Learning 2009 – Innovation with Elliott Maise

I had the pleasure and privilege recently of participating in Elliott Masie’s innovative Learning 2009 meeting in Orlando, Florida.  This was a gathering of over 1300 corporate education professionals whose job is to make sure that every employee is up to date in everything from corporate policy, new technologies, new products, regulatory requirements and the latest leadership strategies.   Given these times of exponential change and tightened budgets, these learning leaders have challenging tasks to accomplish.

And it wasn’t just corporations.  There were folks from professional societies and universities looking for new ideas.    Many government agencies from the Veterans Administration to the CIA  (The CIA has its own University) to representatives from each of the military services were present.   Like many organizations today the theme was how to do more, better, for less. 

The entire conference is loaded with innovative strategies that help participants learn faster and more productively.  Some examples:

1. During plenary sessions everyone sat at 6 or 7 person round tables.  It’s a huge room, but it is more friendly and encourages discussion.

2. Occasional 2 minute breaks were provided to encourage within-table discussions. 

3.      A Twitter feed was posted on a huge screen behind the speakers.  The MC (Elliott) periodically resteered the conversation to address a question or comment.

4.      An audience response system was employed periodically for assessing audience understanding and opinions, and occasionally to have fun.

5.      Guest speakers were interviewed by Elliott, Meet the Press style, to focus their talk on the learning aspects of whatever they do. 

6.      Guests included Capt Sully Sullenberger (who had never landed a plane on water before his experience on the Hudson), Malcolm Gladwell (talking about high performance outliers) and Betsy Meyers (COO of Obama’s election campaign). Great learning experiences.

7.      A few big names were brought in by low cost, high resolution video for a quick 5 to 10 minute interview.  That’s walking the talk on cost effectiveness.
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8.      The many vendors were organized in a standardized format equipped with large monitors.  The focus was content, application and learning, not hype.  Everybody is a learner.

9.      The majority of the meeting was spent in many small interactive courses run by experienced learning professionals.  This was a great example of harnessing the collective intelligence of the participants.

10. Perhaps the most interesting activity was the presence of 6 students from Champlain College’s Emergent Media Division who were given an assignment at the beginning of the meeting to develop a learning APP for the iPhone (smart phones are an increasingly valuable tool for instant and convenient e-learning.   They were told to interview at least 200 attendees, to select a group of advisors from them and to develop an APP that can be used for “On Boarding” new employees to any organization (history, policy, organization, how to do just about anything, who’s who, where everything is with maps and GPS).  They completed their task by the last day of the meeting and demonstrated it.  It was extraordinary and an incredible example of collaboration effectiveness.


I go to many different types of meetings and conferences all over the world.  Like you I want to use my time well…to learn, to be inspired, to make good new connections and have great discussions with old connections.

Elliott passed this test with flying colors.”