Can a Keynote Address Really Change Your Life?


Arguably, we are a jaded group when it comes to the messages delivered by an accomplished him or her, author, researcher and established subject matter expert. Maybe it’s just overexposure to too many insights that our brain just can’t recall or reflect upon what we’ve learned, let alone process and make actionable the concepts we heard. But I found Rachel Botsman’s keynote at PCMA Convening Leaders an exception.

Repetition does help. I remembered Rachel’s (I’m declaring that we are on a first name basis since this is my blog post) opening keynote from DMAI’s Annual Convention in 2013. This was my first introduction to the concept of collaborative consumption. I was too attached to my Amazon Prime and Nordstrom Rewards points for her message to make a dent. In other words, admittedly then and still today I am a full participant in mass consumption. But this time, listening to Rachel’s address in Austin was very different for me and here’s why.

First of all, Rachel made me think about and be present to a profound shift that is happening right now. A shift that will not only affect our industry as we know it today, but also how we go about solving our everyday needs. In fact, I didn’t realize how much of a participant I already am in collaborative consumption. What Rachel shared is that the transformational shift occurring today is not just in the WHAT is consumed but also the HOW.   It’s about how the connection is made between that need that I have and the offer from someone else…generally a complete stranger.

Secondly, Rachel shared several concepts about the collaborative economy which I found fascinating.

Somehow collaborative consumption transcends all the traditional barriers to collaboration that we typically experience, and maybe part of it is because we’re collaborating with complete strangers who clearly have something that we need. For example, since I no longer work in a traditional office setting and have my own assistant, I have been using Fancy Hands, a team of virtual assistants to complete many of my time consuming spreadsheet tasks. I have a clear need to save time and Fancy Hands has a cadre of people who have time to give, in 20-minute increments. Together we get things checked off my to do list! And somehow this is possible because of new forms of trust.

We have long been aware of the erosion of institutional trust and I supposed the last Presidential election put an exclamation on that observation. This new form of trust, with complete strangers, is what Rachel refers to as a peer-to-peer revolution. A revolution that might transcend into a new type of virtual reputation asset that may become as powerful as one’s credit score. I guess I can see how all those stars and comments that I leave after my virtual assistant completes a task or my Uber driver drops me off at the airport can really add up to be more meaningful than the person’s name!

And this is all possible because innovative companies today use technology to build trust-using levers of transparency, inclusiveness and accountability. Rachel shared with the attendees of Convening Leaders several ways this is being accomplished. She emphasized that the resulting disruption is not about the technology but is about how trust, for many of us, has made a profound shift.

In summary, I think my biggest take away was a slide she showed illustrating three reactions to changes or disruption. The first reaction is the ostrich, where we hope it will just go away. The second reaction is to fight it, finding something wrong and bringing legal action, and third is to be a pioneer by embracing change and seeing it as an opportunity.

I’m not sure if Rachel changed my life, but she definitely has me embracing change and looking for where these new forms of trust will take our industry and profession into this New Year.