Blog Post

Tuesday Conversations

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 30 March 2012



Tuesday Conversations
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 141
Posted DateFriday 30 March 2012 08:30 GDT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
CategoriesKnowledge Cafe; Conversation

I love the way that people have taken my Knowledge Cafe or the World Cafe and adapted it in various ways for a specific business purpose. Then on the other hand, many people have quite independently developed their own conversational processes that work well for them in their own environment.

I recently received this email from an old friend Paul Hearn who works for the European Commission in Brussels and thought I would share with you his story.

Hi David,

I saw your blog post about "holding conversations rather than meetings" and it inspired this email.

I've held more than 80 Tuesday Conversation meetings in the European Commission over the past 4 years. These are informal gatherings of staff (from the lowly secretary to the Director General) held over lunchtimes on Tuesdays.

I have listed some of the topics below - it is amazing what you can talk about in and around work! We've had around 2.000 attendees in total.

I invented the TC because there was nothing like it, and it was sorely needed.

I developed a methodology for this event based on the principles of Open Space
  • whoever come are the right people (we have had 1 person and up to 54, but the show still goes on)
  • must leave if you are not getting what you want (law of 2 feet)
I also developed some "guidelines for speakers", called TC spirit, which you might find amusing see below.

It is all work in progress and hangs together on a shoestring as I have no budget and no administrative support and I do it alongside my normal work ... but hey, who every got anything good for free? I certainly never got any recognition, but that is not why I did it :-)

A selection of recent topics

  • Science in Society: Ethics and new and emerging fields of science and technology
  • Supercomputing meets the cloud and the checkbook: The future of distributed computing infrastructures for Science in Europe?
  • Social innovation: Revolution or just spin?
  • The Save the Whale Project: Walking my Talk as a Sea Shepherd Antarctic Communications Officer
  • Strategy and Operations at the US National Science Foundation
  • Managing Innovation in the Health Sector: Challenges and opportunities
  • Decarbonisation of the Power Sector - The Role of Smart Grids
  • No Silver Bullet: Creative Commons and the Future of Open Licensing
  • Reshaping Scientific Knowledge - Dissemination and Evaluation in the Age of the Web
  • Discussion with Center for Research and Development Strategy Japan
  • Market Economy, Democracy and Human Nature: On the Societal Systems and their Governance
  • Cross-disciplinary Research Leading culture change and getting the message across
  • How European SMEs Use ICT to Engage in Global Virtual Collaboration
  • What's wrong with the EU ... Dr Hix's prescription
  • Confidence in the Digital Economy - Data Protection & privacy in Europe
  • Energy - Future Emerging Technologies
  • Measuring success of research policy: Setting milestones on a very long highway
  • Grid Activities and e-Infrastructures in China
  • Grid Computing in Peking University
  • Research Communication Costs, Emerging Opportunities & Benefits: Approaches and methods
  • Opportunities for Public Technology Procurement in the ICT-related sectors in Europe
  • 20/20 Vision Lessons from 20 years in the Commission, and the challenges for the next 20 years
  • The Open Innovation Paradigm - What is it? And how important is it?
  • Open innovation strategies: Examples from two large-scale projects in Sweden
Cheers Paul

Credit: Paul Hearn, European Commission, Brussels

And here are Paul's guidelines:

Spirit of our Tuesday Conversation Meetings

  • Powerpoint presentation only if absolutely necessary and in any case limited to 30 mins or so, so we can have a good conversation after for 60 mins
  • Generally we ask a lot of questions, and there is quite a lively debate. We also commonly interrupt speakers if we are not getting what we want.
  • As it is the lunch hour, people will be going in and out, sometimes arriving late and leaving early. Speakers should not see this as reflecting anyway on themselves or the presentation (participants are instructed to feel free to move around :-).

we try to capture the spirit of urgency:
  • we try to find out why we need to be discussing this topic? what is urgent? what has changed recently?
  • what is the opportunity? what are others doing around the world? what should we be doing?
  • would anyone be against such a strategy? if so, why?

we try to shoot from the hip:
  • Getting "off the record" with our speaker. It is very nice to know, for example, what our speaker really thinks, beyond any protocol or institutional viewpoint.
  • we look for personal views and anecdotes, not institutional views. We are more interested in "one (wo)man's dream" than in the official view of institution X or Y. We like to see personal passion.
  • we cut to the point
  • we are not particularly interested in introducing ideas at length, being exhaustive, crediting everyone involved, etc.
  • we are OK with slightly politically incorrect. We like to do some preliminaries like briefly introducing the speaker, context, but then we like to get to the meat of the discussion - what is this, and why does it matter, what is the vision here and do we share it?
we try to look forward, not back
  • we are interested in knowing what the opportunity is, what might change in Europe on in the world if we can realise a futuristic vision?
we like to be stimulated
    - we like presentations that pose more questions than they answer, and we like speakers who can be provocative, polemical and lead a debate.

Based on these thoughts, speakers are asked not to see this as a "normal meeting" (whatever that is), but as an informal meeting of staff from across the institution that are taking time out over lunch to learn something which is perhaps new and may help them in their work...

Credit: Paul Hearn, European Commission, Brussels

None of this is difficult. Why not start some "Tuesday Conversations" in your own organisation.

Paul says "I have no budget and no administrative support and I do it alongside my normal work" but that did not stop him.

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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