To paraphrase cognitive scientist and author Cathy Davidson:
Our nonprofit institutions, for the most part trade and professional associations as well as professional societies, are acting as if the world has not suddenly, irrevocably, cataclysmically, epistemically changed.
Learning Is Changing
Learning is changing. Anyone. Any time. Anywhere.
By the end of 2011, 2 billion people will be connected to the web.
That could be 2 billion predators or 2 billion initiators, depending upon your perspective. It’s clearly an opportunity for 2 billion connections.
Those 2 billion people are living in a “pull information world,” not a push broadcast interruption world.
Ten Learning Shifts
These shifts affect our learning. Yet most of these shifts are conspicuously absent from our associations and conferences.
1. Conversations with strangers
In online social media networks, people are comfortable with talking with total strangers that may have some weak link of commonality. Rarely do conference hosts organize networking sessions where people can converse with strangers that have some thread of likemindedness.
Our organizations need fewer presentations and more interactions. Leaders need to understand how to design experiences that foster connections, one-to-one dealings, involvement, participation and personal contributions. Organizations should find new ways to reward contributions and sharing. Less monologues and more individual dialogues. Knowledge sharing in small groups is critical.
3. Digital Presence
People are creating their online resumes such as in LinkedIn. Younger generations create their own websites that serve as a digital portfolio of their work, experience and evidence of achievements. Organizations should teach their customers how to create and manage their online footprints and be “Googled well.”
4. Social Sharing Economy
People are sharing lots of information with each other online. Many organizations restrict the bulk of their information to members only. Is your organization sharing the best of their practice with the world? Without sharing, education falters, advocacy is not enabled.
Mindful infotention is a combination of learned attention and online information tools. Howard Rheingold created the word infotention to describe the combination of brain-powered attention skills blended with computer powered information filters. Organizations should teach customers how to manage multiple streams while mining it for the data they need for learning and success. Curating content for customers and potential customers is another way organizations can help their customers get ahead.
6. Digital Literacy
More than ever, our customers need to know how to detect misinformation, judge accuracy and fact, and define authority. Association and conference customers need to learn skills on managing online conversations, tolerance for other people’s views and how to adapt to a rapidly changing world in this digital age.
7. Life-Long Learning
One of the most important skills needed for success today is creating a culture of life-long learning. Learning is life-long and life-wide. Organizations should foster and create an atmosphere conducive to learning.
What can you do is being replaced with “What can you and your networks do.” According to Jay Cross, “Knowledge is moving from the individual to the individual and his/her contacts.” People today are working together to solve problems. Many need help with perfecting their collaborative skill set and learning how to work in partnership with others, especially if these people are strangers online.
It’s time to stop designing programs for platforms and start designing for mobile screens. Which screen is your customer using to connect with you? The PC is dead. The laptop is a bridge. Long live the smartphone and tablet.
10. Helping Customers Follow Their Passion
Organizations need to create engaging and empowering learning experiences for all learners. It’s not about a one-size fits all curriculum. It’s about leveraging the power of technology to provide personalized learning opportunities so customers can follow their passions.
Which of these shifts resonates with you personally? Which shifts will be difficult for conference organizers and association leaders to adopt?
Barry Hurd says
Great list Jeff.
Glad to see someone else is thinking about the human factors that are colliding with the trade show industry and how professionals are evolving in general.
I believe there are plenty of ‘digital barriers’ that are defined in each of your bullet points. In many instances a lot of these tend to revolve around information overload and the very large chasm of difference between how much data any one person can parse, absorb, and retain.
I like to point my peers towards using unique executive dashboards to parse, absorb, and retain data. Some of my favorite tools include My6sense, Nimble, and Gist (all are tools that help improve your ability to process massive amounts of social data.)
Thanks for the brain-food. 🙂
Kristin Arnold says
Amen, brother! Agree 100%….although….when you put a traditional educational session against a collaborative, birds of a feather, mastermind, lets-think-of-some-sexy-way-to-title-it session, the educational session always wins. If you count “win” by the number of butts in seats.
I suppose we can take the open space technology perspective and say, “Whoever comes is the right people”….but I think our participants as well as our associations are going to have to shift.
But maybe this is a generational thing? The Millenials are just starting to come into the workforce….and into our associations.
Jeffrey Cufaude says
#5 (as you note) seems like a real opportunity for some discussion and education in association circles. I know it is a muscle I am currently working to develop.
Lately I find myself wondering about:
Who has (for the most part) already shifted?
Who is on the shifting journey?
Who hasn’t moved much at all?
And what are the implications of the answers to the previous three questions for how we design learning experiences? Much as it amazes me, I still encounter large numbers of folks who, in relation to your #2, actually want more content presented and less conversation about it. They simply want to be told what they need to know and what they need to do.