Recently, I participated in a meeting with colleagues at Autodesk Inc. on the Future of Events (FOE), where we tackled how to make events, such as conferences, Autodesk University, user groups such as AUGI, communities, etc., more green and sustainable.
Autodesk Commitment to the Environment
While this post is not directly about the topic of sustainability and the environment, I’m delighted with the seriousness and depth with which we are treating these issues at Autodesk. Corporately, we have a strong Environmental Commitment and Environmental Policy. But more important to me is how this initiative is being distributed throughout the entire company. We are being encouraged to make it our responsibility both as employees and citizens.
This recent FOE meeting focused on finding ways to realize these commitments, policies, and goals through Autodesk events. The meeting was but one example of how we are committed to improving the environmental performance of both our own business operations and educating ourselves and partners to do the same. In addition, we are committed to helping our customers improve the environmental performance of their designs through the software and technology we develop. I quite like that this has a win-win quality to it. These priorities and commitments are equally as important to the long-term success of making the world a better and healthier place as they are to our success as a company.
Winning vs. Losing
One thing that prompted me to write this posting were comments in the FOE meeting about how much some of us feel we have lost when it comes to event-based experiences. For example, people reminisced about how great going to a movie theater used to be—with all the smells, sounds and other very visceral characteristics. One participant added how it was also a family outing, and even though one memory included getting gum stuck in her hair, it was still remembered as a totally wonderful experience.
Many in the room lamented what they saw as the decline and loss of the "good old" movie-going experience. They felt that today more people seem to sit alone in front of their TV or computer screens to watch movies, films and video. I think this view is just the glass half full vs glass half empty way of looking at things. I don't doubt that there are statistics to support that more individual viewing is going on and that movie theatre attendance is down. But let's be sure to look at the whole picture here (sorry, I couldn't resist).
Best I can tell, the total picture shows that we have more people watching (and making) more movies, pictures, and films than ever before in history. Being a glass-half-full type of person, I do not view the change of movie-watching habits as a loss (we can still have large group movie-going experiences for the most part), but as a great opportunity to have more choices and results from experiences with film, movies, and video (to pick but a few examples). What's more, the results of this increase in movie and video production and consumption is quite profound and powerful as a timely example demonstrated very well.
Being a big believer in synchronicity, I was not surprised that on the same day as the FOE meeting, the New York Times printed “Bringing the World Together via Film” , an article about Pangea Day, an event which "endeavors to bring the world together and promote understanding and tolerance through film." According to the article, the power of film is substantially increased when we extend this from the domain of experts only and include “the rest of us” who might be so inclined to create some original film and video. Far from losing the “good old” movie theatre experience, we are gaining more experiences and more options to augment and increase the effect of film and video. Sounds more like winning than losing to me, and to badly paraphrase the Bill Withers song "Use Me": If it feels this good to lose, then keep on losing me until you lose me up!
Learning from Past Patterns?
Why is it that whenever something new and innovative comes along, people perceive that it means the elimination of whatever went before? Not only are in-person events not going away, we are increasingly adding new types of experiences (see my previous posting Fast, Fresh, and Furious: “Pecha Kucha”...the New Karaoke? for one such example). We're human and as someone so accurately observed "we still like to smell each other" (by the way, if anyone knows the attribution for this please let me know).
I therefore want to encourage all of us to look at things like events very differently and set different expectations. Most of our old and familiar ways and experiences such as theater-based film, events, conferences, meetings, etc. are NOT going to be eliminated by the new any more than radio was eliminated by TV (see my posting Books—the NEW old medium for similar reactions about new technologies).
Rather, we have more opportunities to augment these historical models with new ones. Look at the profound power of TED prize-winner Jehame Noujaim's simple wish to bring the world together via film. One person, one wish can make all the difference. What's yours?
So what new opportunities can you think of to pursue human expression, communication, dialogue, interaction, sharing, discovery and learning? Could there be any more worthwhile pursuit and benefit? I think not.