Authors & Innovators “Festival” |Attracts an audience of Lifelong learners & connectors!
Whether seeking to press the “refresh” button in your business network or curious to find out about the latest discussions puzzling academics and entrepreneurs, you would have been pleasantly surprised to find this and more at the Gennari|Aronson event hosted at the gentile Wellesley College Club last week. (Oct 26-27).
The first compliment goes to Larry Gennari who was a gracious and knowledgeable host to the speakers and the attendees. [Note: he must be a speed reader as he was able to offer insight on every single book.] The format was unique in that the speakers were all authors, primarily from academia and the “innovators” were embedded in the audience, some with exhibits. The word “law” was never mentioned – this was about supporting the innovation community with ideas, best practices, thoughtful discussion and interaction.
The event was ambitious – showcasing a dozen experts between Thursday evening and Friday noon. It would take more than a blog post to highlight them all, but they are listed here. As “active listening” was one of the themes, here is an attempt to capture some of the highlights as well as these esteemed authors favorite “picks” for good reads. Discussion theme highlights as follows:
Retirement for Everyone: Bob Reynolds (Putnam) kicked off the event on Thursday evening by sharing his investment POV on retirement, the savings habits of Millennials (better than baby boomers), and his key message – Savings=Growth. A fitting way to set the tone for “how to make money” which was the theme of Fridays events.
Understanding the true impact of digital media: Thought leader, Bharat Anand (HBS) addresses this topic on multiple levels in The Content Trap. Effectively, Bharat focuses on breaking down myths such as the decline of newspapers, citing that this is a 70 year issue that has more to do with the industry’s overdependence on classifieds than the emergence of digital media. A key focal point of the discussion that ensued was to frame innovations in a positive context – rather than look at innovations as disruptors, (e.g. the evolution of the CD in music to digital format), note the economic impact of the new revenue streams, e.g. the explosion in prices of live concerts) created by the innovation. Bharat, a proponent of critical thinking, includes David & Goliath and The Signal and the Noise on his reading list.
Importance of Language in its many forms: Tsedal Neely thoughtfully explores a case study on Rakuten Japan and the cultural evolution that took place when all of its Japanese employees were required to learn English. The American employees, resting on their laurels, missed out on the opportunity to capture the ancillary learnings that were being shared via the language. Among the key tenets to language centered global success – LISTENING, not to benchmark against the US, and prepare to be surprised.
Innovating with Humanity and Humor: The discussion that followed incorporated the “language” needed to be successful in selling and framing opportunities. Ken Kupchik presented his viewpoint on the importance of humor as a universal language to deal with challenges (Defensive pessimism was term used by Dan McGinn on first panel). Tricia Cotter [on third panel] endeared the audience sharing the interactions with MIT students and finding engaging ways transferring the use of technology to creating treasure. On a related track, in Pyched Up Dan McGinn addresses the importance of the emotional state of the innovator after they have created the winning pitch, the team, and all the other components – taking time to prepare mentally. Book/Podcast picks for this group included: How I built this (NPR) and Talking to Humans.
The Investment Scene for Women: Four deeply committed powerhouse leaders [Kate Castle, Xfactor Ventures, Barbara Clarke, The Impact Seat, Susan Coleman, University Of Hartford, Janis Collins, The Refinery] presented their points of view on the value of a balanced innovators eco-system. Statistically women control 51% of the wealth and more research from recent Kellogg Foundation further supports investment in women innovators economic imperative. The combination of human, financial, and social capital makes a business successful and women bring all three to the table. But the support has to come from across the board and education specific to fundraising techniques is part of the equation. FTF and FTM introductions and network sharing “purposefully” with proper credentials are essential to build credibility with peer organizations in the VC and investment world in general.
The impact of story-telling: In the 3rd session, Finance took stage in the form of “the Dowry Fund” and how Florence overcame the lack of available funds to marry off women in medieval times. Back-to-back, Jane Austen’s characters who learn about the importance of holding out for the best offer. Credit for this memorable segment goes to Mihir Desai whose goal is to break down barriers in The Wisdom of Finance.
Get Involved! A final Q & A touched on all the ways to get involved with these leading academic “communities” including the fabulous resource the Boston Tech Guide, being part of Mock Boards, seeking out opportunities as Professors of Practice, researching Harvard’s 30+ clubs, participating in HBX, Harvard iLab, MIT Enterprise Forum, and many more ways to connect-in to the Boston innovation community.