Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Learning Pro at AIN 2012 Pt 1

Last week I spent 4 days in the company of the most generous people I know.

I was at the 2012 conference of the Applied Improvisation Network. An organization that, as regular readers will know, I've been a part of for a while.

This year the conference was in my new home town of San Francisco at the really cool Fort Mason Center which is home to BATS Improv.

The conference is my favourite event all year. This year was a record breaker for the network with over 200 people attending. It was also quite a different event for me as this is the first year since 2007 that I have not had a major part in organizing and/or running the conference. I was able to be a participant, and able to just relax into attending, participating and learning.

I did have a brief presentation to make. This year, trying something new, we had a series of TEDx style talks as part of our plenary sessions. I presented on on the ASTD competency model and raised a couple of questions about how we start to define the role of a professional in the Applied Improvisation space.

That AINx talk along with all the others will be going up on YouTube soon. I'll let you all know when it gets there.

So. As this was an opportunity to learn I'm going to share some of my main learning with you, my loyal reader(s?) As I did a lot of learning I'll break this up into a few posts.

The conference began on Thursday with a selection of 'Learning Journeys'. I joined the one that headed to Stanford University for a tour of the D School and a panel discussion on how Improvisation was being used across the university.

At the D School we learnt about the Design Thinking method they teach for innovation and design.
there are 5 steps to their process
  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test
One of the things that struck me was the similarity between this and the classic Osborne Parnes Creative Problem Solving process.

To explain this to us they took us though an exercise where we paired up and designed an improved moving experience for our partners. It seems that everyone who has ever moved homes could stand to have the experience improved, and as our own movers will be moving our furniture from Chicago to San Francisco over the next two weeks it was a particularly apt exercise.

After listening to my tale of woe, my partner for the exercise Elaine Broe came up with a prototype of a professional moving concierge service. When she tested it on me I was totally sold on many aspects of the idea. My favorite was the fact that the clients would take a personality test to match them up with the best concierge for them.

After lunch there was a panel discussion on how Improv is being used at Stanford.
The panelists included Patricia Ryan Madson, author of one of my favorite books. Improv Wisdom, Don't prepare, just show up, Dan Klein who can be seen here giving a great TEDx talk on improv and Tina Seelig from the D School

The message that came over clearest for me from this discussion was that inter-disciplinary work was the hottest of topics. Enabling people from multiple specialities to communicate and work together is a key ingredient in the success that is Silicon Valley.

Then it was back on the bus, heading back towards San Francisco and Fort Mason for the official conference opening.

More to come.

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