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Prepare workers for the new economy with connection-rich conferences

by Adrian Segar
danah boyd

danah boyd

Tomorrow’s workers will challenge today’s organizations
How can we best prepare workers for our rapidly changing economy? A presentation at ASTD TechKnowledge 2013 by social media scholar danah boyd (she doesn’t capitalize her name)—“Networked Norms: How Tomorrow’s Workers Will Challenge Today’s Organizations”is well worth reading in full. danah discusses ways in which old organizational models “are being challenged and disrupted by communities who don’t take the bounded logic of the organization for granted”:

“…if you want to prepare people not just for the next job, but for the one after that, you need to help them think through the relationships they have and what they learn from the people around them. Understanding people isn’t just an HR skill for managers. For better or worse, in a risk economy with an increasingly interdependent global workforce, these are skills that everyday people need. Building lifelong learners means instilling curiosity, but it also means helping people recognize how important it is that they continuously surround themselves by people that they can learn from. And what this means is that people need to learn how to connect to new people on a regular basis.”

Preparing workers for a connection-rich future
How can workers learn to connect to new people regularly? The best way is to give them plenty of opportunities to safely practice. And what better place than a conference of their peers?

Sadly, most conferences provide no support for making connections. It’s assumed that all that needs to be done is to bringing people together in one place and include a few ineffective mixers and socials. As a result, any connections that attendees make at such events are almost completely via their own efforts.

Luckily it’s easy to do better. Here are three ways to create a supportive conference environment for connection that will greatly increase the quantity, appropriateness, and quality of the connections your participants make. Integrate them into your conferences, and participants (and their organizations) will be better equipped to survive in tomorrow’s economy. These days, maintaining the traditional conference environment is doing your attendees a disservice. As danah pointedly asks at the end of her talk:

“…my question to you is simple: are you preparing learners for the organizational ecosystem of today? Or are you helping them develop networks so that they’re prepared for the organizational shifts that are coming?”

A hat tip to Harold Jarche for the reference to danah’s presentation!

Conferences That Work book cover

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