An Innovation Lab the Size of Rhode Island

8 05 2007

You may be familiar with the TED Conference (short for Technology, Entertainment and Design) begun by Richard Saul Wurman in 1984, and now owned by the Sapling Foundation, a private nonprofit foundation, a 501(c)3 organization begun by Chris Anderson the current TED CEO.

You may also be familiar with PopTech! – an annual conference and ongoing community of people interested in the intersection of science, technology and the future of ideas that started in 1997.

And now comes a new “innovative model” for collaboration to spark public and private sector partnership that explores and tests new ways to deliver value at the local level. What is exciting about this is that:

  1. This is another “healthy” example of business collaboration at the local level to seek out opportunities to create innovation (see recent posts about Industrial Symbiosis in Denmark and Britain that plays on this theme).
  2. It demonstrates that innovations play at the “intersection” of different fields or industries requiring different yet complementary team members or partners to unlock new ways to generate value.
  3. Their means of delivery is open collaboration across different channels of information exchange.

The Business Innovation Factory (BIF’s website can be found to the right under Open Business Models) is an independent, non-profit organization launched in 2004 to leverage Rhode Island’s size and densely connected networks to create a real world laboratory for testing new ideas for projects that encourage public/private sector partnership.

BIF has designed their customer experience as a two way conversation around: “Think, Learn, Do, Connect.”

BIF helps people “Think” through blogs, “bite-size” innovation stories developed from BIF thought leader programs (on demand video and text excerpts) with links to deeper content, and Trendspotting which also is distilled from BIF program content.

BIF helps people “Learn” through holding local innovation workshops and BIF annual summit with captured content summations from BIF and attendees themselves.

BIF helps people “Do” through “experience laboratories” that provide an environment where partners from across industries and disciplines can design and test innovation solutions AND transfer what they learn back into their organizations. BIF currently runs four labs: the Student Experience Lab, the Patient Experience Lab, the Consumer Experience Lab, and the Citizen Experience Lab. BIF has also developed single issue initiatives like the Rhode Island Wireless Innovation Networks (RI-WINs)— designed to make Rhode Island the first state in the country with a border-to-border, broadband wireless network. Through RI-WINs, BIF is pioneering a new model for wireless innovation in business, healthcare, education, government services, and public safety.

BIF helps people “Connect” through “membership” or as a “partner” in its portfolio of programs. And BIF has created a special program for young people in the Millenial/NetGeneration called “The N-GEN network.” N-GEN was created for and by young innovators who value partnership and share an appreciation for the value of innovation. More importantly, N-GEN seeks to create a forum not just for thinking, but for doing by making visible the resources and talents of young innovators as a way to build a stronger platform for collaboration. In addition, the Business Innovation Factory will offer members of the N-GEN network free or discounted access to select programs and activities as a way to help emerging leaders learn more about Collaborative Innovation and the benefits of networked business models.

Exciting Stuff But…

BIF is also a great example of a disruptive innovator. Their “membership experience” is exciting but as a new kind of nonprofit organization BIF could give some associations pause as a potential competitor that attracts a larger share of eyeballs and wallets.

BIF reminds us what creating value is really about… helping people apply knowledge successfully…and continuously cultivating relationships.






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