Applied Brilliance is one of the most original thought leadership events, designed to raise the level of creativity, innovation and applied intelligence for creative, marketing and design professionals.

Applied Brilliance reveals emerging trends and major cultural paradigm shifts holistically through presentations by brilliant speakers who present information from the outside looking in. Through a systems-thinking approach, speakers and attendees engage in Socratic problem solving exercises providing solutions for our complex, interconnected world.

For two full days, attendees work together to solve problems and give meaning to the most important paradigm changes of the moment so that we can understand how these trends matter. Attendees connect the dots to discover how it all relates to their own practices and lives. The annual conference is created as a non-commercial collaboration among attendees, speakers and sponsoring partners.

AB 13, Hotel Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM
2018, Discovery and Revelation

Discovery and Revelation explores what’s new and fresh when everything is so digitally transparent and immediate, diminishing the mystery and magic of accidental and serendipitous discovery.  We see too much.  We think we know too much.  We’re bombarded by every presidential tweet and every reading-between-the-lines commentary of the news media in mind-boggling minutia.  And on the horizon, we can replicate ourselves through Replika and model our immortality through DeepMind.  Empathy will be delivered through healthcare robots, our meal kits are already recommended by ubiquitous bots and Neuralink wants to connect people to a groupthink network in which they will exchange thoughts without wasting their time and energy on language.  It’s getting hard to keep up. Applied Brilliance 2018 looks at innovation and genius at the intersection of the arts and sciences.  Revelations are the myths and legends that transcend science. Discoveries are the stories that are founded on hard science and heart-stopping accident.

AB11, Papaya Playa Project, Tulum, Mexico
2017, Ingenuity and Imagination

Ingenuity + Imagination explored the frisson of cutting-edge tech and the need for the human touch from an outside-in perspective. The conference was housed nearby the cliffside walled city of Tulum in the Yucatán, one of the most celebrated ancient Mayan ports and spiritual centers, Applied Brilliance looked to the intuitive genius of the resource-constrained high-tech brilliance of the Maya to reframe ingenuity and imagination for today. A meeting of the minds of some of today’s most imaginative and intelligent thought leaders from all disciplines and experts on Mayan culture, engineering, astronomy, art, myths and legends presented in an open palapa meeting space framed by the backdrop of the dazzling palette of the Caribbean Sea.

AB 10, Parque Central, Havana, Cuba
2016, Resilience and Revival

We celebrated our 10th Anniversary in Havana, back to the future, to look at how resilience and revival may be the two most powerful qualities that we need to survive. We offered an extraordinary experience in this rich Cuban culture, caught between its Colonial past and the glimpse of a future not yet realized. Our program blended the voices of innovators and disruptors with local Cubans who are changing the face of Cuba.

Behind-the-scenes cultural visits revealed amazing artists and craftspeople who are transforming the city and preserving the culture that makes Cuba the true heart of resilience and revival. Guided photography street walks and curated visits explored the restoration projects underway in Havana.

“Cuba is the home of a permanent revolution against all the ideas we have of
-Pico Iyer

AB 9, International House, New Orleans
2015 - Lifelines, How Storytelling Can Save Humanity

It’s no longer enough to just build a building, design a space, create an app, open a retail store, lead a business. We live in a global culture of too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, too many facts; and limited insight. It’s all becoming a blur of commoditization.

The stories we tell shape us, transform us and give us a sense of place and space. What is the narrative that informs your work? Why are you different? How do you matter? What is the story embedded into your projects that connect with people experientially, psychologically, intellectually?

Applied Brilliance presented two tracks that explored the power of storytelling as a critical underpinning for sustainable businesses, services and brands. Unintended Consequences explored how when we connect the dots, we can see how our decisions and actions cascade into surprising and valuable consequences. Hidden in Plain Sight explored how most of the answers we are looking for are right in front of us.

Lifelines was a dynamic two-day conversation on how storytelling connects, entertains and enlightens us, both professionally and personally. It was a festival of ideas and stories. The creative community of New Orleans was a backdrop to discover the secrets of this iconic city. We showcased applied brilliance on-site with field trips to spaces and places that are revitalized by performers, activists and storytellers. The food was lovingly prepared by culinary leaders that are redefining traditional Cajun cuisine into a brilliant fusion of past and present.

AB8, Wythe Hotel, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
2013 - Being Human in a Digital Age: Breakdowns + Buildbacks

It’s a brave new world. We make a purchase on Amazon riding in the car as we roll though the EZPass lane. We scout online for potential partners and new friends in the comfort of our kitchens. We design mind-bending places, spaces and things with digital tools, because we can. The mobile device has become the revolutionary’s tool of choice, and digital imagery can incite a fundamentalist crisis. Digital technology, and its offspring, social media, is the single most powerful global connector we have. Breakdowns explored how technology is impacting our lives, and changing our values and behavior. Buildbacks was a discovery of how technology is transforming creativity, innovation and the human condition.

AB7, Sonoma Mission Inn, Sonoma California
2012 - Balancing Acts in an Open Source World: Truth, Beauty, Virtue, Grace

The rules of innovation, creativity and solutions have changed. Every great idea is open to repurposing, reframing and redefining at warp speed; the level of information and choices available, all constantly changing, all at once dazzling and dizzying. The cultural conversation today is focused on exploring new ways of experiencing truth, beauty, virtue and grace from the computer screen to the coffee house, all in context of constant change. How do we best balance our lives, both professionally and personally, in an open source, disruptive world on fast-forward? Truth challenged principles of the status quo; Beauty framed the world at its most positive level of intention; Virtue provided a moral compass; Grace offered the possibilities of fluid transformation. Applied Brilliance looked into these and other emerging trends and macro cultural shifts that reframe how we live in an inter-connected world.

AB6, Four Seasons, Jackson, Wyoming
2011 - Thriving in the Age of Transparency. Emergence, Resurgence, Convergence, Transcendence

As we slowly emerge from an unprecedented global economic recession, the guiding principle that leads the cultural conversation is transparency. Employees demand it from their leadership; citizens require it from the political and financial institutions that run their world; and, everyone expects it from their online experiences, including social networks. With transparency comes a higher level of personal and institutional responsibility and the challenge of understanding the floodgate of information that immerses us in increasing waves. Our experts made sense of the complexity we face everyday professionally and personally. They untangled the mysteries of some of the most challenging questions of our interconnected global society.

AB5, Ojai Valley Inn and Spa
2010 - Resilience and Revolution: Hope, Possibility, Surprise, Delight

We face a revolutionary crossroads in terms of how we work, live and play in the next decade; we are players in a global culture that is braced with hope and promise, as well as laden with hidden land mines. Resilience is the key characteristic that we need to flourish as bold innovators and original thinkers. The event explored the process that promoted a higher level of creativity and originality. The sequence started with Hope, then looked deeply into possibilities, were Surprised by unexpected events, and Delighted with the hard-earned results of our work.

AB4, The Sagamore, Bolton Landing, New York
2009 - Investigation, Imagination, Invention, Ignition

In the throes of the global economic crisis, success could be characterized by creativity borne from constraint. Our ability to re-frame and re-energize ourselves and our businesses could be made more effective by heeding the Applied Brilliance four-step model. Investigation looked deeply trends that were changing our society, workplace and thoughts; Imagination was the magic of originality and creativity; Invention was how to connect and cohese creativity into a tangible outcome; and Ignition was the passion and fire that takes ideas out into the world

AB3, The Sagamore, Bolton Landing, New York
2008 - Turning Points, Defining Moments, Unexpected Gifts, The Shape of the Future

The world was at a hinge point of lasting change with the early impact of the worldwide recession. Turning Points looked at the critical issues society faced that could change the course of history; Defining Moments were actionable moments of applied brilliance; Unexpected Gifts were messages that have the capacity to transform our lives; and The Shape of the Future focused on the macro issues that influenced world economies, cultural communities and belief systems.

AB2, Enchantment, Sedona, Arizona
2001 - Visionaries, Messengers, Advocates, Connectors

With the planet in a state of grace and near-ignorant bliss before 9/11, Applied Brilliance presented ideas and events that were the fresh, new paradigms of the moment. Visionaries looked at breakthroughs in genetics, physics, art and dance. Messengers were pioneers in leadership, psychiatry, philosophy and the arts; Advocates gave voices for racial equality, sustainability, indigenous groups and the cosmos; and Connectors introduced open sourcing, technology and the arts, commercial messaging and consumer behavior.

AB1, Ritz Carlton, Dana Point, California
2000 - The Practice, The Culture, The Planet, The Future

Business was booming and the emergence of the digital world was game changing for everyone personally and professionally. The Practice faced the challenges of building a practice in a progressive way so that it would be poised for the future; The Culture put seminal cultural trends into perspective as they affected how we worked, lived and played; The Planet revealed sustainable solutions and the early movement of greening the planet’s buildings, offices and homes; and The Future dealt with tactics to be prepared for the future, even if we’d never really be ready for it.

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