Notes from ATD 2019

Notes from ATD 2019

ATD is the largest gathering of L&D professionals in the US and possibly globally, with over 10,000 delegates. The event attracts top class presenters and keynote speakers and has a very large exhibition area with hundreds of stands. So it provides a very good place for us to catch up on latest L&D trends, explore new products and services, and to see what competitors and potential partners have to offer.

It was always going to be tough to match 2018 headliner Barack Obama, but this year’s keynotes, Oprah Winfrey and Seth Godin were both excellent.

Oprah illustrated her talk with entertaining and thought-provoking anecdotes, around the theme of leadership and truth (I wonder if she had anyone in mind), and in particular being true to yourself. This includes listening to your instincts. We’ve all had those moments where we go ahead with a decision even though something in the back of our minds tells us we are making a mistake. Listen to your inner voice says Oprah, and if you have that ominous feeling, pause, do nothing. There were plenty more takeaways. Here are a few :

The second keynote Seth Godin is a prolific author and blogger. His talk was entitled “Dancing on the Edge of a Revolution” and focused the change of mindset needed to thrive in the new commercial world.

He critiqued the education system that teaches children to comply – designed for the old industrial model that requires compliant workers to follow instructions so as to complete repetitive tasks consistently.

He also argued that this model, with its focus on productivity - doing more of the same thing in a shorter time - actually discourages people from working at full capacity. We hold back, keeping something in reserve in the expectation of being asked to do more.

He then went on to contend that the new commercial world, where competition is unlimited and global, where a Lyft, Amazon or AirBnB can disrupt whole sectors at extraordinary speed, requires a different approach. This world of change, where the cost of being wrong is lower than the cost of doing nothing, requires leaders who encourage new ideas and support risk-taking.

According to Seth, the original story of Icarus was not a warning not to fly too high, but a parable of the dangers of staying too low, where your wings might hit the waves. Whether it is true or not that the Victorians changed the story, the message holds - be willing to fly high towards the sun.

Today’s managers should encourage coordination, trust, permission, exchange of ideas, generosity, art. It is still possible to specialize successfully in a world of instant monopoly.

People do not buy goods and services. They buy relationships, stories and magic.

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