Business as Agent of World Benefit

This year’s Global Forum at Case Western, Business as Agent of World Benefit, brings a stellar A-list of presenters and world-class problems together for 3 days of workshops, discussions, and Appreciative Inquiry dialogues. With keynotes and discussions from everyone from Bill McDonough to Janine Benryus, and bringing U Toronto’s Roger Martin together with Case’s Cooperrider and Fred Collopy, the Forum is the place to be the first week of June. Their Concept whitepaper describes BAWB as:

The 2009 B.A.W.B Forum is organized around three thematic tracks: (1) the discovery and advancement of management-as-design (2) the exploration of massive innovation—that is, the principles and managerial practices for systemic innovation, scaled-up solutions, and new ways of engaging multiple actors, institutions and sectors, and (3) the design of management education, envisioning the new horizons of management education of the future, where shared “principles for responsible management education” inspire new curricula and new learning environments in areas such as corporate strategy and sustainable value, global citizenship, cradle-to-cradle design, and scaled up social entrepreneurship.

The new OCAD graduate program on Strategic Foresight and Innovation will be paying attention. We may not use the same terms or methods, but we share interest in the same world and community-level problems. We are equally inspired by the innovators from all disciplines that are converging to share wisdom and current thinking. The Global Forum tracks are precisely the areas we are interested in, except with a design focus instead of management. Where BAWB seeks to invest business thinkers and leaders with design perspectives, we seek to educate current business leaders into the disciplines of design and innovation research as socially-engaged business innovators. As management moves toward design, new design education aims to inspire and reach management with tools for their own transformation. They will need more than inspiration inside today’s organizations. If managers want to learn design “thinking,” let them start by learning design “doing” and design research.

Thank you to colleague Nancy Adler of McGill, who invited me to participate in this year’s Global Forum .  This event, plus Overlap 2009, are the two conference I most look forward to in the broader field of innovation and social change in business. I must also add Earth Spirit Rising (3 days with David Korten) as another upcoming, regional conference, which marries deep ecological thinking with the challenge of designing human economies.

I’m of the opinion that many of us in design and innovation fields spend too much time at conferences “talking to each other.” Our impact comes from crossing boundaries. I am appreciating the influence design thinking can bring to venues and conferences that designers might miss or ignore. How else will we learn to understand and appreciate the audiences and problems faced by our communities and clients?

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