of network organization to unleash creative business potential, and the future of building international networks to build a more just and peaceful world.

But it isn’t just the storytellers that make such a special event; no, it’s the participants that do that. I’ve always said that the great thing about BIF conferences is that the attendees are as world-class as the storytellers. Saul Kaplan, Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory, recognizes this and has designed the BIF summits to have ample time and space between storyteller sessions to allow for what he refers to as Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects. It’s nothing short of magic.

This year, for me, it began with warm greeting hugs from BIF Student Experience Lab leader Chris Flanagan and the amazing and inspirationalDeb Mills-Scofield and moved right into the InnoBeer meetup where I finally got to meet BIF community manager Katherine Hypolite and employment innovator Frank Gullo (which immediately sparked some thoughts on badges as signaling artifacts to boost employment for college grads).

As I drained the last of a pint of an excellent pumpkin spice ale, I looked around at all the people sharing ideas with these big goofy grins on their faces. I went to Tweet out a clever statement about it when I saw the same goofy grin reflected back at me in the glass of my phone. And it struck me: these are my people, my tribe. These are the reasons I keep coming back to BIF summits each year – to share in the buzz of like-minded people dedicated to Building the Wow in their fields, to fill up my Idea Tank, to, in no uncertain terms, put my shoulder to the wheel with people Instantiating the Future.

I may not sleep at all this week. See you at the Trinity Rep in the morning for Day 1 of BIF-8.