Despite several preemptive, weather-related airport closings in the Northeast, more than 8,300 people made the trek to Atlanta for the recent training 2001 Conference & Expo. "Although we had more than 9,500 people preregistered for the show, we were pleased with the attendance given how many travel plans were affected by the storm in the Northeast just a day before the show opened," explains Phil Jones, vice president of Bill Communications, which owns and publishes Training magazine.
Of those attendees, more than 3,700 capitalized on the conference sessions, hands-on workshops and keynote presentations, according to Jones. There's nothing like a good keynote address to add levity and insight to an industry trade show. And the five keynote addresses at training 2001 did just that. The speakers offered industry speculation, academic examination, spiritual exploration and light-hearted improvisation. Here are some highlights:
Considering that a good part of the roundtables, workshops and floor exhibitors had e-revolution fever, it wasn't a surprise that the opening keynote preached to the choir with a discussion titled, "The Future of Learning and Training." The verdict? Everything is coming up E. "Because of e-learning, corporations are becoming educators and educators are becoming big business," declared moderator Jeanne Meister, president of Corporate University Xchange.
Via satellite video, absentee panelist John Chambers, ceo of Cisco, said e-learning is hitting its third application wave as a business to business tool and is expanding to vendors and consumers with increasingly sophisticated data, voice and Internet portals. Fellow panelist John Cone, vice president of Dell Learning, proclaimed, "The war to control how people learn is over, and we have lost." The key to a fluent transition to an online network, he said, is to figure out what we need now, with an eye to the future. "We have to be smart buyers," he said, "because everything you get now will be obsolete in 18 months."
Cone then predicted where learning and training will be in 2005, and certainly had a few in the audience scratching their heads when he speculated that in the coming years, we will be "learning while we dream." Here's to the future!
Howard Gardner, noted professor of cognition and education at Harvard, gave hope to us all with his keynote titled, "So What Exactly IS Smart? Multiple Intelligences and the Disciplined Mind." Turns out, you may be more intelligent than you receive credit for. Expounding on his widely popular and controversial theory of multiple intelligences, Gardner's message is that it takes more than a high IQ to be a smart manager and leader.
Humans, his theory follows, are endowed with eight distinct forms of intelligence that are genetically determined but can be enhanced through practice and learning. To be an effective trainer, said Gardner, you must understand the intelligences of the individual, to value them, make them important, and train them accordingly. "I think corporate culture can either stunt your intelligence or enhance it, and a lot depends on the assumptions made by the leadership about how to foster growth and how much opportunity to give people to learn and to fail," he explained. "Tolerating a certain degree of failure—not because it's good for you but because it's a necessary part of growth—is a very important part of the message the leadership can give."
Throwing a profound dose of heart and soul into the stew was philosopher, author, spiritual guide and celebrated speaker, Dr. Deepak Chopra. In "Balancing Personal and Corporate Well-Being," Chopra worked the crowd with sobering statistics regarding the toxic hazards of stress and job dissatisfaction.
For example, more people die in the United States at 9 a.m., Monday morning than at any other time. And he referred to a usa Today survey, which revealed that 80 percent of Americans are overwhelmed with stress from coping with a work/life balance—a significant statistic, considering the role stress plays in cardiovascular illness, the nation's No. 1 killer.
"At work, we don't operate outside our mind, body, spirit and soul," Chopra said, "but there's this need people feel to divide our personal and professional lives. But bringing the soul back into the workplace means we are more fulfilled—and more productive."
Chopra's advice for corporate leaders is self-empowerment, which means being unaffected by the good or bad opinions of others, yet staying open to feedback. Be action-oriented, he advised, walk the walk and be sensitive to the cosmic dance in your employees. Yep, the cosmic dance. Imagine a few more in the crowd scratching their heads.