Joy of discovery – the case for attending random conferences

Herb Kim on stage at Thinking Digital 2014

Just why is it again we go to Thinking Digital?

That’s the underlying question in the polite comments made by colleagues and, to be honest, lurking around in our own heads as well.

Each year after having been part of the inspirational tech event, we find ourselves coming back to that question.

This time, we heard about 3D-printed lunar habitation, how super computer Watson could become  doctors’ assistant, why it’s time to debunk the myth of innovative private sector vs. stale public sector and why a string of beads jump out of a can in an arc. And so much more.

Was it all just for fun? Pure entertainment? Did we just skive work for 2.5 days?

This year, we finally had an answer. In fact, it was one of the speakers that articulated it for us.

It’s because of the “unknown unknowns”.

Erin McKean’s talk was about discovery. The same thing her projects seem to centre on; back in 2011, she showcased a meaning discovery engine – Wordnik – and this year, the conference audience heard about her new project – The Reverb App, a new way to discover topical and interesting content.

“Best discovery is like a good present from someone who knows you well.”

The beauty of discovery is that you don’t know what you will find. The unknown unknowns.

By getting together with a group of like-minded people doing interesting things, you give yourself the best possible chance of making amazing discoveries.

And don’t beat yourself up for not being able to articulate what those are when presenting your case for going to your boss. By definition, you can’t know what they are.

That’s the beauty of serendipitous discovery.

So why do go to Thinking Digital? Because you never know which future colleague/partner/project collaborator/friend you haven’t met yet.