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Three Thoughts on Denver

Friday, May 11, 2012
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Denver. Where do I begin? I guess first impressions being most lasting, I have to comment on what a cool town Denver is (check out some of my pictures and add yours). And this being my first year as a Community of Practice Manager rather than Managing Editor of the Conference Daily, it was almost like attending for the first time. So as I sit here with several stacks of business cards and project proposals that returned on the plane with me, it's abundantly clear that I have a lot of organizing to do. These are "good problems to have," as some say. But one more thing is also clear as I think back on the last week: ASTD 2012 really kicked off a turning point for this organization, and being able to witness the impact it had on attendees was pretty amazing. Here is some of what I was able to figure out:

1. Community of Practice Managers are the new faces of ASTD National. Really.

As I learned quickly after the Annual Meeting, ASTD's Community Managers are the new, highly visible faces of the association. This being my 5th conference, I know that ASTD attendees are an affable bunch overall, but without a doubt I received even more smiles and hellos than usual. My fellow managers echoed the observation. Several attendees approached me in the Expo aisles or conference center corridors and just started asking me questions or sharing their thoughts about the new model. It's pretty incredible that people have someone to speak and identify with and feel that kind of ease. It might be worth noting that I'm an INTJ to the core, and I thought those interactions were just fantastic.

2. People are ready and excited to get involved.

The attendees I spoke to are genuinely excited by the new website, the smart tagging and reorganization of our content and products, and the increased amount of personal control over the messages they receive from us. Many people are anxious to contribute their ideas to our conferences, publications, blogs, and newsletters, but more than a few remarked simply, "I didn't know I could." In my conversations, I was able to confirm that ASTD is not a country club. If you have something to say, there are places where you say it, and it's pretty easy to do so.

3. People are anxious to know what comes next.

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In his fantastic Tuesday General Session, John Kao gave Communities of Practice a nice shout, flashing onscreen the definition that Etienne Wenger gave us. It's no wonder then that one of sport's greatest community members, Michael Jordan, was the subject of Kao's commentary on the failure-innovation equation. The man failed a LOT. But he also changed an entire community—professional basketball—forever. I heard from numerous attendees in the L&D networking sessions, and in my conversations about people's professional work, I heard about a ton of successes, and also many failures. But win or lose, it was clear that people wanted to know what they could do to keep these conversations going. They are excited by our Communities approach and want to know what we can do now that we are on the same page, so to speak. What can learning professionals create, together, to move learning forward? Some fantastic ideas were workshopped when I sat in on one of the Senior Leaders and Executives events, and it's obvious to me that the wheels have been turning. So what exactly will we start tackling first? 

Broader business issues?

Everyday challenges in our jobs?

Generational issues?

I do not have the answer just yet, but I know that in the coming weeks and months, the L&D community will begin building new opportunities to advance the profession. And by the time we reconnect in Dallas, hopefully we'll all be experts on ASTD's communities, and our conversation will have evolved.

So, where do you think it will go?

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