I entered the room uncertain of how I would feel. Looking at all those small bodies contorted by a silent brain injury, some of them form birth. I was afraid that they would read pity in my eyes, that my apprehension and embarrassment would show. It broke my heart to look at those children. They seemed so defenseless, without the noisy running around so characteristic of their age.
Then I approached one of them, Marco. He trained his eyes on me with much effort, locked them onto mine, and smiled. Suddenly everything else faded: the uncertainty of my steps, the pity, the embarrassment, and the tears. All that vanished in that luminous, miraculous smile. In his eyes I saw myself -- raw humanity at its best. Marco inspired me to want to be the best I could, to embody his humanity with my given tools. His spirit and the spirit of all those children still live with my every thought and action.
I had joined in that work to provide charitable assistance to them. What I discovered instead was that those children were teaching me much more about myself: I needed them more than they needed me. Charity is a word rooted in caritas, which means love. Strip away all the things we think separate us and what you've got is pure beauty.
We used to believe that experts were such because they had all the answers. Then consultants came in and taught us that expertise meant asking the right questions. In business we have shifted from working the land -- that's where the expression "getting your hands dirty" comes from -- to mass producing goods. The acceleration of progress brought with it the industrial age.
Once our basic needs were met, we set forth to figure out how to spend our spare time. The prediction with the spread of technology was that we would have more of it. We ushered in the experience economy, where the distinguishing factors were how a service and a product made you feel. With the advent of experience we began to appreciate how design and form did not only belong to the realm of the artist. They could influence and beautify our choices. Hence the new conceptual age in which creativity and right brain thinking have taken an important seat at the economic table.
On the thought side we had Illuminism, where reason seemed to be prevalent, and we had the Renaissance, a movement that saw the birth of a new form of informal talk. The living rooms of ladies and sponsors filled with the intellectual exchanges of artists, poets and thinkers. Modern philosophy and thought benefited from those dialogues.
Conversation is not new. Each age built upon the previous one. Each illuminated new ways of looking at the world and its issues. If the legend of King Arthur and his knights cast a spell upon you, it probably is the idea of a round table at which everyone sits to honor a common goal. Our Holy Grail today is discovering what it means to participate in the age of conversation.
There is no more we and they: it's all us. We are the customers and clients, and the stakeholders. We are the employees and the stockholders. We are the sellers and the buyers. Our currency is and has always been our common humanity and our exchange rate the rate of change we can initiate and partake in. The tools have changed, we have evolved, the goal is still the same: to create something meaningful and enduring so that our children, all children can inherit the world, and continue the conversation.
This is one project, and it can help us create more opportunities for inquiry and creation. The children of Variety International are part of this conversation ignited by Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton. I will be contributing in a conversation agent fashion by donating this forward (if it sticks with our amazing group of writers) and a chapter on "the importance of conversation as a space for the birth of the future of work".
Many of the contributions will come from the voices of marketers and modern thinkers, including: CK, David Armano, Greg Verdino, Anna Farmery, Matt Dickman, Mark Goren, Emily Reed, Katie Chatfield, Mack Collier, Lewis Green, Roger von Oech, Sacrum, Ann Handley, Mike Sansone (thank you for the image, Mike), Paul McEnany, Bob Glaza, Scott Monty, Richard Huntington.
Joe Raasch and Becky Carroll have already joined the initial group of people who will donate one page of content for this eBook aimed at sharing knowledge for everyone who creates marketing tools in this age we dubbed the Age of Conversation. Small business owners to CMOs, marketing students, agency types, bloggers, and professors who are teaching tomorrow's marketers will all benefit from purchasing the book. The children at Variety International will benefit from the proceeds of the sale. We're dedicating this project to the memory of CK's mother, who just recently passed away.
We're one quarter of the way there roughly; we're aiming for 100 entries by different authors, each 400 words long. If you'd like to join forces, email Drew with your topic by April 11 (Wednesday). If anyone wants to contribute from non-English speaking countries, let me know. I can help translate your thinking and cultural references.
From one generation to the next, from one person and group to the next, from one country to another, it is my hope that we continue the conversation with our best tools at hand: our hearts and minds, in spirit.