The innovation & KM unconference is being planned for the 9th July 2011 in Bangalore on the 9th July 2011 @ MindTree Ltd Campus in Whitefield.
This will be a gathering of practicing KM & Innovation professionals for discussing topics that are important to KM & Innovation professionals and get insights from fellow colleagues in an informal environment.
In true unconference style, there will be no KeyNote speakers or Chief Guests. All topics to be decided by the participants themselves. So everybody is requested to actively take part by contributing to the event wiki with your ideas!
The list of suggested topics to be discussed is quite interesting & relevant for the innovation & KM professionals.
- Why KM alone will not work. KM need’s to collaborate better with other departments KM Systems.
- Why “build it and they will come” doesn’t work
- Compliance or Adoption: Key to success of KM
- Everyone, including their Mother-in-law & their dog has an opinion on KM/Innovation. Challenges for KM/Innovation professionals
- Social/Web2.0 Systems & approaches to KM & Innovation. Have they delivered?
- Boot-strapping KM & Innovation within organizations without formal mandates
- Future of KM/Innovation professionals. Is there any; beyond content management?
- Reality Check: The organization cares two hoot about KM and is just a ‘nice to have’ function
- Communities: In the age of internet & google, what’s the advantage of communities within organizations
- KM for Project Delivery & Large Accounts
- Innovation 101. What are we talking here? Innovation in IT Services business? You must be joking
More details here on this barcamp wiki page
Google Map for the MindTree Office
While we may believe that unconferences, barcamps are things that have evolved in the recent past and the openspace concept is where they draw inspiration from, I believe that even openspace draws inspiration from something that has existed for decades if not centuries.
It is called the : THE SPEAKER’S CORNER — a place where public speaking is allowed and anybody can turn up announced to speak on any topic, as long as it is within the law.
In my opinion, the speakers corner represents all the essential elements that the unconferences, barcamps are about. The fundamental aspects of a speakers corner are the same as that unconferences, barcamps emphasize.
Let’s look at some of the fundamental aspects of a ‘Speakers Corner’
- Any one can turn up at the speakers corner and volunteer to speak on any subject
- The audience are ‘active’ participants and can argue, debate with the speaker and even heckle the speaker
- There are ‘n’ number of speakers speaking at the same time
- The audience can walk to the next one if the one they are listening don’t hold their attention
- There are no rules. You can speak on anything as long as ‘you are within the law’
- The whole atmosphere is electric, informal, chaotic and yet engaging and full of energy. There is never a dull moment
Speakers corner have been frequented by the leading though leaders of the world, including Valdamir Lenin, Karl Marx, George Owell etc. It’s no coincidence that many of the bright minds of todays generation are so in tune with the unconference, barcamp movement and instead of the Marx & Lenin’s we see the CEO’s, CTO’s, future thought leaders frequenting the barcamps.
So, Hyde Park Corner London can lay claim to as the venue for the oldest unconference, barcamp. In fact may countries besides UK have had the equivalent of Speakers Corner for ages.
Is it a coincidence that the adoption and popularity of barcamps, unconferences has coincided with the emergence of Web 2.0? Are there any parallels and similarities between the underlying principles of Web2.0 & barcamps, unconferences? After all both web2.0 & unconferences are about user generated content, architecture of participation etc.. etc..
I have tried to map the web 2.0 principles from the seminal article on Web 2.0; Oreilly: The Web 2.0 Design Patterns and tried to map them to the underlying principles of unconferences — and I see a striking similarity between both.
So; are unconeferences as the Web 2.0 equivalent of conferences? I bet they are..
Web 2.0 Principles
|architecture of participation||The basic premise behind the unconference philosophy. Every one participates. The (un)structure of barcamps, unconferences is such that it makes it easy for everyone to participate – in the manner they want.|
|self organized||The participants themselves are the organizers. There is no ‘official organizer’. Every participant is welcome to volunteer and organize some aspect of the barcamps, unconference.|
|Emergent||The agenda, content and even schedule is not pre decided. Everything emerges at run time and from the participants themselves as the barcamp, unconference unfolds|
|Perpetual beta||Some unconference sessions can be washouts. It is taken in stride and no body minds that aspect. In fact participants just walk over to some other session|
|Gets better as more people use it||The more the merrier. You can break away into smaller groups and start your own sessions|
|Informal & light weight||No keynotes, welcome address, 5 star ambiance etc. no frills, no flashy brochures, no marketing, just to the point|
|Harnessing collective intelligence||Every one is a participant. There is no distinction between the speaker & the audience. Everyone contributes|
|Rich user experiences||Extreme socialization & interaction between participants. Here it goes beyond exchanging business cards and networking. You exchange thoughts ideas. You can even enter into a dialogue, debate and even make some of your best friends here.|
|Users add value||“The audience is smarter than the speaker”… A fundamental aspect of the unconference. It is the users, the participants who make the unconference successful & add value – as opposed to formal conferences, where it’s the speakers who are perceived as adding value.|
|Cooperate, not control||Nobody controls the unconference. It is delivered not by control but by the cooperation of participants, volunteers.|
Yes, it sounds like an oxymoron: a ‘CORPORATE UNCONFERENCE‘.
An unconference is diametrically opposite to what ‘corporates’ stands for. Unconferences are unstructured, self organized, non hierarchical, user driven, sense of chaos, loose controls, speaking your mind out, no formality etc. A corporate is all about control, hierarchy, structure, predictability, organizational thoroughness, formality etc. It’s like echoing Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.. It’s like Eric Raymonds “The Cathedral & the Bazaar” — the ‘cathedral’ standing for the formal organization and the ‘bazaar’ for the unconference…
However; the reality is that unconferences gaining traction and being widely adopted in the techie circles, and this provides an opportunity for corporates to try out unconferences as a mode of sharing & learning, conversations within their setups.So, how do organizations go about adopting, adapting, experimenting with this social, participative & emergent concept of an unconference?
One way can be to learn from other organizations that have tried unconferences within their organizational setup and factor those learning’s, inputs into their planned corporate unconference. Needless to say that each organization is different and the organizations culture, structure etc will for sure have a bearing on how the corporate unconference is rolled out.
Here are some tips that can be adopted/adapted according to your needs while planning a corporate unconference.
Tip #1: Don’t make it MANDATORY: In my opinion, making participation mandatory for all employees can be the biggest in a corporate unconference. An organization, in all its best intentions, may decide that ‘everyone’ needs to attend the unconference. However; this goes against the spirit of an unconference and is a sure fire way making the unconference unsuccessful. Organizations need to understand that an attendance of 4000 does not guarantee participation from 4000. However only 1000 out of 4000 people participate in the unconference, it is absolutely great.
At MindTree, we did the unconference on a Saturday and did not make it compulsory for people to attend. There were more than 1000 people who turned up out of their own choice – and EACH one of them enjoyed the 30+ sessions during the unconference.
Tip #2: Don’t do a PoC. Yes…!!! In my view, this can be the biggest deciding factor in the overall success of the corporate unconference. At MindTree, we made unconference to the grand finale of a quarter long Osmosis event. One of the fundamental aspects of an unconference is to bring in people with diverse backgrounds, interests together and then have discussions, sessions. If an organization tries to do a PoC for an unconference, it would most probably be limited to a function, technology group of limited set of people – essentially people with SAME background interests etc… This in my opinion could be a foolproof way of ensuring a conclusion that unconferences don’t work in an organization. We did not do a PoC – though there were suggestions to try out a PoC. So, just do it… LARGE!
Tip #3: Get involved in organizing unconferences: If you have never been part of organizing unconferences in the outside world, then DO SO. There are plenty or barcamps happening in most of the cities and all of them need volunteers. Get involved as a volunteer – from the planning stages itself to get a first hand feel on what it takes to organize an unconference. Get down to the nitty-gritty details. This will come in handy when you organize your corporate unconference and is your insurance for NOT doing a PoC internally.
Tip #4: Educate the masses: The moment you announce that your organization will be doing an unconference, people will have all sorts of questions. What is this, why? How? When? Etc. Plan for educating people on the concept of barcamps/unconferences from the moment you announce the unconference. Dig out the appropriate barcamp/unconference videos from youtube and reach out to their authors for permission to use them for evangelizing the concept of unconference/barcamp in your organization. Most authors will be happy to allow their video’s being used for the promotion of unconference concept. We at MindTree did this and this helped a lot in educating people and answering their questions.
While the videos will help in general education, you need to prepare a FAQ/Mailer on what exactly will happen in the unconference in your organization. This will bring in a sense of reality for the people, within the context of your organization, and also help you in your planning of the unconference.
If possible, take awareness sessions around unconference. We did such in MindTree and more than the corporate unconference, we asked them to get involved in barcamp/unconference movement outside of the organization. That’s more important in my view.
We even created a cheat sheet around unconference concepts and made it as part of the unconference email campaign within the organization.
Tip #5: Ensure content ahead of time: Let’s face it. 99.99% of people in an organization would have no clue to what an unconference is. In a typical unconference, the content [sessions] are decided impromptu by the participants on the morning of the unconference. However; in a corporate setup, where almost no one has an idea of what an unconference is, hoping that content [sessions] will spring up on the morning of the unconference is wishing for 100 mm/day of rain in the Sahara. You need to put up a wiki, web page to solicit unconference topics well in advance. This serves multiple purposes.
– You build content for the unconference. After all the ‘meat’ of the unconference are the sessions.
– The fence sitters can decide to take part in the unconference depending on the sessions suggested.
– It helps in breaking the ice. More people are likely to come up and take sessions if they see few sessions already listed.
– You get inputs for your logistics planning
Tip #6: Educate the facilitators: Once you get the content ahead of time, you need to educate the session facilitators. For most of the participants, the sessions would be the barometer, their yardstick for measuring how the unconference went. In this scenario the role of the session facilitators becomes very important in a corporate unconference. Most of the facilitators would never have taken an unconference session before and you need to ensure that the facilitators understand how unconference sessions happen and how they are different from regular sessions. They need to know things like people can interrupt any time, people can walk in/out any time, sessions should be conversational, bi-directional, discussion oriented and not necessarily training/tutorial, and most importantly facilitators need to be comfortable with the session scheduling happening on the morning of the unconference.
You can communicate the same to all facilitators either though emails, meetings, sessions etc. This way you can ensure that sessions happen in the true spirit of an unconference.
Tip #7: Do some prior scheduling & have 10-15 minute gaps between sessions: Even after all the education, personal sessions & awareness campaigns; most people will still not get the unconference concept until they experience it. This means that you need to set the ball rolling by scheduling few unconference sessions from the session list you would have solicited earlier. This would require you to prepare your ‘paper wiki’, your session notice board, and scheduling/populating some sessions in advance. The key is that on the morning of the unconference, there should be no vacuum with people just standing there and no one knowing what to do – in a corporate setup, considering that most people would be new to the unconference concept, this could be a dampener, a false start (in a regular barcamp, this is something that people are used to but things are different in a corporate setup). Once you ‘seed’ some sessions, things will flow smoothly. This will also address the request from some facilitators who will continue to ping you for knowing when, where their session is.
Also, try to have a uniform duration for each session (ideally between 30-45 minutes) and keep 10-15 minute break between each session. This will help you in couple of ways:
– Provide a buffer if some sessions overshoot their allocated time.
– Participants can again flock to the notice board after the session is over in a relaxed manner to choose which session they would like to attend next, take refreshments breaks in a relaxed manner.
A large, vibrant & humming crowd around the notice board creates the necessary energy in the atmosphere making it contagious.
Tip #8: Get Volunteers: You will need an army of volunteers to run the unconference. In my opinion the best volunteers for the corporate unconference would be the ‘fresh campus graduates’. They have unbridled enthusiasm, energy and are always full of ideas. The best people you can wish for as volunteers and to be honest, they make the corporate unconference vibrant and colorful.
Many things that happen on it’s own in a regular unconference – such as the paper wiki/notice board update, would need volunteers. You will need volunteers for announcements, food, registration desk etc.
Most importantly, these volunteers help infuse energy and joy into the whole unconference.
Tip #9: Have all venues close by: One of the beauties of an unconference is several sessions running in parallel and participants having the freedom to choose which session to attend. This would mean people having to walk from one session to another quickly, in between sessions or after sessions and having all rooms/venues close by helps a great deal. Ideally all the rooms/venue should be on the same floor so that mobility between rooms is easy for the participants. In choosing the rooms/venue for the unconference sessions, don’t worry about the chairs, tables etc. participants will stand in the aisle, sit on the floor, squat around as long as the session is interesting.
Tip #10: Fun/Cultural activities around the unconference: This may seem trivial, but has a lot of value in creating the necessary energy. Every organization will have its share of artists – leverage their talent to create a platform for people to have fun.
This will also serve the purpose of allowing participants, who are not present but not attending sessions to bond together, socialize and meet up with each other in a relaxed atmosphere.
In MindTree we arranged for a rock band, instruments etc and we had enough people within the organization who were more than happy to perform. In the true spirit of an unconference, there were impromptu songs, dance and jamming sessions going on.
We also had ‘Mob the Leader’ sessions, where a group of 20-30 participants would ‘mob’ a person from the senior management and have them talk on topics of the ‘mobs’ choice. This was a way of encouraging unstructured conversations, discussions in a very relaxed atmosphere
Tip #11: Create an easy to use virtual platform: For people to share their experiences, pictures, blogs about the unconference and even the unconference sessions. If your organization has the culture of Corporate Wiki’s and corporate blogging, then leverage those platforms. This way, the conversations can start well before the sessions and even carry on after the unconference sessions.
At MindTree, we used the concept of ‘Citizen Journalists’ to encourage participants to cover and share the unconference proceedings as they see it. We encouraged participants to bring their cameras video recorders or even use their mobile phones to cover the Osmosis unconference.
We even created the equivalent of Flickr, Blogger etc within the organization, making it easy and intuitive for people to share their experiences with each other.
Here are some blogs that have a review of how the MindTree Osmosis – A Corporate Unconference went.
Here are some video’s of the MindTree Osmosis unconference. You had to be there to see the energy, atmosphere, the electric vibes.. a great day..
Unconference session about IPTV.
One of the ‘houseful sessions’.. An unconference session about “are we losing tradition by globalization”. Notice the session facilitator is surrounded by people. there were people behind the facilitator.. 🙂
It was not just serious sessions.. there were impromptu songs also…
The MindTree Osmosis unconference happened today, with nearly 1000 people attending the unconference and having a great time — over 30 great sessions and great music, jamming sessions. This was a great moment, because it is the first time a reasonable large organization was adopting the unconference format as the grand finale for their formal event.
Judging by the participants response, it was a huge success and a great learning opportunity for organizations on how such social, participative, self organized & emergent concepts can be successfully adpated and weaved into corporate mainstream events. There were sessions in which the venue was overflowing, jampacked and had participants sitting, squatting on the floor and in some sessions there were participants even sitting & standing behind the facilitator — literally encircling them..
There were sessions on open social, google’s android, x-treme data warehousing, indian traditions, rising rupee, software engineers in danger of being extinct, innovation.. just to name a few..
For most of the participants, it was a first exposure to the unconference format and EVERYONE loved it.. they loved the fact that they had a say ion which sessions happen, when, where and in each session they could participate by listening, questioning, debating, making their point or walking in or out any time they wanted. People loved the fact that no one was telling them which session to attend or not to attend.. they made their own choices by using the unconference wikiboard..
There were even impromptu ‘mob the leader’ sessions, where a group of MindTree Minds decided to form a large group and roam in search of senior folks and literraly mobbed them.. they had them talk on various topics ranging from technology to past to future to tips on stress management etc.. even the Ashok Soota — the Chairman & MD was not spared :-). So were Subroto and others.. And believe me, ALL of them loved it.. they senior folks loved and and the young MindTree Minds loved it..
One of the best part was that participation was open to all and there were 50+ external folks — from other organizations who attended the Osmosis unconference and even took sessions there. they also appreciated the format and hopefully they will try out the unconference format in their organizations.
The atmosphere had a carnival feel to it outside the venue, with music arranged where people could sing impromptu, dance & jamm with each other. in true spirit of user participation, there were large number of songs, dance and fun happening along with unconference sessions…
I believe that barcamps & unconferences are here to stay and it’s just a matter of time before they become pervasive in corporates as the way forward to their events to bring knowledge sharing, learning & innovation through self organized, participative concepts…
Osmosis is MindTree’s annual technology festival — the celebration of the nerd. It is MindTree’s way of celebrating technology through showcasing achievements, through collaboration in form of discussions and various events &contests.
This year Osmosis is being reinvented to make it it even more participative & self organized. For example:
Osmosis final day will be an ‘unconference’ where MindTree Mindswill decide the topics to be discussed. In the true spirit of an unconference, MindTree Minds will decide, organize and lead thediscussions on the final day of Osmosis.
Keeping in line with the inclusive, participative & self organized spirit of Osmosis 2007, MindTree has decided to open up participation in the Osmosis unconference to the vibrant unconference community in
mainstream corporate India. This is also an opportunity to share, discuss & learn on how concepts like unconferences can be brought to the corporate mainstream and the challenges involved.
I believe that that corporates adopting social concepts like unconferences for their ‘formal’ events will help in creating an open, innovative culture & ecosystem in. While the current generation of professionals is glued & tuned into concepts like unconferences/BarCamps, the ‘decision makers’ in corporate India is not necessarily in touch with these concepts, and such initiatives help in bridging that ‘awareness gap’.
You can register at the http://barcamp. org/osmosis wiki to participate & even propose sessions & talk at the unconference.
Corporate mindset is so tuned & comfortable with a formal conference — and rightly so; because it is so predictable, it’s like been there done that 1000 times; it involves no risk etc. It takes a lot of effort, courage and risk for an organization to adopt the ‘unconference’ format for a formal event and even more to make it open for everyone. Nevertheless; nothing significant is achieved without risks & pain 🙂
Hat’s off to MindTree for taking this positive step. I wish, more & more corporate events become inclusive, open and participative in nature..