Business leadership conferences worth exploring in 2017

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Technology leaders are business leaders. Anyone, executive or high-level manager, making key technology decisions for a growing enterprise needs to realize their importance in guiding and shaping the future of their companies. The best way to do this is to get out of the data center, away from technology conferences and into the wider business world. With this in mind, we’ve chosen five business conferences that might be helpful for technologists looking to broaden their scope of influence.

The Economist Events' Innovation Summit 2017

When: Feb. 28, 2017 
Where: Chicago

Why you should be there:  Organized and hosted by editors at The Economist magazine for C-level and senior executives, The Economist Innovation Summit brings together business leaders, policy makers, and disruptive entrepreneurs to share insights and ideas on a variety of pressing topics like how to profit from the internet of things, workforce transformation, how virtual reality will change work, how to put customers at the center of everything, digital disruption and regulation. Speakers will include J.B. Pritzker, Co-founder and managing partner of the Pritzker Group, Jamie Miller, CEO of GE Transportation, Alec Ross, author of The Industries of the Future, Sanjay Sarma, Dean of digital learning at MIT, and Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director of Hyperledger and a founder of the Apache Software Foundation.

CAMP: The Alternative Business Conference

When: May 18-22, 2017
Where: Big Bear Lake, California

Why you should be there: Touted as a business conference for people who “hate traditional business conferences,” CAMP offers a mix of outdoor activities like archery, horseback riding, high ropes, astronomy, and a curriculum intended to shake up participants so that they can break out of stale, habitual thinking, based on old assumptions, and open up mental space to create and innovate. Many attendees are leaders of creative teams, but plenty of suits find value in the experience. Held at an actual summer camp, this conference offers attendees a chance to step away from responsibilities, temporarily relinquish control, disconnect and go device-free for four days. The aim is for participants to rediscover a childhood sense of wonder, forge friendships, dream some new dreams and leave the experience energized for new challenges. 

As the lines between CIO and CMO blur, curated content for social media becomes increasingly important, and the largest demands on IT come from the marketing and customer service organizations, CAMP is a good way to get out of the data center and into the burgeoning mainstream of new business thinking.


When: June 8-9, 2017
Where: Hong Kong

When: October 16-18, 2017
Where: Laguna Beach, CA

Why you should be there: The Wall Street Journal is hosting two tech conferences this year, one in Laguna Beach, the other in Hong Kong.  Although the speakers have yet to be announced, the Laguna Beach WSJDLive tends to explore big ideas and broad trends that will shape the technology industry from a business perspective; financing, how to balance privacy and security, evolving digital platforms, and the rise of global challengers. In Hong Kong, WSJDLive will cover similar topics, but with a focus on “the latest developments in tech emanating from, and impacting, the Asia Pacific." In the past, WSJDLive has had a speaker line-up of very heavy hitters, including Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and NBA star Kobe Bryant.

CUSP Conference 2017

When: Sept. 27-28, 2017
Where:  Museum of Contemporary Art Theater, Chicago

Why you should be there:  CUSP is a design conference in the tradition of the now famous TED (an acronym for technology, entertainment, and design) conferences. It is a conference of big ideas for big thinkers. Typically attended by C-level executives and creative leaders alike, the focus is on broad-thinking, cross-pollination, and collaborating on a grand scale. It’s not about designing brand identity, corporate strategy, or advertising campaigns, but putting big ideas together to solve large shared problems. The main attraction is the eclectic roster of seemingly unconnected speakers (asked to speak about “what keeps them up at night, and what gets them out of bed in the morning”), the passion they bring, and the unexpected connections the audience is able to forge between them. There are no break-outs, so every participant has a chance to see every speaker, and there is ample time for networking and meeting people.

World Business Forum

When: Nov. 16-17, 2017 
Where: Lincoln Center, New York

Why you should be there: The World Business Forum is a large two-day event usually attended by more than 2,000 people. The organizers aim to “create transforming experiences in order to create better people, better business, and a better world.” It is a presentation-based conference, and the main attraction is usually the quality of the speakers, “a blend of CEOs, entrepreneurs, innovators, thinkers, artists and sportspeople,” and their takes on a general theme. In 2017, the unifying theme of the U.S. conference appears to be centered on crafting coherent corporate strategy. Competitive strategy expert Michael Porter is speaking along with Jonah Berger, a Wharton School of Business marketing professor, Rachel Botsman, a global authority on collaborative economies, and Abigail Posner, head of strategic planning at Google’s creative think tank for agencies and brands.

Colin Dodd is a writer at Red Hat. He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina with his wife and 2 daughters. In his spare time, he enjoys canoeing, hiking, and fishing in nearby farm ponds.

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