BIF-8: Small state, big thinking

Business Innovation Summit

The BIF-8 website describes it as “a national gathering of amazing people who are driven by their passion, creativity, and smarts to create value in entirely new ways. Believing in the power of stories to change the world, the BIF Summit is a storytelling jam, peppered with tales of personal discovery, innovation, and transformation.” (Photo by A.V. Crofts)

Last week I boarded a plane to Providence, Rhode Island for the Business Innovation Factory’s (BIF) annual Collaborative Innovation Summit (BIF-8). What awaited me was two days of storytelling and networking with what BIF bills as a collection of “innovators, troublemakers, entrepreneurs, inventors, and transformation artists.”

Sign me up.

BIF-8 was two days of mental fireworks. Bill Taylor of Fast Company inspired me to consider how the five senses might relate to the educational philosophy of the Department of Communication. Taylor’s book, Practically Radical, now joins fellow BIF-8 storyteller Dave Gray’s new book The Connected Company on my MCDM leadership course reading list.

Hillary Salmons spoke about the Providence after-school initiative and motivated me to believe that it is possible to communicate across constituencies and collaborate for tremendous results. And Simon Majumdar reminded me—as if I needed reminding—that breaking bread together is both powerful and universal.

Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the nation, but there is no shortage of big thinking going on there.

What distinguishes BIF-8 is an emphasis on personal story and an intimate size and setting that allows storytellers to mix seamlessly with attendees. All this wouldn’t be possible without the vision stewarded by BIF founder Saul Kaplan and his team: while BIF-8 takes place in Providence, the sustained impact is felt after we all return to our respective homes. As Kaplan shared with the audience on the first day, “BIF-8 is not an event, it’s a community.”

Sound familiar? MCDM: it’s not just a graduate program, it’s a community.

So now the real work begins: taking the big ideas I gathered and realizing them.

For more of my personal reflections before, during, and after BIF-8, take a look at this posted interview conducted by strategist and writer Angela Smith. For visual learners out there, check out these BIF-8 sketchnotes by illustrator Jessica Esch. Finally, Australian Futurist Paul Higgins documented his impressions on particular storytellers that provide rich insights.

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