Lost my coat and gained a ukulele

Connecting HR at the Spring

image courtesy of Jon Bartlett productions!

This week I went to my 4th ConnectingHR Unconference.  It’s a gathering of people who may or may not work in HR but who share an interest (and yes, the P word, passion) about improving organisations and their achievements, the workplace, the joy of working with other people.  That type of freaky stuff.  I’m one of them.  I won’t go into the whole low down of how the event is run, because others have done that already, and far better than me.  Here’s a super account of the day, written by Lorna Leeson:

I took one of our Account Directors who had (rather foolishly) expressed a desire to “know more about social” with me. When we walked through the doors of The Spring Project in Vauxhall, it was pretty bloody obvious we weren’t in Kansas anymore. There was no agenda, no ‘keynote speakers’, no handouts, no goody bag. I’m quite partial to a goody bag, but I’m equally partial to newness (did I mention?) so, despite feeling a bit like we’d gatecrashed a rave, we threw ourselves in.

Lorna’s account is well worth reading. Going back to my own experience, here’s a summary of what I found useful and enjoyable.

I loved:-

  1. The mixture of people.  I truly believe that we think better when we have the opportunity to learn from people from different fields. I’m not so into events where it is all people with the same-ish job title – it’s like eating porridge for starter, main course and pudding. I like the fact that at ConnectingHR there were HR people, practitioners, consultants, L&D and ODers, project managers, community managers,  a property manager, an operations manager, academics, and more.  An exciting 7 course tasting menu.
  2. Meeting the folk from Thomson Reuters, who provided a fantastic example of internal community.  They have swathes of project managers talking to each other and learning from each other online. It’s all very well having the techies give the company a fabulous shiny communication platform, but it’s another thing to actually be courageous enough to state your opinions online for 63,000 people to see. Hats off to Diane Taylor Cummings and Anthony Allinson for their bravery.
  3. Hearing about really proper deep organisational values work from Phil Clothier. Love and fear featured heavily. That’s got me thinking and then thinking some more. Can’t do it justice here. More to come.
  4. Jamie Priestly’s talk on the need for HR people to put their brains in gear and do what they are there to do rather than try to be some kind of ‘Finance-Lite’ department with an inferiority complex.
  5. Seeing Creative Connection create their visual minutes/graphic facilitation. It’s awesome.  It brings life and colour and meaning. Artists at work at ConnectingHR
  6. Being treated like an adult and being able to do what I wanted: attend things or zone out for a while. Freedom.  My own choices.  Bliss.
  7. Observing that at most conferences, people don’t learn from each other much. They listen to keynotes, ask a few ‘look at me aren’t I clever’ questions, exchange pleasantries and business cards. And walk away. In contrast, at ConnectingHR I saw so many spontaneous exchanges where people helped each other.  I got blogging tips from the awesome FlipchartFairyTale uber blogger, an HRD coached a ODwhizz/punk on his work patterns (which was FUN), several people exchanged careers advice. That’s just a tiny snapshot.
  8. All the stuff that happens afterwards.  Already, meetings have been set up, blog posts written, one manager tweeted that he’s just set up some team based projects today – inspired by things he learnt at the event.  That’s just a tiny snapshot.
  9. That great feeling of being surrounded by friends and interesting, bright, stretching, fun people.
  10. Being mad enough to have a go at doing my first Pecha Kucha .  That’s a blog post in itself so watch this space.

I have forgotten to mention the ukulele and the coat.

Doug Shaw's ukuleleSo, as the day drew to a close and the drinks commenced (one of the best bits), me and Doug Shaw and Ian Pettigrew had to dash across town as we were lucky enough to have tickets to see Tony Hsieh (Zappos‘ CEO) speaking. In the rush, I left my coat at the unconference.  Then, once installed at the Tony Hsieh talk, Doug got an allergy to Tony’s interviewer, and beat a hasty exit.  Leaving his ukulele behind.

9 thoughts on “Lost my coat and gained a ukulele

  1. I’m so jealous! These really do sound amazing. One day, when I have enough holiday to take from my job I will attend one of these. It certainly sounds like the key is the passion for the topic. That genuinely sounds like the only way it’s going to work. Which makes me think that organisations could do better if all training attendance was voluntary (a bit like the Zappos team and the way they record what books you’ve read). I love that the groups all pick their own topics.
    I was at a seminar yesterday and once the arrogant/dumb people started asking the “Look at me aren’t I clever questions” the discussion meandered and was eventually lost. Being able to walk away, or getting people who actually want to discuss a topic sounds like a good way to develop fresh thinking.
    Who created the unconference format? Do they blog and do they tweet?

    • Hi Dave, thanks for commenting. One day you’ll work somewhere where you can convince your manager that attending an event like this is an important part of your personal development! The unconference format is a child of Open Space which has been around for 2 decades – although I only came across it at an event at the university I used to work at, about 7 years ago. The main website is here http://www.openspaceworld.org/news/join-us/ and you can find out plenty of stuff via that website. They’ve got events, resources, training dates, and a twitter feed. I think that probably the best way to learn about them is to read up on the rules and format, and have a go yourself! Kayleigh is planning to run one so maybe you could give her a helping hand:-)

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  3. Hi

    An untypically brief comment just to say thanks for embracing the TR brigade last week. I am also delighted that we contributed to the day.

    Diane and Louise got loads out of it. Most notably the idea that you can learn from others by aggregating the experience and knowledge in the room,  that you have more to bring than you might think, that by bringing it you get more back in return and make some friends as well.

    Some people seem to find it difficult to learn, others learn well but slowly from their own mistakes. Really smart people learn at exponential rates from the mistakes and experience of others.

    Where are the various PK’s being posted?  There’s a couple I’d like to see, esp of there is a video. I will trade a dreadful  rendition of the BeeGee’s Jive Talking I recorded in a hotel lobby in Mumbai while the unconf was going on in London. 

    Thanks for most kind comments on what has been a brilliant experience.


    Ps I can go get your coat if need be. It’s almost on my way home.

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  5. So glad to hear that the unconference is going from strength to strength. Having attended the one in 2011, there’s no doubting the passion in the room, also the desire to share and help one another rather than impress.

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