A Gel of a Conference

Gel ConferenceToday was the first of two days of the Gel (“Good Experience Live”) Conference, a production of Phil Terry and Mark Hurst of Creative Good. It’s the fourth year for the conference but my first year attending. I’ve always found the tickets to be somewhat prohibitively priced, and if it weren’t for the fact that lots of my management peers at the Times are very enthusiastic about their prior experiences attending, I’m not sure I would have spent the money for a ticket — even though it doesn’t comes out of own pocket but rather from my group budget at the Times. But the advance word was good enough for me to give it a try; so far, so good.

Getting Around the World of Science

For my first session this morning, I joined a group of attendees assembled at the NYPL Science, Industry & Business Library for a tour and discussion of the current exhibit, “Places & Spaces: Mapping Science” led by one of its curators, Dr. Katy Börner, and one of the exhibiting artists, W. Bradford Paley. The show seeks to demonstrate the power of maps respective to how they can help us “track and communicate human activity and scientific progress on a global scale.” It was a pretty illuminating exploration of the visual rendering of semantic data, and the relationships between various study fields within scientific knowledge.

Though I certainly don’t believe that conference content should slavishly focus on practical business knowledge, I have to admit that the exhibit’s direct relevance to my day to day job was, well, tenuous. Still, I enjoyed it immensely; as an excursion into pure information science, I think it did its job well — I’m incrementally smarter and more well-rounded for it. It’s nice to think about the ideas behind our work once in a while without thinking about the work itself.

Back to Basics

If I was getting hungry for practical business knowledge, though, the afternoon’s session with Phil Terry featured plenty. I took notes during his talk, which I don’t do during very many seminars at all, partly because of how lazy I am and how I prefer just to just absorb knowledge passively. Terry’s talk, which at times had the feel of a Creative Good pitch, a manifesto for corporate priorities, and an historical tour of customer experience design, was wide-ranging and full of big ideas.

But Terry is an excellent and relaxed presenter, and canny, too: he did a great service to his complex concepts by boiling them down to a few simple, pragmatic and universal ideas: Loyal customers are the core of any successful and growing business. Loyalty is engendered by focusing on a business’ basics, by ensuring that the core services promised to and expected by customers work and well. And a majority of a business’ resources and efforts should be focused on those basics, even if they don’t conform to high-currency trends in management or technology. Excellent stuff.

  1. I’m gonna see the NYPL mapping show this week, with some of the Behavior crew. It’s only a few blocks from the new Morgan Library, maybe we’ll make it a twofer. I’m jealous that you’re at that conference. I’m curious, however, who the other attendees are. I keep wondering if they’re either (a) rich artsy types (like retired dot-com millionaires), or (b) people (like you) working for rich and somewhat enlightened companies.

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