Tag Archives: conference

All About People : Ways to Make Work Better

I’m really excited to be a part of the 2016 All About People conference, a curious, creative, cross-industry, cross-profession event all about how to make work better. The All About People team are curating a diverse mix of people to stir thoughts and ideas over a couple of days in June, down on the South coast. My contribution is in development, and will doubtless be influenced by the arts. In order to help me think about the event and prepare, Andy Swann, the creator of All About People, recently posed a few interesting questions to me. He’s kindly agreed that I can reproduce that conversation here. My answers may have some resonance with you, and more importantly I hope you find the questions useful. How might you respond to them?

Andy : What are you working on at the moment?

Doug : Currently I am working on a book proposal, some experimental client work where we are using the arts to explore and improve how we learn, and I’m making plans to attend and speak at various conferences in the UK and USA. I’m also involved in some community of practice work, some work around change and transition, and motivated by recent sales of some of my artworks, I’m finding time to develop my self taught painting.

How would you define an amazing working place?

Curious, creative, caring, and profitable.

What should organisations focus on first – the right people, the right places or the right actions?

Ask people what matters to them. Ask employees, customers, suppliers, everyone. Then, once you’ve listened and clarified, start to act on the smallest things that will make the biggest differences first. Come back and ask folk again when this is done and evaluated. Lead by example and repeat until forever – show you mean business by showing you mean business.

In your experience, what are some of the main things holding organisations back?

Doubt, fear, arrogance, a lack of trust and a lack of clarity.

How deeply should an organisation’s people be involved in its evolution? What should that look like?

As deeply as they usefully can. I’m a fan of using the World Cafe method for facilitating conversations around evolution and development, and other methods are available. During the conversations, don’t rush to judgement, don’t make assumptions. Be invitational, be inclusive, be gentle. Listen well, agree some action and get on with it – life is short.

What is one thing organisations can do to create the conditions for their people to thrive at work?

Make art, and make time for meditation and reflection.

I’m really looking forward to this event, it’s shaping up to be a blend of great learning, great sharing, great fun and great company. If you’d like to come along, tickets are available here. You can use the code SPEAKERDS to get a 10% reduction in the price when booking. See you at the seaside.

Putting The Confer Into Conferences

Confer : verb : have discussions, exchange opinions.

People go to conferences to interact and learn. When I sit in a long conference session in a big room, I often get bored. This is not so much a reflection on the speaker, as much as it is a reflection on my limited attention span, and the feeling you get when your bum bone goes to sleep after sitting on one of those conference chairs for too long. The risk of boredom is often raised because rarely do speakers make the time and space for any interaction in these sessions – I feel they assume everyone has come along simply and solely to listen to them. Sure – that’s part of the equation – but I wish speakers would try harder to engage the audience using tools other than their ability to talk about themselves at length, and their brain busting slides*. For further thoughts on the subject of how to give good conference, read this, by Ian Pettigrew.

In smaller conference sessions – it’s much more acceptable to get some cocreation going. I’ve been at the CIPD conference in Manchester this week and enjoyed watching a few sessions taking place on the Future of HR arena. It’s less of an arena, more like a small, low stage and about a hundred seats, and what I’m experiencing here is much more dialogue. Yes – there is some output coming  from various speakers, but they are often conferring with each other and interaction and inquiry with the audience is designed into the experience.

I don’t agree with the general assumption that a big session = being talked at all the time. Conferences could and should be even more interesting and enjoyable, through enhancing opportunities for invitational sharing and exchange.

I’ve been fortunate to be at the CIPD conference and exhibition for each of the last five years. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve taken and what I’ve given on each and every occasion, and the conference team somehow manage to steadily raise their already high game. Finding more ways to intentionally link speakers and audiences and participants is part of what will make future events even better, I’m sure of it.

Thank you to the CIPD for the opportunity to participate in their event again, it’s much appreciated.

*It may be just me, but I find the dissonance caused when trying to simultaneously follow someone’s spoken words and interpret a ton of tiny text crammed onto a slide incredibly off-putting. I believe the speaker when they say they’ve done all the research – I’m not convinced we need it sprayed all over the screen in unreadably small type. Pick your key findings – highlight as you go along, and share the detail for those who want it via your preferred social channels.

A Review of Summer Brandcamp

Wow!

Last week I flew to Dallas to attend my first Summer Brandcamp. I had an incredible time, and having reflected on my trip, here are a few things that resonated for me.

Being looked after and looking after others – this was a strong experience for me throughout the whole event.

On arrival at Dallas Fort Worth airport on Monday I was met by David, who drove me from the airport to my hotel. David is a friendly guy and we talked about sports and the weather as he drove safely to the hotel. I arrived feeling very well looked after.

As part of my contribution to the event, I ran an Art and Soul of Better Work session. The people who organise Summer Brandcamp did a fantastic job of sourcing all the materials we needed to explore work through an artistic lens, and the tech team checked and tested everything, leaving me with the time I needed to percolate nervous energy into excitement and facilitate the session. I arrived at the end of the session feeling well looked after, and feeling like I’d been able to look after the participants well too. If you are interested, there is a lovely review of the session here, written by Liz D’Aloia, and here are a few pictures I used to help illustrate the session.

Doing good, feeling good

One morning over 100 conference guests got up early for a Mexican breakfast before being bussed out to the Salvation Army in Garland, a city to the north east of Dallas, to spend a few hours helping out. We gave a playground a makeover, did some drainage work, made 1,200 sandwich lunches to be handed out, painted door frames, and more. It was a hot, sunny morning and people made sure we had plenty of cold water to drink, and sunscreen to put on. We did a good job, we were well looked after and the work we did will help the people at the Salvation Army look after others. As well as being a fantastic service project – this was a great way to get to know other people at the conference.

Summer BrandCamp Service project team

 

Photo by Jonathan Brewer

Conference Observations

There was a great mix of speakers – and hallelujah, plenty of women speaking too. I’m really bored of the prevalence of white, older men like me taking the stage at conferences, the line up here made for a powerful, lovely change – more please.

Sessions were short. This meant there were lots of opportunities to learn from different people, and it gave the event a good pace. People and purpose were two powerful, recurring themes.

The conference organisers made donations to No Kid Hungry in the name of each speaker, another lovely idea which helped reinforce a sense of togetherness, and a reminder that this is not just another ‘same old same old’ event. There was also a silent auction to help raise money for the charity – and over the course of the event I know that over $30,000 was raised. A kind soul even bought some of my artwork. #IAmAnArtist

There was a great sense of fun brought on by lots of people excited to see each other, and a genuine effort to make first timers like me feel really welcome.

Changers of Commerce

This was a morning of stories told by businesses and not for profit organisations making a difference, in their local communities and beyond. An inspiring extra session laid on the mornign after the close of the main event. Around 100 people came along to this, and we heard some great, sometimes funny, sometimes moving, examples of people doing good.

Wow!

I began with wow – I’m ending with it too. The whole Summer BrandCamp experience has made a powerful mark on me. I caught up with old friends, made some lovely new friends too. It was a fantastic experience I hope to repeat. Here’s a short, 15 second slideshow of my trip. Wow!

#SBrandcamp 2015 with @tdn2k @dwanelay @rock_hall #flipagram made with @flipagram

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