Howard Hughes AVator Award for Passion at InfoComm13

PassionI gave out my first two Howard Hughes AVator Awards for InfoComm13 earlier this week.  Those awards were for Courage and Innovation.

The last award I had to consider was the one for Passion.  Based on my last couple years of InfoComm attendance, I really thought Innovation would be the one to give me fits, but it seems Passion has been the hardest thing for me to identify this year.

Maybe my idea of true Passion is the problem.  I have seen a lot of enthusiasm on the floor from many companies about new products that they are releasing, but shouldn’t they be excited about their own product or service?  I only had one nomination from the floor for Passion.  That came from Caster Communications for one of their clients, SurgeX.  (One of their other clients, Wyrestorm won the Courage award coincidentally).  I can’t fault Charlie’s enthusiasm and wit, (he is actually rather funny!) but I just can’t bring myself to give it a Passion award (sorry Charlie).

Passion in my eyes is exhibited by someone who sees a problem and is in endless pursuit of a solution, regardless of whether it leads back to their line card or not.  Passion is what drives true innovation, as people with passion see problems and are in search of a solution even though they don’t actually know what it looks like yet.  They are explorers, driven by something more than keeping their company relevant until InfoComm14.

I always get drawn back to a rant/blog by Jordan Cooper, a serial entrepreneur who just sold one of his companies to Groupon, who asks

“[where is] that glimmer of ambition…that crazy look in a crazy founder’s eye…that says I would not last 4 seconds at Bain Consulting and I might have killed a turtle when I was 7 to see if reincarnation was real…where are you strange thinkers? Where are you weirdo’s? For god’s sake, get weird. Do different…PLEASE…the fate of our ecosystem rests in your hands…in your mind lives the step function we desperately need…inspire us.”

It’s a blend of insomnia, purpose, and eccentricity that I haven’t really seen in our industry lately, but we saw in people like Howard Hughes or Steve Jobs.  That kind of passion has a down side too.  It may mean you are seen as an ego maniac or are even called a fascist by a pixel and ink stained wretch who threatens to run you through with an umbrella.  It seems like a small price to pay however if that passion leads to a revolution in aerospace or in personal electronics that spurs a whole new industry.

For this reason, I cannot give out the Howard Hughes AVator Award for Passion this year.  I wanted to, really I did, but I wouldn’t be honest if I gave one out.  I would be exhibiting that same self congratulatory attitude that I often criticize and that I think actually holds us back as an industry.

Passion is a funny thing.  It can have you landing in Paris to a hero’s welcome like Lindbergh, or to being lost in the Bermuda Triangle like Earhart, but those who have it take the chance.  Right now in AV manufacturing no one is taking that “transatlantic”risk.  We have instead a group content with being “puddle jumpers”.

Am I being too hard on our industry?  Are my standards too high or off base?  Did I miss a product, service, or individual truly worthy somehow?

I’d love to hear your comments, ideas, or criticisms in the comments below.