Next week is the Great Place to Work® Conference in Denver, Colorado. It is always a busy time for me, but an energizing and inspiring one as well. It reminds me of one of the reasons I first joined the Institute. As I sat through my very first presentation about the list-making companies it dawned on me that few companies “fall off” the list because they get worse. Rather, the list keeps changing because everyone else keeps getting better. At the conference, we hear firsthand from leaders about the ways they make their organizations even better places to work.
But, as great as that is, the real value of going to this conference, or any conference for that matter, is the ideas and insights you come away with about your own organization. Einstein famously said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Among other things, that means that the systems, norms, roles, and espoused values that created the problems you are facing at work are not where to look for solutions. Rather, you have to get out of that mind and get into a different mind in order to solve them.
This doesn’t mean that you ignore the context that created the problem. On the contrary, you will need to build on the strengths that do exist in the current system and take measured steps to create culture change. But, the opportunity to see those strengths differently, learn about next steps that others have chosen, verbalize your vision, and meet new thought partners and colleagues can only come when you step out of your mind and into a conference or other professional gathering.
Many of the true benefits of attending conferences happen while you are busy making other plans, like attending a session on turnover only to learn something about performance appraisal. But, you can be deliberate about creating those “out of your mind” moments as well. Try these approaches:
- Explain your organization’s strengths and opportunities to someone else. By simply verbalizing what we live with day to day, we often have new insights and ideas about how to make positive change. I liked what Bill Taylor had to say in his book, Practically Radical. He asks, “Do you have new ideas about where to look for new ideas?” Often, speaking with someone in another industry can illuminate both areas of strength that you are missing in your own “industry mind” and practices common in their industry that you might try.
- Ask what the most exciting thing is that others are working on, and be prepared to share what you are excited about. Passion is contagious, and also helps to surface your own great ideas. The Latin root for the word “move” is the same as that of “emotion.” While facts and statistics will speak to your coworkers back home, your passion will speak more loudly.
- At the end of each session (or day, if you’d like), take a moment to write down what you will start doing differently, stop doing, and continue doing. While you may or may not put all your ideas into place once you get back to work, having your insights boiled down into action steps helps you to avoid the intellectual hangover that often follows great conferences. We’ve all been there – we know we learned a lot, and it was fun, but now that we are back in the consciousness that created our challenges, it is more difficult to come up with actions that will make a difference.
There you have it – an invitation to go out of your mind. I hope to see you in Denver, but if not, we are simulcasting and tweeting as well. Check us out at #GPTWConf this week, and our blogs and websites in the weeks to come.
Jennifer Robin, Ph.D., is a Research Fellow and former Senior Consultant with Great Place to Work® Institute, and co-author of The Great Workplace: How to Build It, How to Keep It, and Why It Matters.