Two events today. Both had massive potential to be inspiring, invigorating, connecting. Both failed.
And – and here is where I may be getting a sliver of understanding and compassion (soon to be suppressed so I can more conveniently express outrage and exasperation, no doubt) – neither of them fell victim to the dynamic of people particularly determined to impose Their Vision. In fact, the people running both events have, I am sure, a genuinely-felt horror of anti-participative formats. I know one of them a bit, and they are sincere, energetic and kind.
But ego-foddering is what they delivered. They aren’t evil. They weren’t setting out to ego-fodder. And yet the end result was – at least for the portions I was at (I left the first for the second, and law-of-two-feeted it from that in order to continue my love affair… with the Financial Times, on the stepper.) deeply distressing.
So why did it happen? Our old friends comfort and habits, I think. It’s easy to have one person stand at the front and talk. It’s what we expect that the audience expects. And we are usually right. And it means we don’t have to risk innovation, to move outside our comfort zones and spend serious time and energy thinking about meeting dynamics. So, it’s easy and familiar. Just one problem – it doesn’t work.
The first meeting was sparsely attended. Well, it’s a Saturday, and folks have other commitments (shopping for groceries, ferrying children to sports events, visiting elderly parents etc etc). But it was ALSO an important annual event in this group’s life. I personally think the reaping is happening for previous meetings poor design…
The second meeting I am still too upset about to trust myself to write clearly and fairly. I will say this much – what a tragically tragically wasted opportunity. There was REAL diversity – of age, of culture, of “life experience” – in a room. Young white middle class males were genuinely in the minority. Meeting, mingling and learning would have been immense if, as could easily have happened, the meeting had been consciously designed, and that design carried through. Instead we got death-by-powerpointed. More on this meeting another time. Perhaps. If I ever calm down enough. (Actually, it’s not anger. It’s just a heavy heavy sadness. Am I becoming resigned?)