To kick-start my last blogging week this year, I wanted to follow up on an exchange I had on Twitter with @cosmocat a.k.a. Chahira Nouira. A couple of weeks back she was sharing her expectations from a workshop she was attending (Online Educa Berlin, #OEB11 on Twitter) and it boiled down to ‘connecting, inspiration, learning’.
That is a very valuable goal for a workshop, but why exactly this combination? And how does it tie in together, if it does at all? The question really is worthwhile, considering the amount of workshops, conferences and other events that most of us attend in a typical year; and considering that most of us probably would share any or all of these expectations at different times. So how and when exactly do we connect, find inspiration and learn at events?
Inspiration happens without any physical contact – instead of us, our hearts, minds and souls mingle and meet with their environment. Inspiration could rush out of hearing a quote, relating something that happens with a totally separate event or memory, seeing a new combination possible. In an event, it could just be about finding a presentation excellent, hearing a very good speaker or a very astute question, seeing the possibility of bringing two people to know each other… Inspiration is thus essentially a personal unilateral experience, it does not require someone else. Though of course, a someone else would very likely stimulate inspiration much further, especially if contact and dialogue with that someone else is sustained. Hence connecting…
Connecting has two meanings: a) getting in contact and b) establishing a (somewhat deeper) connection. Let’s not focus on the former here because it does not say anything about thoughts or emotions. The second meaning of ‘connecting’ implies that it happens with the awareness that a deeper connection is being established. We connect with someone and we realise it. Like the blink moment that Malcolm Gladwell was talking about. Thus connecting happens either when two people meet, hear each other’s ideas/emotions/inspirations (and their minds/hearts/souls mingle) and acknowledge that they share a common experience or appreciation. Connecting requires interaction and that interaction can take various shapes during an event:
- We come to workshops to hear and meet specific persons based on previous connections or based on these people’s work/fame and we interact with their presentations or speeches;
- We meet other people as part of workshop group work and we find those connections when working together;
- We meet people through common acquaintances, when we are introduced to someone else and may have that ‘blink’ moment (or not);
- We just end up meeting a lot of people in random situations when chatting at coffee and lunch breaks, during outings, for some when having a smoke etc. Again a case of blink or not. But it goes beyond the spur of inspiration.
Now learninghappens on the brink of inspiration and on the basis of connection. Inspiration is (sometimes) what makes learning possible, because it excites curiosity and opens our shell for new experiences. Inspiration makes way for connection: the enlightening or blinding moment leads the way to the bridging moment. Once the bridge is established between two newly connected people, learning between them can happen. The pearls of social learning reveal themselves when inspiration meets connection.
Learning also brings the experience one step further. Inspiration could be just a glimpse, a shooting star. Connecting could be just a very enjoyable moment of chat. Learning, however, is a transformative experience that can only happen when other elements are conjured up. From blinding to bridging to binding.What about Chahira’s expectations? From this small experience, we can deduce that Chahira is almost certain to have found some inspiration (unless she went to the conference only to score free coffee and cookies – which I very much doubt), she most likely connected with a few people in different ways and hopefully she also learneda couple of things.
Chahira, what was your verdict of #OEB11 then?