Here’s my basic re-cap of the Opening Session Keynote Address by Colin Powell. Powell started by saying the librarians at the national Defense University warned him that librarians were angry about something he’d said early on as Secretary of State. I thought maybe he was going to address the OTHER thing we were upset about him saying. But it was something about telling the State Department they had to get rid of all their old research and books.
He tried to educate the State Department workers that all the barriers to information exchange that used to exist are gone. He noted it’s a transactional world, not a calendar world anymore. He wanted to update their information with every transaction, not every 30 days.
You’ve got to move faster than your opponent/competitor. You have to move at speed of light, because that is how fast information moves.
He wonders how many people still bookmark sites. Everything he ever wants to find again is indexed on Google. Yes, I do still have bookmarks. Bookmarks to the deep web are still quite useful. Also bookmarks to already vetted web sites are often better than the first 10 results from Google.
This keynote feels like a stand-up routine with lots of random thoughts. He wonders where it’s all going in terms of instant information access. I, too, am wondering where it’s all going, but by “it” I mean the speech.
And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, 9/11. We are safer with more security, but he told President Bush that we were starting to pay too high of a price. Students were not coming here anymore because of difficulties getting Visas. Students are good to have here because they get to know us, they stay here to impart their knowledge, or they go back to their country to help them become better. We have to keep ourselves open.
Okay, back to the stand-up routine.
Oh, leadership now.
The followers get the work done, not the leaders. You have to give them a sense of mission, a sense of goals, and a sense of purpose. And it has to come from a leader who is passionate about that purpose.
Leaders have to invest in people and give them what they need to get the job done.
Leaders have to acknowledge and congratulate employees for what they have accomplished.
Good leadership also means punishing people when they’re not getting the job done. A leader who is unwilling to prune an organization cannot be a good leader. Employees know who should be pruned and are waiting for a leader to do it.
We are now competing with billions of people and we need to educate our children. It’s an economic and moral issue. The high school dropout rate is a disgrace.
America has to be a leader. History and destiny has given us this role. Although our standing has suffered in the last few years, people still line up at US embassies wanting to come to America.
Our openness to the rest of the world is our greatest strength. As long as we never forget that, we’ll make the world a better place.
Eli asks a question – Issues of transparency and openness of government info, both foreign and domestic.
He’s always been a believer in openness and transparency, although not to the point of not having necessary protections. Wonders how you can even stop openness. Also important for existing information to get where it needs to be. Openness may have a certain degree of risk, but you should always have a bias towards transparency.
Has been reluctant to go on any of the social networking sites because he doesn’t want his life to be THAT open. Has drawn a personal limit.
Overall, I enjoyed the speech, but as I mentioned earlier, it felt a lot like a stand-up routine with lots of random one-liners. Honestly, it felt as frenetic as seeing a comedian working out new material. Powell was funny and engaging and charming. But what did the speech have to do with information? Yes, he addressed it at times, but in such a disjointed way that I was having trouble finding any sort of through-line. I was not as thrilled as most of the SLA tweeps tweeting on the speech.
I am, however, really looking forward to Neil deGrasse Tyson at the closing session.