Letting Go Of Past Conference Planning Experience To Foster New Ideas

Jenni Young Old stories are like old clothes, they won't serve your new image, let them go

I have a fairly inquisitive mind.

I like to ponder things and ask tough questions. Wondering who, what, why, why not, how and when.

I’m always chewing the cud so to speak. Thinking about how to improve things. Make them better.

Thinking About Questions And Experiences

I think a lot about how to improve a conference attendees’ education experience.

I know that the traditional conference lecture doesn’t work. The research and science says so.

Still, lectures are the currency of today’s conference. Why? Why don’t we change?

So many of us grew up in school systems where the lecture was the education standard. And we all learned with it. Didn’t we? (Not really! But that’s a different post.)

Old Ways Don’t Disappear Immediately

I presented recently on better learner-centric presentation strategies. I saw audiences full of puzzlement, energy and wonder.

Some took great delight in resisting. They wanted to debate with me.

Their own experiences were proof that their ways worked. They took great pride in discrediting the science, research and my thoughts.

I acknowledged their beliefs. I validated their perspectives.

I didn’t take their bait to engage in rigid thinking.

During a break, an attendee approached me. She said people could learn if they would just put their computers, laptops and smart phones away and take notes.

There it was in bold speak. The reality that old ways don’t just vanish. Old ideas, old perceptions, old perspectives don’t disappear.

If it worked for me, it will work for them,” is shoved on to soapboxes as “the one true-and-tried method.”

It’s hard to let old beliefs go. They matter to us. We own them. We don’t like to let them go.

Even though the data was right there in front of this person, and I was modeling better presentation methods, she continued to believe her suggestion was the key to learning.

Real Leaders Know When To Engage And Disengage

Real leaders listen, sift, weigh. And then they lead onward and forward.

Real leaders also know when to engage in adult dialogue and when to walk away from closed minds.

Real leaders don’t escalate invectives when flexible thinking crashes into rigid thinking.

Real leaders ignore questions that search for self-serving right opinions. Better to share lingering questions, musings, doubts, experiences and yearnings than chase one correct view.

Real leaders ignore discussions that are grounded in tradition, orthodoxy, and yesterday’s sacred “the way it’s always been done” methods. Those methods discredit anyone for thinking for their self.

The Rigidity Of The Right Way

I read a blog post recently that put a stake in the ground that this meeting planner’s way was the right way. The only way. The successful way.

His experience made it so! He had never seen it done a different way. Therefore a different way didn’t exist.

He begged for others to refute his argument. No one responded so therefore his way was perfect. He took great pride at being the king of his mountain.

Perhaps, no one was reading his stance.

Perhaps, no one felt his bait was worthy of debate.

Perhaps, his own experience is his bias.

Selective Discussions Worth Having

A real leader’s selectivity leaves room for plenty of interesting discussions.

There are many people on a journey of learning, unlearning and relearning. There are many people with open inquisitive minds that wrestle with lingering questions.

These are the people I chose to engage in discussion.

How do you navigate the minefield of open and closed minds when leading a committee, council, staff or organization? What tips do you have to share about nurturing open minds?

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1 comment
  1. Jeff,
    Have enjoyed your enews communication for several years. I became aware of your posting when researching Open Space formatted meetings. Happy to report that our Open Space meetings have been met with great enthusiasm and acceptance by everyone attending the meetings. I have two comments:
    1. Finding presenters willing/able/informed to participate in a meeting other than with their taditional one-way communication process is difficult. Even with clear instructions and explanation, presenters say they understand our requirements but revert to their standard format once the curtain goes up and the mics go on. How do we better explain/demand compliance more in line with what you’ve been espousing?
    2. I’ve read you comments on what makes a “bad” conference schedule many times. Would love to read about a “perfect” scheduled meeting following your beliefs. How would you suggest a two and a half day educational conference be structured in order to provide the very best learning environment based on how you wish things were done?

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