OK, well that heading was a little extreme but one thing that’s been increasingly giving me the hebes is the extent to which those organising ‘think’ sessions focus on profile. I recently attended one such roundtable attended by all sorts of worthies, but it was pretty hard to find anyone under fifty. Most of us had position or profile. And there was a PhD student there – in her thirties. She’d been invited to take notes.
My point isn’t really one about age. I wasn’t thinking ‘where are all the young people?’. I was thinking ‘where is all the young talent?’ Who is cultivating it? Who’s helping me find and befriend younger people thinking about the things I’m thinking about (of course that’s principally my responsibility and I think I’m doing OK at it. But we should all be helping – as indeed I do when I introduce younger people I know to the opportunities I’m able to.)
Anyway one thing that should be done as a matter of course in conferences (after we all acknowledge the fact that it’s aboriginal land we’re on and we’d like to be nice about it but we’re keeping it) is to ask what it’s doing to cultivate talent – not of blowhards who’ve had a few decades to work their way into people’s psyches but for people of talent who haven’t yet.
Conferences on innovation have their own problems with the obsession with the same phenomenon, but they often consciously promote young innovators, like the Annual Creative Innovation Conference which has become something of an institution in Melbourne. If you’re a young innovator and you want people to notice you, you might want to consider seeking a scholarship to the conference which would give you free admission to an exciting conference and a brief period to pitch to an august audience. Anyway, if you’d like to apply for a scholarship and you want to send your application to me at ngruen at gmail. I’d be happy to pass it on to the organisers.