Week 1 of the Boring Year ending June 2013.
The Mecca of corporate networking is the seminar. People meet, ‘work’ collectively for hours or days on themes that they are not likely to ever come across in their professional careers, they lunch together and try to bond over something…anything for that matter.
Not much of real substance in the discussions. Not that I was hoping to converse about Socrates and Hegel with my seminar-long peers but the sense of vacuity can be disturbing for someone who thinks beyond margin and R.O.I levels. Corporate people talk about the low internet speed and recently purchased products. I must be the odd one out.
The first day of the seminar is the eeriest of the lot. Strangers are thrown in together and are told to start working as teams. Controlled pandemonium. Those familiar with other participants have someone to hang on to. Those with no desire to mesh in pretend to participate, which incidentally is harder than any real form of participation. We are told to create the type of group dynamics that would be most conducive to decision making. Someone wants to take the lead and is entrusted with the task of giving a sense of direction to the group. The first round of collective decision making is but a hurdle towards the first lunch. It is over but not quickly enough. Questions are asked by some before we proceed to eat. The culprits are dealt with the piercing looks of hungry ones.
We are at the beginning of Day 2 and I can no longer remember the names of those around me. The formal introductions of Day 1 notwithstanding, there was nothing discernible from my encounters to put a name on the faces. It is only then that I admire the ingeniousness of the one who came up with the idea of name tags for having foreseen the need for a device that would differentiate one formatted being from another.
The last hours are filled with laughs. Not that there was anything said that matched Coluche’s comic genius. There was simply the need to fill the void with sound. Or noise. And that would sum up the world of business in the 21st century. The breadth of discussions orbits around products and increasing market shares but little is ever mentioned on the deeper aspect of things; on the plight of workers or on the need for a more just distribution of profits.  Humanity has been deleted.
The grand finale remains the exchange of visiting cards. I have none. They look astounded. I am the one with a notepad in the age of digital tablets. The one with friends instead of contacts. The seminar is over. I smile for the first time since it started.