That Awkward Feeling

I hadn’t had that type of feeling in 20 years until today.

It was back in grad school. I had a professor who taught a class on entrepreneurship. He was a highly decorated Green Beret who had founded a major manufacturing company after he left the army.

As he regaled us with the story of building his company he mentioned missing the births of his children and much of their early lives. He wore it like a badge of honor, not a lick of remorse or regrets, despite having many years to reflect back.

It was awkward. I’d never seen a presenter so misaligned with an audience, until today.

I just returned from a conference about the future of technology and its impact our lives. Founded by a parent of an autistic child who had gone on an exhausting journey hoping to learn how new technology may be able to improve the child’s life.

The theme, topics, and presentations were from technology organizations that were putting purpose ahead of profits. I heard an eloquent presenter speak on using data and new insight to break the “chain of poverty” and the “pipeline to prison.”

A VR company gave a 3D game demo on how they were using virtual reality to help improve the therapeutic outcomes for autistic children.

And then came the presentation from a global communication behemoth.

Except the presentation wasn’t a presentation. It was a self-center, chest pounding, aren’t we “great” type of speech, which would have been perfectly at home at a technology conference five years ago, but felt totally out of sync today.

We heard about their history of innovation, recent acquisitions, and the billions they were investing in the US. What we didn’t hear was how their incredible technology was going to make our lives, our children’s lives, or our communities better. They lacked purpose.

You could sense the disconnect with the audience, the awkwardness was palatable. It was an uncomfortable feeling, I hadn’t had in a very long time.

Leaving the event, I was thinking maybe it’s just me and the people I associate with who are looking for something more from organizations or…maybe this company, like my professor, really doesn’t get it.