Created by the tireless Craig Hatkoff (of the Tribeca Film Festival and Tribeca Disruptor Foundation) and his equally gifted partners at RELEVENTS, the first ever Anti-Summit debuted last week across two days and a variety of venues and vantage points in Tribeca and Brooklyn, New York.
The goal was clearly to launch something new and different: a departure in form and function from business as usual and the traditional talking head at a podium approach. A revolutionary new event that goes beyond TED and his cousins to a place where you don’t simply sit through stories revealed by experts in PowerPoint. Rather, you participate in an honest to goodness exchange of ideas and interaction that’s focused on getting engaged and actually getting s— done.
Net, the conference model simply and elegantly inverted, with bottom-up doing replacing top-down talking. A so called “conference” experience that actively addresses and maybe changes how and what you think the problem is and how you face and solve the challenges it presents – together with a lot of similarly motivated and animated people.
In designing their approach from the ground up, Craig and RELEVENTS organized an eclectic array of Do-Tanks for participants on everything from foreign policy to the future of food; from disrupting music to rebranding the benefits of drones; from artificial intelligence to the abundance of abundance technologies; from education to global finance, and on and on and on. Each curated with an eye to innovative assessment, thinking, and doing. So many issues that I can’t do justice to them all here, so I’ll keep it simple and just tell you about the opening remarks, which proved quite revealing in themselves.
As we gathered last Thursday morning at Spring Studios on Varick Street, fearless and provocative as always, Craig opened the Anti-Summit with a video hello from prior Disruptive Innovation Award honoree Glen Beck (yes, that Glen Beck) and then welcomed his partner, 8th generation Rabbi Irwin Kula, and Dixon White (yes, the Dixon White, self-styled Tennessee “redneck” who’s remarkable video has gone viral) to join him on the stage and discuss nothing less than race relations in America.
Now at this point, I won’t say you could hear a pin drop, but people certainly stopped shuffling in their seats and playing with their phones. This wasn’t quite what they’d bargained for – this really was something different. As Craig proceeded, he argued that innovation requires courage, something in pretty short supply in far too many quarters these days. Real courage, not false courage, built on false hopes and a logrolling approach to problems that clarifies little, accounts for less, and in the end solves nothing.
As these men and their discussion made clear, we desperately need successful innovation in a number of critical business and cultural arenas. And we must be willing to disrupt broken paradigms to get beyond where we are today; to seek and effect meaningful, positive change. And yes, or course, we need expert advice and counsel, in business, government, health care wherever – but we also need people to participate as well. We need more unmediated and often uncomfortable conversations to make progress. So, if any of this holds water – as it obviously does – why not begin pretty close to what may be one of the key strands of our beginnings, and let’s talk about, well, race in America. To wit: can we find the courage and the way to transform our polarized culture and create actionable responses to our intractable problems?
Some opening; some Anti; some Summit! An event that promised far more and delivered.
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Lou Killeffer is Editor at Large for Innovation Excellence, and Principal with Five Mile River Marketing. A versatile marketing strategist, Lou’s passion for communications and innovation has made him a trusted advisor to some of the world’s most enduring businesses and brands, from AT&T to UPS, where he helps enterprises embrace change, look ahead, and focus on sustaining success.