Attending a conference is an art. As we dance between schedules, discernment, presence and processing; we integrate and take away useful insights and connections that improve who we are and what we do. On the weekend of February 14th, I attended my first Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco. I listened intently to many perspectives on how we can leverage wisdom and technology through the events’ diverse programming and engaged in dialog with new and deepening connections. Check out my event infographic: Highlights from Wisdom 2.0.
In an interesting twist of observation, a key take away from the trip did not come from the conference, but rather through the technology-based consumer choices we made to make the trip efficient and affordable. Those choices resulted in connecting to community while leveraging collaborative technology. As a society, we are beginning to awaken to the beauty of working collaboratively, with an integrated world vision. We are challenging old ways of thinking, such as the insistence that all activities must result in maximum growth and profit. We are experiencing success in trust and cooperation. Change is afoot.
In the past, when you travelled on business and conferences, it was traditional to acquire a hotel room, rent a car and call taxies. Eating out or on the run was an expected additional expense. For many years, I travelled on company dime, following their regulations, and while I was always thrifty in my choices, I was not as discerning as I am now that I now cover my own expenses. The cost for a weekend conference could result in at least $150/night hotel, with one or two $20+ taxi rides/day, and a minimum of $40/day for drinks/meals. Resulting in $250/day if you were not careful! As the plane landed, I was reviewing in my mind my budget for the trip. I was curious about how thrifty I could be.
My trip partner was an old friend and fellow colleague, Carri Munn. We had agreed to leverage AirBnB, and split the cost of a room. We had been hearing great stories, and a couple of our friends are hosts and love it. We also wanted a shared kitchen so we could cook our own meals and snacks, and avoid the cost of eating out every meal. The AirBnB network is a simple and affordable online tool that enables people to rent rooms in their homes. You can review the host’s profile, see reviews, and send them messages. The network is successful because it builds trust through client and peer review. They vary in options, from a single room, to an entire flat or home.
Carri had found a nice, large room in the Mission on Folsom Street, about two blocks from a local co-op grocery, and about a mile from the conference venue. Perfect. We arrived to discover that our fellow flatmates all travelled from overseas. In the room next to the kitchen was a sweet couple from France on vacation that consistently locked their keys in their room. In the far room was a French couple travelling together in support of the husband’s business. The husband enjoyed debating the travails of the worlds’ cultures every evening in the kitchen. The large room housed two ladies from Denmark attending the conference as well, to explore new opportunities with their yoga studio. The mother of the flat owner came by every couple of days with a new container of freshly baked goods for us to snack on, and by the end of the weekend, we where all laughing and cooking and sharing our stories, and debating, in the evenings. You will never experience that in a hotel!
We set our alarms early for Friday morning, so we would get there early and orient ourselves. As we locked our door and set out, we debated on if we wanted to walk or ride. If we were to get there early, a ride would be best. Carri then pulled our her phone and brought up a program called Uber. Neither of us had used this before, yet her business partner with Causeit, MJ Petroni, recommended it highly. Apparently, it is akin to Taxis; as AirBnB is to Hotels. I was in! Within 2 minutes, a nice clean car pulled up driven by a dark skinned man in a suit. He greeted us brightly and asked the address, and off we went. As we pulled up to the venue we thanked him and got out. No exchange of credit cards, no cash or tips needed! It was all done via the Uber website that is hooked into a Paypal account. Uber pays the drivers. Riders rate the drivers directly online, so any drivers that receive multiple bad rates, are cut from the que, so they don’t get dispatched to riders. Agile and efficient again! The drivers can write off their car expenses in their taxes, or so one of the drivers informed us as he happily shared how beneficial it has been for him. The result, riders get an extremely trustworthy, efficient and simple way to get around town. Win-Wins all round! (Lyft is another similar solution)
As the whirl of the weekend spun down, the next phase of my journey was upon me. Carri was headed back to Portland, and I was headed south to visit my mother, Sue. She lives just north of San Luis Obispo, where I used to go to college. She recently moved back for the warmth and the community that makes her happy and it had been months since we visited. I was planning on taking the train, yet upon research, I discovered it would take over 5 hours, and only ran once a day. I asked around at the conference about alternatives, and my old friend Brad Nye suggested Zimride. I was thrilled to learn about a online trust-networked rideshare/carpooling network. Yes, its owned by Enterprise, but you have the option of paying the driver cash. I posted the ride I was seeking, and sent a message to a woman who was traveling to Santa Barbara the same day. She had 2 seats available for $35/each. You can link your account to Facebook, which helps connect you to people, and improves the trust factor. As a bonus, we discovered that she too was attending the conference, so we met the next morning, hit it off, and struck a deal. I had my ride, and some great company a well! Tuesday, I took the Bart to a agreed upon rendezvous station stop, and Barb picked me up, and one other rider, Forrest. The Bart is the rapid transit system in the bay area, and is a great way to get around the bay.
As we travelled together, getting to know each other – we discovered that we had a syncronicity that connected us. Barb specializes in helping companies “bridge the gap” between different cultures. For example, if a company contracts a team from India to help with a major project, they would bring Barb in for a workshop or a lecture to educate the teams in America and India on the different cultural aspects. This knowledge results in greater efficiency and higher morale, and reduces misunderstandings and conflicts. Her business is called “Bridge the Gap”. My business is called “Bridgewalkers”, and my services include business analysis, visual documentation and change management that help “bridge the gaps” between the technical teams and user needs. Finally, Forrest, who is a student, told us about his fathers’ business called “Bridge” which provides used American educational books to schools in need located in China. What are the chances of that?
We are the Bridges! All of us. We work to help bring knowledge and understanding to each other – living and making choices with technology in our every day lives can bring people like us together, to inspire, support, and connect. That is the challenge of our era. We are now a globally aware and connected community, that is incredibly powerful, what will we do with it?
We have the power to grow in our wisdom and leverage technology for the benefit of our selves, families, communities and our world. Technology can build our trust in each other, or it can tear it down – it depends how we wield that power. We all want to feel connected and be trusted. These tools where created to solve a problem. Thee tools are are working because of two key aspects. (1.) The tools themselves are designed simply and require transparency and the development of trust networks by leveraging ratings, feedback and communication. (2.) Participants are seeking transparent, flexible, empowering options to give them more choices that involve trust, community collaboration, cost effectiveness and efficiency. We have the power to destroy the very choices that may save us. There are existing efforts driven by some regulators in the traditional transportation and lodging industries encouraging our government to shut these new solutions down, rather than learn more about what is working for the community. Most of the articles I have read focus on regulations, profit and disruption. Not many have discussed the benefits to connecting people and community.
The community based, collaborative tools may not be for everyone, nor may they be the best choice in all circumstances, yet the fact that they have emerged as a choice is a gift. We make choices every day, that steers us in our lives, and ultimately results in the kind of live we live. I choose to collaborate, seek out connection, invest in trust communities, support transparency, leverage technology to bring down barriers, enable understanding, innovate education, and network with others who are all seeking better ways to live in community and in balance with our world. The more we connect, the less we fear each other, and the more we feel a integral part of a greater whole; and how immeasurably powerful we are…
What bridge will you walk?
What will you choose?
Are you a person of action? Do you want to learn more? Do you have concerns? Do you believe that these services have a right to be made available to our communities? Here are some actionable and informational links to check out. Shout out your opinion!