Which City?

Friday, 3 June 2011

It's not what you know but how you share it...

I went to my first Business Link workshop yesterday - better late than never, you might say since the NY BL will close in November. 

The event was on Vision and Strategy, which I thought would be useful as, having just embarked on a new venture with Steve Loraine -  The Open Channel  - I wanted to think about the vision we had for this collaboration and our future strategy. 

The free event ( £20 penalty for non attendance) was half full as witnessed by the number of unclaimed name badges, and confirmed the adage that people don't value free events. Feeling somewhat defensive about public sector funding cuts, I was annoyed at this apparent waste of a resource aimed at helping private companies to grow.

I found the event pretty near useless and dull as ditchwater - a waste of a wonderful sunny afternoon spent in a gloomy hotel conference room. Or was it? 

This is why it was dull:

  • No introductions, no participation on the round tables, no opportunity to get to know one another
  • A presenter talking for 95% of the time, telling us it was not 'talk and chalk' when it was just that.
  • Slides and concepts older than most of the people in the room (not me, sadly) but maybe therefore 'new' for some. No doubt some ideas are robust and still useful, but there was no new thinking, no relevance to the current context, no fresh air!
  • One case study with narrow transference to other businesses, based on a pre-recession world view. 
And this is why it maybe wasn't so useless:

  • Three hours to scribble and doodle and think about the future of the markets we are in and to envision new ones, without fear of being asked a question or having to contribute.
  • A great contact from a proactive colleague who approached me in the break to ask what I did - we found a great connection between our businesses and some good reasons to connect in future.
I could have spent the time at home, catching up on emails, doing admin, chained to LinkedIn and Twitter, I might have been more productive, and more profitable in the long run. But, space for creative thinking and a trigger to sit with a blank sheet of paper and do some creative thinking, plus a good contact is probably three hours well spent.

The mood of the room was mixed, some leaving early, some clearly engaging, one or two sharing my view about the missed opportunity. I wanted to know what skills there were in the room and to share in some learning with them. This old-fashioned style of the old hand passing down their often irrelevant wisdom to the younger or less experienced is surely due for a makeover.

In all my business ventures, I sell experience and expertise, but always through a transactional process. The Open Channel  is predicated on the basis of a shared learning experience running through the organisations, groups and communities with whom we work, as well as directly between our clients and ourselves. Real knowledge is a shared resource, and to share effectively there has to be at least two-way communication. Our core techniques of Appreciative Inquiry and Action Learning draw out understanding rather than just inject information.

I may not have felt that I learned a lot directly from Business Link yesterday, but I learned something about myself and my businesses - it's not only what you know but how you share it that matters.

In the void that Business Links leave, what will SMEs do to support their thinking around growth, development, diversification and sustainability? We have pitched The Open Channel at the public services sector since that's our home ground essentially, but the feedback we are getting already is that there is a real need for some fresh ideas for supporting all sectors - public, private, voluntary and community. 

Why don't you share your ideas with us. Switch on to The Open Channel and let us know what you think. Have a great weekend,



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