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Walter Isaacson: Diversity Spurs Creativity, Urban Innovation

Walter Isaacson

A presenter at the upcoming Cleveland Convening, Walter Isaacson's new book looks at how innovation created the digital revolution and the important role urban innovation plays. 

We know that large cities are hubs for innovation, and that as more of the world’s population continues to move to and depend upon cities, it is important that we cultivate diverse ecosystems that stimulate the creativity that leads to innovation.

Renowned author and journalist, Walter Isaacson, will continue this conversation at the upcoming Forward Cities convening in Cleveland. Currently the CEO/President of the Aspen Institute, Isaacson will be the key presenter at the Forward Cities dinner reception at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame
Best known as the author of the Steve Jobs biography, his most recent book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, directly connects with his work at the Aspen Institute and the focus of Forward Cities. 
Starting in the Victorian period with Ada Byron Lovelace – today widely regarded as the first computer programmer - and moving through Alan Turing, Tim Berners Lee, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs among others, Isaacson studies not only the innovators that helped create the digital revolution – but also the conditions needed for innovation to occur. 
What is clear to Isaacson is that innovation today does not happen in a vacuum and that creative people - disrupters, entrepreneurs, leaders - need collaboration, teamwork and diversity to make innovation happen.
This makes urban innovation even more important as cities are cultural ecosystems that foster progress. As Isaacson said, “urban areas are ideally suited to be such ecosystems, because of the diversity of people with complementary skills, ideas and ambitions that they bring together in the same space.” That is why, Isaacson believes, the cities and communities that will be successful in the 21st Century will be those that embrace the ethnic and racial ideological diversity that encourages urban innovation.
Isaacson is actively involved in studying and supporting urban innovation through the Aspen Institute’s Center for Urban Innovation.
While Isaacson notes that business incubators, like Idea Village or Propeller in New Orleans, are important to promoting urban innovation, it’s not just entrepreneurs or tech start-ups that play a role. Community, business and neighborhood leaders must work together to build an environment that is intentional about inclusivity in order to be both a creative and civil society.

Walter Isaacson is the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, DC. He has been the chairman and CEO of CNN and the editor of TIME magazine.  Isaacson’s most recent book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (2014) is a biographical tale of the people who invented the computer, Internet and the other great innovations of the digital age. He is the author of Steve Jobs (2011), Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003), and Kissinger: A Biography (1992), and coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986). Isaacson was born on May 20, 1952, in New Orleans. He is a graduate of Harvard College and of Pembroke College of Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He began his career at The Sunday Times of London and then the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He joined TIME in 1978 and served as a political correspondent, national editor, and editor of digital media before becoming the magazine’s 14th editor in 1996. He became chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in 2003. He is chair emeritus of Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in underserved communities. From 2005-2007 he was the vice-chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which oversaw the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. He was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other international broadcasts of the United States, a position he held from 2009 to 2012. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and serves on the board of United Airlines, Tulane University, the Overseers of Harvard University, the New Orleans Tricentennial Commission, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Society of American Historians, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.

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