Paul Saffo: Futurist and … firefighter?

November 12, 2007 in Personalities & Profiles | Comments (0)


He’s soft-spoken and thoughtful and when I spoke with Paul Saffo at the AlwaysOn Innovation Summit at Stanford in 2006 I also found out that he wields a big fire axe.
Yep, in addition to being one of Silicon Valley’s foremost prognosticators of trends, Paul also participates in emergency preparedness and survival techniques.

Paul and I sat down just before his panel with Steward Brand, Nathan Myhrvold, Danny Hillis and Kevin Kelly. Since the focus of their talk was going to be looking forward, I thought it might be interesting to have this technology pundit glance backwards and share his perspectives on the place from whence we’ve come.
Right out of the gate Paul makes the point that the reason Silicon Valley is so chock-full of innovation is not because we’re successful, but because we’re so good at failing. His point being – any culture that allows and even encourages people to take risk and fail is one where great innovation can be born.
I think that sometimes we forget just how lucky we are to be in such an amazing place. Last spring I spent some time in Europe for Guidewire Group’s Innovate!Europe conference. From the myriad entrepreneurs with whom I spoke there came a resounding hurrah for the way in which Silicon Valley supports those who crash and burn while attempting to drive innovation. Consensus among this group was clear – love of risk and acceptance of failure as a badge of honor is a unique characteristic of this Valley we call home.


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