Connection + Collaboration + Community = Innovation

David Cummings, CEO of Atlanta Tech Village, recognizes the importance of having the right environment to foster innovation.  There are only a small number of people who are innate innovators.  If we want to drive our region to a place of global leadership, (and we do!) then we need to create environments that are rich in connection, collaboration and community.  Insert the creative class, and you have a laboratory that is a breeding ground for sustainable innovation.

But innovation doesn’t come exclusively out of a lab, or an office building or a university.  It can come from anywhere that connection points occur — a greenway, an online exchange, a community.

Katherine Kelley and Paul Morrisco-panelists at (co)lab 2013, spoke about the need to create environments that nurture people.  The sense of a complete community is one that meets the full spectrum of housing, work and lifestyle needs and interests.  Evidence is abundant — just look at the migration of “innovation companies” that are seeking office locations in urban, amenity-rich environments.

Robin Chase knows plenty about the importance of community and sharing.  As the founder of BuzzCar and ZipCar, she has demonstrated the power of our new “collaborative economy”.  Today, sharing is everywhere — it’s the new way of life.  From social media to community networks, sharing cars, rides and even beds.

Genevieve Bos, founder of IdeaString, agrees.  She identified that innovation comes from sharing — and not just tangible assets, but something even more valuable: sharing IDEAS.  If continuous — even disruptive — innovation is the edge that we all seek, then we must commit to foster sharing in every possible manifestation.

Together, these speakers have captured the essence of collaborative leadership, and the inspiration for (co)lab 2013.  (You can view their presentations by clicking on their names above.)  By creating communities, we foster connections; through connections, we create sharing; and by sharing, we fuel a collaborative economy.  This is the way that we will shape a dynamic, engaging and promising future for ourselves, our city and our region.



A Revolution in Learning or A Learning Revolution?

The 2013 (co)lab Collaborative Leadership Summit brought forward some challenging topics, and perhaps none that inspired more passionate and animated presentations than educational reform.

This week, we reflect on the messages of Diana Laufenberg, Will Richardson and Rinat Aruh.  Although each of them spoke to a different perspective, they all agree that we can do better — MUCH better — to inspire far greater creativity and innovation in our classrooms.

The problem, argues Laufenberg, is embedded in the standardized curriculum, and incentive systems that drive educators to teach TO the test.  What this fosters is a model of control and compliance: students learn exactly what is in the plan – no less, and (definitely) no more!  This is hardly the breeding ground for creativity and expression.  We need to adopt a new philosophy of teaching BEYOND the test, pushing student inquiry and exploration beyond the reach of the traditional lesson plan.

Richardson agrees.  His concern is that our curriculum is based on a model of the world as it WAS.  What we need is a model based on the world as it IS.  Think about today’s world — ubiquitous and limitless access to information and inspiration.  Now think about today’s classrooms — does this sound anything like the environment in our schools today?  If we’re going to prepare our children to live and flourish in the real world, we going to have to make some revolutionary changes in our instructional environment.

And while we’re working on a better model, Aruh points out that there are simple ideas that can help our current model deliver better outcomes.  By teaching design in the classroom — not as a subject, but as a manner of instruction — we can inspire and reveal creativity and innovation that exists in our students.  Without a creative outlet, such as design-based instruction, our current system of teaching constrains that vital link to creativity, collaboration and innovation.  It begins early — and continues as these young minds grow.

So, do we want to perpetuate the current educational “command and control” model, or is time for a change?  Watch these videos, then answer this question for yourself:  Do we need a revolution in learning, or a learning revolution?

Laufenberg 2

Diana Laufenberg
“New Models of
Educational Reform”

Richardson 2

Will Richardson

Aruh 2

Rinat Aruh
“Interjecting Design
in Early Education”










Redesigning Education for our Future

How do we prepare young people for careers that don’t even exist yet, using technologies that haven’t been invented?  How do we reconcile the increasing detachment from school and obsession with screen-based lifestyles?

Our traditional education model, according to (co)lab presenter Nikhil Goyal, was rooted in a model designed to create a society of people who are compliant, submissive and obedient.  And it hasn’t changed much since then, Goyal asserts. “It’s everything antithetical to how human beings develop and learn.”

“It’s like the wild west,” says Dr. Michael Levine

Taking that to the forum of higher education, Dr. Bud Peterson, President of Georgia Institute of Technology, details a long list of innovative and transformative ways that educational systems are being adapted to better equip our students for the new frontiers that await them.

Click on the speaker names to revisit their presentations from (co)lab 2013; then post your own thoughts on what else we can do to redesign education for a successful and competitive future.



Passion – A Defining Characteristic of Visionary Leaders

Innovation isn’t new… it’s how we got where we are today.  But what will it take for us to align and act on the opportunities to create an inspired future for our city and region?

Successful leaders know that more than anything else, it takes passion.

Successful leaders create an environment where people are driven to interact, engage and collaborate.  They inspire vision, courage, action and collaboration  among a diverse group of people.  They speak with urgency about the opportunities they foresee, and devote resources to cultivate the next generation of collaborative leaders.

What are you passionate about?  What can you to do translate that passion into action, and interaction?  Watch these videos from (co)lab 2013, where leaders from government, business, education and community spoke with passion about launching Atlanta forward.  Let’s keep that passion building, Atlanta!  Click on the speaker photos to view their videos.


Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta – “Cultivating Innovation”


Tom Fanning, Chairman, CEO and President, Southern Company - ”Innovations that Matter”


Doug Hooker, Executive Director, Atlanta Regional Commission - Hosts a panel of community leaders including: Sig Mosley (Mosley Ventures, LLC); Ron Clark (Ron Clark Academy);    Keith Parker (MARTA); Tim Lee (Cobb County Commission); and Jeffrey Tapia (Latin American Association).


The Chihuahua on the Pant Leg: Lessons for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Innovation isn’t just coming up with an idea about how to make something marginally better.  Merely incremental isn’t enough.  Real innovation takes a game-changing idea, where – according to presenter Kathyrn Petralia, co-founder of Kabbage – “sometimes you have to piss people off.”  Your innovation is going to leave others behind, and that’s OK.

So you have the game-changing idea.  But why do some great ideas succeed wildly, while others can’t seem to get traction at all?  David Cummings, CEO of Atlanta Tech Village, asserts that the right environment will breed successful entrepreneurs.  A community that fosters the culture, tone and context for start-ups to thrive.

And to complete the picture, Alan Dabbiere, Chairman of AirWatch, tells a very personal story about tenacity.  Success as an entrepreneur — or life in general — isn’t about doing lots of things well.  Rather, it’s finding the one thing that you do very well, and never giving up.  ”Be the Chihuahua on the pant leg.”

Hear their stories and lessons in these video presentations from (co)lab 2013:

Petralia, Kathryn

Kathryn Petralia

Cummings, David

David Cummings

Dabbiere, Alan

Alan Dabbiere

Attracting and Retaining Top Talent: Lessons from four of America’s Top Companies

Representing the interests of approximately 4.5 million employees, our panel of  top corporate HR executives spoke at (co)lab 2013 on some of the many ways that employers must respond to a changing workforce.  Common themes emerged around company purpose, commitment to listening and opportunities for participation as keys to attracting and retaining top talent.  Watch their panel discussion HERE.

Ceree_EberlyCeree Eberly from Coca-Cola reminds us that one-way communication is not a dialogue.  Today’s up-and-coming leaders demand a forum to share, to be heard and to engage in the conversation.  What can we learn from the millennial generation?  Plenty!  Just listen to Ceree talk about Coca-Cola’s reverse mentoring program for senior leaders, and their “Global Shapers” program.  “We don’t know what we don’t know.”  That’s why listening and learning is a core competence requirement for management.

Rich_FloerschRich Floersch tells how McDonald’s celebrates the emerging spirit of entrepreneurship, and how a big corporation needs to reshape its culture to embrace and nurture that passion.  Using technology is one of the easiest ways – ask employees what they think, and they’ll tell you.  But you must be prepared to listen and act on what you learn.  Having a clear purpose and a commitment to the community also helps to create personal commitment to the company, not just the job.

Liz_GottungLiz_GottungLiz Gottung of Kimberly-Clark acknowledges the challenge of creating movement, opportunity and involvement – some of the key requirements of the millennial class – and the “two year window” that sets the pace for today’s top talent.   Imagine an HR professional empowering a global taskforce – comprised mostly of millenials – to redesign the company’s performance evaluation program!  Giving up (traditional control systems) and giving back (community service and philanthropy) are essential to success.

Kristin_Oliver Kristin Oliver leads HR at Walmart, one of the largest employers in the world.  Corporate social responsibility – most notably, sustainability – is reshaping company image, and helping to attract exceptional talent who want to be aligned with forward-looking, responsible companies.  Successful talent leadership also requires companies to create meaningful access to leadership at all levels.


Nadira-HiraAnd if you need a refresher course in the attitudes and desires of the millennial generation, go back and watch Nadira Hira’s great talk “Seven Secrets of the Millennial Mind”, and her engaging Q&A session that has now been released.

The Future Creates the Present

Futurist Glen Hiemstra challenged participants at (co)lab 2013 to describe their image of the future.  Why is that important?  Because if you want to change the world today, you must change the future — or at least, your image of the future.

He identified six dominant forces that are shaping the future:

  • Technology Acceleration
  • Demographic Dynamics
  • Consumers & Culture
  • Sustainability Issues
  • Economic Turbulence
  • Values Shifts

And there’s nothing you can do about it!   Or is there?  Watch his video and form your own conclusion!


(co)lab is alive at the ARC!

The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) Economic Competitiveness Implementation team is working hard to fuel a better and brighter future for Atlanta.  And the EDUCATED subcommittee is building on the lessons and ideas from (co)lab to integrate for action.

At (co)lab 2013 – The Collaborative Leadership Summit – two of our labs addressed relevant issues that define the opportunity for a better-educated and more competitive region.  These were some of the recommendations that were developed by participants in the LABS.

  • Lab 5: Increase High School Graduation Rates
    •  Invest early and improve early childhood education opportunities by building and expanding the success of our pre-K model.
    • Explore and embrace new models of learning in and out of the classroom.  Both for students and teachers in diverse communities.
    • Make the high school experience relevant to modern world & prepare students for future civic engagement.
  • Lab 6: Engage Communities in Education
    • Expand the community of well-trained and committed mentors to prepare the next generation of leaders.
    • Enhance project-based learning opportunities through service, entrepreneurship, and other innovative partnerships.
    • Recognize and honor student leadership in the same ways we do athletic and academic achievement.

See what actions are planned for the ARC, and learn more about its vibrant agenda for economic competitiveness HERE, or read the executive summary document below, provided in PDF format.

What have you done to integrate for action?  Post your stories here!


ARC Competitiveness Strategy

Innovation for Industry, Economy & Community

What makes innovation work for you?  What’s your innovation story?

At (co)lab 2013, we had a remarkable array of presenters discussing aspects of innovation in shaping our future.

From three very different perspectives, Amy Baxter, David Butler and Bill Strickland discussed the critical need for innovation.  Butler asks “What’s the Point?”  Nobody told Strickland that he couldn’t do it.  And Baxter accurate identified language as the key to understanding how to make it work.

Here are there presentations — and we hope after watching these presentations (again), you’ll be motivated to share your own innovation story here!

AMY BAXTER:  Language as a barrier to innovation.

DAVID BUTLER:  What’s the point?

BILL STRICKLAND: The art of leadership.


Powerful Women with Powerful Ideas about our Future


April Rinne, Nadira Hira and Susan Booth captivated audiences with their insightful, passionate and sometimes provocative presentations at (co)lab 2013.

Watch them here: