Why Conferences That Work continually evolve

Design evolution

Our basic ideas about design have been based on Newton, says Tim [Brown of Ideo]. Design assumes the ability to predict the future based on the present. We need to think more like Darwin: design as an evolutionary process. Design is more about emergence, never finished…
—From a blog post by David Weinberger about a talk given by Tim Brown of Ideo

The marketing pioneer John Wanamaker is reported to have said that half the money spent on advertising is wasted; the trouble is we don’t know which half. Similarly, there are probably fundamental principals underlying good design of human meeting process. The trouble is, we don’t know what they are (beware anyone who claims they have a comprehensive list).

I believe that only by experimenting like scientists and artists might we possibly discover over time what works and what doesn’t. And that’s why my attempt to share what I learned about running participant-driven events between 1992 and 2009 in my book Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love is a frozen-in-time snapshot of the “best” process I knew up to the moment the ninth manuscript draft went to the printer. Thirty months later, the supplement I started writing within a few months of publication remains an ever-changing work as I continue to experiment and learn at every event I’m involved with.[1. Consequently, printed books are poor vehicles for this kind of information, so the supplement will probably be published as a continually updated ebook of some kind—but that’s another story.]

As a recovering ex-physicist, I love Tim Brown’s description of the old paradigm of design as a Newtonian knowable. Thinking of design, in my case meeting and conference design, as something that is emergent, responsive, and continually evolving is a humbling and yet wonderfully freeing lens to view my work.

Photo attribution: Flickr user raneko