Speaking From the Heart, and off the Top of My Head

I found myself in an uncomfortable position at the end of my short keynote speech during the Enterprise 2.0 conference yesterday. I got through my prepared material and still had about five minutes left in the allotted time. So I had to ad lib.

The idea that occurred to me (from no identifiable source) was to make Enterprise 2.0 personal. I compared where my thinking was a year ago to where it was today, and tried to convey how big a shift had taken place. 

I used to believe pretty firmly that groups dumbed down people, and sometimes used the old line that the King James Bible was the only great work ever produced by a committee. I now believe that groups are often much smarter than individuals, and that collective intelligence can be further increased with a smattering of technology and a few good rules and norms. 

I used to believe that blogs were primarily vehicles for blaring opinions, and that bloggers generally proved Kierkegaard’s great quote that "People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use." I now get a large percentage of my daily food for thought from blogs, and write one myself. It’s proved to be an unparalled vehicle for getting ideas out into the world, getting useful feedback on them, and meeting people who are interested in the same things I am.

I used to believe that people who met and interacted with each other digitally did so because they found reality unpleasant, and vice versa. I have now met several people who I consider friends and colleagues via the Internet. By now I’ve met most of them face-to-face, and every time I do it feels like I’m catching up with a long-lost friend.

I used to believe that the landscape of corporate IT was starting to resemble my native Midwest —  no huge changes visible from here to the horizon. I now believe that this is the most interesting time for business use of information technology since the start of the previous really interesting period in about 1994.

Finally, I used to think that short talks at conferences were low-pressure events, since they’d be heard by relatively few people and remembered by even fewer. A quick Google blog search, however, brings up about 30 blog posts commenting on my keynote. These will persist unless their posters take them down, and will add to the Internet’s record of my work.  This is more than a bit scary for me as a speaker, but for me as a conference attendee this is great news; it means that the overall quality of talks will go up. No one wants to be examined from that many angles and found lacking.

If I remember to acknowledge some of the great people at the conference I know I’ll forget others, so let me just say a blanket "Thank you." It was a great event, and it reminded me that it’s been a momentous year. I hope that came across as I was desperately extemporizing.