March 25, 2010
The Economist's Innovation & Ideas Economy Event at BerkeleyI attended The Economist's Innovation event at Berkeley's Haas School of Business this week, a new format and style for them.
The discussion that was both compelling and controversial was on day one between Nathan Wolfe of Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, Juan Enriquez of Excel Venture ManagementLife and death in a techno-utopia and Ray Kurzweil who came in via live video stream. Topic? Can technology save you—and the planet? In other words, how much can we count on technology to fix issues and how much do we need to rely on ourselves? Humanity?
A discussion I missed but wanted to not only watch but participate in, was the one entitled: Is America turning into a third-world country? The Economist's New York Bureau Chief Matthew Bishop has a conversation with Arianna Huffington. Every time I leave America's borders and return, I am reminded how much it is. Where you sit on this issue depends on where you sit economically and geographically. Silicon Valley should be its own country, since so many of its views and daily realities are so far removed from the rest of the country.
Social entrepreneurship was a big theme. Can free-market thinking solve the world’s most serious problems? What is the future of social entrepreneurship? What are the costs and benefits of micro-capitalism? Acumen Fund's Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder, Acumen Fund, LeapFrog Investment's Andrew Kuper, VisionSpring's Jordan Kassalow and Dan Reicher, Director of Climate Change and Energy Initatives at Google, discussed.
On day two, they had breakout sessions in several important categories including financial markets, new business models, green technology & sustainability, and healthcare.
Given that the overall programme was business school focused, Mashable's Ben Parr and I, who are so entrenched in start-up culture, were a rarity in discussions with larger entity heads of marketing and innovation at companies like Cisco, Intel and other corporates in the Valley.
We were both on the same team for the new business model team break-out, which involved building a new prototype to attract engineers for a company that looked and felt like Facebook. Creating a 'home environment' at the workplace is so automatic for Silicon Valley start-ups that the exercise, designed to keep gen-y workers, was a much more natural exercise for us.
How to influence change within the minds of more traditional older school executives is a much harder challenge, something which Charlene Li addresses in her upcoming book Open Leadership, due out in mid-April.
Innovation Court ended on day two with on-stage presentations by the break-out teams in each of their respective categories. The winner would be awarded a cover placement on the Economist, which happily went to Healthcare - "Out of Hospitals and Into Health.". In my opinion, the right choice. The recent 'win' is a step in the right direction, although clearly it's only the beginning.
I shot a series of videos towards the end of the event, of the teams presenting on stage which will follow in subsequent blog posts, all of them moderated by The Economist's Vijay Vaitheeswaran.
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