Tag Archives: conference

Shark Tank Innovation

shark tankMedium to large sized organizations are always trying to find ways they can increase their innovation quotient.

Look no further than the Shark Tank TV show where entrepreneurs come to pitch their ideas and hopefully win investment.

The next time your organization is thinking about getting a department, a division, any portion of the firm together to share information etc…think about doing a “Shark Tank”.

  1. Break your people up into teams that each represent a nice segmentation of roles, depts, whatever you think will give them the tools, variety, and creativity they need.  The best size is probably 5-6 people per team
  2. Task each team with coming up with a creative effective idea for your dept, division, whatever.
  3. Give them a very limited time (maybe 3-4 hours) to discuss what their idea should be, work it out a bit, and come up with a pitch that includes cost vs. benefit.
  4. Build a team of sharks that includes both management and savvy/trusted non-management.  They will be the panel that reviews all the teams ideas
  5. Have the teams present (don’t allow management to present) for up to 10 minutes in front of everybody
  6. Allow for 5 mins of Q&A from the Sharks in-front of everybody.
  7. Do some online polling in waves after 4 or so have presented so that people remember which ones each of them are.
  8. Give the sharks the results of the polls, but let them pick the winner from among each wave.
  9. If the sharks want to negotiate with one of the teams to drop or add parts of the idea, they can.

After your get together is over, the winning team(s) should be given some additional time (maybe 20 hours) to continue enhancing and fleshing out their idea.  They should get an opportunity to pitch again in a more prepared fashion.  The shark tank panel should also be prepared this time around.  If you have enough teams in the second round, you may even want a third round.

Keep the full population of your original dept, division, full organization (whatever you started with) apprised of the progress.  Who did you pick and why?

A session like that will be fun for your team, will get their innovation juices flowing, will get each team of cross-functional employees to know each other well in order to build bridges across groups after the session, and will hopefully create a pipeline of possible projects for your org.

Keep a summary of each pitch along with the people involved and a link to any powerpoint or other images they presented.  You never know when a non-winning idea will spark a winning one outside of the Shark Tank “game”.

Post in the comments if you have done anything like this in your organization and whether it was successful.



An open letter to the organizers of KMWorld09

Thanks for creating the environment where I can catch up with some old friends and meet lots of interesting new ones.  We used KMWorld09 as a platform to launch the new http://KMers.org community and it was very successful in that regard.

As requested from our in-person discussion, here are some specific recommendations for conference improvement.

  • Create an online environment where attendees can provide feedback about the conference.  Not a survey, but quick comments.  Use a tool that lets everyone see each other’s comments and vote on whether or not they agree.  Try crowdsound, uservoice, or ideascale.  All very cheap and probably free for KMWorld in return for the exposure they would get to KMers.   Your audience will help you improve if you give them the tools.
  • Create a physical Q&A room where speakers go after they finish speaking so that people can continue asking questions.  Put the Q&A room on the schedule.  If you don’t want to pay for another room, designate a table in the lobby where the speaker will hold court for an additional 30mins or so.
  • Create a track which has only collaborative type sessions.  Nancy Dixon’s session was a great example.  Here is a description of another good format called Buzz
  • Make sure that every speaker, speaks for a maximum of 2/3rds of the time slot.  Too many sessions I attended just ended with zero chance to interact with the content.
  • Simulcast the keynotes online.  This will create significantly more exposure and therefore likely more awareness for next year’s conference
  • Provide a place online where people can rate speakers and sessions.  Not sure how you were vetting sessions this year, but it seemed that everyone came from a reputable source, but some were downright embarrasingly poor at communicating.  I used to work at WSB so I know that the presentation is as important as the content for whether people enjoy and retain.
  • Kudos for being on Twitter and for pushing out blog content during the conference.  However, the hashtag should be a communal conversation.  The tweeters are people and should be connected with as people.  The way you used Twitter this time around is akin to walking into a cocktail party and just talking to everyone you walked up to, never listening, and never responding to their ideas.  The best conferences are listening to their hashtag streams and engaging wherever they see an opportunity.
  • Get the hashtag buzz going before the conference.  This will help with registration.
  • There are a variety of ways to use Twitter in sessions.  Here is an article that I wrote for MPI’s One+ magazine

There are some excellent meeting planners who have great ideas about how to make conferences better

Please let me know if I can help.  We all want KM to thrive.  Conferences are an important part of maintaining a solid community.

All the best,

Future Conferences – Part 1

Live pay-per-view has been around for decades primarily for sporting events: mainly boxing and now ultimate fighting (UFC).  On-demand is another variety of content revenue which cable has come to embrace:  allowing us to pay for movies and shows that we want to watch on our own schedule.  Audiences have begun to use these functions, but because of the interface and the low tech-savvy of the TV audience, they must have a very simple user experience (UI).  The internet conversely provides a better interface to search/find content, but so far is not well tied into the HD larger screen viewing experience that we get through TV.

Movies and concerts through TV and online don’t have much to do with Future Business.  However, there is another content type that could be available on-demand which does support business: conference content.   This post will view how conferences could (should?) evolve over time to support Future Business.

I have always found it strange that conferences have two primary and often conflicting goals:

  1. Impart best practices knowledge
  2. Connect attendees who are in the same Community of Interest

Conferences often do not give enough time for #2 (networking).  Hours are spent in powerpoint sessions sitting and listening.  Yes, there is usually time to ask/answer questions, but even that is usually very “one-to-many” broadcast oriented.  Some of the most interesting time at conferences is spent at meals, in the lobby, and at cocktails.

This is not a new issue.  As far back as 2005 Vicki Suter, Bryan Alexander, and Pascal Kaplan wrote an excellent paper on the topic.  Luis Suarez and Matt Simpson recently discussed this problem on their Sweettt podcast.  Sean Bohan also discussed the topic on his blog earlier this month.  I have heard the same complaint many times myself.  It is certainly important that conference goers have a common frame of reference in order to have valuable discussions, but building the frame to the exclusion of the discussions misses the point.

So, what are the alternatives?  Travelling is getting very expensive and conferences are often one of the hardest hit industries in a downturn.

In the short-term, online conference content would be valuable to people who cannot make the conference and would provide an additional revenue stream to conference providers.  Not only could content be video-streamed, but it could be paired with asynchronous online collaboration together with the content.

In the longer term if attendees absorbed some of the presentation content on their own time pre-conference, they could make better use of the networking that is best done face to face.  In fact, interacting with the information before the conference would allow for some asynchronous online collaboration even before we arrive.  We would have a head start on identifying some of the people with whom we would like to have in-person conversations.

With some pre-knowledge, attendees arriving at the conference would be ready to attend sessions that are more discussion oriented.  They could ask some of the questions that have been plaguing them and work on some of those that their colleagues contribute.  Far more time could be spent asking/answering questions based on the pre-conference learning rather than having that content broadcast with us all in the same room.

Part 2 includes some of the providers who are improving the way conferences are structured and some specific recommendations about potential conference improvements