A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of speaking at the BIF 3 conference in Providence, RI. Walt Mossberg and I discussed simple software, feature creep, and why the software industry is structured to churn out big software.

Watch the 20-minute interview. Photo by: Michelle Riggen-Ransom.

What’s BIF?

BIF (Business Innovation Factory) is a wonderful organization head up by a great guy named Saul Kaplan. Saul is one of those guys who lives for innovation. He loves seeing it, he loves hearing about it, and he loves implementing it. He embraces Rhode Islands’ main constraint: Its small size. He sees it as an opportunity to position Rhode Island as a controlled testbed of innovation. And the Business Innovation Factory is at the center of this innovation storm.

BIF-3, like BIF-1 and 2 before it, was about stories. Each storyteller had 15 minutes on the stage talking about something that inspired them, something that helped them innovate. Past speakers included Dean Kamen, Richard Saul Wurman, John Seely Brown, Jane Fulton Suri, and plenty of others making a real difference. This year they added interviews by Walt Mossberg and Bill Taylor to the mix.

I didn’t attend BIF-1 or BIF-2, but BIF-3 was amazing, enlightening, and inspiring. The great thing about BIF is that they bring people from different industries together to share their stories. This is not a technology conference, it’s a conference about ideas that can come from anywhere.

Some of my favorite talks from BIF-3

Colonel Dean Esserman talks about knowing your beat cops like you know your doctor. Nationally recognized as a leader in public safety innovation, Providence’s Chief of Police has revamped the city’s crimefighting force and sucessfully replaced the department’s traditional methods with a new community policing concept.

Denise Nemchev talks about inventing a nail that can save billions of dollars and millions of lives. Nemchev is President of Stanley Bostitch, a Division of the Stanley Works. The Stanley Works is a worldwide supplier of tools, hardware and security solutions for professional, industrial, and consumer use. Stanley Bostitch is a $600M division of SWK headquartered out of East Greenwich, Rhode Island employing nearly 3,000 people world-wide.

Clayton Christensen talks about education, health care, disruptive innovation and fearing the 12 year olds. Christensen is the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. His research and teaching interests center on managing innovation and creating new growth markets. A seasoned entrepreneur, Christensen founded three successful companies: CPS Corporation, Innosign, and Innosign Capital. Christensen is also author or co-author of five books and is presently completing two books concerning the problems of our health care and public education systems.

Mark Cuban is interviewed by Walt Mossberg on a variety of topics. Cuban is an active investor in leading and cutting-edge technologies and owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Prior to his purchase of the Dallas Mavericks, Cuban co-founded Broadcast.com, the leading provider of multimedia and streaming on the Internet. Today, in addition to his ownership of the Mavericks, Cuban is also Chairman of the high-definition television station HDNet which he launched in 2001. HDNet is the world’s first national television network broadcasting all of its programming in 1080i high-definition television (HDTV).

More and more

You can see all the talks from the conference online. I would highly recommend checking out a future BIF conference if you can. Providence is a cool town, the speakers are top notch, and you’ll definitely come away inspired.

Also, special thanks to Jack Templin and the Providence Geeks for inviting me to speak at their event while I was in town. Extra special thanks also go out to Tori Drew and Christine Flanagan for their magical organizational efforts.