Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Clinton & Wonder Inspire at Dreamforce '10

Today was one of those days, you are thankful that work comes together with inspiration. As a last minute decision, I decided to go up to the Dreamforce '10 event in San Francisco. I scheduled some client meetings and intended to walk the tradeshow flow before going to hear the scheduled President Clinton speech. Because of rain delays for the former President's flight, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff brought in an unexpected treat - Stevie Wonder. He talked about many stories from his life from how he decided to perform again mother's death to his early experiences in school, but I think the one thing I'll remember is how he deals with adversity. He is an optimistic person who believes that his passion for people and music transcends and particular issue. Benioff is right when he says that everything happens for a reason.

Then President Clinton walked on the floor with an impromptu introduction by Stevie. Clinton made his opening comment about how as an amateur musician, this was the first time when a pro was the opening act. I've always admired Clinton's leadership skills and his desire to do good in the world. I've heard many speeches on TV, but nothing is like seeing him in person. He can go from the high level trends of interdependence to the detail of new discoveries in stem cells and disease recovery. After a successful Presidency where he left the country with 4 years of surplus, then making incredible money on the lecture circuit, he then chases big problems through the Clinton Global Initiative.

He is a master of making complex problems simple. In his mind, the central characteristic of nations is interdependence. What happens in halfway across the world is known instantly everywhere. Ideas, capital, and goods flow everywhere presenting all sorts of opportunities. However it creates 3 large issues: inequality, instability and unsustainability.

  • Inequality is increasing concentration of wealth to a few whether it's in the US or around the world. This concentration impedes broad based wealth creation because consumers will not be able to afford the new products or act in the creation of new innovation.
  • Instability is caused by this free flow of capital where a bubble in the US can impact the whole world. Similarly, terrorists or a rogue nation can significantly destabilize the world order.
  • Unsustainability speaks to the environment and energy. We are emitting more than the world can handle. The US is the only country in the world that has recently elected officials that believe the overwhelming science on man-made climate change is wrong. Luckily, the US is the only industrialized nation that has this uncertainly. The key is what will happen if the ice on Greenland melts and Europe goes into a new Ice Age.
So Clinton thinks about how his organization can address these issues in an economically advantageous way. As great as it is for the wealthy to give to NGO's, those firm should look for ways to serve while building the systems and institutions to put themselves out of business. People need to become self-reliant for help to be worthwhile.

On the mid-term elections, Clinton believes Democrats erred by not advertising their accomplishments on tax cuts (16 for small business), health care or in financial reform where there is a process to prevent future bailouts of large financial institution. The ad budget was there, but they decided to make elections local when the sentiment was national.

I love his thoughts about the history of society and how they fail by spending too much time in protecting the present. It goes to the notion of living beyond our means for this moment while not building for the future. For example, Germany and China have decided to dedicate significant resources to green energy whereas the US is potentially not renewing credits for green energy development. It is about not investing in education as US students fall behind the rest of the world in high school and college graduation rates. However, there is inspiration for the hi tech crowd. Unlike any of time in history, we can do work related to our interest, rather than needing to work to survive. There are great advances in hi tech, green energy and biotech that are making a new future. As long as we drive towards broad-based economic success, there is tremendous hope. The fact that we are in a place where becoming an entrepreneur is easier than ever before, means there is opportunity for disruptive innovation - the kind that creates new potential.

I came away encouraged because it took me out of the day to day drive to serve clients, acquire new customers and run the business. At Position2, we have been driving the leading edge for some time where there's uncertainty and great potential. Listening to great people like Pres Clinton, Stevie Wonder, and Marc Benioff helps you understand that we are fortunate to be in a place where we have an opportunity to create change. Wealth, political and living conditions are unequal, but intelligence is more evenly distributed. We should be thankful that our condition gives us an opportunity to express our full potential.

Thanks to the people for providing inspiration with an excellent event!

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