Eat, drink, braaaaap!

Elizabeth Gilbert has nothing on me.  As I make my way through the EU on this conference pilgrimage, I may not only return with some good ideas, but it appears that I may be packing on a few extra pounds.

So ends my first ISPIM: Action for Innovation – Innovating from Experience.  Almost 600 delegates representing industry, government and academia from all over the world (30+ from North America) and well over 100 presentations on all that is ‘innovation’.

On day one, I participated in two roundtable discussions.  The first one on frameworks in public innovation was really interesting.  We had a diverse group – Norway, Finland, Tunzunia, Germany and Australia.  The main takeaway? Frameworks are context-dependent and must be reflexive. (I still say that “public innovation” is a bit of an oxymoron but I think that it always worthwhile to discuss new ideas). The second roundtable I participated in was on intellectual property where we debated the usefulness of patents.  For the most part, the group was quite skeptical about the patent process.  It seems to me that patent counts are merely ‘notches in belts’ for some firms or organizations – and the value (often) stops there.  Henry Chesbrough (of ‘open innovation’ fame) provided some insights at the open plenary session earlier in the day.  He presented the “patent utilization ratio”:

This is not a bad way to look at things although I think that I would need to have further clarification on what “under practical use” means.  Chesbrough also suggests that as little as 10 – 30% of patents are utilized in practice.  If that is true, I think that skepticism around patents is well-founded. It would seem that being ‘patent-centric’ may not be what it is cracked up to be.  Rather, IP portfolios require a balance of different protection mechanisms (i.e. trademarks, wordmarks, etc) plus some solid ingenuity around business practice and models.

The rest of the conference was a whirlwind of presentations, social events and networking. We had dinner on the rooftop of the Museu d’Història de Catalunya overlooking the Barcelona Harbour which was lovely.  Then on Tuesday evening, we went to the Carpe Diem Lounge Club on the beach. My presentation was in the last session of the last day.  There is a small group of us that are social network analysis enthusiasts and applying the tool in a variety of ways.  It will be interesting to see how this subset of ISPIM-ers evolves in terms of this type of work.

I closed that final day by skipping out of the plenary session and heading to Sagrada Familia.  This was definitely a highlight of my trip! More photos here.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Gracias, Barcelona! Tuve un gran tiempo! Look out Italy, here I come!

Quote of the day: “There are no ‘last words’ in innovation…”  (Henry Chesbrough)

“Vicky ‘Camilla’ Barcelona” – Javier, where are you?

Barcelona is colourful, in a terra-cotta kind of way.

I arrived early this morning and, like other times when I travel afar, I found myself a bit dazed and confused.  Even though my ticket said that I would be arriving early in the day, I found it difficult to discern whether it was – in fact – morning or if it was early evening.  The sun cast odd (to me) hues across the concrete-scape of Barcelona metro as the buildings whipped by my taxi window at a dizzying rate. They are deceiving colours, ones that can play time-tricks on the mind.

The Hotel Alexandra is lovely and I really wanted to get to my room and crash. But I had to kill a few hours before I could check in.  That meant staving off this impending jet-lag which, no doubt, accounted for my disorientation.  Jet-lag always makes me feel as if someone has stuffed cotton into my nose and ears, clear up to the grey matter.

I headed out on foot with a goal of making it to the Picasso Museum.  I made my way down Av. Diagonal towards the older part of Barcelona.  High-end stores line this main drag but lucky for me (and my pocketbook) none were open. It was too early. I passed by Casa Batlló, a building restored by the infamous architect Antoni Gaudi, and noticed that the structure was already drawing a crowd outside even at such an early hour. Wow.  Gaudi’s gift of architectural art is well-known all over the world and his works are certainly sights to behold in Barcelona (Gaudi Park comes highly recommended – I will try to get there this week as well).

Casa Batlló, restored by Gaudi (Barcelona)

I spent a bit of time people-watching (and resting my tired hoofies) at the Plaça de Catalunya which is a large square in central Barcelona and near Las Rablas. Then I made my way to Le Seu Cathedral which is in the center of the Barri Gòtic (Gothic district).  What a stunning structure! I love Cathedrals.  Especially Gothic Cathedrals.  When you enter Le Seu, the silence is deafening. It almost feels like you have been cloaked in heavy velvet as you pass through its portal. And I don’t know where I have been for the past several years but it appears that technology has a firm foothold in the Cathedrals.  The faithful can now insert coins – as signs of prayer or reflection – and one or more electric candles will temporarily light up. Call me old fashioned, but I still favour a more traditional approach: sulfur, glass powder and oxidizer put to wick and wax.

I can’t say enough about the Picasso Museum.  It was the highlight of my day.  I am not as familiar with the Degas-esque part of Picasso’s career but it was interesting to view the evolution of this artist’s life through his work.  From muted tones in the late 19th century, to wild shots of colour coming into his works at the turn of the century (influenced by his time in Paris) and then there was the blue period…all this evolving into the oddly childlike, yet powerful works that most of us probably are most familiar with when one conjures up visions of “Picasso”.

Hopefully, time will permit me to blog again this week.  The conference programme is pretty full and I still have some preparations to do before I present on Wednesday (not to mention, a report to write by week’s end).  In the meantime, check out more photos at:

By the way, no sign of Javier Bardem.  Damn it.

SIGN OF THE DAY: “Professional baggage stealers operate in this place” (Starbucks, Barcelona)