Learning in community at conferences

Legendary Apple designer Jony Ive explains how learning in community helped Apple make the iPhone:

“When we genuinely look at a problem it’s an opportunity to learn together, and we discover something together. We know that learning in community is powerful. It feeds and supports momentum which in turn encourages a familiarity and an acceptance of challenges associated with doing difficult things. And I’ve come to learn that I think a desire to learn makes doing something new just a little less scary.”
——Jony Ive, Apple designer Jony Ive explains how ‘teetering towards the absurd’ helped him make the iPhone

At conferences we also learn better when we learn in community. At traditional events, expert speakers broadcast content at attendees. But today our minds are increasingly outside our brains. Our ability to learn effectively now depends mostly on the quality and connectedness of our networks, rather than what’s inside our heads.

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Can we do better than novelty at our meetings?

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Novelty has its place in meetings. The latest cocktail. The hot new band. The color of the year. But novelty doesn’t have lasting impact. The first time, it’s an enjoyable transient experience. The next time it’s old.

Better however is a whole different kettle of fish. Better lasts. Better has long-term value.

So don’t fob off your meeting attendees event after event with an ever-changing stream of “new” or “different”. Go for better. You can reuse better over and over again—and your attendees will appreciate it every single time!

Makes sense, right? So why do we rarely shoot for better? Apple’s Jony Ive explains:

“‘Different’ and ‘new’ is relatively easy. Doing something that’s genuinely better is very hard.”
—Sir Jony Ive, Apple Senior Vice President of Design, quoted in Business Week in 2009

Yes, better is very hard. But it’s worth it.

Image attribution: Flickr user dopey