Tag Archives: gumboots

finding good ideas… preventing good ideas

Over the last couple of months I have found myself back in a place that I managed to avoid quite effectively for the last several years — windowless meeting rooms (granted the Simon Fraser University hosted Fraser Sockeye salmon summit was in the Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver with lots of windows), conference centres, strictly adhered to agendas, task master meeting chairs or panel chairs or facilitators, and imposed limits for questions (Sir, you are only allowed one question… so make it good), and so on and so on…

The irony with the root of the word conference is that it comes from medieval Latin and means to “bring together” . And, I suppose, Yes… conferences do bring people together. People sit in the same rows as other attendees, breathing the same recirculated air, watching PowerPoint presentation after presentation, swilling mediocre conference centre coffee during breaks to try and stay alert, then wiggling in place not wanting to be rude by walking out on a speaker to drain a diuretic filled bladder.

(i’ve determined — through intensive scientific rigor — that the wiggling is far more effective for alertness then the caffeine kick…)

Or, as I observed in Portland last week at the State of the Salmon conference on Ecological Interactions between Wild & Hatchery Salmon… almost everyone left in the third period (my hockey analogy).

At the start of the conference, the Hilton Hotel staff were running around bringing more chairs into the stuffed Ballroom with well over 300 people in attendance.

By the last day, a scheduled half day, and the day when things actually became a bit more  interesting; when some emotion entered the equation; where people actually talked about how they felt about salmon; when there was some feeling; when some folks actually talked about “action” as opposed to talking for the sake of talking… or graphing for the sense of graphing… or charting for the sense of charting…

…there were only about 50 people left in the room at the end of the conference.


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Seth Godin — marketing guru and mr. change agent — has a great post from the other day:

Where do you find good ideas?

Do you often find ideas that change everything in a windowless conference room, with bottled water on the side table and a circle of critics and skeptics wearing suits looking at you as the clock ticks down to the 60 minutes allocated for this meeting?

If not, then why do you keep looking for them there?

The best ideas come out of the corner of our eye, the edge of our consciousness, in a flash. They are the result of misdirection and random collisions, not a grinding corporate onslaught. And yet we waste billions of dollars in time looking for them where they’re not.

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And this is pretty much what I continually observe at various meetings and conferences… ghad forbid we take a side road, a side trail that we didn’t even see on the map, or didn’t show up on our dashboard GPS, or Google Maps. Or… maybe even leave PowerPoint off, or maybe host a conference in a big field… rent a big tent, or just tell everyone to bring an umbrella… or hire actors to act out our talks… or sing a presentation…

No… this is crazy talk.

Consultation, conferences, “dialogue” (as a noun, or verb — as in “dialoguing”), discussion must be run by tight agendas, task master Chairs or facilitators that limit questions or real conversation because the next panel is ready to begin…

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Preventing good ideas? Three attitudes that prevent us from receiving continual flow of blessings… the three “pots”: a full pot, a pot with poison in it, and a pot with a hole in the bottom.

The pot that’s filled to the brim is like a mind full opinions and preconceptions. We already know it all. We have so many fixed ideas that nothing new can affect us or cause us to question our assumptions.

The pot containing poison is like a mind that’s so cynical, critical and judgemental that everything is poisoned by this harshness. It allows for no openness and no willingness to explore the teachings or anything else that challenges our righteous stance.

The pot with a hole is like a distracted mind: our body is present but we’re lost in thought. We’re so busy thinking about our dream vacation or what’s for dinner that we’re completely deaf to what’s being said.

… Nothing will improve, unless we become more intelligent about cause and effect.

— from Pema Chödrön’s book “No Time to Lose“.   (from the Buddhist tradition).

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I certainly observed all of these “pots” at this last conference… and maybe even had one or two of those pots on my head myself.

How do we go about finding better ideas?

How do we become a lot more intelligent about cause and effect?

How do we forge some new “pots” that aren’t so limiting?

If you want to change people, you must create enough leverage to encourage the change to happen.

The subject line to this post is Seth Godin’s reason for writing his most recent book: Linchpin. If you’ve had a chance to read some of my earlier posts, I’ve mentioned Godin a few times. His blog posts are short, thoughtful and generally leave me thinking. He’s known as a marketing guru of sorts – yet so many of his great little books talk about “change” – personal, organizational, and societal.

Last week I emailed him  just to say thanks for his posts. He emailed back within about 15 minutes, saying thank-you in return, with some comments about wild and farmed salmon – and keeping the gumboots on the ground.

I didn’t email him back though – and tell him when my brother and I were kids growing up on Haida Gwaii off the coast of B.C. – where it rains about 280 days of year – our mom would make us leave the house with gumboots as we’d walk the mile or so to the bus stop. We’d get to the end of the driveway and throw the gumboots in the bush; grab our shoes out of our bags and put them on. Of course by the time we got to the bus stop our feet would be soaked – but, sheez, at least we still looked cool…

And now decades later when we’re all home we have a chuckle about it – our mom was certainly wiser than we gave her credit at the time (we thought we were soooo clever). She knew exactly what we were doing, however her take: “I did my part as a parent by getting you to leave the house with them on; after that it was your choice…” (or something to that effect).

I suppose in relation to the subject line of this post: she wasn’t interested in creating the leverage for change – she left that to us. Yet,  this wasn’t necessarily the same tactic in cleaning up our bedrooms… parents have all sorts of leverage-tricks in that scenario (as I’m now learning as a parent).

Godin’s post: Why write a book? he suggests:

The goal isn’t always to spread an idea. Sometimes the goal is to make change happen. A book is a physical souvenir, a concrete instantiation of your ideas in a physical object, something that gives your ideas substance and allows them to travel.

The reason I wrote Linchpin: If you want to change people, you must create enough leverage to encourage the change to happen.

Books change lives every day. A book takes more than a few minutes to read. A book envelopes us, it is relentless in its voice and in its linearity. You start at the beginning and you either ride with the author to the end or you bail. And unlike just about any form of electronic media, you get to read the book at your own pace, absorbing it as you go.

I published a book today. My biggest and most important and most personal and most challenging book. A book that scared me.

It took me ten years to write this book. I’m hoping it changes a few people.

Kind of neat to read coming from someone who puts a book out and a few weeks later sees it on the New York Times bestseller list.