Posted by A. Smith on Sep-26-2012

Meet educator and storyteller Anita Verna Crofts, Associate Director and Faculty, Master of Communication in Digital Media, University of Washington. Share in her inaugural pre– mid– and post– BIF summit:

Pre– summit

How did you first learn about the Business Innovation Factory?
I learned about the Business Innovation Factory from Jessica Esch, who then introduced me to Eli Stefanski, BIF’s Chief Market Maker, in the summer of 2011 when I was based in Maine. Jess, Eli, and I sat out on the Eastern Prom in Portland talking over iced lattes, and I knew I’d met a kindred spirit. I cannot think of two better ambassadors for the BIF magic.

What ultimately drew you to the summit?
I teach in a graduate program at the University of Washington called the Master of Communication in Digital Media, where we emphasize the power of story and strategic engagement in this noisy digital age. As the program continues to grow and mature, I’m always looking for opportunities to expand my “idea vault” and BIF-8 boasted a collection of storytellers – both on the stage and in the audience – who would provide rich material and catalyze my own thinking.

What are your hopes and expectations going into the conference?
I love listening closely to people as they share their stories (I was an anthropology major for a reason)! I look forward to moments in the course of the two days that stop me in my tracks and make me think of something in a completely different way.

What’s one thing you’d like to walk away with from this experience?
I’d like to walk away with two things: first, an encounter that prompts me to change my mind or be open to changing my mind about a preconceived notion. We can get very comfortable in what we think. The flip side of this, is I hope there are moments that gird and send me back to Seattle with renewed commitment and clarity on issues I care deeply about.

What are you most excited about?
To start, I’ve not been to Providence since 1987 and I cannot wait to see the city and sink into its rhythms for a few days. But, I’m most excited about the people who come to BIF and the chance to meet old friends and make new ones.

Mid– summit

In the midst of the conference, what are you feeling?
I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the information! I decided to leave my technology in the bag today, use my pen and notepad, lean in, and really listen to the speakers. It made a big difference.

Is your experience in alignment with your initial expectations?
It’s always good to be reminded that the speakers who inspire me most are the ones who speak from the heart and tell their stories as such. This was in complete alignment with my expectations. My most memorable moments came when people shared personal experiences that had larger lessons that could resonate for us all.

What’s something you’ve experienced that you didn’t anticipate?
I love the intermingling of speakers and audience members – there’s no division.

Saul Kaplan talks a lot of random collisions of unusual suspects. Who’s an unusual suspect you’re grateful you’ve crossed paths with?
I loved a chance encounter with Hillary Salmons in the back room at Aspire yesterday. I thought she was one of the most compelling storytellers of the conference. We shared in conversation for 10 minutes – what a joy!

Post– summit

In a sentence of two, can you summarize your BIF experience?
I’ve come to realize that the BIF-8 experience only begins in Providence at the Trinity Rep, and then it continues as we each return to our orbits and integrate the BIF community. For instance, I’ve added “The Connected Company” and “Practically Radical” to my required reading lists for my fall course entitled, “Leadership in the Digital Age.”

What was your high point?
Before I came to BIF, my Chair and I sat down and he gave me the ultimate gift: completely transform and redesign my job. So my high point was an evening spent hunched over pages of grid paper, inspired by BIF-8 speakers, mapping ideas from sessions on to the new position I am building for myself.

Looking forward, how do you plan to put what you learned to work?
I’m fortunate: I get to share what I learned in my upcoming fall classroom. But more than that, I get to transform the very nature of my job, informed and inspired by messages and ideas I gleaned at BIF.

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