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Kaplan: Welcome To #BIF2016

Thursday, September 01, 2016


#BIF2016 on September 14–15 in Providence, Rhode Island marks our 12th annual Collaborate Innovation Summit. I’ve been looking forward to it all year. The BIF Summit still gives me that first-day-of-school feeling complete with butterflies in my stomach and giddy anticipation for the unexpected ideas, possibilities and connections it always delivers. I can confidently say after twelve years that we’re on to something with the idea of enabling random collisions of unusual suspects!

People always ask me what has changed over the years. As I reflect on the blessing of hosting twelve years of BIF Summits there are some things that haven’t changed as well as a few things that have.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the caliber of the BIF Summit storytellers. I’m biased but the storytellers have always been amazing. From our first summit in 2005 to today we have been blessed with over 380 incredible innovators and change agents from around the world who have been vulnerable on our stage, sharing their genuine stories of personal reinvention and transformation. We challenge them to leave their go-to presentations at home and grant them the freedom to share their real personal experiences. We tell them it isn’t about them but about catalyzing a reaction among summit participants. They willingly check their egos at the door. We never select storytellers based on how famous they are but on how genuine and generous they are. BIF storytellers have always risen to the occasion and have inspired us year in and year out. Buckle up, the #BIF2016 storyteller lineup is amazing!

Every year serial BIF summit attendees tell me that this year was the best summit ever! In my opinion it isn’t because the storytellers get better every year, they’re always great, but because the participants get better. The BIF Summit is less of an event and more of a community. While the size of the Trinity Rep Theatre and number of BIF Summit participants hasn’t changed over the years the level of engagement of summit attendees has gotten progressively stronger every year. It’s you, the participants of #BIF2016 that will make the experience great. The magic of the BIF Summit happens during the breaks between summit sessions. It happens when you, the participants, take the responsibility for deciding what’s important, which patterns emerge, what connections are relevant and what collaboration possibilities emerge. We create the conditions and trust you to deliver the magic. You always do!

Another change over the years is the increasing level of virtual engagement in the summit by fellow innovation junkies from around the world who watch the storytelling sessions via our free live stream on the BIF websiteand by engaging directly in the conversation on Twitter at #BIF2016. Social media platforms have exploded on the scene over the last twelve years and changed the way we communicate and engage with each other. They have changed the summit and enabled our community to model the social behaviors and self-organized networks that are essential to any transformation process. Engagement goes way beyond the two days of the summit as the BIF community increasingly connects and collaborates now throughout the year. We are living and working-out-loud which enables us all to get better faster.

Perhaps a less noticeable change in the summit but equally important to recognize are the changing market conditions swirling around us. BIF has always been a place for like-minded innovation junkies to connect. We’re an optimistic tribe that has known for a long time that tweaks aren’t enough and that nothing short of transformation is needed. When no one else would listen to us we were exploring human centered design and storytelling as levers for enabling business model innovation and transformational change. We have been stubborn and persistent and now after a long, often lonely, journey everyone wants to talk about what our BIF community has been talking about for twelve years. It’s game time!

I don’t think we can take credit for changing the market although we certainly influenced it. The market changed because more and more leaders have figured out that disruptive threats aren’t going away and are only accelerating. More leaders now recognize that traditional approaches to innovation that produce only incremental improvements to today’s business models aren’t enough. In private CEOs tell me that they’re sick and tired of hearing Uber and Airbnb disruption stories, they want their organizations to be more proactive in launching transformational business models. CEOs recognize that their current approach to innovation is producing more tweaks than transformation. They are looking for a different way forward. They want to be market makers, not just share takers.

This is our time! The market is finally ready for what we’ve been preaching and practicing for the last twelve years. It is the innovator’s day and we are ready. As innovation junkies it is always tempting to move to the next new thing but we are sitting on the ideas, tools and approaches to enable the transformational change that the 21st century screams for. Now is the time to make our self-organized networks more purposeful. Now is the time for us to go from the BIF Summit into the real world to help leaders of all kinds explore and test new business models that will deliver the transformational impact and results that we all want and need.

I know #BIF2016 will be great because you will make it great. I also know that today the market conditions are right for us to take the behaviors we will model together during the summit and put them to work in the real world to reinvent ourselves, our organizations and our communities

{image_2}Saul Kaplan is the Founder and Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF). Saul shares innovation musings on his blog at It’s Saul Connected and on Twitter at @skap5.


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