How is an Innovator like the modern Buddhist?

August 14, 2012

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Sketch notes from a talk on contemplative neuroscience by Willoughby Britton

Last week, ImageThink team member Kelly Kingman traveled to Boulder, Colorado for the second annual Buddhist Geeks conference, which examines the intersection of our modern, fast-paced and technology-fueled world with the ancient teachings and practice of Buddhism. The fact that the ancient practices of Buddhism aren’t often examined through a lens of 21st century science and technology is just one of the reasons that Buddhist Geeks is a special conference. Over two and a half days on the campus of University of Colorado Boulder, participants were immersed in conversations ranging from the challenges of contemplative neuroscience to insights on how McLuhan’s tetrad of media effects can be applied to the current state of Buddhism in the West. Presenters ranged from cyborg anthropologist Amber Case to Kiva.org founder Matt Flannery. “I came armed with sketchbook and markers, and I produced over 20 pages of sketch notes over the short span of the conference,” said Kelly. “I was thrilled at the enthusiastic Twitter response to the images.” Shortly after the tweeting picked up, a Buddhist Geeks organizer created an impromptu display of the sketches in the hallway for all the attendees to enjoy.

Process over Product: Buddhism and Innovation

At first glance, it may not be obvious how much the Buddhist practioner and the innovator’s toolboxes have in common but the parallels are actually pretty strong — at least for IDEO, one of the world’s leading design consultancies. “One of the highlights was hearing Juliette Melton of IDEO talk about the parallels she sees between Buddhist principles and those of human-centered design that she uses in her work,” said Kelly. She was joined by Buddhify-founder Rohan Gunatillake and Buddhist philosopher David Loy on a panel moderated by Buddhist Geeks-founder Vincent Horn. The image above shows how Melton described her work: paying attention, being with what is and having an openness to change. She likened the process of prototyping to the practice of non-attachment, especially how innovators must stay open to the reality of the design process, “even when 499 of your ideas end up on the floor.” “I loved this conference and look forward to returning next year,” said Kelly. “Who knows what other curiosities will turn up at the interesection of meditation, mindfulness and the modern world.” For more sketch notes from Buddhist Geeks 2012, check out the Facebook album.
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