Disruptive By Design: WIRED's Latest Business Conference Sees Generational Leadership Through a Narrow Lens

by Jill Foster on June 29, 2009

WIRED Magazine has game … no doubt.
Chris Anderson and his team sport a tremendous track record in writing on tech innovation and leadership. And they just hosted WIRED’s first Disruptive By Design business conference in New York which convened a high-calibre speaker slate.

Some speakers invited to present were:
Jeff Bezos, Jesper Anderson, Toby Segaran, and Vivek Kundra with eight more people to round out the speaking agenda. In the forefront of the industry, they all are. And since the conference’s premise aimed to help companies adapt and thrive amidst change, at first glance it would appear their chosen speakers were qualified to bring the conference’s intent to a successful fruition.

Qualified these speakers were -

-yet a diverse representation of innovative tech entrepreneurship, they were not.

There’s another phrase on WIRED’s conference website that prompted my second glance at who they chose as presenters ie:

Already there’s a whole generation of corporate visionaries and entrepreneurs who have mastered the art of disruption, turning it into a fundamental tool of their business.

Does diversity exist in this “generation of entrepreneurs?” I vote yes.

Yet WIRED chose a 100% male speaker slate to represent a “generation of corporate visionaries”. It seems their view of generational leadership is observed through a narrow lens.

Their event description highlighted above uses inclusive and empowered language, conveying that diverse entrepreneurs and leaders can make an impact as a generational whole. A generation alas is comprised of a range of leadership exercised by many vs a select few. Their event phrases caused me to mentally acknowledge some other leading technology entrepreneurs like Rashmi Sinha, Wendy Lea, Eileen Gittins, and Gina Bianchini.

From a generational view, what’s reasonable?
Is it reasonable to say diversity is implied in the phrase “a generation of corporate visionaries and entrepreneurs”? If so, this “generation” is findable at least online right? We are in the age of business let alone a culture where uber connectivity makes resources quite accessible. Is it then reasonable to view the entrepreneurship blogosphere, tools like Twitter’s search, plus some of Fast Company’s online team – as resources that can be tapped? Certainly these aren’t the only sources to craft a speaker slate of a “generation of entrepreneurs”. Yet given the existence of and access to diverse entrepreneurs (and thus speakers) – and given the generational premise that makes this event distinct – it’s unclear what influenced speaker selections. The outcome doesn’t reflect an industry’s generation of impact.

Making the ask
Back in my sales management days, ‘making the ask’ to customers was regularly at the forefront for making a new prospect a customer or a new industry leader a partner. Sure other variables were critical in shaping relational ground to get to this ‘make the ask’ threshold. Yet remembering to hone in on this most basic question helped to make the transactional phase straight forward, if not more human. It’s just a question, in the end.

In light of WIRED’s recent conference with a declared generational view toward tech and business leadership, it brings those sales days back to mind: Did WIRED make the ask?

(image Question Mark by S├ęgozyme, Creative Commons)

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[image Cool Stuff by Photine, Creative Commons]

Jill Foster serves as editor for Women Grow Business, a Network Solutions blog and community. She co-founded DC Media Makers and in August 2008, covered events at the Democratic National Convention using mobile media. Jill enjoys collaborations in the DC Web Women and Women Who Tech communities and can be reached at Twitter www.twitter.com/jillfoster.

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