“Toss It!” (Corporate Meetings & Incentives)

Toss It!
Talking Heads Take a Back Seat at
Disney’s Unconference

By Bob Andelman
Corporate Meetings & Incentives magazine
Jun 1, 2007 12:00 PM,

The Topic of the session he was in charge of facilitating was: “E-mail Sucks!”

That was how Ben Christen, manager of technology at Walt Disney Internet Group in Burbank, Calif., knew that this was going to be no ordinary meeting.

“It was a little surreal,” says Christen, one of 135 employees who gathered for the division’s second unconference (known as “Pooh Camp”), held in March at Disney’s Golden Oaks Ranch, north of Los Angeles. The company’s goal: to loosen the collars and free the flow of discussion among the entertainment monolith’s tech experts.

Pooh Camp is a play on the name of the unconference that inspired it: O’Reilly Media’s “Friends of O’Reilly” event — or Foo Camp, for short. It’s part of a growing wave of like-minded, chaotic ventures with names such as “Mashup Camp,” “BarCamp,” and “BrainJams” that are shaking up the geek meeting world.

For Disney, it all started a couple of years ago when Mike Pusateri, senior vice president of technology for the Disney/ABC Television Group, “came to us very excited from his Foo Camp experience with the O’Reilly folks,” says Dennis Kuba, vice president of advanced technology in Disney’s Corporate New Technology Department. “He encouraged us to do [our own] version of that. Our department organizes a number of enterprise-level tech gatherings for the company. We have, for example, a quarterly New Technology Forum that gathers 200 to 800 new media technology executives. We bring in industry speakers and highlight technologies. The idea that Mike brought was interesting because it was the polar opposite of that. Instead of us planning it, it plans itself.”

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Copyright 2007 Will Eisner: A Spirited Life by Bob Andelman