“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” C.G. Jung
To my regular readers, take note, this quarter’s entry is going to be a little bit different. (For those of you who are new to my missives, I suppose this will come as no great surprise, so enjoy!) Historically, my deep thoughts lean toward a technology-based, best-practice commentary targeted to marketing and sales professionals. But for this edition, I’m writing from the heart. If you, dear reader, find it necessary to label the content of my article this time, this one could be technically classified as an op-ed on the burgeoning tech industry in the Southern California area. . . with a shameless plug woven through the fabric every now and again.
Through my extensive professional journey, I have had the pleasure of interacting with many different types of people in various companies across myriad industries. Yet the issues, foundations, pain points, and questions fundamentally seem to be the same. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the Southern California tech community. However, we face one more daunting challenge – geography. Because we are all so spread out, it seems that we are even more isolated than our peers in other industries and, as such, our issues are (so we think) uniquely our own. The good folks in Orange County are different from those in Ventura County, and none whose paths have I crossed have felt adequately represented by Silicon Beach.
However, no company can truly grow without a solid network and community through which an exchange of ideas and innovation can flow.
Community is defined as a group of two or more people who, regardless of their diverse backgrounds, have been able both to accent and transcend their differences. They are able to communicate openly and effectively and work together toward common goals while having a sense of unusual safety with one another. This is exactly why I founded The Socal Digital Symposium, or as we lovingly call it, the SDS. It has been my hope to unite business leaders, tech geeks, entrepreneurs, students, and any person hungry for knowledge by creating an intimate environment in which quality speakers would share their thought leadership in open discourse on a variety of topics across a variety of industries. The initial cynicism I encountered at such a mission was, admittedly, a shock to my system.
“Innovation is the specific tool of entrepreneurs, the means by which they exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or a different service. It is capable of being presented as a discipline, capable of being learned, capable of being practiced. Entrepreneurs need to search purposefully for the sources of innovation, the changes and their symptoms that indicate opportunities for successful innovation. And they need to know and to apply the principles of successful innovation.” – Peter F. Drucker, “The Father of Modern Management”
True entrepreneurs give without any expectation of return because we get excited when we are around the energy and passion that comes with ideation. The point of such activities is not to make money. It is through the relationships you build by doing such work that your business will become a hub for the community, supporting and fostering the people around it. And as a byproduct, it will help you to build a stronger culture within your company, better relationships with your customers and staff, and ultimately a more successful business.
How do we do this? We must commit to one person at a time, which I fear in this chaotic economic environment has gotten lost and/or is a very difficult concept for most to grasp. Both start-ups and larger organizations have a problem building a community from the ground up. Start-ups have a problem because they just want to scale, scale, scale as much as possible. Their whole business is all about growing as quickly as possible. The problem is, communities typically don’t work that way. Larger organizations have a problem because they feel like they’re “established” and have strong brand recognition. So they can throw money at it and BOOM – instant community.
In truth, you can’t build a community overnight, the same way you can’t build a company overnight. Both require that you give every small aspect of the larger goal your full attention, and build up toward your vision. And both are only as strong as the partnerships they founded during the early stages.
“Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.” – Bill Gates
As a result, the SoCal Digital Symposium is also committed to serving the next generation, and we will be launching U-TTRN (uttrn.org) at the next SDS scheduled for November 2014 in the South Bay. (For more details on the symposium, visit socaldigitalsymposium.com.) We intend to use a portion of all funds raised from the SDS to fund tech-based programs to empower at-risk youth by giving them opportunities and access through learning and education.
Yes, it really does take a village! It takes a coming together to serve each other rather than to be self-serving. Only then will we be stronger: when we focus on the present and the future. If you are interested in participating in the next SDS in order to help us build toward an “open source Southern California,” please do not hesitate to reach out.