Tuesday, July 5, 2011

TECH: MEDIA: «The 100 Most Creative People in Business», by Fast Company

It’s not longer a secret that USA attracts the best out of the best specialists from around the world. Many people come and immigrate to USA with a purpose to invent and build a progressive company and/or organization and many of them succeed.

Many of those inventors whose companies are now defining your lifestyle, of some sort, are – the former immigrants. Take, for example, Sergey Brin, the founder of Google, who is an immigrant from Russia, or Martha Stewart – a polish immigrant, and/or the PayPal’s founder - Max Levchin, who is an immigrant from Russia. All of them came to USA and built an empire, because USA is one of the rarest countries that promotes the idea of a small/big business and gives everyone a chance – be it a citizen and/or an immigrant, to invent, and many American organizations support it as well. One of such organizations that promote, support and award the inventors of our day and age is Fast Company.

Each year Fast Company celebrates the most creative people in business by identifying the world's most innovative minds in «The 100 Most Creative People in Business» event.

Not only I’ve attended the event, but I’ve got to meet these “best of the best” innovative people. According to Fast Company’s Editor-in-Chief, Robert Safian, their list of the creative people is growing each year. Today they recognized 100 people – it was 25 people last year. Maybe not surprisingly, nearly every person in Fast Company's top 10 is involved in work that is tech- and Internet-related. Here are 2011's most creative people in business according to Fast Company:

1 Wadah Khanfar/Al Jazeera 
2 Scott Forstall/Apple 
3 Yuri Milner/Digital Sky Technologies 
4 Jack Dorsey/Square 
5 Sebastian Thrun/Google 
6 Guo Pei/Rose Studio 
7 Sal Khan/Khan Academy 
8 Conan O'Brien/Conaco 
9 Jim Yong Kim/Dartmouth 
10 Arianna Huffington/Huffington Post Media Group 
11 -100 you can find here.

And as you see from the impressive list of this year’s “most innovative and creative” people, not all of them are American, which just accents one more time that USA is a truly international country that is willing to recognize talents from other parts of the world.

Unfortunately, not all 100 candidates made it to the New York City event. Among the event’s attendees/speakers were:

•    Colin Archipley, Co-owner, Veterans for Sustainable Agriculture Training
•    Sam Calagione, Founder and President, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
•    Leila Chirayath Janah, Founder, Samasource
•    Eric Dishman, Fellow and Director of Health Innovation, Intel Architecture Group
•    Sam Kass, Assistant Chef and Senior Policy Advisory, Healthy Food Initiatives, White House 
•    Alex Kipman, General Manager of Incubation for Xbox 360, Microsoft
•    Carol Kruse, SVP, Marketing, ESPN (follow ESPN thru @ESPNKevinO  
•    Reshma Shetty, Cofounder, Ginkgo BioWorks
•    Baratunde Thurston, Director of Digital, The Onion

However, what’s amazing about this event – and the title in itself – is not the recognition of these people’ talents, neither it’s the international impact of these people innovations on the rest of us – it’s the fact that almost all these innovators and creators of our future – are young people in their twenties and thirties, which for me, personally, was both very impressive inspiring. Not only I’ve picked up their brains, but I’ve also left the event with a couple of creative ideas on my own, which I’d be definitely brining to life in the next year or two. The speakers made the rest of us in the room feel that there is no such thing as “impossible” – any of us can invent something that could change the world.

I must admit, Fast Company chose some very interesting people – from people who invented eco-friendly agricultural work for war veterans – Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training – to a biotechnological  firm – Ginkgo BioWorks – whose coolest genetically engineered machine to date was engineering E. coli to smell like mint and bananas. This synthetic biology startup’s mission is to make biology easier to engineer.

Chief Almir of Surui Amazon Tribe
And as much as I was fascinated by all of these people, one of them impressed me the most – Chief Almir of Surui Amazon Tribe, who was not in attendance. For a man whose way of life has been threatened by modernity, activist and tribal leader Chief Almir of the Surui people of the Brazilian Amazon has looked to a surprising source to help his tribe maintain its traditional way of life: Google. In 1969, shortly before Almir was born, the tribe had its first contact with outsiders, who brought disease, violence, and death with them. Then loggers arrived, laying waste to the Surui's homeland. Chief Almir decided survival depended on outreach. His partnership with Google, which began in 2007, has enabled the tribe to create an online "cultural map" of the Surui with stories from the tribe's elders that are uploaded onto YouTube, as well as a geographical map of their territory created with GPS – equipped smartphones from Google. In 2009, Google employees taught the Surui to use cell phones to record illegal logging on their land. Tribal members can now take photos and videos that are geo-tagged and immediately upload the images to Google Earth. (Btw, Google Earth 6 is ready to download now). Law-enforcement officials can no longer claim ignorance of the problem when evidence of the deforestation is publicly available online.
Despite the fact that not all of the “best innovators” made it, I’ve met almost all of the ones who were in attendance.

Colin Archipley, Co-owner, Veterans for Sustainable Agriculture Training

The event was administered in a very close setting. Everyone was within a personal reach, and after the presentations and recognition speeches press and audience members could talk one-on-one with each of the speakers. From my conversation with the speakers, I’ve learned that they all happen to have the same purpose – mission and idea – behind their company’s creation. It’s to positively affect economy and politics and social areas of a society to improve our lives altogether.
Each of these people’s projects – is an effort to improve today’s world: from Sam Kass’ program on making the nutrition for kids healthy to Colin Archipley’s desire to help war veterans to adapt to life after war.
I’ve also talked to a few people who were recognized for their contribution in media, Internet, technology and entertainment fields.

Carol Kruse, ESPN
Carol Kruse, SVP, Marketing, of ESPN, for example, shared with the audience that today’s sports entertainment is no longer about “sports”, per say, but rather about the “joint” fun, meaning, that people no longer come to ESPN media outlets – or to live sport games – to watch sports. They rather come for the overall experience of sharing fun with friends and family, eat and drink and then share the experience with the others through social networks, games, magazine subscriptions, etc. Thus, it became important for the marketing professionals of sports and entertainment to come up with tools that go beyond just the main entertainment. Kruse’s team, for example, created a Facebook contest “fanwich.com”, which aimed at involving both sports and non-sports fans in a process of creating a sandwich for their favorite sports figure and/or team. In just a few days of the contest, says Kruse, more than 300 000 people joined their Facebook page – just so that they could participate in it. “It’s not longer the sports that builds a fan base, it’s the activities around it that engage the audience of a media channel, such as ESPN” – said Kruse. – “Social networks, blogs and other online tools – are the future of each company and organization that wants to attract and keep its audience satisfied at all times, and for sports – off-season”.

Sam Calagione, Founder and President, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Here are some of the bits from other speakers that I found interesting and wanted to share with my readers:
Sam Calagione, Founder and President, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery: «Today’s consumers are no longer only interested in a product, they are interested in the overall experience of “having/buying” a product – they are interested to become a member of a fun subgroup – a community”. Calagione’s Facebook has more than 170,000 followers, and he attributes his success to offering its “friends” more than just beer – he offers them fun, entertainment, friendship and lifestyle.

Reshma Shetty, Cofounder, Ginkgo BioWorks:
Reshma Shetty, Cofounder, Ginkgo BioWorks: «Even though our company is very small at the moment and we are always looking for additional investment [the company needs at least $5 million as an initial investment], but due to the fact that we are present on social networks, we are being contacted by investors and engineers from around the world who want to invest in us. Our brand awareness is growing.”

According to Shetty and the founders of other companies that specialize in something very specific and unique, the lack of funds to invest is what stops creative people from starting their companies, and social media is definitely one of the most effective channels to reach out to the potential investors.

Alex Kipman, General Manager of Incubation for Xbox 360, Microsoft
Alex Kipman, General Manager of Incubation for Xbox 360, Microsoft: «There are a lot of folks out there who still think that Facebook is for teenagers – purely for fun, entertainment. Those are usually the conservative businessmen, whose companies still are not present on any of the social networks. But little do they know that they will soon go out of business because they will be replaced by their competitors, who do have presence on Facebook and Twitter”.

Baratunde Thurston, The Onion, baratunde.com
Baratunde Thurston, Director of Digital, The Onion: «Our Facebook page and other social media channels – are the means to talk to our readers about all kinds of issues that traditional press does not address. And even if it addresses it, it gets instantly recycled – there is an expiration date to it. Internet, on the other end, is infinite – online information stays forever and allows for the readers to reference back to it – to whatever they were “reading” – any time they want.”

Sam Kass, Assistant Chef and Senior Policy Advisory
Sam Kass, Assistant Chef and Senior Policy Advisory, Healthy Food Initiatives, White House: «We have both Facebook fan page and Twitter and we know that the information we are trying to get out there on health and other important policies – is being shared and tossed around – and all because of our online/social media presence. Based on the activity on our social networks, we can see the effectiveness of this or that policy we are trying to pass. How would we know otherwise?»

Leila Chirayath Janah, Founder, Samasource
Leila Chirayath Janah, Founder, Samasource - an award-winning social business that connects people living in poverty to microwork — small, computer-based tasks that build skills and generate life-changing income: «Our Twitter is followed by more than 360,000 people. We have followers from India, Latin America, Eastern Europe, etc. – who need our information, who seek our help. For us, social media, like Twitter, – is a “window into the world”. It helps us to help the ones in need in real time. While American print/radio and TV outlets might not be present in other countries, especially in poor parts of the world, Internet access exists almost anywhere – from Egypt to Africa».

These are just a few remarks about the importance of the social and online media I noted. The reason I concentrated on the matter of social media is because not only the majority of the speakers talked about the role of social media in their businesses, but also because in this day and age social media is becoming more and more powerful as a news tool – and as a tool that complements any business, any invention, any creation.

Moreover, National Retail Federation predicts that Facebook and Twitter will soon replace all websites. According to NRF 35% of Facebook users and 32% Twitter users forgo a company website and make a purchase via the social media channels instead.

And what do you think, how important is social media in business development and promotion?

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