Some further reflections on my ideaCity experience:
The generalist format – that is, bouncing from speaker to speaker and topic to topic – is astounding in action, as it is at ideaCity. It gives you a taste of what’s happening across the vast landscape of human endeavour, and that truly is an inspiring (and sometimes overwhelming) thing. Being introduced to people and ideas that aren’t normally in your field of vision is incredibly provacative. I think many people lose sight of that in the focus of their day jobs or in the linear track set out by their schooling.
I couldn’t help but see each of the presenters as either specialists or generalists. Most were specialists – deep specialists – working in fields so advanced and sophisticated that it boggles the mind. One thing that was obvious was that each presenter absolutely loved what they do, whether it was the fun of designing video games, the joy of performing on stage or the challenge of delivering medicine to war zones. Passion has a specializing effect. Passion is what creates experts. All of these people are where they are doing what they do because they’ve found a passion that drives them. …It’s as difficult as it is easy to strike up a conversation with many of these people. 😉
I attended ideaCity two years ago. Obviously each year will be slightly different, shaped by the collective personalities and themes put forward, but one main difference I found with this year’s messages was an overall heightened sense of urgency. Matters regarding the environment, human rights, politcal leadership and so all seemed to be presented with much more of a time-now-for-action undercurrent and a “If not now, when? If not us, who?” sentiment.
A conference like this is a little bit mindbending and for me it has to do with the big picture burden, something I’ve posted about here a few times before. Learning about so many fascinating pursuits and implications as well as of spiralling problems and unending setbacks, one is hit squarely between the eyes with equal parts of inspired hope and hopeless dispair. On the one hand you’re amazed by a new invention or performance, fascinated by the fruits of exploration, and blown away by the power and resilience of the human spirit. But on the other hand you’re disgusted by our waste and destruction, repulsed by ugly human behaviour or incompetence, and, frankly, frightened by the narrow-minded fervour and army of support that some ideas have pushing them forward. It’s dizzying.
I’m very fortunate to have an employer who recognizes that ideas give me a charge and will send me off for a few days to roll around in them at a conference like this. Actually, I had to beg and plead to go but still they sent me and I’m very grateful for it (Thank you Andy, Garner and Leila!). It’s not an obvious investment. ideaCity really has very little to do with the industry in which I work, or for that matter the industries or fields in which any of the other delegates work (which, by the way, are some very progressive places), but what it lacks in immediate practical takeaway it more than makes up for in inspiration and perspective. And those things are extremely valuable too.