Thursday, May 8, 2014

#ASTD 2014: A Mix of Old and New

Embracing my new association.
Even as I was making my way up the escalator to Hall D in the Washington Convention Center on Tuesday to hear Tony Bingham deliver the Big Announcement, I had already decided that the theme for this blog post to summarize my experience at ASTD's 2014 International Conference and Exposition (ICE) was going to be: a mix of the old and new.  Tony himself had started me on this path with his introductory remarks about change before yielding the stage to Arianna Huffington for a poignant, humorous, and inspiring keynote address derived from her new book, Thrive. "Change is important," he said.  "L&D professionals must get more involved in change management."  He was setting the stage not just for Ms. Huffington, but also for the announcement he would deliver at the end of the second day.

Change would be a recurring theme throughout the conference.  We heard it in the excerpts from Thrive as we were asked to focus on well-being, wisdom, and wonder to prepare ourselves for success. We heard it again in Tuesday's keynote address from General Stan McChrystal.  He expressed it as "the need to adapt" which he clearly illustrated using examples such as the Jet Blue crew landing their plane safely in the Hudson River, and the completion of the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound by the Navy Seals, even after one of their helicopters crash landed at the beginning of the mission.

Change links the old and the new.  If we do it right, we discard tools and behaviors we no longer need, in favor of new ones.  But we also carry forward experiences and wisdom that can still serve us well in the future we are trying to create.   So here are examples of the juxtapositions of old and new I experienced during this year's conference:

  • I stopped by Ken Blanchard's booth in the Expo Hall on Tuesday.  It was his 75th birthday.  He was surrounded by many of the books he has published over the years.  They are those short, easy-to-read type books that seem commonplace nowadays.  But those of us from my generation remember them as groundbreaking alternatives to the large textbook-like business books of the time. It is the same way the session leaders at ICE were advocating the idea of short learning bursts as opposed to full-blown courses today.
  • I attended a session on Designing Learning for a Global Audience.  Alongside new information about addressing language and cultural differences, the session leaders were presenting design principles from Clark & Mayer's e-Learning and the Science of Instruction (and I'm not entirely sure they knew that!)
  • In another session I attended on Social Learning, I heard ideas presented that came right out of Gloria Gery's Electronic Performance Support presented while Jane Hart's Comet's Tail of Workplace Learning Trends was being shown on the screen.
  • On my trip home from the conference, I posted a tweet to illustrate what I had learned in Jane Bozarth's  Show Your Work session.  Jane's recent and current work inspires me to think creatively about learning.  My tweet was favorited by the Bob Pike Group.  Bob's Creative Training Techniques course and handbook provided similar inspiration to me as a new trainer early in my career.

  • Finally, in announcing that ASTD is changing its name to the Association for Talent Development, Tony Bingham talked about "where we've been" and "where we're going." That was clearly illustrated when we arrived at the conference center Wednesday morning to see all of the old ASTD banners and marketing collateral had already been replaced with new ATD branded material.
As I stated earlier, if we go about change the right way, we bring a mix of old and new with us as we move forward.  For me, I find it easy to identify with being part of ATD.  The new name encompasses the work that I've done so far in my career and it embraces the wider possibilities of supporting global audiences with a broader range of services.  I think I can live with that.

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