Wednesday, July 29, 2009

@DMAI: 'Believing Is Seeing'

And now for some self-promotion: Convene sponsored the opening keynote speaker at the DMAI 95th Annual Convention yesterday. The reason this isn't "shameless" self-promotion is because the speaker in question -- Erik Weihenmayer -- was tremendous.

Weihenmayer has been blind since he was 13, but that hasn't stopped him from climbing the Seven Summits (the highest mountains on each of the seven continents), including Mt. Everest -- which he's the only blind person to have scaled. During his talk yesterday, Weihenmayer was funny, thought-provoking, and -- yes, we have to say it -- inspirational. He admitted that "blind mountain climber" isn't a term that makes a whole lot of sense; related a climbing buddy's philosophy of "positive pessimism" (example: "Sure is cold out here. But at least it's windy."); and explained why you need to look beyond your individual goals: "A vision is like an internal compass. It guides us through good weather, but more importantly through bad weather; and tells us where we're going."

And Weihenmayer talked about how you can't have growth or innovation without adversity. Look no further than some of his climbing buddies, who include a paraplegic who invented a pull-up device that's allowed him to continue climbing, and a double-leg amputee who's developed prosthetic legs that have made him an even better climber. Weihenmayer calls these types of people "alchemists," because "they're able to take all the lead life piles onto them and turn it into gold."

Leaders in any field must do the same. "There will always be people who believe in your vision and people who don't," Weihenmayer said, but you can't worry about that. He said: "They say seeing is believing. I think they're dead wrong. Believing is seeing."

Monday, July 27, 2009

History Repeating

The Continuing Education column in this month's issue of Convene is about the history of trade shows -- a subject that seems to pop up even when you're not looking for it. Even when you're minding your own business, reading an interesting new book called Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line, which is about the double life of Clarence King, the first director of the U.S. Geological Survey. More or less apropos of nothing, author Martha A. Sandweiss drops in this nugget:

"On July 12, 1893, a young historian from the University of Wisconsin named Frederick Jackson Turner delivered an after-dinner talk on 'The Significance of the Frontier in American History' to the scholars gathered in Chicago for the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. Across town at the great Columbian Exposition, Buffalo Bill Cody staged his own version of American frontier history to considerably larger crowds."

It's not that the history of the trade show (or meeting, or convention) is the history of America. But sometimes it sure seems that way.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Spy Who Friended Us

And to think that I fretted that a colleague might see the Thanksgiving video my niece posted on Facebook -- the one with me in the kitchen, loudly singing along with my boisterous extended family.  

It recently came to light that Sir John Sawers, chief of the British intelligence agency M16, was outed by his wife on Facebook. Sawers' wife enabled zero privacy settings on her account, giving 200 million Facebook viewers access to Sawers' secret code name, along with other sensitive information, including photos of the agent cavorting in a brief bathing suit.

It's hard not to commiserate. On July 1, Facebook announced that it was changing its privacy controls, which Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly admitted are currently way too complex.  The controls, which are now scattered across in multiple pages, will be simplified and consolidated into one page in the future.

So far, I've been fairly scrupulous about keeping my professional and personal lives corralled in separate social networking sites -- Facebook for friends, LinkedIn for work. I think that's common for all but the youngest generations of users. 

But if  keeping my professional and personal life separate on one Web site were to get a lot easier, that could change the game.