Reflections and Future Thinking on my Recent trip to the USA – Land of Contrasts Part 1

I have just returned from two weeks in the USA where I attended The Business Innovation Factory Summit No 9 , the Maker Faire in New York and the Mashable Social Good Summit.

The reason I say land of contrasts in the title of this post is because I love going to the USA. I love the people there, I love the feel of the place and I saw some amazing things and connected with some amazing people on my trip. At the same time I am amazed and dismayed by the politics, the rising levels of inequality and the recent problems around health care which have resulted in the Federal Government shutdown.

I think that this is best visualised by this blog post I re blogged on our Tumblr scanning site from Cory Doctorow which involves a Jon Stewart Daily Show rant on the shutdown and some really heartfelt comments from people on who will be most affected:

Tumblr Post on The Shutdown in the USA

It is hard to understand from here in Australia is that healthcare is not universal and the shocking stories of the high levels of personal bankruptcy due to medical problems.

Anyway enough of the problems here are some highlights out of the many. The positive far outweigh the negatives:

Meeting Stowe Boyd Face to Face

Stowe (@stoweboyd) and I have been connected over social media for a long time now and I read most of what he writes. I am particularly interested in his concepts of collaboration versus cooperation as elaborated in two great posts: The future of work in a social world: part 2 (you can access the first one from this article). I visited him at his home in Beacon New York and we went out for pulled pork quesidillas and great conversation on all sorts of things. He is a deep thinker and creator of great frameworks. I  am planning on using him in a project we are starting here in Australia and I look forward to many more interactions. It was great to meet in person – you can do all the internet stuff you like but until you break bread together and  discover for instance that you are both early risers and nappers you do not really connect. I recommend you go and follow him and read his stuff. Your thinking will be the richer for it.

Attending BIF9 and Re-Connecting With Some Great People

I went back to the Business Innovation Summit after attending last year keen t defend my “most miles traveled award”. It was my great pleasure to connect up again with Jess Esch (@jesch30) and Anita Crofts (@avcrofts) who both took me under the wing last year and looked after me when I did not know anybody. They both do great stuff. Jess works with United Way but is also a graphic artist/illustrator. She did my twitter avatar which you can see over at @futuristpaul. Since I have returned to Australia Jess has helped me with focus for the year ahead. She does this thing where you talk about what you want to achieve and she draws it out while you talk. I have the two she did  for me over Skype on my office wall in front of me as I write this. It is much more inspiring and focusing than a written list.

Anita is doing amazing things in education which you can see at : Want to Learn How to Fly? . I intend to pick her brain on some of the projects we are involved in around leadership in a digital age and community collaboration. She had one of her students with her who was so enthusiastic and passionate about what Anita had done for her career it was amazing

I also reconnected with Christopher Rice (@ricetopher) who is a fellow futurist who probably thinks a little too much like me to be completely sane.  He is committed to education and communities and rethinking how futurists help their communities. We plan to hook up regularly and try and rethink these things together – should be great fun.

I also reconnected with Matt Murrie (@MattMurrie) from What If. Matt and his team sat down with me after the summit to discuss future thinking and how they could apply it to what they are doing. I think I waffled too much but hopefully it helped because they have the potential to do some great things. Matt also posted a story at Huffington Post where he talked about his BIF experience:  What If @ BIF?

The BIF summit is a fantastic collection of people who form a community that connect with each other and actually get things done outside of the the conference itself. I recommend everyone take a look at it and see for themselves. The videos form last year are up at http://www.businessinnovationfactory.com/iss and this years will be up soon.

Overall my experience of the trip and America was highly positive. When you met with the people I met with and saw the amazing things they are doing it give you great hope for the future. Maybe the USA can just ignore Congress and the Senate and be a bit like Italy – just get on with it regardless. Sadly The federal Government seems more dysfunctional than the chaos of Italian governments since World War 2.

In my next post I will talk about:

Connecting with Some New Great People at BIF9

The Maker Faire and my day with Lynda Koster

My Disappointment at the Mashable Social Good Summit