BIF-6 Dares Us to Take Action and Be Great

September 21, 2010

Above is a Wordle of my notes from the 2-day BIF-6 summit.  I’m not surprised to see that “people” is the largest word; because more than innovation or technology, it’s what people do that matters the most.

Find Your Place

The second day of the conference started with Richard Leider, Founder and Chairman of The Inventure Group, who has studied the power of purpose for 40 years. He looks at what makes people get out of bed in the morning.  When the elderly are asked what they would do differently in their lives, it came down to three themes: 1) be more reflective, 2) take more risks (authenticity and voice), 3) understand own bottom line/what matters to me.  Leider says that the two most important days in your life are the day that you are born and the day that you discover why you were born.

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world.”  -E.B.White (quote mentioned by Richard Leider)

Take Action

Tired of waiting for the government to take action?  Ben Berkowitz created a website SeeClickFix where citizens can take a photo, report a non-emergency issue such as a graffiti or a pothole and track if it gets fixed.  As Ben said, “Potholes are gateway drug to civic engagement” – so go ahead and load the app for Blackberry, iPhone or Android.

74% of Americans don’t volunteer and Jason Colker, Founder and CEO of The Extraordinaries is looking to change how people can get involved.  He has created which looks to match the needs of non-profits with the expertise and cognitive surplus of professionals through micro-volunteering.

Former Deputy Director of the CIA, Carmen Medina, discussed being a change agent for a large organization.  She passed on the advice that she was given which is that we need to stop being uncomfortable being a “heretic” and to fully embrace it and like it!  She equated innovators to an internal rebel alliance which management must tap into.

Optimism is the greatest act of rebellion. -Carmen Medina

Dale Dougherty, editor and publisher of MAKE magazine, talked about the difference between understanding and doing.  His magazine is a kind of reboot of Popular Mechanics.  He also has a Makers Faire which is are gatherings of people sharing the technology that they “play” with.  Below is a short video from the mini Makers Faire that they held at the Hotel Providence after the conference.

Dare to be Great

The final storyteller of the event was Founder and Chairman of SYPartners, Keith Yamashita who posed the question: Is it really worth daring to be great?  People grow up with a “null set” hypothesis and think that life is about going ever upward, onward and becoming more successful.  Life is not linear and when there is a break in the expected path, it is a shock to the system.  The first piece of being great starts with “you” – each person on the planet.  Kids are born to greatness and simplicity, we unlearn greatness and make things complicated.  The way to be great is to be fully aware and fully alive when people say NO.  Yamashita says that we need to end the tyranny of the false trade-off.  In the past it was believed that there was infinite possibilities and infinite resources.  During the recent economic downturn there has been talk of finite possibilities and finite resources.  The real answer going forward is that there are infinite possibilities and finite resources (echoing Ntiedo “Nt” Etuk who said we don’t lack resources, we lack resourcefulness).  We have no other choice but to try and be great.

The audio of the stories mentioned above and from the rest of the conference are available on the BIF website (videos are expected in the coming weeks).  I recommend that you take a listen to the segments and check out some of the other blog posts from the other attendees.  I’d welcome and feedback or question that you have about the event.  BIF-6 rocked!

Disclaimer: I attended 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.

Stuart Miniman



Beyond the Buzz – Digging Deep on Innovation and Passion at BIF-6

September 16, 2010

What happens when you pull together 200 people who are passionate about innovation, put a broad spectrum of storytellers in front of them and give them an intimate setting to interact?  This is the idea of the 6th annual Collaborative Innovation Summit of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF-6 for short) at the intimate setting of the Trinity Rep Theatre in Providence, RI (photo on the right of MC/Chief Catalyst Saul Kaplan on stage).  Saul started out the conference with a warning that “innovation” must not become a buzzword, or no one will be innovative.  There were no silver bullets in the stories, but rather compelling unique perspectives on innovation, passion and ideas to help change the world.

Dig Deeper

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.


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.

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 discuss Wikinomics) 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, 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.

Stuart Miniman


vAgents of Change, Positive Deviants and Stories That Inspire

September 9, 2010

So much going on, wanted to put up a quick summary of some recent and upcoming activity:


Amazing week in San Francisco, I got to talk with over 100 people that I met in person for the first time that I knew through online discussions. [here’s a photo courtesy of Rich Brambley from the blogger section at the conference keynote – Aaron Delp is next to me, Jase McCarty and John Troyer behind]

On Technology:  “vAgents of Change.  Virtualization is still relatively new to IT, but it has clearly crossed the chasm into a mainstream product line with 190,000 customers.  Leading the charge to deliver virtualization around the globe are 50,000 VMware Certified Professionals.  The culture of the virtualization community goes far beyond understanding a few products, as can be seen by the volunteer group that puts together the VM User Groups (VMUGs) and the passion of the vExperts.  Will these expert ambassadors of virtualization embrace and drive the change to cloud computing?” – see the full post for my take on ITaaS, Ecosystem, Mobility and xSPs.

On Social Media: “The big takeaway of VMworld 2010 for me from a social perspective was people were using the tools more than talking about them.  While most companies have a long way to fully embedding social into their culture and processes, VMware’s VMworld showed that events can have a multi-dimensional social media offering that supports and amplifies the messaging of the event.” – full post here

Lots of video – I was part of the SiliconANGLE live broadcast during the conference.  I did three segments live (Ed Bugnion of Cisco here, Abner Germanow of Juniper Networks here and Bob Zuber of IBM here), plus 2 recorded segments: with EMC on the journey to the private cloud and Cisco blogger round-up of convergence, VMworld awards and more.

Positive Deviants

I announced a new Wikibon award today which was inspired by Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky.  “Positive deviants are those who behave better than the norm, even when faced with similar limitations or challenges.”  The PosDev award is “to celebrate those who create a positive impact on the IT community through a collaborative process of sharing information and providing critical thinking on the business and technical challenges of the day.”  The idea of the award is to inspire more people to collaborate and share information – read the full post here.

Stories That Inspire

The PosDev award is an idea that I hope to spread (hat tip to TED – “ideas worth spreading”).  Speaking of great ideas, next week (Sept 15-16 in Providence, RI) I will be attending BIF-6, the summit of the Business Innovation Factory.  BIF is a 2 day event with a fantastic line-up of storytellers in an intimate setting.  You can get a taste of the event from the free “story book“, plus they will be streaming the event live and you can follow the #bif6 hashtag on Twitter.  I’ll be looking to share what I hear and see how it can connect with IT trends and communities.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve got a full quarter at the new job.  I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone that has been so supportive.  I’m very easy to get in touch with, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you have a person or topic that I may be able to help with.


Stuart Miniman

The Elephant, The Rider and The Path to Cloud Computing

August 19, 2010

A common thread that runs between IT and innovation in general is that new ideas require change. As Chip Heath said at the World Innovation Forum in June ’10 (that’s him above): change is hard, it can be futile and most people resist and hate change.  Chip and his brother Dan have written two books, the second one is Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard (disclosure: I received a free copy at the conference).  Cloud computing is a big and potentially scary change, how is the industry doing at creating the correct environment for customers to undertake the new products and services?  At VMworld, “The Cube” will be broadcasting LIVE and digging deep into this topic – see all the details on SiliconANGLE and be sure to tune in Aug 30-Sept 2 for executives, customers, bloggers and analysts.

“A long journey starts with a single step.”… But you know what else starts with a single step? An ill-conceived amble that you abandon after a few minutes.

The theory of Switch is that when change works, it follows a pattern.  There are three pieces of the pattern which they describe as The Rider, The Elephant and The Path.

The Rider is analytical and works well with concrete examples to follow, a technique discussed is following “bright spots”.  These are not happy thoughts, but finding successful results and replicating and amplifying them.  What may look like resistance to change  may simply be cluelessness of not knowing which direction to go, so scripting the first steps will help get people on the right track.  This is similar to getting the low hanging fruit – what is the one thing that can be done or changed that get people moving in the right direction.  An example in the book was a campaign to get people to switch from whole milk to 1%.  It is a simple change that dramatically lowers the daily fat intake and compared to the food pyramid, it is easily understood and followed.  On the analytical side, customers are confronted with a lot of information about cloud computing, but it is often difficult to distinguish between vision and reality.  Plenty of companies are utilizing public cloud offerings and this puts internal IT organizations in the position of having to be competitive with the flexibility and costs that their lines of business can get directly from the cloud.  When it comes to fully virtualized solutions, the analytical customers are still asking a lot of questions about security and management.  As for scripting the critical moves, turnkey solutions and integrated stacks have been coming to market, allowing customers to deploy virtualized data centers or private clouds.

The Elephant is the automatic reaction and emotional side.  The voice of the elephant tells you to eat the entire quart of ice cream, that you must check email constantly and when it comes to change *THAT’S WRONG*.  In trying to create a major change, the action is not Think > Analyze > Change, but rather See > Feel > Change.  A recommendation for the emotional side is to find the feeling that will allow people to see and connect with the change.  Another method of motivating the elephant is by shrinking the change, breaking it down into pieces that aren’t as scary and get the snowball rolling towards the ultimate goal.  In order to avoid spooking the elephant, people must understand that change is a journey that will have peaks and valleys – “rarely a graceful leap from heigh to height” – and that if failure and challenges are listed as an expected part of the journey, that people will be less likely to give up when there are challenges.  Cloud computing has a way to go on the emotional side.  Many IT practitioners still have the elephant voice telling them that cloud = no job.  There are plenty of ways to create bite-sized changes along the path to cloud such as deploying a single application (take backup as an example).  I’ve yet to see anyone embracing failure as part of the deployment of cloud computing, but would love to hear from customers about learning experiences that they’ve had in this regard.

I’d read plenty in sales and business books dealing with emotional and analytical positioning, but Shaping The Path was new to me and resonated strongly.  Chip said that we often have a fundamental attribution error – that is we focus on people rather than situation.  As an example, if a car cuts you off on a highway, we blame the person, not the situation (which could be the road itself or extenuating circumstances that causes the person to be driving more reckless than they should).  Shaping the Path can be done through adjusting the environment, building habits or “rallying the herd”.  An example given for tweaking the environment was to give software engineers “quiet hours” (or what EMC called the “cone of silence”), specific times where they would not be interrupted and could focus on their job without having to feel guilty for not checking email, answering calls or otherwise being distracted from their primary job.  As part of building habits, Heath advocates that checklists can help people from becoming overconfident.  People think that having a checklist means that you can’t remember or don’t know your job, when it is can be a reminder of the mission-critical things that must be done and help avoid mistakes.  “So before you conclude that your husband is hopelessly absentminded, always forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning and the milk, maybe you should try shaping his Path. How about taping a checklist to his steering wheel?”  Finally, rallying the herd is about allowing reformers to have a space to discuss their change plans and let the environment become contagious.  Rather than completely separating reformers from resisters, Heath advocates going through an “organizational molting” so that the new culture takes over.  Doing a search, I see that there are plenty of Cloud Computing checklists – has anyone found any good ones?  Industry conferences can often be a great place to rally the herd and as I mentioned earlier, the live broadcast on SiliconANGLE will highlight those customers who can share “next practices” for cloud computing.

Don’t think outside of the box – find a good box and think inside it. -Chip Heath

One of the funniest things that Chip Heath said was that most people think that change is really hard, yet the #1 and #2 most stressful and challenging changes in people’s lives are sought after and embraced.  Getting married (#2) and having children (#1) are a more dramatic change than any merger and acquisition or industry shift.  Sure there are plenty of challenges in implementing cloud computing and other innovations, but with a good pattern to follow, the journey can be undertaken intelligently.

Stuart Miniman


PS – Speaking of Tweaking the Path, check out the new “Tweet” button (below), a nice new option on WordPress from Twitter to make it easy to share articles like this (go ahead and try it)

Is Twitter Innovative? @biz at #wif10

June 11, 2010

Social Networking was well represented at the World Innovation Forum including discussion of Web 2.0 from former Amazon Chief Scientist Andreas Weigend, technology venture capitalist Brian Shawn Cohen and Twitter co-founder @Biz Stone.  At events, I use Twitter for taking notes (I’ll quote a few in this post).

RT @stephenshapiro: Biz stone from twitter on the stage. Surreal tweeting about twitter. #wif10 < surreal? no, flashback to 2008/9

5:36 PM Jun 8th via TweetDeck  [I also wrote a few blog posts about Twitter in 2008/9, and here I am again writing about it]

How do we innovate?

There are many ways that companies can innovate including internal development, crowdsourcing, and through acquisition.  Twitter has done all of these.  Twitter started as a very simple tool – broadcasting 140-character messages sent via SMS (text) or web for the world to see.  One of the most innovative things that Twitter did was not limit how users used the tool.  Several features created by users, such as hashtags and retweets, were eventually adopted by Twitter and built into the system.

@Biz at #WIF10 People are basically good and if you give them a tool to do good they will

5:36 PM Jun 8th by @KenMcArthur

Twitter has acquired a number of large pieces of the partner ecosystem including search (Summize) and an iPhone application (Tweetie).  They have also followed/copied ideas from other companies such as Lists (as seen on TweetDeck and Seesmic) and location/geo (many tools such as FourSquare and Gowalla).  I have wondered if we can really call Twitter innovative since so much of the improvements have come from outside.  When you consider that Twitter is a very young company (3 years) with a small staff, I think it is innovative that they have used all means possible to grow at such a rapid pace.  The community may be a little disgruntled form time-to-time, but that is even happening with Facebook and Apple.

Twitter had early fame, @biz concerned they don’t become like a crazy famous child actor, want to be like Ron Howard instead #wif10

5:38 PM Jun 8th via TweetDeck

People get all wide-eyed when you hear of the millions of people using the service who are sending over 65 millions tweets a day.  Twitter allows for connection of people.  Case in point of translating online to in-person: click on the tab of “Blogger Photos” at the top of my blog page.  Another example – I posted this question online at the beginning of Biz’s interview.

#wif10 @biz says that the starting point for Twitter is SEARCH – agree, but we need better analytics & access to more data

5:32 PM Jun 8th via TweetDeck

When we reached the Q&A, I ran down and asked Biz the question about analytics in person and got the answer:

Stone: We will provide a metric dashboard for twitter soon.#WIF10

June 8, 2010 5:57:50 PM EDT by @daniel_krauss

The Star Wars reference for 2010! RT @stevetodd @stu is directly asking @biz about Twitters search deficiencies. Brave, young padawan #wif10

5:58 PM Jun 8th by @InnosightTeam

In typical Twitter fashion, friends in person and online were excited that Biz gave me props for my @stu name (which I learned thanks to a RT by Hutch Carpenter of a blog from Jesse Stay).

Twitter Trends

This was the second year that the World Innovation Forum had a Bloggers Hub and there was a significant difference in the Twitter experience.  Last year only about half of the bloggers attending were active Twitter users, yet the conference trended worldwide twice thanks to lots of interaction from people around the world watching the stream.  This year not only were all of the bloggers on Twitter, but there was a lot of other very good Twitter content from the paying audience (which had doubled to 900 people).  There were over 3500 Tweets sent (you can see them all & download them from Twapperkeeper), yet the conference did not even trend locally.  Did Twitter downtime affect this – it was flakier this year than last, did the overload from the new iPhone launch affect the stability for the whole week?  Maybe it was just a mixture of other news and people being very busy (hopefully, with the economy picking up).  Sports, entertainment and news may dominate the trending topics of Twitter, but it is without a doubt that there are a lot of innovative communication going through Twitter’s channel.

RT @frijolita: Open exchange of information *can* have a positive global impact says @biz #WIF10 < such as getting together for beer!

5:48 PM Jun 8th

Stuart Miniman

Twitter: @stu


Seth Godin: Creating Tribes to Drive Change

June 9, 2010

Seth Godin, a prolific marketing blogger and author, spoke to the World Innovation Forum about innovation.  Much of his material was from his two most recent books – Tribes and Lynchpin.

Innovation is stuff that’s impossible, because otherwise someone else would have done it

Tribes is about leading the groups that already exist.  Communities in the past were formed around politics, religion or sports, now they can be for anything that can get people passionate.  As people get emotionally engaged, they can overcome fear of change by charging to the new way with a group of like-minded people.

In the IT world, convergence, virtualization and cloud are innovative trends that have the potential for companies to fundamentally alter the way that they do business.  Like any new idea, there is inertia and resistance to making this change.  For a couple of years, there have been thought leaders (including bloggers) that have been trying to lead this revolution.  This top-down messaging was a good start to allow people to become familiar with technology.  We are now starting to see field organizations from vendors adjust their structure to support cross-disciplinary offerings.  The prime example of this are vSpecialists from the VCE coalition – where there are employees from VMware, Cisco and EMC who are cross-trained on the full storage, network and server virtualization stack.  Enterprise IT organizations will also need to adjust to realize the operational efficiencies of the new solutions.  Nick Lippis had reported that some customers are creating a Chief Data Center Officer (CDO) for merging various disciplines.  J Michel Metz (Cisco) recently put a proposal out for a new SLAM (Storage and Local Area Management) Administrator to help with the bottom-up adoption of convergence.

Are you comfortable with the state of things today, or are you willing to help lead change?  I’ll leave with with a couple more words of wisdom from Seth Godin:

If you’re working for a big company, start with small changes, such as writing a blog or changing a meeting and these can grow into larger innovations.  Ask yourself, am I doing what I should be to make a difference or should I give my chair to someone else.

Go make something happen!

Stuart Miniman


Michael Porter: Changing the Delivery of Value

June 8, 2010

Michael Porter kicked off the World Innovation Forum at the Nokia Theatre in NYC today.  He spoke on healthcare – a topic which affects everyone – you can see a portion of this content in a video that was posted from Davos 2010.  There are also plenty of lessons around strategy that can be applied broadly.

Porter believes that there is a fundamental issue with how the challenge of healthcare is framed.  Most people are concerned about the cost of healthcare (where there is a downward spiral of losing as everyone tries to shrink the bottom line) while the focus should be on increasing value for the patient.  He defined value as the patient health outcome per dollar spent.  We know in business that the worst competition is based on price and that it is better to focus on solving customer problems.

In general, it is not a technology issue, but the delivery of the value.  Porter said, “We are delivering 21st century medical technology with 19th century organizational, management and pricing models.”  He gave an example of the German healthcare system which is focused on specialization. Similar to large organizations, there are cylinders of excellence (silos) where there are specialties for everything and an abundance of paperwork and processes which limit the flow and speed of information and care.  The German system changed by creating integrated practice units which changed the focus to the patient and specific connected areas (cancer, migraines, etc).  In corporations, while not every company can be flattened or reorganized around solutions, there can at least be cross-functional collaboration that can break through the walls of the silos.

Another change that Porter advocates for the delivery model is that healthcare providers need to look beyond their own resources.  In the old way, hospitals would try and treat every patient for every ailment and surgery possible.  In the new way, providers that have specific expertise around a specific disease or surgery can move beyond their current geographic limitation to provide services through affiliations and partnerships.  An example that he gave was that a hospital that did one knee replacement a week was inefficient, wasteful or resources and likely to be lower quality than a hospital that does dozens of these surgeries a week; they should partner.  This is the same sort of innovation that we have seen in business where companies create synergies with partners to deliver more value at lower costs.  To take it a step further, while companies have come a long way to improve manufacturing processes and partnerships in sales, most are still not leveraging and sharing information as well as they do resources.  People are good at looking at Google and Wikipedia for basic information, but through communities and social media networks, companies and individuals can get real-time answers and insights.  I would challenge you that if you have a process or technology that you are struggling with, consider reaching out to whatever community that you are on – Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and see if someone has an answer or idea to help solve it.  I know that I’m a little biased on the power of communities, since I’m not only active on those social media sites, but working at a company allows the IT community to share and collaborate.

The Twitter hashtag for the conference is #wif10 and you can follow me @stu.

Stuart Miniman