Learning Live 2015 – A Lecture Free Zone

Last week I went along to the Learning and Performance Institute‘s Learning Live conference. This was my third year in attendance, my first since becoming a Fellow and consultant at the LPI. The event’s a good size, not too big, not too small – and the organisers, and the people who come along, are a friendly, interesting and interested bunch. There’s a small exhibition sitting neatly alongside the conference. Nothing pushy, just interesting people sharing their interesting stuff with people who are interested in exploring ways to make work better. It works, it’s useful fun.

Lecture Free Zone

This year, Learning Live started an experiment to make the event a lecture free zone (LFZ). The idea being that as a guest, you attend sessions which are primarily designed to engage you in conversation with other curious people, rather than just turn up and have knowledge spewed at you from the front of the room. The speaker/facilitator has an important role to play in helping set the scene and in nudging the conversation and flow from time to time, and that’s about it. Easy huh? It’s harder than it looks.

How well did the LFZ work? On this first attempt it’s fair to say it was a mixed bag. Some sessions flowed better than others, and I think a handful of speakers either lost or ignored the LFZ memo. More importantly, kudos to the Learning and Performance Institute for starting this experiment. People are seeking different experiences, and it falls to adventurous event organisers to reshape conferences into more engaging, conversational gatherings. Whilst I often see adventurous folks experimenting at unconferences and maybe on the fringe of larger events, many conferences fall short of this need to change as a result of their addiction to the sage on the stage formula.

The best LFZ session I attended was facilitated by Kate Davis from the Humanitarian Leadership Academy. After a rather PowerPoint heavy few minutes, we got into conversations at our tables about ‘challenging experiences of facilitating/training’. After setting the scene with a few basics: ‘Where/when/who was there/what was the content/context’, we got to discussing what things had made the experience(s) a challenge, and what had our responses been to the challenge(s). We recorded our responses and the data was collected at the end of the session for analysis and feedback. I really enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on some of my own challenges, and hear about those which other people face too.

The best LFZ session I didn’t attend was Getting creative in L&D, hosted by Michelle Parry Slater and Amy Brann. How do I know it was any good when I wasn’t there? Simple. As I watched from afar, Twitter exploded with people engaging in the conversation, both in the session itself and in the wider world of L&D. There was a real sense of energy flowing and fun being had, good work folks.

Doing Something Better…

The event wasn’t an entirely lecture free zone – there was an outstanding keynote given by Jamil Qureshi on the morning of Day Two. Notwithstanding that you really had to be there to get the experience, I’m going to share with you a few notes I scribbled down from Jamil’s talk, largely so I don’t forget this stuff myself.

The formal title of the talk was ‘How do we maximise our potential and that of those around us?’, and on stage, Jamil positioned it as being about ‘doing something a little bit better, occasionally, if we remember.’ Works for me. Jamil talked about the folly of trying to change how people act, when first we need to address how we ourselves think, and then feel, and then act – in that order. Thinking about what we seek to achieve (creative contribution, what you’re enabling), beats thinking about what we seek to avoid (redundancy, ‘I don’t want to lose this client’).

Define yourself by what your customer values, not what you sell. What business are you in?

Event + Reaction = Outcome. You choose the reaction, it is your response ability.

Ownership beats engagement – how can you help people take their share of ownership in something? Choice beats circumstance.

The world is improbable, uncertain and complex (some like to call refer to this as a VUCA world, it’s a bullshit bingo term meaning volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity). Jamil’s response is so what, who cares? It’s how we respond that matters.

Your experience is a reflection of your attitude towards it. You make things come to pass. Blame looks backwards, taking responsibility looks forwards.

40% of what we do is habit. Ask why five times. Can I reduce the habitual down to 39%?

Purpose is not achieved, it’s attained on a daily basis.

I’m still reflecting on what I learned, and starting to think, feel and act differently. More to follow on this, particularly in the areas of taking responsibility and focusing on what I want to achieve. For now – well done to The LPI and to everyone who helped make Learning Live 2015 a success.

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