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IdeaFestival an Environment for Innovation

By Mark Green

Most of the IdeaFestival sessions and events — focused on innovation and inter-disciplinary creativity — take place at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Louisville.

IdeaFestival and its typical deep lineup of creative, forward-thinking, status-quo-busting innovators, artists, academics, entrepreneurs and social change agents returns to the stage at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in September.

The event organized by the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp., based in Lexington, is renowned for assembling one of the world’s most cutting-edge collections of creativity each year. The goal, KSTC President Kris Kimel explains, is to support and stimulate innovation and creativity in Kentucky, especially in its business community.

With average state incomes nearly 20 percent below the national average, Kentucky needs more than steady growth to ever catch up, according to Kimel. Entrepreneurial thinking is a lever that can shift economic development progress swiftly, bringing job and wealth creation. IdeaFestival came into existence to foster fresh thinking, as an opportunity for networking and new connections among those who attend and stimulate innovation among Kentuckians.

A full agenda and event lineup along with information about how to attend is at ideafestival.com. The following is only several of the 20 or so presenters coming to Louisville Sept. 19-22 to share their dazzling approaches to improvising, innovating and achieving progress through unconventional thinking:

• Dr. John H. Barker, a surgical treatment pioneer who is trying to find the key to regrowing entire human limbs. A former University of Louisville professor, Barker lead teams that laid the groundwork for hand and facial tissue transplants. He is now at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universitat in Frankfurt, Germany.

• Maurice Ashley, the first African-American chess international grandmaster. Beyond a passion for chess, Ashley is an iPhone app producer, puzzle inventor, ESPN commentator, motivational speaker and more.

• Richard DeMillo, an expert on the changing nature of U.S. universities. A former chief technology officer at HP, DeMillo was computing dean at Georgia Tech and heads the 21st Century Universities, analyzing the impact of the changing dynamics of learning, technology and economics.

• Peter Van Buren, former head of the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq. In his book “We Meant Well,” Van Buren provides an insider eyewitness account of the surreally bollixed attempt to defeat terrorism and win over Iraqis by rebuilding a world we had just destroyed.

• Baratunde Thurston, a tech-loving politically active comedian. Thurston formerly was director of digital for the scathing, sarcastic, inventive and hilarious The Onion website and was host of “Popular Science’s Future Of” on the Discovery Science channel. He founded a black political blog and performs worldwide.

• Tony Wagner, Harvard’s first innovation education fellow at the college’s Technology & Entrepreneurship Center. Wagner founded and headed for 10-plus years the Change Leadership Group at Harvard Graduate School of Education and consults widely. He has been a college teacher-education professor, a K-8 principal and taught high school.

• Kevin Colleran, former Facebook executive and pioneering brand strategist. Colleran was among the first 10 employees at Facebook, where focus on user experience unhampered by intrusive ads produced unprecedented success. His humorous storytelling manner delivers insight on re-imagining and re-energizing sales and marketing strategies.

• Nikky Finney, University of Kentucky creative writing professor and 2011 National Book Award winner for poetry. A child of activists during the civil rights movement who developed understanding of the synergy between history and art, Finney has four published books of poetry and co-founded the Affrilachian Poets group.

• Cynthia Lowen, filmmaker who co-created the riveting documentary “Bully.” This painfully up-close and personal look at bullied kids during the course of the 2009-10 school year defied society’s clichéd view and many of the approaches to dealing with a problem that has sparked a growing movement to change how peers, parents, teachers and administrators handle it.

Mark Green is editorial director of The Lane Report. He can be reached at [email protected]