The IdeaFestival's one and only rule

I love meeting people who discover the festival and decide then and there that they just HAVE to be a part of it.

I was once that guy.

Yesterday, I took part in a couple of IdeaFestival meetings with various organizers and interested people. Following the second get together late in the afternoon, I was approached by someone who was new to the whole idea and wanted to know more. Over the years, I've learned that the most common question we get when meeting with people about the festival is this one.

What is it?

Here's my answer to that question. The IdeaFestival is a celebration of the central fact of early 21st century life, which, paraphrasing Daniel Pink, is that it's become a whole-brain world. Reason and logic will take you a long way, but whether you're an artist, businesswoman or scientist, an ability to envision an alternate path, to imagine, to connect the factual dots as it were, will get you where you want to be. In this world, the meaning makers win.

The biggest struggle most of us have in our day to day lives is the struggle to refocus, to escape the routine and the rote answers the routine brings. It's work to just look up from whatever and whoever might be on our minds at the moment.

With lives emulsified with more and more data, with demands on our attention and with old businesses being replaced with the new - anyone remember Kodak? - being curious is the difference between the ordinary and extraordinary. For people like me the frontiers are internal. The hard problem of consciousness, for example, is endlessly interesting. For others they frontiers are external. True, a restless mind guarantees nothing. But without a desire to walk toward the unknown and a certain tolerance for uncertainty, nothing of value ever happens.

To be an expert one must take risks.

The terrible business truth today is that doing the same old thing may get you the same old result. It could also drive your business or organization into extinction. Apple is the most capitalized company on the planet because it created whole new markets. It broke the rules. And now it gets to make the rules. I've since forgotten the statistic, but more than - probably much more than - half of its revenue is derived from products that didn't even exist as recently as 2007.

Every IdeaFestival fan or organization that makes its way to Louisville for one week in September makes a faith statement. As Kris Kimel explained to the afternoon audience yesterday, we don't do tracks. There is no business track. There is no arts' track. There is no day set aside just for physicians, accountants or marketing professionals. One presentation on mindfulness will follow another on what nature can teach us about complex systems will follow another on what magic says about belief and everyday life.

No person who goes to the festival knows what she will find. The measurables, the metrics and measurements (gah!), have almost nothing to do any answers supplied by the incredible people who show up year after year to speak. The only measurable is the electrifying connection you will make, let's say three hours and fifteen minutes into the second day of the nerdocalypse when you realize that what speaker A and speaker B were saying has a lot to do with your situation C.

That flash of insight is all yours. But you must do one thing and one thing only to have that moment.

Stay curious.

I hope to see you in September.


Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by eflon