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LESSONS LEARNED

November 20, 2010

I have spent most of my free moments of late immersed in photos, videos and commentary from the Shanghai Expo.  I thought I was getting my arms wrapped around the hows, whys, and why nots, as my list of ideas inspired by the commentary from US visitors continued to grow.

But experience designer Keith Goldberg’s article in Event Design Magazine jolted me into a new perspective when I read his introduction to lessons he learned in Shanghai:

“I can’t help but draw a parallel to the legendary “White City” built for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Just as its expanse and majesty heralded the coming American century, the grandeur of the World Expo in Shanghai (and the efforts made by exhibitors to impress their Chinese hosts) heralds China’s modern-day rise…there is no more amazing window into how our world has progressed and changed over the years…you also realize what hasn’t changed is the motivation of host countries and exhibitors to put forth their best efforts, tell their stories in engaging ways, and create the kind of community that leads to relationships (a/k/a commerce).”

Like Goldberg, I am a history buff, so the US/China World Fair comparisons hit home immediately and pointed out that I was so engrossed in the detail that I missed a very important overview – that feeds into Lenderman’s “Brand New World” and his theories regarding the developing hypermarkets of the BRIC and their influence on our world of the future.  (see blog October 20, 2010).  Once again, I was jolted out of the safe world of US superiority in innovation/creativity/power over the last century into a whole new world – where unless we adapt, we will be left behind.

And more important, I was so focused on the details of the “how” that I failed to pick up on the more impactful “why”.   Oh yes, I was looking at the broader “trends” communicated over and over that pertain to my professional world – that of experiential event design – but I was shutting out the global impact of the phenomenon itself – and shutting out that nagging comment I heard in my first exposure to Shanghai a month or so ago…that comment about the American Pavilion being “underwhelming”. 

Lots of big thoughts here – but the reality is none of us can afford to continue to do over and over again what led to success for us in the past.  We need to keep engaged in the world and what is happening around us – and let our human curiosity for how does that work, what’s next, how can I do it better, guide us towards improving what we have done before.  A lesson we seem to have to learn over and over again – while we “rest on our laurels” and pontificate about how our experiences allows us to know what’s best, the rest of the world will pass us by.

One comment

  1. I believe I stand corrected. Travis Stanton, editor of Exhibitor Magazine (and my source of the first input I received on the Shanghai Expo at a UMEDPA meeting in early autumn) wrote an editorial in the November issue of EXHIBITOR that refutes the general consensus that the American Pavilion was underwhelmning. Check it out to see why he thinks the pavilion was well done as it resonates with a target audience, communicates a cohesive and appropriate message, and kicked off an outreach program in into Chinese schools.



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