A Day in the Life of a BPhl Innovation Festival Attendee

This was a long week, but I wish it were longer.

And that is due to the B.Phl Innovation festival.

Centered at the Independence Blue Cross (IBX) building (1901 Market), with Ground Zero being the IBX Innovation Center on the 13th and 14th floors.

However, the festival spread out around the city, from the University Science Center, to Temple University, to the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, to Penn’s Innovation (Pennovation) space.  For three days people from around the region and beyond converged on Philadelphia to learn about, discuss, and engage in Innovation and a host of related issues (design, design thinking, civil discourse and communication, and creativity).

Here’s a brief overview of my sessions from Day 1.  Read these and you’ll understand

Leveraging Innovation:  Leadership Skills to Drive Change and Make an Impact.

IMG_1374First point of impact here…all three panelists and the moderator were women.  And their stories were amazing , from managing innovation for PECO, Philadelphia’s largest energy provider, to urban planning at the Philadelphia Naval Yard (worth an entire blogpost on its own!), to Human Resources for Momentum Dynamics who make wireless electrical vehicle chargers, all the panelists had impactful stories about their successes and their challenges.  As a teacher working on managing 54 students in two Innovation courses, I learned a lot about listening, empowering, and how to help students over obstacles.  Thank you PECO.

Changing the Course of Discourse:  A Return to Old School Civility


I spent 27 years of my life, from my late teens to my late fourties, as a speech and debate coach for my school district at both the middle school and high school levels.   Most months between October and April I was gone two weekends out of the month and wouldn’t return home on certain Wednesdays until well past 9PM.  I’m not looking for sympathy.  I did this of my own accord, because the spoken word and keen, attentive, active listening are that central to my own view of what constitutes an educated human being.

This session featured Julie Wolmer, the 10th president of Widener University; Larry Platt, editor of the independent newspaper, The Citizen; Jeffery Rosen, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center; and Brett Parker, Chair of the Committee of 70.  The panel discussed the importance of truly listening in an age when social media and political stratification has created what Jeffrey Rosen called, “The Madisonian Nightmare”–a country where factionalization has divided us to such an extent that the federal nature of a federal government and a citizenry bound by a constitution that demands active (not passive) participation in that government is in peril.

I came to Philadelphia to engage in innovation, to participate in design sprints, listen to entrepreneurs, and generally drive my knowledge of innovation to new levels.  But I left this session reminded of something I’d overlooked:  None of that is possible if we cannot communicate.  Innovation in an ever diverse world requires two key pieces before we even begin.  Those pieces, as the design firm IDEO puts it, are Empathy and Radical Collaboration.  Thus, you cannot even pretend to engage in innovation if you’re not grounded in a culture that honors and empowers every voice, that has structures for and practices active listening, promotes critical feedback, and that recognizes the necessity of spaces that invite all voices to the table.

Mindmap of Changing the Course of Discourse

Thank you Larry Platt and the rest of the panel, and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce for hosting this sessions, perhaps the most important session of all.


Innovation:  Writing your Story: Nat Measley

This was everything I’d hoped it would be.  In NOVA Lab, we talked a great deal about story, why it’s important to tell compelling stories for entrepreneurs and even for ourselves.  Students spend so much time writing analytic essays, Text Dependent Analyses, Lab Reports, and short responses to questions asked by everyone but themselves.  Is it any wonder that most have a good deal of trouble telling a compelling story about themselves and why they matter?  Nat Measley, a Univ. of Delaware professor, formerly Master of Fun at the Fun Department, (and a genuinely Fun guy), took us through a 40 minutes session in why writing our own story is so important and why publishing it and getting into the hands of people is crucial to our success as entrepreneurs, no matter how big our dreams.  His website, Yourculturestory.com makes  such publishing a breeze, whether it be for individuals or startups or even larger companies.

IMG_1409Follow us here at NOVA Lab, because we will be publishing our story!  Thanks @NatMeasley.

Check out the next blog post to find out about the NOVA Lab Field Trip and our work with @duncanjwardle at the Independence Blue Cross Innovation Center.

Published by Garreth Heidt

Designerly Minded High School Humanities and Liberal Studies Teacher Faculty Mentor FIRST Robotics Team #7414--PV Retrobotics. Constantly learning, trying to be more a maker and less a consumer of culture. I believe in the infinite value of a liberal education and the power of design thinking to help make the world a better place.

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