C2Montreal Reflections: Leaders Who Inspire


Recently I was a first time participant in C2Montreal. In a world that is so focused on scale it is easy to lose sight of the bigger bigger picture. Montreal has always been known as an international hub. As such, the idea of a cross-cultural theme-based learning event was destined to be hosted by the beautiful city. However the term “event” doesn’t do it justice as it is an immersion experience that Sid Lee’s Will Travis describes as “a cross between SXSW + TED sans the drugs and sex.”

C2 means Commerce + Creativity. Over 5000 people from 43 countries experience a dance between the big stage, with some international big hitters such as Martha Stewart and Airbnb’s Chip Conley, and a potpourri of thought-leaders across 24 industries made accessible through coordinated “brain dates.”

So many thought-leaders = so much good information. A week after the event there are three leaders from this #C2M16 experience whose message deeply inspires. Elora Hardy inspires by the respect she has regarding humanity in nature – a sense of presence through the aesthetic. Philip Sheppard inspires by the way he teaches leadership through music. Yarrow Kraner inspires by how he cultivates cross-generational communities who create groundbreaking impact across the globe.

Elora Hardy  ~ we are craving a sense of belonging in nature.


(with permission from C2Montreal photo credit Allen McEachern)

Elora Hardy, Founder of Ibuku, is well known as a creative architect using sustainable materials, especially bamboo. Some of her team’s work can be seen in luxury resorts such as The Four Seasons, and you may have heard her Ted Talk. When she was nine years old her mother asked her to draw a house she’d like to live in and she subsequently built that house. You can see both the drawing and the actual home below. As a mother of three I wonder what moments I’ve overlooked to let my children know the power they have as creators. In our culture we talk about innovation as if it were a core competency. What was magnetic about Elora’s message was the importance for a child to experience the power of their imaginations in real time and space. Our minds are a lot like bamboo – ideas have their own resilience and will bend to the belief systems that hold and mold them. In physical space we sometimes forget that we ourselves are part of nature. Elora’s work has such respect for our need to be a part of nature. We are hungry for belonging. We need nature more than nature needs us. Even as adults, the sparkle of Elora’s presence evokes the wonder of a child.

elora's house 1

elora's house 2

(Permission granted from Elora Hardy)

Philip Sheppard ~ Doing, not consuming, is what makes you good at something: Mozart did not listen to Mozart; one doesn’t get fit watching the Olympics.


(with permission from C2Montreal photo credit Allen McEachern)

Philip Sheppard is a composer, producer and virtuoso cellist who has played at the Royal Academy of Music, Cirque du Soleil, and the summer 2012 Olympics in London. He has every right to be in the spot-light as a virtuoso. However, he gets his power by giving his power away to our next generation. He is infectious with his belief that we are asking our children to perform based on other’s intelligence versus allowing them to “claim their own voice.” In collaboration with Russell Spurlock, Philip’s current passion is the Hatch Ostinato Project, whose core mission is to empower students through music composition. The program ultimately results in a professional music production that can be licensed, acting as a funding mechanism for music programs in schools.


Yarrow Kraner is a creative alchemist whose spidey sense is the ability to curate communities for impact.  Every year in Bozeman, Montana, a hand picked group of 100 share a four day peer-2-peer workshop where 40% of the participants are young entrepreneurs and artists and 60% are accomplished individuals across multiple domains. Parker Palmer’s Courage to Teach says it best:

“Mentors and apprentices are partners in an ancient human dance . . . the dance of the spiraling generations, in which the old empower the young with their experience and the young empower the old with new life, reweaving the fabric of the human community as they touch and turn.”

Here is the rub: you cannot pay to play. This is a hand curated by an invitation only community where acts of generosity become the criteria for admittance. This #becauseofHatch community is now building beyond Bozeman and is reaching world wide. It is such a well designed program that it has become known as the Hatch A Better World Experience.

HATCH network.001

(with permission from Yarrow Kraner, Founder Hatch)

Jennifer Sertl

Co-author Triarchy’s Strategy Leadership & the Soul

The Faces of Innovation ~ Visionary, Game-Changer, Spotter


(Artist Alexa Meade courtesy of Zeev Klein & photographer Jensen Sutta)

Candor still reverberates in the Silicon Valley from Patagonia’s Vice President of Environmental Affairs Rick Ridgeway with the bold statement “It is important to lead a reflective life. Once you lead a reflective life inevitably you will realize that you are doing harm. Once you know this, you can make a positive difference.” This was one of many powerful calls to action at the recent Social Innovation Summit.

Arriving early I spent some time in San Francisco at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. There was a powerful portrait exhibition of Arnold Newman and the way he made historical icons, either fragile or accessible, by his use of light and prop placement. Rarely do I spend an hour and half merely studying people’s faces. Yet the time flew by and I was greeted at Social Innovation Summit by a presentation by Los Angeles based artist Alexa Meade, who is best known for portraits painted on the human body that turn real life people into seemingly 2D works of art.  I had no choice but to take away this year the theme The Faces of Innovation. From over 200+ potential individuals to feature the faces that made the most impact on me were the faces of the visionary, the game-changer and the spotter.


The Face of the Visionary


(Zeev Klein Founder of Social Innovation Summit courtesy of Zeev Klein & photographer Jensen Sutta) 

Zeev Klein founder of Social Innovation Summit  the face of the visionary.  Beginning in 2007 Klein and his company Landmark Ventures began a series of events called IT For Good held across 14 cities. The cities that generated the most synergy were New York and Silicon Valley.  During those events Klein began to notice significant shifts in the giving economy; “the trend went from the concept of charity, to philanthropy to what we now know as social innovation.”  Klein observed that what used to be a one way conversation of donors and NGO’s had become much more dynamic and more like a dialogue. A conversation that Klein wanted to enable and accelerate.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb says, “wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire; be the fire and wish for wind.”  While perhaps not inventing the term social innovation, Klein has been wind to the #socinn fire by coordinating the bi-annual prestigious Social Innovation Summit.  Entrepreneurs, NGO’s, and Fortune 500’s spend two dedicated days sharing outcomes, discussing needs, and finding partnerships .


The Face of the Game-Changer

 A chemical engineer from Shell, Mandar Apte is the face of a game-changer. Inspired by a rat trainer who loved rats and wanted them to be perceived as helpful animals rather than vermin, Bert Weetjens found rat size and intelligence ideal to sniff out TNT and has trained over 800 of them. Mandar noticed that turning a rat into a noble animal was not only problem solving but truly game-changing. Mandar leads Shell’s Game Changer Social Innovation program that invests in programs that not only solve social and environmental challenges but that also create transformational value for local communities and society at large. Another way Mandar is transforming the innovation landscape is through the EMPOWER program that has taught over 2000 Shell employees how to meditate. “To navigate complexity, people need to have more awareness. Innovation comes from awareness.


The Face of the Spotter


(Nivan Mullick photo courtesy of Zeev Klein & photographer Jensen Sutta)

Many of you might have already heard of Caine’s Arcade. Nirvan Mullick hands down is the face of a spotter. Spotting is a new leadership core competency of being able to highlight and amplify people, content, and trends that have significant impact in the macro. On a random trip to a privately owned hardware store, Mullick noticed a nine year old boy who build an arcade out of cardboard boxes. Boldly the boy approached Mullick and asked if he’d like “three tickets for $1.00 or a day pass for $5.00.” Mullick paid for the day pass and was inspired by Caine’s creativity. As Mullick complimented Caine’s father on his son’s ingenuity, the father said, “You have been his only customer all summer.” Wanting to acknowledge the creativity, Mullick aggregated 200+ friends for a flash mob that became the documentary “Caine’s Arcade.” The video has been seen over 9 million times.  Mullick’s organization the, Imagination Foundation, has engaged over 250,000 kids in 60 countries in creative play through their Annual Global Cardboard Challenge. Great ideas and great people all need a spotter who is leveraged to amplify and scale.

I am reminded by Albert Camus “real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the   present. “ Perhaps the face of innovation is you.

This article can also be found in Huffington Post Impact