Business talk targets the everyday entrepreneur

Local economic development group to host Intel official

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

Published:

 
photoBrandon Barnett

If you go

What: Brandon Barnett, director of business innovation for Intel Labs, will present “The Emergence of the Everyday Entrepreneur in Today’s Complex Economic Environment.”

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, March 15.

Where: Heathman Lodge, 7801 N.E. Greenwood Drive.

Cost: $35 per person; $325 for a table of 10. To register, visit Columbia River Economic Development Council.

Information: Diane Dempcy, manager of communications and investor relations for the Columbia River Economic Development Council, 360-567-3181 or ddempcy@credc.org.

Uncertainty and chaos will always play their roles in life, but they don’t necessarily have to rule your business.

That’s the simple message underpinning the multifaceted world view of Brandon Barnett, director of business innovation for Intel Labs, the worldwide research arm of Intel Corp.

And he’ll carry that message to Clark County next week when he delivers a keynote presentation as part of the Vancouver-based Columbia River Economic Development Council’s first-quarter event.

The title of Barnett’s presentation is “The Emergence of the Everyday Entrepreneur in Today’s Complex Economic Environment.”

If that sounds like a deeply intellectual topic, it is.

But that’s no surprise: Barnett, too, is deeply intellectual. He holds a doctorate in applied physics, a master’s in business administration and a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

He works out of Intel Corp.’s facilities in Hillsboro, Ore.; the Santa Clara, Calif.-based maker of semiconductors stands as Oregon’s largest employer.

What might come as a surprise is that Barnett isn’t necessarily heading to Clark County with a lot of answers to what ails our economy.

Instead, he’ll likely bring questions -- questions we should ask ourselves about the best way to identify future business op

portunities to grow and -- perhaps most importantly -- how to limit the impact of chaos and uncertainty on our companies, not to mention our lives.

If you want a quick way of understanding Barnett’s philosophy, there’s probably no better place to go than his LinkedIn page (http://www.linkedin.com/in/brandoncbarnett), where one sentence in particular calls your attention: “New growth business within companies is often based on executives’ intuition, rather than scientific assessment.”

In a phone interview Tuesday, Barnett said he doesn’t mean to downplay intuition. “Intuition is what you must rely on when there is no data,” he said.

But when there is data -- and Barnett, in his job at Intel, is on the constant prowl for it -- that’s when you’re able to conduct analyses, he said. And when you’re able to do that, you can begin to see distinct market opportunities emerge from the complex interactions of everything from technological and socioeconomic changes to political and economic shifts.

And that’s what Barnett does for Intel: He attempts to understand how all of those forces interact by forming hypotheses and then testing them, using techniques forged by physicists and sociologists.

If that sounds like disruptive research -- the kind of research that upends existing business models -- it is. But it disrupts in a way that draws order out of what might only appear to be chaos.

“If you can get a better understanding of those forces, and how they interact, you’ll get a better understanding of the emerging order today and what might be emerging in the future,” Barnett said.

This is especially relevant to the “everyday entrepreneur” that is the subject of Barnett’s talk next week. The phrase is more descriptive of a concept than any one individual.

Part of the idea behind it is that technology -- particularly the Internet and the various virtual worlds it’s created -- has led to bottom-up rather than top-down business models.

Barnett said that one example is Park Circa, an online company that connects people who have driveways with people who need a space to park. Drivers hash out a lease with homeowners and, theoretically, everyone’s happy and money’s been made.

The bottom line, Barnett said, is that the “digital infrastructure” that’s now in place is “as significant as the industrial revolution in terms of how that infrastructure drove work forces and city development.”

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ;http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com.