Thoughts about conference can be inspired from some unusual places. I was looking at the Official M.C. Escher website when I started thinking about the LIANZA Conference 2008. If you've never heard of Escher I recommend taking a quick look. He's an intriguing artist who had a unique way of looking at the world. His prints and drawings show impossible constructions or interlinked shapes.
This is what looking at those pictures reminded me about conference.
(Warning: picture links may take some time to open.)
1. What you learn depends on where you start.
Where you think you are and what you see in some Escher prints depends on where you start. In "Ascending and Descending" for example, hooded individuals appear to be either always going up or always going down. Your eyes follow the stairs around the square - up, up, up...up?
What I've learnt from conference sessions depends on what background or contextual information I have before I attend the session. I've been to sessions that have blown me away with their material yet have left my workmates cold and vice versa. We've started from different places. What's outside the box and inspiring for me is a 'meh' moment for them.
2. Everything fits together
Escher was a master at fitting objects into other objects much like a jigsaw puzzle. Mosaic is an example of that. All the different parts go together to make a whole.
I've always got the most value out of attending a full conference rather than just one day or a few sessions. The information I've been listening to mashes itself up in my head and falls out as stuff I can use. Seemingly diverse topics suddenly become connected. Doing 'this' fits in nicely with doing 'that'.
3. Everything changes; everything stays the same
Escher went one step further than single artworks and created an artwork that fits together around a room. Metamorphosis II morphs one object into another object into another until it goes full circle back to the original picture.
On the surface, conference sessions have changed over the years. Web 2.0, librarian image, customer centricity may not have been on the agenda 15 years ago. Below the surface though, sessions are about the same things - delivering value to our customers, being relevant, doing the best we can with the resources we have.
Have you been reminded about anything conference related?