Learning at Conferences

  • An ounce of information is worth a pound of data.
  • An ounce of knowledge is worth a pound of information.
  • An ounce of understanding is worth a pound of knowledge.
  • An ounce of wisdom is worth a pound of understanding.
  • That makes an ounce of wisdom about 42,000 ounces of data.

Despite this, most of the time spent in school is devoted to the transmission of information and ways of obtaining it. Less time is devoted to the transmission of knowledge and ways of obtaining it (analytical thinking). Virtually no time is spent in transmitting understanding or ways of obtaining it (synthetic thinking). Further more, the distinctions between data, information, and so on up to wisdom are seldom made in the educational process, leaving students unaware of their ignorance. They not only don’t know, they don’t know what they don’t know.

The reason so little understanding is transmitted by teachers is that they have so little to transmit. They are more likely to know what is right than why it is right. Explanations require discussion if they are to produce understanding. The ability to lead fruitful discussions is not an attribute of most teachers.

Russell Ackoff, 1999

This is why I feel I have greater learning from corridor conversations at events such as LSSC11 than actually in the sessions themselves. Some feel the conference format is outdated, but I’m unsure on the alternative.


2 thoughts on “Learning at Conferences

  1. The open space format may be exactly what you are looking for. Basically, a proven infrastructure for getting people together around topics very fast. Sort of a formalization of hallway conversations that doesn’t actually feel formal at all. 🙂

  2. I’ve been thinking… we could have a “Format Experimentation” track where people can run their sessions in different formats to see what works. It could also be called a “Scientific Method Format Track”.

    Speakers / session participants should describe their formats prior (ie. ‘Plan’ before ‘Do’, and there should be some form of ‘Check’ – perhaps a feedback/rating form to be completed by participants. The ‘Act’ would be to decide whether/how to use formats more widely in subsequent conferences.

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