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Fact-finding World Tour Fuels Maker Conference

Fact-finding World Tour Fuels Maker Conference

by ROB McMANAMY | May 5, 2016

San Francisco... Hong Kong... Mumbai... Detroit...

Starting last fall with an eye-opening, hands-on trip to Autodesk's maker gallery and laboratory in San Francisco, Chicago's IIT Institute of Design (ID) this month will wrap up a six-month, four-city Strategy World Tour at its 13th annual Strategy Conference. Since October, the school has led four fact-finding missions to transformative cities to inform participants' own understanding of the modern "maker movement" and how its technologies are remaking not just the global economy, but potentially the lives of citizens on every continent.

"All of us are inundated by media accounts of how the rise of tech and manufacturing innovation, social innovation, the growth of the maker movement, and other forces are changing our world," said IIT ID Dean Patrick Whitney, last fall in launching the tour. "However, we seldom get to meet the people and experience the places at the center of change."

That was the bold goal behind the formation of 20-person tour teams that were each given three-day, behind-the-scenes glimpses of highly innovative organizations and unique access to the leaders driving them. One was Autodesk CEO Carl Bass, who hosted the first group last fall. "We've been making things for thousands of years," noted Bass. "And even though mainstream has moved away from artisan or crafted objects, people have always had a real connection to making things."

Where there's a will...

Subsequent visits to other "change centers" followed in Hong Kong, Mumbai, and Detroit, all of which offered distinct cultural lessons about our collective resilience, resourcefulness, and entrepreneurial creativity. Time and again, the old adage of 'Where there's a will, there's a way' was rediscovered and reinforced in inspiring, often unexpected ways. Separately, the groups explored emerging global trends in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, 3D printing, materials reuse, flexible manufacturing, and even new models for education and social innovation that already are transforming government, health care, smart infrastructure and urban planning.

"Participants had the opportunity to have several intimate discussions about strategy with CEOs who are driving design and innovation at public companies, as well as with the founders of start-ups and social service organizations creating the next wave of innovation," added Prof. Whitney.

Indeed, it was an ambitious mission that has returned to Chicago with even more insights and actionable information than could have been anticipated. And all of it will be presented May 19-20 at the Strategy Conference. Leading up to that event, check back with BuiltWorlds for a series of short previews about each of the cities visited. Below, first stop: San Francisco... 

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