20 January 2009

Gurteen Knowledge Cafe on conversations

It has taken me rather longer than I hoped to write something about the recent Gurteen Knowledge Cafe on conversations so I am making it easier for myself by doing it in two parts - process and content; this is the process.

David Gurteen opened the show and then retired in to the background to take lots of photos of the event. I've taken the liberty of using some of them here but it is worth looking at the full set to get a proper feel for what the events are like.

Ray Shaw was the facilitator for the evening on his chosen subject of conversations.

Here we see Ray explaining the structure we would use for the sessions.

It was a slightly different process from normal, and David even billed it as a "Cafe Ray", but the similarities were greater than the differences.

The main difference was that instead of everybody discussing one topic we were offered four different aspects of conversations to consider.

In the initial session Ray addressed us all as a group, and it was quite a large group of seventy or so showing the keen interest in the subject.

The four broad topic areas were 1) defining conversations, 2) web2.0 conversations, 3) brilliant conversations and 4) business conversations.

Having four topics to cover gave Ray the excuse to talk for longer than usual for these events and he did this with enthusiasm, energy and insight.

Just to prove I was there and paying attention you can see me on the right of this picture.

Once the topics had been introduced we all chose the one that we wanted to discuss and split in to smaller groups with two groups per topics to keep the sessions manageable.

The small group sessions are a key part of these evenings and are where I get a lot of the value from going to the Knowledge Cafes.

Obviously the direction the discussion takes depends on who is in each group and the the unplanned mix adds to the fun and the learning.

This learning is expanded and reinforced in the last two sessions of the evening, the whole group session, where individuals offer up their key learnings and, finally, at the debrief afterwards in the pub where the previous sessions provide the foundation for conversations that take off in all directions.

I hope I have given some idea here of why the Knowledge Cafes work and why I make every effort to attend each one. Later I'll try and explain some of the things that I learnt about conversations at the last one.

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