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Driven by Innovation: Corporate Culture and Responsibility
Vault | June 14, 2010 | 01:35 PM EDT

What themes do you expect to emerge when you gather a bunch of leading businesspeople and experts on innovation and organizational change, and have them present their thoughts in a two-day conference in New York City?

Bonus point if you guessed innovation as a theme, but only because I haven't yet revealed the name of the conference: The World Innovation Forum . As such, presenters were long on how cultures of innovation can be fostered and nurtured within companies, and very specific in underlining the point that companies that fail to innovate today will fail to thrive in coming years.

Up until the second day of the conference, most of the talk around innovation concerned the how of the subject. If the why was mentioned at all, it was usually couched in terms of general benefit: it's good for your company's bottom line; it's good for your career; it'll help you keep up with—or stay ahead of—your competitors.

Towards the middle of the second and final day, however, the tone shifted markedly, with three consecutive speakers laying out one of the biggest challenges requiring innovation today, and making it strikingly clear what was at stake. The challenge: sustainability and corporate responsibility. Tackling it were green expert Joel Makower, Seventh Generation founder and CEO Jeffrey Hollender, and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns.

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