Who wants to switch seats?

The short answer is – no one.

I was honored to have been invited to lead a workshop at the Network and Affinity Leadership Congress in NYC in June. The slides from this event can be found here:

Social: A Network Leader’s Perfect Diversity Platform from David Thompson

The event was a ton of fun, and we had participants from a wide array of organizations. My material was well received and people appreciated my attention to measurement and outcomes; do let [me](david@lunchroulette.us) know if you’d like to learn more.

In planning the workshop, and as an entry to the topic of individual barriers to change, I opened with an activity: “Who wants to switch seats?” I had an informed hunch that people would sit next to their colleagues, and I didn’t want that to be the case, I wanted them ready to think differently.

Take a moment and have a think about that behaviour - and know that I share this not as a judgment (I do the same thing …) but just as an example of how easy it is to engage in practices of ‘same’; exploiting the behaviour you’ve always exhibited.

You pay money to attend a conference to learn about things you, or your organization, wants to learn more about - to network, and to meet new contacts. But instead of sitting with new people, or forcing yourself to engage in the exploration mode … you sit with the folks you spend a good chunk of any given day with.

Why?

A whole host of reasons - it’d be rude not to, it feels comfortable, you want to talk about Project X, or Person Y, you haven’t seen them for a while and it would be good to catch up. It all feels useful … and yet, you limit the number of possible exposures to ‘new’ through doing this.

So, did I see this behaviour? Well, yes, I did. There was a CVS table, and a New York Federal Reserve Table, and an IBM table, a Target table, and a L'Oreal table … so I got everyone up, and moved them out of their intact groups for the remainder of our time together.

Did this do anything useful? Don’t know. I may have enriched, or primed them to be more receptive to new material or people (or I may not have, can’t say). But do I believe that not doing something was worse? Yes, by far.

So, what’s the punchline? What’s my call to action?

Next time you head to a meeting (of any sort), challenge yourself to not hang with your usual crowd. Mitigate the ‘rudeness’ concern by telling colleagues about this beforehand. Plan on catching up with colleagues outside of the meeting. There’s a whole host of stuff you can do to focus on being present at the meeting you’ve decided to attend. Not to mention the opportunity to meet similar, like-minded, people - because, guess what, they’ve self-identified an interest in this topic just as you have. There’s already mutual ground to start a conversation around … so, what’s stopping you?

Thanks for listening,

DT

 
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