Information addiction

There is a whole population that gets little attention: addicts of information, the knowledge-needle users. We get a shot in the arm every time we hear someone doing something remarkable and inspiring and innovative. Excuse me a moment while I order another workshop. I know, I know I’ve already had 3 today.

Last month I went to “Conference Attendee Anonymous” and when they circled the room and got to me, I felt compelled not to open up and share. “When was the last time you went to a conference? Tell me where and when.”

All eyes looked down so as not to shame me. People were twiddling their thumbs. “Yesterday,” I said sheepishly, “it was in Barcelona at IESE Business School of Navarra at Doing Good By Doing Well with Net Impact. It was the forth conference I went to by the same name (which is a grammatical error, incidentally) by completely unassociated organizations, none of them to be confused with the esteemed Mark Albion’s book on tape series.”

“Go on,” they said.

“The other was at Columbia University.”

“And before that?”

The Economist Corporate Citizenship Conference “Doing Well by Doing Good” at the NY Public Library by the same name. Oh, you should have been there. Bill Clinton talked about Haiti, Proctor and Gamble talked about delighting people with product, and Jeff Hollender of Seventh Generation objected to companies making efforts to be less bad, and claiming to be saving the environment. “I’m a polluter,” he said, which woke everybody up. He advocated authenticity before any of us can move forward. He acknowledged, however, that the big companies can have the most impact so when make little shifts the results are tremendous….”

Sometimes at conferences, the heads in the room begin to nod. But not the, “yes we understand” kind of nod. Nodding as in … nodding off.

My thoughts return to the receptions. At the Economist event I met a woman organizing the women in her village to take control of the energy deprivation, with solar ovens, wind power, and solar power commit. Donorchoose was there. It was exciting. Blood rushing, hope, praise. Even the audience questions give me a buzz. The Care2 founder is one of my heroes. Randy Paynter.

I’m reminded of how exciting it was to meet Cathy Zoi, Director of the EERE (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) at the DOE (US Department of Energy) at the Clean Tech Week, and then Michael Eckhart, founder of ReTech gave his best speech yet. The cleantech engineers from China seemed more verbal than the US engineers.. I’m pontificating.

What we need is to interact, not just leave 5 minutes for questions because we ran out of time. The audience is well-educated with a wealth of ideas. Why are conferences modeled after the feudal system. Speakers get in free, the peasants pay and listen. It wasn’t supposed to be like that.. The speaker went over because someone got stuck in a cab.

Congragreening in Manhattan

Congragreening in Manhattan.

I don’t know about you but it’s hard for me to turn down conferences, webinars, and seminars. I think I need convention intervention.

I’m congregational.
When everyone is in a room together it’s like Sunday School as a kid. We’re together. In my case, we’re convening always around the planet, the environment, water, air, energy, agriculture, or tuning up on communication skills: social media, seo, database management, streaming, linking, rich media, gaming…

Why we convene.
When we convene we feel satiated temporarily by not ignoring our miraculous, generous, nurturing, beautiful planet. We are almost spiritual about it. In awe of it. People don’t all worship the same solutions but there’s a good chance everyone is praying for the same thing. Prosperity in Clean Tech for instance. Whether it’s water desalination, hydrogen fuel, solar-chargeable electric cars or software for the smart grid.. even fuel efficient food production, we’re placing our hopes and dreams on feeling okay when we die that we didn’t let down our grand kids. Or, in my case the dolphins and elephants. Have you ever had eye contact with a dolphin? It makes you cringe. I tried to make eye contact with an ant and it wasn’t the same. But back to our grandchildren. We don’t want them to look down at us. We want to have been a role model. This appeals to our inner ego.

It does not, however, I have noticed mean that we convene sustainably. I’ve been photographing the mess left behind at the refreshment stands, for instance. Plastic creamers, plastic twirlers, wooden stirrers, cups, bottled water, juice bottles, napkins, plastic plates, plastic utensils shrink-wrapped in more plastic. All in the name of a sustainability conference. We never ask what’s that tie made of, how do you dry clean it… Can we see the label in your suit? Where did you get those shoes? We don’t want to be rude.