Helping Smart Planning Teams Learn So That Their Conferences Prosper

LYT Team celebration

As conference organizers aspire to succeed in tougher and progressively more complex environments, they’ve got to resolve one basic and major quandary:

Success today depends upon learning. We can’t continue to do what we’ve always done and expect different results. We’ve got to learn new ways “to conference,” so to speak.

Success today depends upon conference planning teams learning new ways to strategically improve the attendee experience. New ways to identify and attract target markets. New ways to develop effective sponsorship packages. New ways to offer interactive exhibit halls. New ways to execute empathy design. New ways to program education, keynotes and general sessions. New ways to provide meal functions. New ways to implement networking. New ways to market. New ways to engage audiences. New ways to facilitate participant learning. New ways to set up various spaces. New ways…well, you get the picture.

We Misunderstand Learning

We need to become learning organizations. Our conference planning teams need to become learning teams. We’ve got to embrace learning so we can succeed.

Yet most conference organizers and their teams don’t know how to learn.

Ironically, the people in your organization that you may think are good at learning, are in fact, not very good at it says Chris Argyris, former Professor Emeritus Of Education And Organizational Behavior at Harvard Business School.

I am talking about the well-educated, high-powered, high-commitment professionals who occupy key leadership positions in the modern corporation. ~ Professor Chris Argyris.

Most organizations have great difficulty addressing this learning issue submits Argyris. Ironically, they are not even aware that they are learning challenged.

Two Common Learning Misperceptions

Why don’t leaders know that their organization has a learning-deficit? Or that their conference is learning-impaired?

They misunderstand what learning is says Argyris. And they clearly don’t know how to use learning to improve their business success. Or how to use it to improve conferences.

Argyris points out that most organizations make two mistakes when it comes to learning.

Mistake #1. We narrowly define learning as problem solving.

Most conference organizers focus on identifying and correcting errors. Yes, solving problems is important. Yet improvements that lead to conference success require introspection. Learning occurs when conference teams think inwardly about their conference programming and activities that lead to status quo or poor experiences. And when they think about their own behaviors and practices that inadvertently contribute to conference challenges. Then we have to change how we act. Ironically, the way we identify, define and solve problems can be a source of our conference challenges on its own.

2. We incorrectly believe that motivation is the key to learning.

We think that when people have the right attitude and commitment, learning naturally follows. So an organization sets up structures and processes to motivate teams and individuals to learn. Yet, compensation programs, incentives, and performance reviews don’t necessarily lead to learning says Argysis.

Learning is not just a function of how we feel. It has everything to do with how we think. It has to do with the cognitive reasoning we use to plan and apply our actions.

Single And Double Loop Learning

So how do we improve conference planning team learning?

By adopting Argyris’s model of double loop learning instead of single loop learning!

What’s that you ask? Read tomorrows post for more info.

Hat tips to HBR’s Teaching Smart People How To Learn.

How can solving conference challenges lead to inappropriate actions that do not improve the conference’s success? Why do some experts get defensive when it comes to constructive criticism instead of embracing introspection and learning?

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