If You Had to Innovate or Die, Wouldn’t You Innovate? by @KristiCasey

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Change doesn’t happen all at once.

Ten years ago, if someone told you that you’d share private elements of your life in public with strangers, you’d call them crazy. Today, you probably get annoyed at the friends who haven’t joined Facebook yet. But you didn’t just one day start a Twitter account and start posting pictures of your breakfast.

Whether it was because a band you liked was on MySpace, or you had to create a business profile on LinkedIn for work, or you were seeking advice on a chat room from your peers, or you fell in love with Wikipedia and discovered you had things to contribute, eventually you got used to the idea that your information was valuable, that people cared what you thought and, slowly, the concerns you had about privacy or security started to recede. Now you “pin” pictures of places you’d like to go, “like” stories you read, tell everyone on Twitter when you check into a place on Foursquare and share what kind of music you’re listening to on Spotify.

We all have skills that are appropriate for what we do now. But will they still be valued 10 years from now? What are the little things that we are dimly aware of now that will ultimately transform how we live and work tomorrow?

I met my husband 10 years ago. You know how you can take a picture and then doctor it with Instagram to make it look awesome? He used to do that with a paintbrush on real photos for high-end women’s fashion magazines and less reputable publications like Penthouse (he says he was only focused on covering the bruises…). You know how you can drag and drop text and images in spaces to create magazines, books and enewsletters? Back in the days before computers, he’d physically lay out publications on a table, paste the pictures and text down, photograph them, send them to press and go through the bluelines from the printer to make sure nothing had shifted. And a little-known fact: He was one of the last people in America to be certified a Journeyman craftsman in Quality Control and some other antiquated, but essential skill, that people no longer care about.

In the 10 years we’ve been together, he’s been laid off three times. At his last job, he was in charge of the production of 200 magazines nationwide. Thanks to his efforts, he negotiated print contracts that saved his company $2 million. He was laid off less than a month after they were signed.

That was four years ago. Despite sending out resumes every day, he’s still unemployed. Because he possesses knowledge no one values anymore. He spent his life mastering skills particular to an industry that’s in danger of losing its relevancy. Not one to rest on his laurels, he started his own line of greeting cards kids can color and send. It’s a dream he had for a long time. And one that he really hopes takes off because he wants Cozmic Fun Lines to also produce children’s books and toys.

But the process of reinvention is slow, difficult and painful. He’s having to learn skills he never thought he’d use (sales) and ones that he naturally dislikes (marketing). Despite being shy of social media and distrustful of popularity contests, he’s entered the Get on the Shelf competition with his Color Me…Gift Cards and is trying to get people to watch his video, vote for it often and share it with their friends before April 3. If he makes it to the second round of voting and wins that, then he’ll get seed money and prominent placement in Wal-Marts around the country. The chances are slim, but he’s putting it out there, and I’m proud of how far he’s willing to go outside of his comfort zone to make this work. (By the way, he’d be embarrassed if I asked you to vote for him and tell all your friends. But if he won, he’d get over it.)

What does this have to do with you? I’m wondering how far you are willing to go. And if you realize how close to the edge of corporate extinction you may already be.

Did you know 87 percent of marketers believe that in four years half the meetings they plan will be virtual ones? Online meeting platforms like Go to Meeting and WebEx aren’t a lot of fun, but they get the job done. And they get it done cheaply. Do you know how to articulate the importance, relevance and bottom-line impact of what you do?

If traveling from place to place continues to get more expensive and air travel continues to become more unpleasant, it’s not hard to believe that attendance will continue to erode at live events. Do you know how to incorporate hybrid technologies that bring face-to-face attendees together with remote ones and make those virtual participants want to convert to attending in-person next year?

It’s a time of great disruption: high unemployment, revolutions overseas, domestic unrest, economic uncertainty. Which also means: This is a time of great opportunity. I dined with a man last Friday who’s invented an app that lets you take a picture, set a price and send it to media outlets. Newspapers, television stations and magazines in Europe already use it to send assignments out to citizen journalists near the sites of natural catastrophes, accidents and other newsworthy happenings. It will completely transform the field of photojournalism. But do you think the people lugging $5,000 worth of camera gear know that yet?

Learning doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, I know that there are a lot of people out there (I’m talking to you Jeff Hurt and Midori Connolly) who go out of their way to make it fun. So, friends, it’s time to start going out of your way to brush up on things that you could probably care less about.

I promise, those of us who care about you and your future will go easy on you. After all, as my ballet teacher used to say, “Everyone was a beginner one Sunday.”

Join me in Tampa March 21, Denver on June 19 or Chicago in July to learn about hybrid event technology (and if you don’t think it’ll be fun, watch this short trailer). I’ll also be in St. Louis, Mo., on May 11 to teach planners how to work Smarter, Faster and More Efficiently (and if you’re in MPI, headquarters will pay my speaking fees for this session through June 2013 if you request it through the speaker’s database).

Are you based in Dallas? Then don’t miss Jeff Hurt sharing his insights on innovation on March 28. Stormi Boyd, CMP, will teach you how to ditch your conference binder and go digital in San Antonio April 12 and Austin May 16. And Midori is everywhere. Follow her @AVGirlMidori to see her jam-packed dance card and see if she’s coming to a city near you.

Need a steady infusion of inspiration? Subscribe to the newsletters and various media I curate for Plan Your Meetings. The 2012 PYM Annual is all about revolution, innovation and what it takes to succeed in this business. And throughout the year, we publish a steady stream of how-to best practice and advice articles and videos online that demystify new technologies and can help you adjust to new challenges. Think of it as a cross between Real Simple and Wired, but for #eventprofs.

Plan well and prosper, friends.

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