Liz Guthridge is my guest next week on the Business901 Podcast. We did not talk about conferences. We did talk about Smart Mobs, Peer to Peer Networks, Crowdsourcing and how Lean fits into the picture. Liz is the founder of Connect Consulting Group, where she helps leaders implement high-risk strategic initiatives in their organizations. She has expertise in employee communications, research and change leadership. She also serves as a community expert volunteer for Powernoodle, and has facilitated multiple sessions over the past year.
Below is an excerpt from the podcast that spurred my thinking on Flip Conferences.
Joe: Could you explain Smart Mob organizing for me?
Liz: Smart mob organizing came from the book about a decade ago called “Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.” Back then the concept was about giving power to the mobile many. Over the past 10 years it’s evolved, especially inside organizations, which is where I work and play, about bringing together a group of employees for a common business purpose. You generally use technology and electronic media or classic technology like the Powernoodle I mentioned. One of the advantages of doing it with the technology as opposed to in person is that you can cast a wider net and get more people to participate in more geographical areas. You don’t have to all be in person. You can hear more diverse voices because of that, especially the ones who are quiet, who are not necessarily going to speak up in you’re in a face-to-face session.
It’s also really well when you want to do something really quickly because you could run a session, get people to generate ideas. You can do it in, depending upon the complexity, as little as 90 minutes or so from start to finish. Or you could spread it out over a week or several weeks, depending upon how much people need to do, think about it, and do other things.
So for example, I recently did for one of the professional associations I work with, they were doing their, and again, it’s kind of embarrassing for them to admit, first strategic plan. They were gathering in the Bay Area, which is not too far from where I am, but we only had basically that seven hours to work in total. They had to have a regular meeting as well, a business meeting.
So what we did through Powernoodle was to do a SWOT analysis, and we did a SWOT analysis with a double T, not only looking at threads but also trends. So I had a question for each. They had a committee set up to be working on their mission statement, and that committee had gotten totally bogged down. So we did a smart mob organizing around the mission statement.
So by the time they got together in the Bay Area and we had finished the smart mob organizing and I had looked at all the data, put it together for them in a report which we presented, we were able to come up with a very sound, strategic plan. Basically, a one?pager was objectives, goals, and tactics in five hours.
Joe: It sounds like that reverse learning type thing where you bring the homework into the classroom.
Liz: Exactly. It’s perfect for flip learning, yes.
Joe: You’re having discussions about things they value rather than taking the time out to explain this or do this survey or do this. You’re jumping in with both feet when you walk into the room, aren’t you?
Liz: Exactly. That’s why I think one of the things that flip learning is so effective as well as the smart mob organizing type?techniques. Because, what you’re able to do is to level set in advance because people are working with concrete material, not just fluffy ideas but concrete stuff, and are getting much more comfortable with the concepts, a better idea of where they think the organization should go or the team should go. So when they come together, either on a phone call or a video conference or in person, you’re able to have a much more thorough conversation, a richer or more robust conversation. You have a real dialogue rather than talking at one another.
In past podcasts, Opening Appreciative Space Process 1 and Opening Appreciative Space Process 2, we discussed Open Space Technology (OST) is an approach for hosting meetings, conferences, corporate-style retreats, symposium, and community summit events, focused on a specific and important purpose or task—but beginning without any formal agenda, beyond the overall purpose or theme.
Having an open space conference is scary for many conference promoters. However, what would happen if we did a Flip Conference? I envision it working something like this:
- Create a conference agenda very similar to the same way that you do now with subject matter tracts and experts filling the agenda.
- After registration, attendees are allowed to watch the presentation before attending the event. They can even hold a corporate viewing so that discussions from non-attendees can take place.
- Form an online group utilizing something like Powernoodle or another Wikki type structure to discuss beforehand.
- From these conversations vote for other attendees to give 5-minute lightning round discussions.
- At the conference, the subject matter expert discusses the findings or information summarized in the online conversation and adds a few other tidbits.
- Present the Lightning Rounds as the subject matter for discussion. Maybe limit these discussions for 15 to 30 minutes.
- The Facilitator/Subject Matter expert wraps up the discussion.
- The online community continues for a pre-determined period and if it needs to evolve into an ongoing community it has that choice.