Friday, August 12, 2005

All of this is self-serving, John

It's great to have friends that respect you enough to give you feedback on how the world perceives your work, both the good and the bad.

I stopped by to visit with a marketing guru friend to discuss business opportunities around Swamp Fox, InnoVenture and related activities of mine. The most recent iteration of my journey started in 2000, when I realized that knowledge professionals in our region did not know one another. Swamp Fox: News of the Southeastern Innovation Corridor is a weekly email update to create awareness of innovations in the region. InnoVenture is an annual conference, along with forums throughout the year, to build relationships among knowledge professionals in companies, universities, tech colleges, high-impact companies, and support organizations. The Swamp Fox/InnoVenture database now has 6000 innovators and entrepreneurs.

My friend said I had a lot of fans across the state, especially for my persistence and tenacity over the years. That’s flattering. Some, though, get tired of the message, she said. After four years it is a challenge to keep the message fresh, as all preachers know. “Other people,” she said “think all of this is self-serving, John.”

The first meeting that led up to where we are was held in early 2001. I began that meeting, and I have included in many other meetings, a favorite Adam Smith quote, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

We all participate in community activities out of our enlightened self-interest. If we will all get our self-interest out on the table, if you understand why I am here and I understand why you are here, then we can find the common ground where we can work together. Public goods will be created, but they are a byproduct of us working together in our enlightened, self-interest. If we pretend that we are all here only for the broader public good, then we just cloud the real reasons we're here and make it harder for us to work together effectively.

So to the charge, “All of this is self-serving, John,” I plead guilty. I’ve never been shy about explaining to anyone that asked what I expect to get out of this. In fact, I have been meeting with people across the state exploring ways to turn all this activity into a business and make money. You should be guilty of acting in your enlightened self-interest too. Please let me know what that is, because it will help us figure out how we can work together to make our community a better place.

1 comment:

Art Young said...

Well said, John. And phenomenally brazen to admit. It's like the elephant in the room, we all go to meetings and networking events and everyone wants to appear genuinely benevolent. And the vast majority are to a great degree. But the impetus that gets us out of bed is not benevolence, but self-interest. I believe that society will be much more efficient when everyone realizes that acting in his own self-interest is not a bad thing...