I’m headed to the TED conference today. This is one of those events that challenge you to think about the bigger picture and beyond the immediate horizons of financial quarters or even years. This year, more than ever, the conference will have its work cut out to achieve that. With so many businesses caught up in the immediate economic challenges, I suspect it will be tougher to get the CEOs attending to put aside the pressures of their day job and explore some of the mind bending content TED presenters usually put forward. Of course this may actually be just what some of these people need. It is all too easy for business leaders to get caught up in the immediate challenges they face and to forget about the long term destination. Some will argue that when a ship is sinking the captain should worry more about keeping it afloat than which port they were headed for. I’d agree but I’d also argue that most people’s ships are not sinking; they are simply battling tough conditions. The captains who can remind their crew of the benefits of reaching the destination and who are able to step back and perhaps use the difficult conditions to actually help them reach the destination will be the real winners. I say all of this, not to encourage a round of navel-gazing by business leaders at a time when they do need a firm hand on the tiller but to make sure we also remember that in times of difficulty the importance of having the right destination shouldn’t be ignored. Missions and visions are not the monopoly of good economies after all.
Spent the last few days at TED, a pretty amazing event that feels a bit like a meal. Presentations from movie producers, software engineers, poets, physicists, Paul Simon and Bill Clinton. The reference to the meal being that some of this has been like ‘having to eat your greens,’ while other parts have been like being given a great dessert. If there’s one theme that has pervaded the event so far it is again that we all need to work on saving the planet. This was very much the message of John Doerr who ended his speech in tears and has been a passing reference by almost all the other speakers. From a communications perspective it’s hard not to walk away from this feeling that for brands to succeed they must put greater emphasis on this aspect of their social responsibility if they are to succeed. Of course you may argue that consumers are the ones that will be the judge of that. I’d argue, having been bathed in the ‘we have to save the planet’ message for a few days by leaders from all walks of life, that this is not a passing fad. equally it’s a message that is getting the attention of some pretty important minds. Therefore I’d argue that what we have here is something really important. It’s what VCs have been searching for since the dot com bubble burst. It is the next big thing. Kind of funny when you think about it. The next big thing isn’t some amazing new algorithm or financial model, it’s the thing you’ve been standing on for most of your life – the planet.