Monday, October 02, 2006

The First Banff Innovation Summit

Lots to think about as we begin the new month of October. Right after my wonderful revelations of kinship with ethnographers in Portland, I was transported too cruelly back into the 'real' world of being -the- anthropologist again. Of course, there is something to be said for fulfilling niches in specific environments (which is what we tend to do) but nonetheless... fleeting, and wistful.
All the more jarring was my direct transport into the land of business and economics, namely my participation in an Innovation Summit in Banff, Alberta.
"What's an anthropologist doing here?" One may, (and many did) ask.
Same reason why people like Stuart Kauffman, a leading-edge Biologist was there: to shake things up, and lend perspective on what various parties and stakeholders need to do and think about in order to create a culture of world-class innovation in Canada. To that effect, prior to the Summit we read five challenger papers by selected delegates assembled by The Centre for Innovation Studies (THECIS):
Richard Hawkins: Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy
Stuart Kauffman: iCore Chair, Biocomplexity and Informatics
Daniel Levinthal: Professor of Corporate Management, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
Ian Miles: Professor of Policy Research into Engineering, Science, and Technology, University of Manchester Business School, UK
David Mowery: Professor of New Enterprise Development, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley

After a keynote from John Dryden of the OECD, each challenger presented their papers and thoughts on the state of innovation in Canada and the world over. Then we commented. Then over 2 long days we brainstormed, and debated, and brainstormed in that room which you can see on my Flickr site. I felt very privileged to be included in this very intimate formal and informal dialogue during these very intense two days.

Over the next few weeks, the results from this conference will be compiled into a manuscript, and the more urgent recommendations sent to government even sooner. When called upon to give my spiel at the end, I contributed my version of the proceedings, which was a 20-point list of what innovation is NOT which I hope captured some of the subtleties and complexities of the arguments while including the requisite "Flo-humour" for which I am now apparently infamous. That list might be going into the report--a quick and dirty (but entertaining) executive summary, if you will. I guess my training as the 'participant observer' came in handy yet again. Perspective from the outside in, the seduction of the margins, and all that.
Stay tuned for more developments on the innovation front, as it happens.

You can see the photos coming from that land, on my flickr site here>>


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