Experiential over intellectual - the enterprise parties on...

Musical entertainment, motivational speakers entice enterprise conference attendees, but the gap between understanding and doing remains large
Written by Oliver Marks, Contributor

Software companies are gearing up for the annual US fall expo season, with the now traditional 'battle of the bands'. Enticing prospects to the giant keynotes and technical sessions is sweetened by the prospect of performances by 'mature' well known musical acts...the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are to headline Salesforce's San Francisco Dreamforce event next week (or at least appearing as a support act for their charismatic CEO Marc Benioff), Oracle also present a full fledged music festival alongside their vast OpenWorld event at the end of the month and SAP showcase 3 Doors Down in October.

Consumerization of the enterprise means making your ecosphere feel as hip as possible, and musical acts are now table stakes for global hitech vendors, which is great for musicians, who ironically lost control of their published work long ago because of digital technology advances and increasingly rely on performance revenues. Adding corporate events to 'Mortgage tours' by past generations of chart toppers works for everyone, although it can be odd at events to segue from the last of the big product announcements to full on guitar pomp and circumstance.

Where evidence of attending a geek fest used to be a colorful backpack, water bottle, mouse mat and a few T shirts, these days the global vendors encourage self help. Guru Tony Robbins will conduct a giant motivational event Friday at Dreamforce 'to help you break through', something he has been working inside Salesforce on for the last three years according to the above video. 

I know plenty of people who have benefited from Tony Robbins events and hopefully lots of people will be greatly empowered next Friday. However, the difference between choosing to experience an up and coming band or pony up the money for a motivational seminar is very different to getting them as part of a different occasion. Many California Country Fairs feature bands like the Beach Boys to go with the home made jelly, quilting and livestock and attract attendees, but clearly we're in a different headspace in the tech world. 

Traditionally giant events like Oracle OpenWorld are all about educational sessions and networking for the vast majority of attendees, with some marketing hoopla keynotes and a couple of boozy evenings to unwind. Being invited to 'unleash the power within', to use Robbins marketing phrase, is a new turn of events and in some ways mirrors the digital intertwining of personal and professional lives which has arguably now crested. 

The six foot seven, North Hollywood born Jay Mahavorick started life promoting seminars for 'rags to riches' motivational speaker Jim Rohn before becoming Tony Robbins and embarking on a highly successful career promoting himself as a Peak Performance Coach. Twitter is awash with motivational mantras, as is Facebook (usually added to appropriated inspiring images), one of the major uses of social networking. In many ways last year's Social Media craze peak was driven by thousands of mini digital Tony Robbins style personalities, with a curious network effect that was this era's equivalent of the TV infomercial. 

The concept and perceived benefits of a 'Social Business' or 'Social Enterprise' is now pretty well understood inside the business world, but there is of course a wide gap between what is collectively intellectually possible across an organization and the entrenched status quo in a very tight global economy. As I've discussed here before, relevant context, specificity and tight tolerances are vital to achieve any sort of return on investment. 

Talk is cheap and digital talk has never been cheaper, and we all know from practical experiences there is a big difference between understanding something theoretically and actually doing it, as all the folks in the conference tech sessions will experience in the coming weeks. I can watch a TV show on how to make furniture or read a shop manual and understand the steps and parts required to rebuilding an engine ...but actually successfully doing it is a different thing altogether. The experience of learning on the job, believing you can do something and successfully completing it is key to the human experience and when done collectively as a collaborative group usually amplifies the pleasure of achievement. (As long as you get some credit...).

Read/Write Web 2.0 enabled the easy superficial experience social era. Experiencing things rather than intellectually understanding them is currently greatly undervalued in society in my opinion: maybe Tony Robbins really will help DreamForce attendees 'Awaken Their Giant Within'. 

The challenge is for attendees to be genuinely 'bought-in' to experiencing the benefits of change, over being merely intellectually curious about a conference side show, which is ironically pretty much exactly where all the software vendors who have appropriated intellectual ideas about applied collaborative thinking to use for their marketing find themselves this hi tech fashion season. Where salaries, hierarchy and peer pressure are involved miracles happen to order…personal epiphanies are another thing entirely. 

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