Monthly Archives: November 2008

a good day to change the world

i’ve been attending Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce conference for the past two days, and have gotten excited about some things in my industry. it’s been awhile since something happened that i thought was really new, something with the potential to drive change and innovation.

two keynote speeches today were particularly inspiring. the first, by Larry Brilliant (head of Google.org), was about 21st century philanthropy and his causes for optimism. the second by Malcolm Gladwell was about the power of human potential, and the things we do to stifle it. fortunately, you can see a webcast of these keynotes (use the pulldown menu in the player to skip to the Brilliant and Gladwell chapters).

Brilliant talked about philanthropy in general, and the human desire to do good for others, despite all the bad things we’re clearly capable of. he shared some of the things google.org is working on, and used his past work on the eradication of smallpox as an example of what people can do when united to solve a daunting problem (Obama’s refrain "Yes, we can" rings particularly true here). he then made his case for optimism, citing the Dalai Lama’s belief that "humans are getting better." he closed with a call-to-action, saying that today was a good day to start changing the world, which led to a standing ovation. very inspiring, this man, in an unassuming and touching way.

Gladwell spoke about the idea of "capitalization" as it relates to human potential (he also gave this speech at Pop!Tech 2008). his basic thesis is that people often fail to achieve their potential due to three limiting factors: economics, stupidity (of societies and organizations that suppress capitalization), and cultural attitudes. a lot of the successful people in the world, he concludes, succeed because they are given opportunity and because they persevere to achieve their goals, because they believe in the notion of meaningful work.

the common theme for me in these presentations was the potential for change, and how we can drive it if we want to badly enough. it’s amazing that on the same day i hear these presentations, we elect the first black president of the united states. it makes me believe in a lot of things: the power of individuals, the strength of communities, and the opportunity for positive change and a brighter future.

it makes me want to get off my butt and do something.