I have just come back from the inaugural ODN Europe conference at which about 150 Organisation Development professionals from around Europe met at Prospero House in London for two days of learning and networking. A huge “well done” to Kate Cowie and her colleagues for pulling this off. It was a great two days. I learned lots from people like Steve Chapman, Paul Taylor and Sarah Lewis and it was good to catch up with old friends from the NTL Institute.

I wanted to share two particular stand-out memories. One was Mee-Yan Cheung Judge’s key note presentation on day one. She asked us to reflect on why we had got to where we have in our careers, what had driven us to this point and the future we wanted to create for ourselves. As always with Mee-Yan she showed such passion and courage with her stories of taking on the establishment in her responses to those questions that she brought the enquiry to life. Good questions to reflect on.

The second was Patricia Shaw who talked for an hour about the difference between real organisaitons and the models we create to try to explain and shape them. She used the analogy of cut and artificial flowers and how in an instant we can tell the difference between the thing that once had life and that which never did. Our models are like the artificial flower lacking the spirit or essence that makes real conversation and interaction with each other the special thing it is. So in trying to stimulate Big Conversations we have to seek the precious dialogue we want to create and avoid manufacturing a spurious and cheap imitation of the magic that real living conversations can bring into people’s lives at work.

Now as I write about this I am struck at how hard it is to capture the magic of the conversations we had at our tables prompted by both these wonderful speakers.

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