PROVIDENCE - A sold-out crowd of more than 400 from eight countries filed into the auditorium at Trinity Repertory Company on Wednesday for the first day of the Business Innovation Factory’s BIF-8 summit.
Designed to create a community rather than just an event, the 30-odd storytellers are meant to instruct, intrigue and inspire attendees over the next two days.
When asked, nearly two-thirds of the crowd raised their hands to indicate that they were first timers at the summit.
After some technical difficulties getting his slides started, BIF’s self-titled “chief catalyst” Saul Kaplan kicked off the event, talking to the audience about the importance of innovation and people-based transformational change.
“We have to learn the life skill of reinventing ourselves and constantly learning. … If we can learn how to reinvent ourselves, we can change organizations, communities and the rest of the world,” said Kaplan, former director of the R.I. Economic Development Corporation.
A theme throughout Kaplan’s speech was the benefit of what he called “random collisions,” the breaks between the presenters that allow the audience members to brainstorm and discover connections amongst themselves. “[BIF-8] is a way to enable these random collisions so that we can find the value in the grey areas between us,” said Kaplan, adding that there is a lot of work to be done.
“We’ve grown up in an era where we’ve been dependent on institutions, both public and private. But institutions are not going to lead the next way. We’re going to do that. The future is going to be created by us,” said Kaplan.
With a picture of his one-year-old granddaughters on the screen behind him, Kaplan asked “Why?” Why innovate? Why insight change? The answer: “We need to make it better for them. We should leave [the world] a little better and a little stronger than the way we found it.”
“There’s a lot of transformation work for all of us to do together and time’s a wasting,” said Kaplan, who was just the introductory speaker at the event. This year’s storytellers vary in age, culture, education and disciplines and include CEOs, authors, professors, artists and a 14-year-old entrepreneur, among others.