Gen AI, hybrid work, and DEIB are hot topics at 6th annual Culture Connect Conference

All of the speakers from day two of the conference pose for a photo on stage.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

More than 250 business leaders and academic researchers gathered at Berkeley Haas from Jan. 9-10 for the sold-out Culture Connect Conference, sharing challenges and insights on creating high-performing, inclusive cultures in the age of generative AI and hybrid work.

The sixth annual conference, organized by the Berkeley Haas Center for Workplace Culture and Innovation (BCC), featured talks by top leaders from IBM, Lyft, Pixar, LinkedIn, Hubspot, and other leading companies, along with hands-on workshops and discussions. It was led by the center’s Co-Founding Directors Jennifer Chatman and Sameer Srivastava, and organized by Program Director Audrey Jones.

Chatman, the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management at Haas, said she was struck by the stories leaders shared of trying, failing, and trying again as they have experimented in real time with AI and hybrid work. 

“My biggest takeaway is that an experimental mindset is critical as organizations approach these very significant changes that everyone is facing today,” Chatman said. “Organizations are going through seismic shifts in how they are thinking about and conducting work. The conference was fascinating because leaders shared their stories—the good and the bad—as they navigate these changes.”

People sit at tables listening to a presentations in a large event room with big windows.
Photo: David Ho

This was the first year the conference was open to the broader public beyond invited presenters and BCC partners. Attendees included about 100 academics and 150 industry leaders from a diverse range of industries, including health care, biopharmaceuticals, media, tech, financial services, film, government, and nonprofits. Seventy companies represented.

“The combination of research-backed evidence from academics and practical advice from seasoned industry leaders is difficult to bring together but when it happens, it yields a level of insight that could not be achieved by either perspective alone,” added Srivastava, the Ewald T. Grether Professor of Business Administration and Public Policy. “We’re immensely grateful to every speaker, workshop leader, facilitator, and participant who contributed to making this a meaningful event of learning and connecting.”

A person reads a poster about leading culture.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

Day 1: Diverse perspectives on organizational culture academic research

The first day of the conference emphasized research, with presentations from 34 scholars from around the world who examine culture through the lens of sociology, social psychology, and economics. Keynote talks included Paul Ingram of Columbia on how people tend to conceal social class identities; Doug Guilbeault of Berkeley Haas on how gender biases tend to be stronger and more persistent in online images than in text; Anita Williams Woolley of Carnegie Mellon on how the drivers of collective intelligence in teams differ from individual intelligence; and Leo Bursztyn of the University of Chicago on how to create social change by correcting misperceptions about prevailing norms. 

Former Haas Dean Rich Lyons, Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Innovation & Entrepreneurship Officer at UC Berkeley, and Laura Hassner, executive director at UC Berkeley Innovation & Entrepreneurship, reported on the success of the UC Berkeley Changemaker program, a campus-wide certificate program including about 30 courses addressing critical thinking, communication, and collaboration—and enrolling about 20% of undergraduates.

Doctoral student Yingjian Liang of Indiana University Bloomington won the Edgar Schein Best Student Paper Prize. Second place went to Danyang Li of Berkeley Haas.

Day 2: Deep dives into three key themes 

Future of work and hybrid workspaces

Yamini Rangan speaks on stage.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

The second day of the conference was attended by about 200 industry leaders and academics. HubSpot CEO Yamini Rangan, MBA 03 (left), sat down with Chatman (right) for a fireside chat. Rangan said companies should treat culture as a product that management consistently refine. “You have to evolve your culture every day, every week, like a product,” Rangan said. She also emphasized the importance of building a team of leaders, rather than building a leadership team to make culture inclusive. “Culture is how people behave when leadership is absent,” she said.

Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford, shared data on how firms are adapting to remote and hybrid work across different sectors of the economy. Bloom noted that the effect of remote work on productivity has been neutral, while the impact on productivity has been typically positive. “Organized hybrid has won,” he said. 

Kristen Sverchek, president of Lyft, detailed the company’s journey with hybrid work, and Martine Haas, a management professor at the Wharton School, offered a framework for thinking about a firm’s hybrid culture. 

Laszlo Bock speaks on stage.
Photo: Laura Counts

In a fireside chat with Srivastava (above right), Laszlo Bock, CEO and co-founder of Humu & (above left), discussed how to help employees find meaning and connection while using hybrid work models. Bock, who formerly worked in People Operations at Google, shared an impactful exercise used at Google: Find three or four interesting stories about people within the company, and brief execs on these stories again and again so that they retell the stories. These stories aren’t PR, he said—they will resonate to help give a sense of a strong, cohesive culture.

DEIB focus

A panel of five people engage in a discussion on stage.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

Shifting focus, Co-founder, Coach, and Consultant Kia Afcari (above left) moderated a roundtable on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. 

During the discussion, Reema Batnagar, vice president of people at Pixar (2nd from left), emphasized the importance of using personal stories as a way to foster inclusion and belonging at work. David W. Kim, chief DEI officer at NetApp (2nd from right), discussed why corporate leaders must maintain the momentum of their DEI efforts despite recent pushbacks. David Pedulla, a sociology professor at Harvard (right), highlighted the extent to which various forms of discrimination still persist in the labor market. 

Sa-kiera Hudson, an assistant professor at Haas (middle), shared recent research findings that emphasize the importance of understanding intersectionality, specifically how gender and race can work together to amplify or dampen various forms of bias. Hudson emphasized that people are complex and we should never assume that their experience within a group is aligned with their perceived identity.

Chris Bell and Jamie Woolf pose for a photo on stage.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

CreativityPartners Chief Associate Chris Bell (above left) and Co-founder and CEO Jamie Woolf (above right) led a workshop on how to create a sense of belonging through mutual storytelling.


Generative AI’s transformative role

Nickle LaMoreaux speaks on stage.
Photo: Brandie Brooks

In a fireside chat with Chatman (above right), Nickle LaMoreaux, chief human resources officer at IBM (above left), described how she and her colleagues have been harnessing AI to transform the role of HR in the organization.


Three people engage in a discussion on stage.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

MIT Professor Kate Kellogg (above middle) and Warwick Business School Professor Hila Lifschitz-Assaf (aboove left) discussed a generative AI field experiment conducted at Boston Consulting Group. Hatim Rahman (above right), an assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Management, shared research on the importance of technological certification in the labor market.

Two people engage in a discussion on stage.
Photo: Jordan Joseffer

Teuila Hanson (above left), chief people officer at LinkedIn, emphasized the need to take a people-centric approach when adopting AI tools and technologies, since human skills—including human intuition that AIs lack—are critical. “The future of work is still human,” she said.

2022 Haas Healthcare Conference to focus on health inequities, precision medicine

Bear statues on the Berkeley Haas Campus.

Healthcare inequities, provider burnout, and precision medicine to predict and treat disease are among the topics on tap for the upcoming Haas Healthcare Conference

“Meeting this Moment in Healthcare” is the theme for this year’s event, which will be held virtually March 10-11. The annual conference, organized by the student-led Haas Healthcare Association, will span two days.

Conference organizers are Abhishek Gupta, Nick Helgeson, and Taryn Stromback, all MBA 22.

“COVID-19 has not only shined a light on gaps in the healthcare system, but it has also accelerated the funding and innovation in the industry needed to address those challenges,” said Stromback. “Our conference brings together leaders from across all healthcare sectors to discuss how the industry is using this momentum to drive change today, and how this will shape the future of health.”

Somesh Dash, BS 01, general partner at venture capital firm IVP, will kick off Thursday’s session with a fireside chat, followed by a panel discussion on growing early-stage startups and a pitch competition, where eight UC Berkeley and UCSF startups will present to healthcare venture capitalists. 

Friday’s line-up includes keynotes from David Rhew, global chief medical officer and VP of Healthcare at Microsoft, and Heather Mirjahangir Fernandez, CEO and co-founder of Solv

During the lunch hour, Marian Wentworth, president and CEO of Management Sciences for Health, joins Steve Davis, senior strategy advisor for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for a fireside chat about global collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other notable guest speakers include Amy Fan, MBA 19, co-founder of Twentyeight Health, and Jason Bellet, BS 14, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Eko Health.

The day also includes panel discussions on addressing systemic healthcare inequities in the US; the power of precision medicine in predicting, preventing, and treating disease; provider burnout and the future of the clinician workforce; and why women’s health should be everyone’s issue. 

The conference is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased here.

26th annual Women in Leadership conference to focus on entrepreneurship, allyship

Group of women talking on outdoor patio
WIL Conference guests gather outside Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum. Photo taken March 16, 2019. (All guests provided proof of vaccination to attend conference.)

Increased family responsibilities and burnout are just a couple of outcomes brought on by the pandemic, pushing many women to reevaluate everything from relationships to family planning to work. 

The 26th annual Women in Leadership Conference intends to carry that conversation forward and inspire attendees to redefine their professional and personal lives under this year’s theme “Re:set, Re:imagine, and Re:build.” The conference will be held March 5 in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum, with optional programming on Friday, March 4.

“Coming to Haas was my way of reimagining what my life would be like,” said conference co-chair Clara Pomi who left her job as a project manager at fitness company ClassPass due to pandemic-related layoffs. “I could have found a new job, but the pandemic forced me to reevaluate everything, especially my career.”

Organized by the Women in Leadership club, the conference is one of the longest-running and most well-attended events at Berkeley Haas. It is expected to draw more than 300 students, alumni, faculty, scholars, and other professionals to campus. 

Conference organizers include Pomi, Emily Shapiro, Danielle Dhillon, Camila Rico, Pooja Bag, Charlotte Harris, Neha Dutta, Katherine Willcox, Bailey Daum, Julie Warshaw, Tess Krasne and Lily Sahn, all MBA 22. 

The one-and-a-half day event will begin with a Story Saloon, a homage to Story Salon, a Haas tradition in which students share their lived experiences through storytelling, on Friday evening.

Saturday’s events include a welcome address by Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer Élida Bautista followed by a discussion with Kim Malek, co-founder and CEO of Salt & Straw, led by Dean Harrison. Breakout sessions focused on negotiating salaries, entrepreneurship, and allyship are also planned. Vicky Tsai, founder of skincare line Tatcha will give closing remarks.

Other notable guests include Dr. Sahar Yousef, a Haas lecturer and cognitive neuroscientist; Michelle Kim, BS 11, political activist and founder of Awaken; Jordan Sale, MBA 19, founder of 81cents; Amy Fan, MBA/MPH 19, founder of Twentyeight Health; and Kellie McElhaney, executive director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL).

Conference tickets are now available.

Ready for flying taxis? 2021 Mobility Summit to focus on future of transportation

three males smiling
From L-R: Thomas Fantis, Sam Bauer, and Jon Wan, all MBA 22.

Driverless trucks and electric air taxis are generating a lot of buzz. But are these new modes of transportation worth the hype?

Second-year MBA students Jon Wan, Sam Bauer, and Thomas Fantis hope to tackle that question next week at the second annual Berkeley Haas Mobility Summit. 

“Cutting Through the Hype” is the theme for this year’s summit, which brings together students, faculty, alumni, and industry leaders to explore sustainability, equity, and commercialization challenges that may arise from adopting new mobility technologies. 

The summit, organized by the Transportation & Mobility Club, will be held Nov. 19, from noon to 4:30 p.m. in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum. Conference organizers include Wan, Bauer, Fantis, Marcus Brandford, Graham Haydon, Ryota Soshino, all MBA 22, and Yiannos Vakis, MBA 23.

“There’s a lot of optimism around these new technologies that promise pollution and traffic reduction in cities, for example, but we haven’t seen much of the benefits yet,” said Fantis. “We hope to create some dialogue about the implications of adopting autonomous and electric cars and how to apply these technologies responsibly and equitably.”

Bert Kauffman, head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at Amazon’s autonomous car startup Zoox, will kick off the half-day conference with a keynote address, followed by panel discussions on the future of ride hailing, the scalability of electric vehicles, solving supply-chain challenges via autonomous trucking, and the creation of electric air taxis. 

Other notable guest speakers include Nick Matcheck, MBA 20, partnerships manager at Hyundai Urban Air Mobility; Jeff Sharp, MBA 21, government operations associate at Joby Aviation; Misha Cornes, MBA 01, UX research & strategy leader at Lyft; Shana Patadia, BS 10, director of Business Development at Chargepoint; Nick Silver, MBA 11, head of Marketing for US and Canada at Uber; Haas lecturer Molly Turner; and UC Berkeley civil and engineering professor Susan Shaheen.

“We hope this summit will serve as a guide for students interested in joining the mobility industry and that they find companies that are making the greatest impact in terms of sustainability and equity,” Bauer said.

“Our goal with this summit is to establish Haas as the center of mobility and put it on the map as the best school to attend for this [mobility] field,” Fantis added. “When prospective students look for MBA programs that offer mobility courses and clubs, we want Haas to be at the top of their search.”

Preparing women to lead in a post-pandemic world

Nine MBA women students
From left to right, top to bottom: Chyi-Shin Shu, Maggie O’Neill, Nicole Austin-Thomas, Sadie Shelton, Rebeca West, Marina Mamer, all MBA 21; Gina Deitz, Julie Reynolds, and Sitara Chandra, all MBA/MPH 21.

Equipping women with the skills to bounce back as strong leaders in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will be the focus of the 25th annual Berkeley Haas Women in Leadership (WIL) conference next month.

Nearly 2.3 million women have dropped out of the workforce since the start of the pandemic, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On top of that, the pandemic has illuminated deeply-rooted gender equity, class, and racial injustice issues in the U.S. 

To prepare women to emerge stronger from the crisis, the WIL leadership team quickly decided that this year’s theme would be “New Leadership for a New World.” The conference will be held March 4-5.

“We’re living in a totally different world now and there are brand new roles for everybody to play, especially for women,” said conference Co-chair, Maggie O’Neill, MBA 21. From Jacinda Ardern to Stacey Abrams, this past year has revealed women leaders in a new light and we want to build on this momentum and help create a stronger, more inclusive definition of leadership.”

The WIL conference, one of the longest-running and most well-attended events at Berkeley Haas, brings together students, scholars, entrepreneurs, and corporate executives from Silicon Valley and beyond. Organized by the Women in Leadership club, the conference will be held during two half-days online. 

Conference organizers include Maggie O’Neill, Chyi-Shin Shu, Sadie Shelton, Nicole Austin-Thomas, Rebeca West, Marina Mamer, all MBA 21; Gina Deitz, Julie Reynolds, and Sitara Chandra, all MBA/MPH 21.

More than 250 people have registered for the conference, which will focus on celebrating pioneering women leaders, making an impact in local communities and beyond, and learning leadership skills for professional success. 

The team invited poets, activists, and journalists to lead panel discussions alongside executives and entrepreneurs. The idea was to expand the lens of who is a leader, said Nicole Austin-Thomas, MBA 21. 

Laila Tarraf, MBA 97, chief people officer at Allbirds, will kick off the conference with a keynote, followed by a story salon, a fireside chat, and a virtual wine tasting event for WIL members.

Dean Ann Harrison will open Friday’s sessions, followed by a keynote address from diversity consultant Mikki Kendall; a panel discussion led by Kellie McElhaney, executive director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership at Haas; a networking lunch; a fireside chat with poet and activist Cleo Wade; and breakout sessions focused on allyship and advocacy, authentic authorship, and building equitable outcomes.

Other notable guest speakers include Elena Gomez, BS 91, CFO of Zendesk; Vrinda Gupta, MBA 20, founder and CEO of Sequin Financial; Monique Shields, a Berkeley Haas career coach and founder of career coaching company Seven Pines Leadership; and Archana Gilravni, vice president of partnerships at the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation.

Conference tickets are available here.

2021 BERC Summit to focus on climate change, clean energy, jobs

A student discusses research at the 2019 BERC Energy Summit Innovation Expo.

Investing in clean energy, reducing CO2 emissions, and boosting the U.S. economy through cleantech innovations will be the focus of the 15th annual BERC Energy Summit.

“Energizing the Recovery” is the theme of this year’s summit, which brings together policymakers, researchers, innovators, industry experts, and graduate and undergraduate students from across the UC Berkeley campus. The conference, organized by the student-run Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC), will be held virtually Feb. 10-12.

Nearly 500 people have registered for the summit, which kicks off Wednesday with a career fair for undergraduate students followed by an Innovation Expo, a student-research exhibition, and a Career Forum for graduate students, allowing them to network with leading energy and cleantech companies, including Chevron, Southern California Edison, and Terabase. 

Thursday and Friday will offer networking opportunities, fireside chats, and panel discussions ranging from reimagining mass transit to creating “green” jobs to proposing state and federal legislation that addresses climate change. 

Portrait: Anne Hemmelgarn
Anne Hemmelgarn, MBA 21, helped organize this year’s BERC Energy Summit.

Keynote speaker Kate Gordon, senior climate advisor to Gov. Gavin Newsom and director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, joins a list of notable guest speakers including California State Senator Henry Stern, chair of the Senate Natural Resources & Water committee; Vanessa Miler-Fels, director of Energy Innovation and Impact at Microsoft; and Arthur Bart-Williams, executive director of GRID Alternatives, an organization that installs solar panels in low-income communities. 

Despite not being able to gather on campus, conference organizers are hoping to replicate the “in-person” environment through Remo, a virtual conference platform, said Anne Hemmelgarn, MBA 21, one of nine graduate students organizing the BERC summit

With Remo, attendees can “walk” into a networking room, “sit” at any of the tables that seat two to six people, and have one-on-one conversations at any time during the conference. They can also click on attendees’ icons and instantly view their LinkedIn profiles, which will pop up on the screen. 

We think our guests will really love our set-up,” Hemmelgarn said.

Conference tickets are available here. All proceeds will go to BERC’s local non-profit partners: GRID Alternatives, California Environmental Justice Alliance, and the Local Clean Energy Alliance.

6th World Open Innovation Conference to focus on societal and business challenges

World Open Innnovation Conference 2019 logoHow societal challenges can provide organizations with unexpected growth opportunities will be the theme as innovation leaders gather for the sixth annual World Open Innovation Conference in Rome Dec. 12-13.

Organized by the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, the conference, with an expected attendance of more than 200, will for the first time be held at Rome’s Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli, or LUISS for short. With the theme “Opening Up for Managing Business and Societal Challenges,” the event will include presentations on topics ranging from conceptualizing an open innovation ecosystem to implementing new ideas.

“Useful knowledge has spread so far so fast that no single organization can or should try to do everything on its own,” says Adj. Prof. Henry Chesbrough, conference chair and author of the new book Open Innovation Results: Going Beyond the Hype and Getting Down to Business (available Nov. 28). “The pace of growth in ideas is accelerating, making it even more imperative to open up to participate effectively in these flows of knowledge,” he says.

Francesco Starace, chief executive of Italian energy company Enel Group, will discuss developments in green and renewable energy as the keynote speaker. Other speakers include University of Toronto Professor Anita McGahan and University of Surrey Professor Annabelle Gawer, as well as other leaders in the energy and technology industries.

Conference activities include presentations of 60 papers, 15 posters, and five industry challenges, in which companies test open innovation’s impacts on real-world problems. A panel of a group of energy firms will discuss the companies’ combined activities and resources to invest in energy-related startup firms.

Chesbrough in the early 2000’s coined the term “open innovation,” which centers on the idea that organizations should open themselves to knowledge flows. Companies that pursue open innovation don’t rely on only their own internal expertise, but buy or license technology and business processes from others. This approach speeds up product cycles, spreads risks and rewards with others, and increases product differentiation, Chesbrough says. At the same time, companies that license or sell inventions that they’re not using can generate additional revenue, spread out fixed costs, and validate ideas and technologies that could have been overlooked, he adds.

Chesbrough’s early research concentrated on the technology sector’s pursuit of open innovation. Since then, other industries, including the automotive, chemical, consumer products, and financial services industries have followed. Similarly, some governments and nonprofits have also benefited from open innovation, finding ideas from collaborative partnerships and crowdsourcing to benefit health-care systems and city planning.

“No one organization has a monopoly on great ideas,” says Chesbrough.

In his new book, Chesbrough examines some of the challenges companies face in seeking innovation from others, including cultural resistance to pursuing ideas invented elsewhere and ingrained businesses practices that discourage collaboration. The book also links innovation at companies to national economic growth. All conference attendees will receive a copy of the book.

New conference explores the impact of artificial intelligence on business

Berkeley MBA students organized the new AI conference with UC Berkeley computer science and engineering students.

Artificial Intelligence experts debated the promise of smart machines as well as their potential to wreak havoc on the economy at last week’s pioneering Berkeley conference on AI and business.

The “AI: Shape the Future” event, organized by students from Haas and Machine Learning at Berkeley and held April 13 at Pauley ballroom, drew a crowd of more than 250 people. Haas Prof. Laura Tyson, who has written extensively about the impact artificial intelligence will have on jobs and the economy, joined AI experts and UC Berkeley Professors Michael Jordan and Andrew Critch as speakers. AI experts from Amazon, General Electric, and Google, along with Berkeley Haas Dean Rich Lyons and Information School Dean AnnaLee Saxenian, also spoke.

Uncertainty around the future of work

The discussions revealed a divide around how computer systems capable of intelligent behavior—such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and language translation—will impact the job market and the future of our world.

<em>Prof. Laura Tyson</em>
Prof. Laura Tyson

Tyson, the faculty director of the Institute for Business & Social Impact at Berkeley Haas and former chair of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisers, said she doesn’t worry that AI will cause mass unemployment. But she is concerned about the future of the job market overall and the quality of jobs that will be created due to new technology.

“The question is, as more and more intelligent machines can do better than humans at more and more jobs, what happens to societies that depend on income generation?” Tyson said.

Automation has already replaced many routine jobs, she says, particularly middle-income jobs, such as those in manufacturing, and lower-end tech jobs, such as data processing and basic coding.

In the future, she adds, the new jobs created by AI won’t necessarily be located in the places that are losing jobs to automation.

“The evidence shows concern about the quality of jobs that we will have left,” she said.

The conference was organized by three Haas students: AJ Christensen, MBA 19, Brian Polidori, MBA 19, and Daan Kakebeeke, MBA 18, who met through their interest in data science. The Haas students worked with Franklin Rice, BS 18, (electrical engineering & computer science), who is a member of the student group Machine Learning, and got additional support from the UC Berkeley School of Information as they set out to create a new conference that would bring business and engineering students together to explore AI through a new lens.

“You have engineers on one side who understand the machinery, and then you have business students who understand the world in which machine learning is being deployed, but don’t understand the machinery at all,” Christensen said.

“We’re bringing together diverse perspectives on AI from multiple corners of UC Berkeley and Silicon Valley to bridge this gap, break past the clichés and technical details, and help all students to start thinking about AI in a more comprehensive, nuanced, and thoughtful way,” Kakebeeke said.

AI technology is immature

The sessions focused on three areas: opportunity recognition in AI, the impact of AI on the economy, and new laws and policy.

Gert Lanckriet, head of machine learning at Amazon Music and professor at University of California, San Diego, said the growth of AI is fueled by the exponential increase in data that’s zipping across the internet.

“The more data, the better AI can be,” he said.

But Michael Jordan, director of the UC Berkeley AMPLab and an AI pioneer, argued that technology such as speech recognition and computer “vision” is still immature, lacking the understanding and creativity that humans are capable of. He warned that machine learning can sometimes do more harm than good.

“What we have as AI is not as far along as people think,” Jordan said. As proof, Jordan shared a story about how an AI-enabled machine misdiagnosed him with calcium buildup based on data compiled from other patients. The doctors used that data to recommend a dangerous operation. “Based on that (recommendation) I could have died,” he said. “Around the world that same day people got that same diagnosis, that same false positive,” and they may have had the risky operation, he said.

Critch, who co-founded the Center for Human-Compatible AI, warned that smart machines have the potential to wreak havoc, and asked how we will prepare as a society. “I see it as my job to prepare for the eventual arrival of AI that is generally smarter than humans or sufficiently smart to pose an existential threat in some manner,” said Critch.

Africa Business Forum 2018 to explore next generation of innovation

Before last year’s Berkeley Haas Africa Business Forum, Ekene Anene, MBA 18, landed a coveted summer internship at fintech startup in Lagos, Nigeria. At the conference, she met the company’s CEO, who spoke on a fintech panel.

“It’s a good place to come if you are looking to network or work at a company in Africa,” said Anene, who with Annie Porter, MBA 18, is co-chairing the 4th Annual Berkeley Haas Africa Business Forum: The Future of Africa: Exploring the Next Generation of African Innovation.

The event will be held April 7 from 8:45 am to 6 pm in Chou Hall on the Haas School of Business campus.

A diverse lineup of speakers from North, East, and West Africa will sit on panels that focus on opportunities, challenges, and emerging trends across technology, health care, and education in Africa.

This year’s keynote speaker, Samuel Alemayehu, is co-founder and managing director of Cambridge Industries, a firm that’s building Africa’s biggest wind farm and first waste-to-energy facility.

Students founded the forum four years ago, with the goal of gathering visionaries to share innovative business solutions to Africa’s biggest challenges. Today, the forum’s organizing team includes about 20 undergraduate and graduate students who represent Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Morocco, Ivory Coast, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, and the U.S.

“It’s a great mix of people who all share this passion for Africa and its future,” said co-chair Annie Porter, MBA 18, who grew up in Durban, South Africa, and moved to Berkeley to attend Haas. She said the group also includes three Haas undergraduates who wanted to get more involved with the Africa conference.

Panels during the day-long event include:

  • “The Future of Tech,” which will leverage the Haas Bay Area location, exploring how emerging technologies, including blockchain, artificial intelligence, mobile and big data, are impacting Africa. Chukwuemeka Afigbo, who drives Facebook’s global developer programs strategy, and Abdesalam Alaoui, director and co-founder of Hightech Payment Solutions, in Morocco, will speak on that panel.
  • “The Future of Health,” which will explore how mobile and digital services will help Africa overcome its infrastructure challenges. Speakers include Brittney Hume, head of international growth at Zipline, which operates drones that deliver medical products to health facilities in East African areas with challenging roads, and Gregory Rockson, co-founder and CEO of mPharma, a drug benefits manager working to improve access and affordability of high quality drugs across the continent. MPharma was named Fast Company’s most Innovative Company in Africa in 2018.

Africa has the world’s largest youth population. In 20 years, the number of sub-Saharan Africans reaching working age of 15 to 64 will exceed that of the rest of the world combined. By 2050, half of the world’s youth will be African.

Reflecting on those numbers, a “Future of Education” panel will explore what this shift means, with an emphasis on how Africa will educate its youth and create new job opportunities.

Speakers include:

  • Vivian Wu, managing partner at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which has led $34 million in venture capital investment in African education startups.
  • David Njonjo, vice president of finance and operations at Eneza Education, a Kenya-based educational technology startup.

There will be far more to experience at the conference beyond the panels, says Anene.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind Berkeley experience,” she said—including authentic African food, a live dance performance from the Nigerian Student Association and Senegalese drummers, an open bar wine reception from a boutique Napa Valley vineyard, and a student-facilitated design-thinking workshop with Djagora University, an African startup university.

Read Anene’s op-ed about the event in the Daily Cal.

Leading thinkers to gather for 4th Annual World Open Innovation Conference

Henry Chesbrough founded the WOIC Conference Since Adj. Prof. Henry Chesbrough wrote his pioneering 2003 book, Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology, the concept has become a mainstay of corporate strategists and product developers around the world.

Next month, leading thinkers will gather in San Francisco to discuss the latest trends—including the rise of machine learning and the development of new business models to enhance collaborative strategies—at the  4th Annual World Open Innovation Conference.

Open innovation calls for companies to make much greater use of external ideas and technologies in their own business and, in turn, give outsiders to their unused internal ideas.

Keynote speakers at the conference include:

  • David J. Teece, director of the Tusher Center for the Management of Intellectual Capital at Berkeley Haas
  • Arati Prabhakar, former director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
  • William Ruh, SVP & chief digital officer for GE, and CEO of GE Digital
  • Thomas Kalil, former deputy director of policy, The White House Office of Science & Technology Policy

Chesbrough, faculty director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, will chair the event, to be held Dec. 13-15 at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront.

We asked Chesbrough a few questions in preparation for the conference.

Who should attend?

Anybody who is interested in growth should attend. You’ll see new models of growth that leverage more knowledge from external resources, making innovation faster and more efficient. We expect managers from Europe, Japan, China, and India, and of course, many American companies.

Who will be speaking at the conference?

The mix of speakers is not what you’d typically see at most conferences. The chief digital officer of GE will discuss the digital transformation of his company, and keynote speakers who headed DARPA and held a leading position in the White House Office of Technology and Science will explain how the principles of open innovation can be shared with governments and public entities. David Teece, director of UC Berkeley’s Tusher Center for the Management of Intellectual Capital, will tie these themes together and explain why competitive advantage in the 21st century will be based on the ability to mobilize external resources.

What will this year’s conference cover?

We’ll focus on lessons learned by state, local, and national governments that have used open innovation to inform and strengthen the policy-making process. Traditionally the policy world talks to itself, or uses consultants to push ideas out to the world. But the world can participate directly in the formation of the policies and give feedback on execution. We will also see the latest academic research on open innovation, and experience challenges from leading companies who are trying to make it work in practice.

Can you provide a memorable insight from an earlier conference?

There’s one particular story from NASA. With budgets shrinking and a trip to Mars on the drawing board, NASA was turning to open innovation to solve the immense problems of interplanetary travel. The agency even crowdsourced the design for a new space suit. But, as attendees at the World Open Innovation Conference in 2014 learned, the new approach to innovation unsettled long-time employees of the space agency. Scientists at NASA went through an identity crisis. They asked, “When we go outside to ask citizens for their input what happens to me?” That’s just one example of a challenge in adapting to open innovation.

What are some trends that you are watching in open innovation?

Open innovation is moving into the realm of artificial intelligence. Machine learning and deep learning involve training machines with sets of data, and the more data you have the better the training. Open innovation holds that it is quite possible to aggregate disparate data sources from multiple, collaborating organizations.

Sharing data and sharing services creates value and new sources of revenue. But opening a business to outside partners requires the development of new business models. Firms need to find ways to manage the move to the new digital technologies that are reshaping the economy.

Why does open innovation matter as much today as it did when you developed the paradigm?

There is so much useful knowledge in so many places that it is a mistake to generate and protect your own knowledge to the exclusion of outside sources. It is much smarter to take advantage of that external knowledge and then add the pieces of internal knowledge that brings it to life and connects it together to deliver business value.

Tech can play key role in protecting free speech: UN High Commissioner & Microsoft President

UN/Microsoft free speech event at UC Berkeley

With freedom of expression being challenged around the world—and in clashes on the UC Berkeley campus—is there more that the technology industry can do to protect free speech and other human rights?

The answer to that question was a resounding “yes,” as the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and Microsoft President Brad Smith spoke last Thursday at a Berkeley-Haas Dean’s Speaker Series. The panel was co-sponsored by the Berkeley-Haas Center for Responsible Business’ Peterson Speaker Series, as well as the Human Rights Center at Berkeley Law.

The panelists agreed that technology allows for better tracking of abuses around the world, while also enabling better communication with political dissenters—and that technology companies themselves have an important role to play.

Microsoft Brad Smith
Microsoft President Brad Smith

Smith reiterated Microsoft’s pledge to help the Human Rights Commission strengthen its work by embarking on a five-year, $5 million partnership. “We are a company that believes that a better-funded, more diversely financed UN Human Rights Commission will do more to protect people—not just their right to speak but even their ability to stay alive,” he said.

More diverse funding, Smith said, would serve to insulate the UN commission from threats by governments to reduce their contributions when the UN’s contribution is contrary to their own. “Governments want the High Commissioner to be vocal when he is poking other governments, but are less enthusiastic when he is poking them,” said Smith, in an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on the UN.

Free speech threat on rise

Haas Dean Rich Lyons framed the discussion—which was moderated by Alexa Koenig, executive director of the Human Rights Center at Berkeley Lawby noting that some 75 percent of governments around the world restrict freedom of expression, according to Amnesty International. Threats to a free press are also on the rise, he said.

“You may be tempted to think this is a ‘them-not-us’ situation, but the US ranks number 43 on the World Press Freedom Index, ranking just below the West African country Burkina Faso,” he said. The US had a higher ranking last year and “statements such as labeling the press as counter to American interests will probably weaken our standing further.”

Although Americans overwhelmingly support the right to free speech, that doesn’t translate into support for hate speech, he said. “Recent events at Charlottesville have brought hate speech to the forefront of our nation’s conscience and reignited calls for censorship.”

UN High Commissioner Zeid
UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

Balancing two conflicting priorities “requires fine-tuned thinking,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the sixth UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the first Muslim to hold the position. “With internet freedom on the decline we must wage a bare-knuckles fight for rights.  We have to become human-rights brawlers.”

“We need transparency”

The high commissioner said Microsoft’s technology has improved the commission’s ability to communicate with dissenters it could not normally reach, and to sift through data on alleged ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. It now has the ability to analyze video images for evidence and is developing a dashboard to give commission staffers a real-time snapshot of human rights around the world.

While calling on technology companies to do more to further human rights, the high commissioner warned that companies like Facebook may not be adhering to standards developed by the UN.

“We need transparency. We need to know what criteria they are using.  If they are going to police these issues, they have to police and judge according to international standards,” he said.

Indeed, Facebook has been criticized for Russia’s use of the social media platform to buy political ads and use fake accounts to target users with messages designed to inflame religious and racial tensions. The company recently agreed to turn over to Congressional investigators more than 3,000 ads paid for by entities linked to Russia.

Universities, too, have a role in protecting free speech. But education is only part of the answer, the high commissioner said.  Noting that many of the top Nazi Party members were highly educated, the high commissioner stressed that what the world needs most is educated people with empathy and compassion.

He referenced Charlie Chaplin’s character in The Great Dictator, who said: “More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.”

Watch the full video:


Top photo (L-R) Alexa Koenig, executive director of the Human Rights Center at Berkeley Law, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Microsoft President Brad Smith. All photos: Manali Sibthorpe


Press >PLAY: The Massive Student-Run Digital Media Conference is Back

A participant at >Play 2014 checks out virtual reality with the Oculus Rift

This year’s >Play digital media and tech conference will offer a chance to do just that: in addition to absorbing the latest from top industry leaders, pitching startup ideas, and hobnobbing with recruiters, attendees can check out cutting-edge gadgets and immerse themselves in the Bay Area tech scene.

The 11th annual conference, to be held at San Francisco’s Pier 27 Events Center on Oct. 30, is expected to draw a sell-out crowd of 1,000—including tech hungry students from schools around the country and Bay Area professionals. Organized by MBAs from Haas’ Digital Media and Entertainment Club (DMEC), >Play is the largest student-run tech and digital media conference in the country.

Conference co-chairs Andrew Hill, Jamaur Bronner and Michael Young, all MBA 16, have been working since March to put the event together. Their goal, Hill says, is to make >Play “a digital media event that happens to be run by business students, rather than a business event that happens to be about digital media.”

Organizers have focused on three elements: making the conference integrated, interdisciplinary, and immersive. “For the integration piece, this year we reached out to 25 business schools around the country. On the interdisciplinary side, >Play is open to students across multiple programs, including information, design, and engineering,” he says. “On the immersion side, there will be opportunities for students to get involved throughout the day, rather than just attending lectures.”

Diversity and inclusiveness were also cornerstones of the planning process, organizers say. >Play 2015 boasts record numbers of underrepresented minority and female speakers from across the tech landcape. A Diversity in Tech Design Thinking workshop features leaders from Facebook.

Events actually begin the day before the conference, with the “Hack All Night, >Play All Day” hackathon on Oct. 29. Hackers from UC Berkeley, the Bay Area and other schools will compete to present a prototype and product pitch to a panel of Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists. The winners will present at the conference the next day, for the chance to win $3,500.

A unique Entertainment X Tech panel features musicians, VCs, and digital strategists who are bridging the gap between the entertainment world and the tech industry. The panel features Grammy-nominated R&B producer Ryan Leslie. >PLAY participants will also get the scoop on more than 40 startups.

Speakers include keynote presenter John Oberon of Cisco, as well as Signe Brewster of Gigaom, Makezine, and Wired; Nelson Kunkel of Deloitte Digital; Chris Nyffeler of IDEO; Emily Peters of Uncommon Bold; and Michael Seibel of Y Combinator leading a Pitch 101 workshop—just to name a few.

At the end of the day, attendees can bust a few moves at a massive Halloween after-party at the Armory on Mission Street—a “Deadly Disco” co-sponsored by Tilt and hosted by Crossroads Nightlife.

Tickets are available for the conference alone, or bundled with after-party. Check out more details on the conference and buy tickets here.

—Kate Madden Yee