InformationWeek 500 Preview: The Growth Imperative - InformationWeek

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8/18/2010
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Fritz Nelson
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InformationWeek 500 Preview: The Growth Imperative

The annual InformationWeek 500 Conference will commence Sept. 12-15. As organizations explore new ways to grow, this year's gathering will provide the fodder and inspiration to propel IT into the center of that discussion. Come join us at the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Calif.

Recoveries are often accompanied by a limp. Those destined to prevail walk purposefully to their rehabilitation, nonplused and unflinching, asking not how to prevent more damage, but how to heal. Following two years of cost cutting and penny pinching, putting pet projects on a basement shelf, CIOs find themselves tasked with helping find growth. For growth initiatives, there will be money and people and raises and, dare it be said, life again. Welcome to The Growth Imperative.

That is the theme of this year's InformationWeek 500 Conference, only weeks away. From Sept. 12 to 14, we'll be bringing an impressive lineup of speakers and presenters to the beautiful St. Regis Hotel in Monarch Beach, Calif., and those in attendance will leave not only with a new sense of what's possible, but also practical, and, we hope, with the inspiration to start living The Growth Imperative.

Growth will require both imagination and execution. It will demand that leaders think differently and creatively about new frontiers of opportunity, and how technology will, as it always has, lead the way. But the thinking and the imagining are only part of the journey. Success requires leaders to take risks and to follow through; to make the sharpest ideas become reality.

In our explosive opening session for the InformationWeek 500 Conference, we will take you on a journey from big, mind-expanding ideas to real-world execution.

Have you ever been inside of a brain? I did recently at the Allosphere at the University of California at Santa Barbara'a NanoSystems Institute. JoAnn Kuchera-Morin, a music composer disguised as a researcher, built the Allosphere, a 3D immersive theater that maps complex data in time and space. She took me on a tour she calls Beauty And The Brain, in which we went on what felt like a roller-coaster ride inside of a brain, viewing blood density levels in stunning visual representations, and listening as the data was presented sonically.

This journey in what Kuchera-Morin calls "ensemble data mining" was, literally, illuminating, and while you'll be mesmerized by the artistry, the Allosphere also represents a compelling new way to think about complex data sets. There are already very practical applications (like genome, climate, and environmental research), which she will discuss, but your job is to envision what's possible. Indeed, Kuchera-Morin says that her goal is not just to map data, but also to use the immersive experience and the artistic output to allow people to see the data in ways they could never have imagined before. For example, scientists who have long understood the hydrogen atom have already started thinking about it in new ways, thanks to the Allosphere's hydrogen lattice.

Woody Norris will join Kuchera-Morin as part of our opening exploration. Norris is a serial inventor of electronics, tools, and cutting-edge sonic equipment -- such as the LRAD acoustic cannon.

Norris doesn't have a massive spherical lab, just one he proudly built himself. He says that big things can come from tight budgets. He likes to tell the story about NASA spending $9 million to make a ballpoint pen that worked in zero gravity, only to find that Russia had already solved the problem by using a pencil. He invented the Jabra (an earpiece that picks up sound through your ear canal and bones; its current owners have sold $200m of the product, Norris said), solid state recording devices (now found in just about any voice or video recorder), and hypersonic sound (for which he won the 2005 Lemelson-MIT Prize). He'll be demonstrating some of the inventions on stage.

Most important, he will talk about how all of this was done with very few resources. He relates that in the animal kingdom the greatest advancements come when a population is under stress, primarily because we are motivated by survival.

Norris holds more than 50 patents. He received his first one in 1961. There were only 1.3 million patents at that time, some 169 years after the establishment of the U.S. Patent Office. In the next 50 years, there were 8 million more, and the Patent Office thinks there will be 20 million in the next decade. In other words, Norris says, not very much has been invented yet.

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