Oh, the humanity!

I’ve been invited by the lovely folks at the CIPD to blog live from their annual Learning & Development conference at London’s Olympia exhibition centre.
Hundreds of L&D professionals from far and wide have gathered to hear from the creme de la creme of their peer group on the very best approaches to helping people be better at work and better leaders of people.
Leaving all their people behind at the office to get on with the business of running businesses, the converted are busy hearing once again from the pulpit. I have a suspicion that, had they brought their people with them, they’d have been back on the coach to their provincial light industrial park before you could say MOOC to a goose to collect the burning stakes and pitchforks.
I’ve been in a number of speaker sessions this morning (I’ll leave the names out to spare any blushes) presented by representatives of some of the biggest brand names of our time. My world remains resolutely unrocked. Some of what I’ve heard is the oldest of old hat. Some of it viewed people as an anthropological curiosity to be labelled, measured, pickled and pinned to a board. Some of it is quite simply stating the bleedin’ obvious.
I keep hoping for a klaxon to sound and a stern voice to come over the PA demanding everyone go back to their people and get on and try stuff, do things, fail, get up and try and do again.
As Captain Scott lie dying in his tent in Antarctica he wrote: “For God’s sake, look after our people”. Rather than trekking all the way to Olympia to have hot air blown over you, you might be better served staying with the great folk you work with, with all their untapped potential, and reshaping the way we work.



  1. Simon – you have summed up perfectly why I never go to these events.

  2. Hi Simon.
    If you are not willing to share with the rest of us, the news of who has left you unrocked – would you please at least tell the conference organiser? For me – a key part of sharing why these events need improving is to be specific. Here is an example I scribbled not too long ago.
    For me this has the advantage of letting paying punters know – and let’s face it – were you paying you would want to know, no? And it sends a message to the conference organiser simultaneously.
    I hope day two is more enjoyable and more useful.
    Cheers – Doug

  3. Thanks Simon – you have made me feel less sad about not being at the party. However, I often find it is the discussions, not the speakers, that make for a great conference and I know from tweets and calls that some very interesting and inspiring talks have taken place

    1. Thanks Kate for your comment. I have a second post to come on just that point.

      1. Kate’s point is spot on – I’ve talked with many people about how it’s the discussions in between all the organised hoo hah that often deliver greatest value. Hence a well put together unconference can be great fun and useful. It bothers me that the conference model seems to do so well when it largely relies on spontaneous interaction beyond its own agenda.
        Yet I know from personal experience that it takes a huge amount of effort and cost to get an unconference off the ground. All the ones I’ve been involved in have been huge fun and huge time and money sucks too. It seems that without a huge database and a big ‘selling’ engine – this model will continue a while yet, and it does deliver some value – but for me, not enough. Keep the faith 🙂

  4. Hi Simon. An interesting read. I’m not at the CIPD show so have been following from Twitter.

    I think we have to remember that although a lot of us are looking for innovation and a lot of us are looking forward there are probably quite a few workplaces where even getting on the web is difficult. Perhaps some of these sessions are exciting to some people!

    I think some of the problem is that the days are so packed with content you feel you have to pick a session (over others) and when that disappoints sometimes (physically you cannot get out and if you did you’d have missed the start of an other session anyway).

    My experience (echoed by many) is that the actual human contact, talking and meeting others (new and old) is really worthwhile. So – cut down on the content and leave time and space (mental, physical) for people to talk, share experiences etc.

    I’ve always valued the fringe events (e.g. Martin Couzins -Learnpatch – has organized some for Learning Technologies in the past) where you can meet people over a pint (or few).

  5. […] with a spring in my step and an expectation that had been somewhat managed by a blog from the fantastic Simon Heath on day 1, I set off with my best trainers outfit (a sort of […]

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