Technology and the people driving it are changing the way we see and experience just about everything, especially the dissemination of knowledge in meetings, events, seminars, and classrooms. Over the past few years I’ve been honored to speak at a number of events – everything from digital marketing summits, social media conferences, event planning think tanks, American Heart Association global conferences, and Asset-Based Thinking workshops to local town hall meetings with moms and kids. And now, I am fortunate to be teaching at USC’s Marshall School of Business creating lectures and engaging students in the digital classroom. For me, these experiences have been an invigorating, ever-expanding exposure to a new world of communications, information exchange, and a re-discovery of the art of personal persuasion in a digital age.
The Gift of Positive Disruption
After almost five decades in the marketing communications business and at the ripe young age of 67, I find myself in awe of and thoroughly energized by how the nature of knowledge-based meetings, conferences, and facilitated learning has changed. As a communications person I was fascinated by (and sometimes leery of) the pervasive influence of technolo – it is everywhere, every time, and with everyone. Live-streaming, iPads, open laptops, video, i-reporting, real-time blogs, tweet streams, back-channels, podcasts, Blackberries, personalized video channels, iPhones, webinars, etc. are now standard fare. As an asset-based thinker, rather than being intimidated and threatened by these tech tools and rapid-fire changes, I looked at them as challenges and powerful positive gifts of disruption, and jumped on board. My leeriness about depersonalization, disconnectedness, and distraction dissolved into a firm embrace of these tools as assets and a belief that, when properly utilized, all this tech is helping create richer, deeper, more connected and sustainable knowledge sharing.
Technology Enables. People Experience.
Over the years we’ve come to expect the dissemination of information and knowledge to be continually enabled and enhanced by the latest and greatest technology. What’s changed now is that this impressive array of technology is also in the hands (literally) of recipients, attendees, and casual observers. This means that everyone involved – teachers, technicians, organizers, facilitators, speakers, recipients, support media – everyone has the opportunity to raise their game and their expectations. Knowledge management is now as much about listening as it is about broadcasting, and as much about engaging as it is about educating. We’ve all heard the term “listen harder” which implies narrowing your focus and blocking out distraction. Enlightened use of technology enables “listening softer” so we can actually pay deeper attention to a person and listen with our eyes and hearts as well as our ears. Everyone involved hears, speaks, and feels more. Connected, engaged communities emerge.
Inside the Softer Side of Technology
Earlier this month I was invited by Sonic Foundry, a leading-edge rich media webcasting, lecture capture, and knowledge management company, to deliver a keynote address at their fifth annual UNLEASH Mediasite User Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. Each year they bring together over 200 of the best and the brightest in their fields to look ahead to what’s next in technology, to network, and to share ideas and best practices. Attending the UNLEASH event gave me an even greater appreciation for the power and promise of technology, reminded me of the responsibility we all have to use and share it wisely, and provided the motivation for this article. It was an honor to have the opportunity to talk to the attendees about Asset-Based Thinking and how it could help them make the most of the rapid change influencing their professional and personal lives. Here’s a link to my talk enabled by their Mediasite webcasting technology platform.
The practical knowledge I gained through the presentations, workshops, and individual discussions will definitely make my work easier and better. What impressed me most, however, was something that went well beyond the amazing technology and expertise present at the conference. What stood out was the emotional side of the experience. The energy and passion of the people behind the technology, their sense of mission and higher purpose, and the open, collaborative community of sharing they created were wonderful. It was all about people creating, developing, and refining ideas together. A great example of technology being in service to people and their ideas, not vice versa. Asset-Based Thinking at its best! Sonic Foundry’s mission statement captures it well.
Helping create the libraries of tomorrow with technology that doesn’t compound the world’s information overload. We are working to put a human face on all knowledge online, and we believe the world will be more knowledgeable, more connected as a result.
Technology-driven change presents opportunity and challenge. The opportunity is to engage people in communication experiences (large or small) that are interactive, iterative, participatory, shared and sustainable. The challenge is to remember that great ideas and powerful content make technology its most meaningful and valuable.
This quote from advertising pioneer and creative genius Bill Bernbach sums it up best.
“An idea can turn to dust or magic depending upon the creative people that rub against it”
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