THE BLOG
09/27/2013 04:16 pm ET | Updated Nov 27, 2013

What If @ BIF?

Before sharing What If...? at BIF, I should explain what is BIF. The innovation brainchild of Saul Kaplan, BIF stands for the Business Innovation Factory. It is:

a platform for transforming our most intractable systems, like healthcare, education, entrepreneurship, and energy, where players -- both private and public -- can design and test new solutions in a real-world environment.

Every September, BIF puts on a summit to bring together innovators, inspirers, and instigators to have random collisions, "think transformation, and try more stuff."

Most of the presenters are wonderfully connected people with immense networks on social media and established platforms throughout traditional venues. And they did a tremendous job showcasing the brilliance of what a presenter at a BIF Summit could share with the World. Not only can you read their blog posts and articles, you will soon be able to watch the videos of the presentations as if you were there yourself...almost.

Almost, in that the magic from the stage is only one part of the magic that happens at a BIF Summit. What truly makes the BIF experience remarkable is the random collisions it encourages and allows for before, during, and after the presenters take the stage. Since so much has already been written on the mind-blowing talks that were given by the likes of Richard Saul Wurman, Steve Blanks, Angela Maiers, and Deb Mills-Scofield, rather than being redundant, I'd like to share some of the people and projects we were able to collide with in the hallways, lobbies, at tables, and on bar stools during the three day BIF-9 Summit.

Chris Crouch, an Instructional Strategist and passionate educator working with the Northern Kentucky Education Cooperative to bring education professionals together to reform education together.

Lynda Koster and Doug Williams, with Innovation Excellence, which is networking a global community to increase innovation across sectors and industries through creating a forum for connections and conversations.

Teny O Gross, the Executive Director of The Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence, which employs innovative techniques to reduce gang and group related violence in Rhode Island. Their goal is to cut the homicide rate in half over the next decade. And they're doing it.

Paul Higgins, a futurist with Emmergent Futures who not only gave us a glimpse into what being a "futurist" is all about, but spent a few hours helping us determine our own future. Awesome.

Amanda Slavin, CEO and Founder of Catalyst Creativ, a community design firm fromed as a part of (BIF-9 speaker) Tony Hshieh's Downtown Project that seeks to build communities through events, partnerships and conversations. Their mission is "to create more active participants in making the world a better place." If What If...? is going to grow where we aim to go, we need collisions like this one.

Anton Yakushin, a young entrepreneur and coder transforming education by developing ways to spur understanding through the use of simulations. What if students could learn their lessons not just by hearing them, but actually seeing how they play out? Anton's work isn't just creating the educational experience of the future, it's bringing the future into the experience of education.

Nicole Radziwill is seeking to provide an answer to one of the most burning "what if...?" questions around: What if we combined the the energy, community, and insights of Burning Man with the traditional classroom? We're about to find out through her Burning Mind Project that is exploring how the institution of higher education can be transformed from the inside out.

Even with all of those amazing collisions, one of the greatest collisions we encountered was that of Twitter. Before BIF-9, my and What If...?'s interaction on Twitter had been that of a stalker, at best. But watching and learning from some true, Twitter ninjas, such as Vala Afshar and Greg Satell, I was able to dive into the Summit and experience it in ways I've never experienced an event before. The virtual interaction created very real collisions we could not have had otherwise. From adding new layers of conversations, to extending our conversations to people beyond the seats in the auditorium, such as Cathryn Hrudicka with Creative Sage and Beth Sander's class in Birmingham, AL, What If...? is now set to have many more #RCUS (Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects) and we have BIF to thank.

If you'd like to experience your own slice of BIF magic, we invite you to follow along at #BIF9.