Maine’s Fall Conference Circuit: Rebellion, Trust and Failure

John Maeda, design partner at VC firm Kleiner Perkins, has called conferences “the new college” – a place where people are mixed together from different disciplines, having real discussions, under one roof with few distractions.
envisionmainelogoimagessmallThis fall, Maine has been blessed with a number of opportunities to learn, connect and grow through conferences – from MTI’s Tech Walk and the 18th annual PopTech, to the upcoming Juice Conference in Rockland.

If you’ve missed the action on the first two – the themes have been provocative and relevant –  you can catch some of the sessions online (via the links below). And, there is still time to grab a ticket to Juice 4.0.

Innovation, Entrepreneurship….Rebellion?

Maeda played the role of dean, curator and professor at this year’s PopTech held in Camden October 23 – 25. Technologists, instigators and social innovators from around the globe came to Maine to do some deep thinking around the concept of Rebellion. Maine was well represented by members of our entrepreneurial community like Tammy Ackerman, executive director of Engine and Kerem Durdag, CEO of MTI portfolio company Biovation.

There were talks by brilliant “rebels” like Joi Ito, Timothy Leary’s godson and director of the MIT Media Lab and General Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of US and International assistance forces in Afghanistan and many others. The unifying thread? Counter to the current narrative in technology around disruption and overthrowing the establishment – most speakers challenged us to recast rebellion as something closer to reinvention.

“A rebel must also have a vision for something better, a strategy for moving toward that vision and a capacity to rally and join with others in achieving it.” Parker Palmer, Director of the Center for Courage & Renewal

 “The act of rebellion is this generative thing of saying okay we are going to create the new reality that we see needs to be in this world.” Krista Tippett, Host of the fantastic OnBeing

Perhaps the most moving talk of all was given by Dr. Regina Dugan, VP of Engineering at Google and first woman to head DARPA. Instead of talking about the projects that her own personal band of rebels are working on at Google’s Advanced Technologies and Projects Group, she shared a powerful story about lessons in rebellion she learned by overcoming cancer at age 9.

  •  The odds are irrelevant. If it is important + it matters, you take the shot.
  • If the odds don’t matter, every moment does. Live life big because no one is promised tomorrow.
  • If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, showing up is key.

 “Rebellion is just shorthand for making moments matter and for always showing up.” Regina Dugan, VP of Engineering at Google.

You can watch any of the PopTech speakers on ForaTV now. If you only have time for one – PLEASE treat yourself to Regina Dugan’s wonderful 15 minutes here (beginning at minute 38).

Trust & Failure: Key Ingredients for Growth

This year’s MTI’s Tech Walk featured Victor Hwang, the Executive Director of the Global Innovation Summit and author of The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley. Didn’t make it? Spend 11 minutes of a break this week and catch his Ted Talk here.

During the talk he identified the key factors driving the strength of human innovation ecosystems – diversity of talents, trust across social barriers, motivations that rise above short-term rationality, and social norms that promote rapid, “promiscuous” collaboration and experimentation among individuals.

These are the some of the very topics that the Juice Conference will dive into at a deeper level on November 13 – 15 in Rockland. The theme of this year’s conference is “Imagining Trust” and will explore the idea that community is key to creating an atmosphere where risk-taking can be undertaken.

Our entrepreneurial community will be out in full force for this event and the conference has lots of interesting panels and workshops in store. I can’t wait for the Failing Forward Panel billed as “Honest conversations with entrepreneurs about failures experienced and redemptive lessons learned”. The more our community can trust each other to share the bad and the good, the faster we’ll grow.

And, as 1 part shameless self promotion and 1 part request for assistance; Don Gooding and I will be speaking on The New Trust Landscape for Entrepreneurs on Friday afternoon. Let me know if you have burning questions or excellent anecdotes you’d like us to share with the audience. And even better, please come and say hi if you’ll be attending class…I mean, the conference!