The Global Innovation Summit – one of a seemingly endless number of meetings in the Bay Area with the name “innovation” in the title — might well serve its namesake. As part of my job as director of the Skoll World Forum, I am required to seek out the best ways to bring people together, either in serendipitous or engineered ways, that create significant value for those attending.
And so, I and 1,000 others from over 50 countries attended this event February 17-19 in San Jose. Speakers included Skoll Awardee Sakena Yacoobi of Afghan Institute of Learning, Founder of Aramex Fadi Ghandour, Director of Case University’s Innovation Investing Cathy Clark, and many others.
The Summit’s focus on bringing to the proverbial table a challenge, an opportunity, or both, led people to be very clear about what they are looking for in the hopes to find innovative solutions. Most discussions were in the round without a formal stage.
In my first Design Lab, we were assigned to small teams in a massive real-time, hands-on “laboratory.” Every participant contributed their Rainforest Scorecard data to build the first-ever mapping of global innovation ecosystems onto Rainforest Radar charts. Judging by my table, people couldn’t help one another fast enough. It struck me that this small bit of pre-work unlocked clarity and focus for those attending…thus allowing for relationships and productive conversation to happen rapidly and with purpose.
We all get busy in our day lives and preparing in advance for meetings, conferences and the like sometimes seem like luxuries. But for those who followed the rules and filled out their Rainforest Scorecards, they were the better for it.
The other creative element to this meeting unlike anything I’ve yet to see, is that they branded the entire week and crowdsourced others to create their own branded meetings in the conference hotel and around the Bay Area. This encouraged visitors to see other parts of Silicon Valley and beyond, instead of being stuck in just one hotel. Examples included an open house at The Tech Shop, meetings hosted in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Hass School of Business, which gave non-Bay Area residents a larger glimpse of innovation in action throughout Northern California. It probably means they had to rent a car, but I’m sure attendees didn’t regret it!
For me, the Summit was a new perspective on how to achieve impactful value.