WF360 Event and “What if?”

WF360 EventLast night I attended my 3rd annual WF360 event, put on by Susan Bird and her team. It was their 10th anniversary event, and each year it has been hosted at the NYSE – the big building on the corner of Wall and Broad Street that’s filled with traders during the day, and history at night.

Susan invites many women who are leaders in their industries, as well as some interesting folks who happen to be men. The quality of the people and their intelligence is quite high – truly folks who have the ability to solve business problems and ask challenging questions (which they did).

WF360 EventI enjoyed seeing Isabel Walcott and Tamar Weinberg (her book, The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web was one of the give-aways at the end of the night. More on that later).

The key to this event every year is the dinner conversation. Susan sets up tables with people that have different backgrounds, and challenges us to have interesting conversations by putting printed questions on the table. One of mine was “What if the US Lead a Green Revolution? What would that look like, and how would what we do today change?” These questions aren’t meant to be solved in the 15 minutes in between courses at dinner. They’re things you ponder, and hopefully get to continue talking about with your tablemates in the future.

Suggestion: Susan, you should have a mailing list or social network based group to continue these discussions. They’re too good to let go. Additionally, the time for each discussion was too short – the event should start earlier and have more What-if conversations.

Two of the folks who asked difficult questions last night were Shelly Palmer and General Martin Dempsey (known also for being probably the only 4 star general that is on Twitter.)

WF360 EventShelly’s “what if” was along the lines of (sorry I don’t have an exact quote) “What if Intellectual Property rules changed and you no longer owned or had any control over information about you including private medical records and the like?” This generated a very spirited debate at my table, when I said that even though the law may protect some of this information, due to bad data security practices and uninformed consumers so much of our information is already ‘out there.’ We agreed we should all have a right to privacy, and I hope some of my table mates will take action on things like your medicare card number being your social security number (As a retiree you probably carry the medicare card everywhere – what happens if it is lost or stolen?)

WF360 Event General Dempsey gave us another one to ponder. Again, not an exact quote: “What if military power and national security wasn’t just about throw weight and how much army force one could respond with but also how flexible, resilient and smart our population is. What if we could bring the best of military, business, and academic knowledge to our population?” This one had me thinking all night long. This is to me the opposite of “No Child Left Behind.” It’s more like “All Children Taught to be their Best.” It includes realizing the value of education, and also acknowledging that it’s time to take it out of an industrial model of everyone learns the same thing the same way. I could go on and editorialize, but I will just acknowledge that this was a huge and thought provoking idea that is going to keep me thinking for a while.

I hope some of the folks from the event want to continue these conversations, as they have some of the connections, power and influence to make change in the world.

Finally, to blogger disclosure. We got some gift bags, filled with things from WF360’s sponsors, including the aforementioned book, an RCA Small Wonder Camera courtesy of Ameriprise, some Christian Dior cosmetics (given to my wife), and a Build-A-Bear. The dinners are openly acknowledged as “Brandversations(tm)” by WF360 and my review acknowledges that I was treated to dinner and given these gifts, but they are not, in my opinion, influencing my review of the event.