It’s 5:18 am on a Sunday morning and I can’t sleep.
This is a usual state of affairs before every conference I attend. Next week I will be presenting at the Change Management Institute’s Change in the Age of Disruption Conference in Sydney and I’m equally excited as I am nervous about it.
The excitement stems from the fact that it is a conference that is outside of my usual Learning and Development (L&D) field. Any time I do anything outside my usual routine or go outside my comfortable cocoon of the L&D community that exposes me to new people who come from a variety of backgrounds, organisations, industries and associations there’s a certain trepidation but also a nervous excitement. Here is an opportunity to be exposed to new ideas and insights and hopefully learn from others in the fields of business who are also scratching their heads about the new roles (if at all) they play in this ever-changing world.
However, I embrace these feelings because it means you’re out of your comfort zone. When you’re out of your comfort zone, you just happen to be in the zone for learning.
That’s the place I always want to be.
The thrill of learning something new is exciting but more so, the thrill of sharing what you just learned and having global conversations with diverse perspectives is addictive.
So I have to ask that in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world – is learning the new thrill seeker sport?
I’ve realised that I seek out things in my professional life that get me out of my comfort zone so I can always be in the zone for learning. The slight discomfort of not knowing all the answers, thinking on your feet, being around strangers and most of all shedding the pretence.
In a strange way, being out of your comfort zone nowadays is a liberating experience. You not only end up learning something new to apply to your work to make it better, faster, easier but more importantly, you end up learning something about yourself and how resilient you truly are.
Some time ago, I undertook a cMOOC (connectivist MOOC) called Rhizomatic Learning run by Dave Cormier (@DaveCormier) and in one of the sessions, he asked us to explain what ‘Embracing Uncertainty’ meant for us. I related my own workplace example in the post, Embracing Uncertainty…Awkward! and also created a short video. I had long since forgotten about these until today but much about embracing uncertainty is also about being open to learning.
David says of rhizomatic learning:
“Rhizomatic learning is a way of thinking about learning based on ideas described by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in a thousand plateaus. A rhizome, sometimes called a creeping rootstalk, is a stem of a plant that sends out roots and shoots as it spreads. It is an image used by D&G to describe the way that ideas are multiple, interconnected and self-relicating. A rhizome has no beginning or end… like the learning process.”
It’s evident that employees in organisations going through massive disruptive change need to be like rhizomes and start to creep beyond what they know and into the unknown without fear of loss, security or risk.
So How Can You Get Those Thrills (aka Get Out of Your Comfort Zone)?
Here are three things that I usually do to get out of my comfort zone – and into the zone for learning – drawing particular attention to the specific activities that I will do for my own learning at the CMI Conference next week.
(1) Embrace the Challenge
Personally, my own challenge at the CMI Conference will be public speaking (it always is). Even more so, with an audience whom I’ve never spoken with, know personally or connected with on social media.
The ways I overcome this challenge is to always be prepared. Preparation has taken months and I have worked out loud for some of it such as my posts and vlogs on “Knitting a Compelling Story in the Age of Change” as well as Do The Pecha Kucha .
My personal challenge for CMI is to “create the CMI Conference into a social learning experience for delegates” and I have done this through actively tweeting and sharing posts on the CMI Facebook page using their hashtag #cmidisrupt to engage in conversations (although alas, the only people whom I’ve conversed with on social media have been the conference organisers or the other speakers – this MUST change!) I have also prepared different activities in my session that will inspire people to consider how they could share their learning, observations, experiences and reflections across different social networks so that they could connect with others.
(2) Take a Risk
Every time I pick up my camera, turn it on and talk into it, my heart races. Since being inspired by vlogger Casey Niestat to use video as a means of reflection, I have started to build my library in my YouTube Channel. For this conference, I’m going to take a risk and ask others to do the same. I will appeal to their own fears and ask them to create a short video of what they’re learning so that it can be shown on an internet TV channel called LearningNow TV. Some people may baulk at the idea but others may like it. After all, if it’s a team effort maybe people are more likely to give it a go?
For those who are not so open to this idea, I have another idea that involves QR codes. I bought sticky paper off eBay and created QR codes with different tasks that delegates can do. Once they come across the QR code anywhere in the conference centre, they’ll scan it and it takes them to an activity that they will do and then share across social media.
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) October 27, 2015
(3) Try Something New
As I mentioned before, video is not my forte. In fact, any speaking on stage or on camera always brings on nerves so I figure I need to do more of these and each time, push a boundary. Every time makes it easier for the next but I need to vary something each time to see how it works as well as keep me engaged and fresh. (Remember, you don’t always want to stay in that dreaded comfort zone!)
During the conference, I’d like to have a go using the app Periscope which is a real time streaming video app where people can view and interact with the presenter.
If you’re going along to the CMI Conference in Sydney or London or even participating in the live stream of the conference, please use the opportunity to share your own reflections of what you have learned and how you will apply it to your work. I hope to meet you in person, online or virtually!