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Talent Unconference

(January 30, 2007)
 I had an absolutely wonderful time at the Talent Unconference hosted last week at Electronic Arts by Jeff Hunter. It was a gathering of the clan and featured many of the brightest minds in the industry. Unlike, some get togethers, competitors from all levels mingled nicely.

Seventy bright productive people invested their time and passion into an experiment. It was an affirmation of the practicality of networking. It was, as I mentioned yesterday, a demonstration of the fundamental principle of networking: give without the expectation of return. It was the beginning of an answer to the question "what does it take to make an online network flourish?"

The degree to which EA, Jeff, Cindy Nicola (Jeff's boss and a stalwart supporter of the event) put their money where their mouth is can not be overstated. Tired of industry events that do not serve them, they experimented in public. The risk taking ion pursuit of a new set of insights and ideas is remarkable and admirable. The industry, as a whole, is in their debt.

As background, the day was divided into two parts, and seven tracks. Each of seven teams held some form of conversation in the morning and in the afternoon. Leaders delivered an outbrief for ten or so minutes. Topics ranged from "The Value of Talent" to "Sourcing", "New Technology", "Workforce Planning". There was a great lunch, a tour of the EA plant and a post-event Charity Poker tournament (for our grumbles on that, see yesterday's piece.)

In a real demonstration of transparency, Hunter has made every attendee an author on the Taluncon Blog. Comments and criticisms are accruing as you read this. It's lovely, democratic and a nice change of pace. Jeff is really setting some standards here.

I jointly ran one of the tracks with a remarkable fellow from Lawson software. Raghav Singh publishes periodically on the ERE Network. Our "Value of Talent" track was an extremely informative conversation featuring the notion of an index for Talent measurement. Raghav gracefully steered the conversation and kept the topics from getting too ethereal. (Thanks, Raghav)

There were some rough spots. Any experiment worth its salt has a great deal of failure in its initial flight. Most of the stuff had to do with social ground rules. No one told the vendors that axe grinding was bad manners. (As a result, a number of people embarrassed themselves). No one pointed out that it is unlikely that a conversation with six or eight people will result in your patented work product. (Again, more embarrassment).

No one anticipated that people who came together would stick together and have a deleterious effect on the free flow of ideas. The day was so full and structured that little time was available for networking. While I met some new and wonderful faces, I didn't get enough time for the old ones.

This is minor whining in the face of an enormous success.  Here's to hoping that the future contains more of the same.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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