Nurturing Conference Experiences That Foster Skillful Collaboration To Create Progress


We can’t solve today’s and tomorrow’s problems with yesterday’s thinking says Dan Pink.

Most of us only know one way to address our challenges. Our problem solving skills, our communication strategies and our capacity to bend our ideas as we bridge gaps have not evolved fast enough.

We think there is only a right and wrong way to do something. We’ve been taught that the one who pulls and pushes the hardest wins. We believe in black and white answers although life is full of contextual greys.

The Illusion Of Control

We think we can control others through exertion, energy and force. (Note: this also applies to conference organizers who think they can control audiences’ minds and corral them like cattle making them attend something.)

We’ve been trained to use business techniques where one side or the other loses. We resolve differences by eradicating them. We try to control the other person.

We retaliate by getting even. We even go as far as withdraw resources and our participation. We take our toys and walk away.

All of these strategies use power over others. Power to provoke. Power to protect. Power to procure. Power to preserve.

And it rarely works. Trying to exert power over another leaves both parties powerless.

The Opportunity Of Collaboration

There is a better way! It’s understanding when to compete, when to collaborate and when to use co-opetition.

Even Silicon Valley has learned to embrace collaboration and competition.

Collaboration is defined as something you do with another colleague or company to achieve greatness says Alan S. Cohen, an expert on networks and startups…This does not mean competition is absent or that ideas do not sometimes clash…in addition to heated competition, meaningful collaboration happens because the companies share a common goal: to serve the customer…

And collaboration requires collaborative intelligence or quotient (CQ).

Collaborative Intelligence is the flow of energy and information within and between us says author and researcher Dr. Dawna Markova.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter observed thirty-seven companies and their international partners. She and her associates found that the collaborative advantage requires a dense web of interpersonal connections and internal infrastructures. Too often, we neglect the political, cultural, organizational and human aspects of partnerships she states.

It’s time we nurture and develop those connections and networks!

Partnering With The Possible

We’ve got to help our customers begin adopting a mind-share mentality. In the 21st Century, wealth is created and carried by ideas and relationships, more than by transactions says Markova.

When we create learning opportunities and conference experiences where participants can share ideas and influence their futures, we create partners with the possible.

When we allow our participants to actively create and share ideas instead of passively consume information, they increase their ROI. When ideas carry value, everything is turned upside down as Markova states.

When you and I are at a conference and we begin sharing ideas…some that we’ve not even applied yet…we both win. When you have a good new idea and I have a good new idea and we exchange them, we both walk away with two new ideas.

The more we share, the more we have. And our capacity to generate, share and enact ideas becomes the most valuable part of that conference experience.

It’s time to create conference experiences where we host and foster skillful collaboration to create forward movement. These experiences are very different than a talking-head expert sage on the stage. This is when conference leadership becomes a verb—to nurture—rather than the noun, the hero.

What do conferences need to transition from information delivery to collaborative experiences? What type of collaborative learning experience have you seen?

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