Preview: HBS Digital Initiative Beta Summit 4.28.14

| Lauren Metter


The world’s gone digital. It’s time to take part in it. Time to disrupt and re-invent it. Time to be a force in how rapidly developing technologies affect the world we live in: media, health, advertising, music, civic tech, engagement … the list goes on and on.

The Digital Initiative (D/I) is a new academic start-up within Harvard Business School (HBS) that seeks to understand and shape the digital transformation of business through research, teaching and engagement. It is the passionate D/I staff and the students of HBS’ course, Digital Innovation and Transformation (#digHBS), who’ve organized the Digital Initiative Beta Summit tomorrow from 4-8pm on the HBS Campus in Batten Hall, home of the Harvard Innovation Lab.

Colin Maclay: Director, Digital Initiative at HBS, former Managing Director,  Berkman Center
Colin Maclay: Director, Digital Initiative at HBS, former Managing Director, Berkman Center

“Digital transformation is the application of digital technologies to the transactions and processes that sit at the core of our businesses and, like the ripples from a stone dropped in a pond, change our institutions, culture, and society,” D/I Director Colin Maclay told MSNE. “Many have posited that as a result, every company is a software—or a data—company, and it is clear that ways to create and capture value are changing as a result of digital technologies and practices.”

“While the rules are being re-written—or unwritten—we are all trying to understand how to respond to and embrace the emerging dynamics.”

They’ve invited provocateurs from a wide range of organizations to the Summit, from Betaworks to The Boston Globe to Twitter to Microsoft’s own Cathy Wissink (talking #civictech) and Steven Martin (talking the cloud), to YOU, for a discussion to help better understand some of the big questions we face in these exciting technological times. Similar to our civic tech series, impact starts with conversation and collaboration—the pulling together of ideas from people experiencing digital transformation from all sides. And that’s exactly what D/I and #digHBS are doing here.

Their goal?

“To have serious fun. We want to integrate diverse perspectives and communities, make real progress in understanding issues of digital transformation, and develop new frameworks for addressing the challenges that our provocateurs are bringing to discuss,” Maclay said. “We want to start something special.”

And finally, we asked Maclay why it’s a “beta” summit.

“We are committed to embracing the tools, practices and culture of the domain we study, and capture a bit of that spirit by embracing *beta* for the summit—underscoring its experimental nature,” Maclay explains.

“Amazing restaurants like Clover grow from food trucks and supper clubs, powerful creative communities like Threadless start as hobbies, and start-ups like Twitter “pivot” from offering one service to another. It’s clear that the waterfall approach isn’t only dead in software development.”

In other words, the possibilities for organic development in the digital age are limitless and we can create new models.

So we’ll see you at Harvard Business school tomorrow?

Check out the full list of speakers via the Summit official site here:!schedule/cee5

Registration for the event in now closed, but stay tuned for a recap on the #MSNEblog from our own Cathy Wissink this week!

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