On any given week around the country and the world there are gatherings where people sluff on their everyday lives like dead skin and and come to get inspired. BIF8, which stands for Business Innovation Factory’s intimate gem of a conference + gathering , stood its ground in Providence, Rhode Island this week and delivered vibrant stories from a mix of people creating deliberate and profound change.
Many of us have named that change “innovation,” but hasn’t that just become a fancy word for intentionally improving life? BIF8 is a business innovator’s oasis. For those just entering the fray of trying to design change inside of organizations it was unerringly reassuring. The “Storytellers” as BIF calls them get 18 minutes to share something they are doing and believe in. The examples, drawn from business, non profits, education, diplomacy, social media and more were consistently intense, personal and had a freakish ability to touch a nerve. The nerve of “need more, want more, got to do more of this.” In large part the “this,” the consistent thread, is the COURAGE to go after big dreams and the tenacity to make them happen. To a person, didn’t the BIF storytellers seem both more selfless and more satisfied than many? Could it have something to do with the size of their dreams?
After spending one and a half days with him, drawn there by Deb Scofield’s own stories about BIF, I would say that Saul Kaplan has the mark of many other generative leaders I’ve known. He wants stuff to happen. Now. But rather than dictate, at the Business Innovation Factory’s gatherings, he’s created a giant petri dish for connecting or colliding, and he’s not holding anything back.
Because many of us live in the fast-draw conversationally-deprived and defensive environments of “I don’t get it-no you can’t try it-innovation is just a buzzword” it was seriously joyful to receive the direct transmission of undiluted possibility. It certainly was for me, because it rendered such beautiful evidence of the difference each of us can make. Until last week, Saul Kaplan was largely unknown to me but felt very familiar. Great storytellers do. Kaplan and BIF are providing an incredibly valuable and useful service. They are showing, rendering, demonstrating, and giving a platform for evidence that innovation practiced full out works, whether it’s to lower the homicide rate in cities like Boston and Providence, and recycle gang members into productive roles in society, which Teny Gross spoke so movingly about, or to create new institutions like Independent Diplomat,
to showcase enterprises built on new models, like Zappos, Zipcar, Buzzcar. Zipcar and Buzzcar CEO Robin Chase, seen here after launching Buzzcar in France, gave an astounding talk about incorporating networks and communities – as in INC.-ing them. This is truly a woman who understands how to find and tap excess capacity. She’ll be one of my next profiles.
So with this post I begin a series to process, reflect and honor what I gratefully received and took away from BIF8, starting with founder Saul Kaplan, who is clearly in his 5th or 6th career incarnation. The guy doesn’t even seem tired! Must be all the serotonin flowing.
In this incarnation he seems to have landed squarely on the path of curator-activist-liberator of the below the buzzword school of real innovation stories, writ specific and large on an intimate stage in Providence, Rhode Island, rippling out for the world to see and take heart in. And take heart yourselves, as the BIF8 presentations will soon be available on their Innovation Story Studio to experience live, and in the meantime there are many other Storytellers from years past to experience. And experience you must. Your petri dish awaits.
Don’t miss a post (4,700+) – Subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Innovation Excellence group!
Image credits: BIF, Inc Magazine and Mobivia
Julie Anixter is Chief Innovation Officer at Maga Design and the executive editor and co-founder of Innovation Excellence. The co-author of three books, she’s working on a fourth on courage and innovation. She worked with Tom Peters for five years on bringing big ideas to big audiences. Now she works with the US Military, Healthcare, Manufacturing and other high test innovation cultures that make a difference.