Dreamforce always has a feel of a political convention. You almost expect to see signs directing crowds to the LGBT or Pacific Islander caucus room. This year, watching it streamed I have been navigating through sessions titled with words like “diversity”, “equality” and “authentic leadership”. In his opening keynote, CEO Marc Benioff welcomed thousands of nonprofits and NGOs and the Monastics who are doing a session on “mindfulness”. Hollywood is always represented. This year Ashton Kutcher did a moving talk on child trafficking. So is Washington, DC. Bill Clinton and Colin Powell have presented in the past. This year Michele Obama and President Bush’s twin daughters are presenting. There are musicians galore. Will.i.am is a regular. There are thoughtful sessions like a panel of CEOs discussing automation and impact on jobs. In contrast, there are endless juvenile comments laced with words like super, awesome and cool.
Somehow it works. I wrote in The New Polymath
During a customer panel at salesforce.com’s Dreamforce conference in November 2009, at one end of the table sat a ball of color—D.A., of the indie band Chester French, with his bob of red hair and purple trousers. At the other end was Joe Drouin, ClO of Kelly Services, which places 650,000 contract staff around the world, in a dark suit and white shirt. Quite a contrast in size of customer and dress code. That’s Benioffs democracy in action.
With today’s politically charged environment, many events have moved to neutral, bland formats. Dreamforce has gone the other way.
Not everyone is a fan. My friend Ray Wang tweeted
MyPOV: sometimes it would be nice to be at
a tech conf where the program is about the
tech not the politics and social agenda of
Another analyst told me when there are so many “filler” sessions it is a sign a vendor does not have much to discuss about their products or strategy.
With 2,700 sessions I think they can have plenty of both. Marc is a big boy and knows the risks he is taking and if the format will hurt him with customers or investors.
I can safely say this focus on what Marc calls “core values” is helping their recruitment. I have been impressed to see so many confident African-American ladies on stage. So unusual in tech. In turn their comfort and confidence is likely helping attract others. James Governor shared with me one such story.
I have long believed that employers who are racist, sexist, ageist hurt themselves by artificially limiting the labor pool they are open to. Salesforce is the opposite. Watching a CEO openly welcome the “rainbow coalition” has to show up in a wider diversity in applicants. Good for them, and ultimately good for their customers and investors. So long as the majority of the 2,700 sessions and the company continue to stay focused on product and direction.
(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)