–Engage

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Report from Up to All Of Us

I’m currently on a plane heading back home after a short weekend with a group of mostly instructional designers who are at a new type of unconference (something I’ve never experienced before). It felt more like a retreat than a conference due to the setting and the style of interaction and I have to say it WORKED!

The conference is called Up to All Of Us (http://uptoallof.us/) @up2us13. Check out the site for sure. This was its second incarnation and it is a spin-off from another conference that I have never been to but often wondered about called Overlap. The idea of Overlap is that many of us are working in the space of the multi-disciplinary and what we do overlaps so many different things. Up2Us is also about a lot of overlap, but centered on technology, design and education.

So how does it all work? Well, I’m a little fuzzy to all this because I came in late to the show, but I understand there is a lot of collaborative prep before the event. People mention topics that they feel they can contribute and the organizers curate the topics into sections each morning session. The afternoons though are split between “show & tell” sessions and ad hoc sessions that people set up based on whatever they want to do. For example I called a session for people interested in talking to me about my ideas for setting up a consultancy around helping organizations make their design teams more effective by helping organizations adjust their culture towards a more “Balanced Team” approach. But sometimes it is just ad hoc conversations. Someone described the event as the best part of a conference, and called it a “Hallway Conference” because the hallway conversations are the best part of any conference, right?

What I got out of this event was encouragement, self-awareness, a new group that I feel camaraderie with, and bits of knowledge I didn’t have previously. There was definitely a “kick in the ass”  spirit. The theme of the conference was JFDI. No, we didn’t misspell “Jedi”. It’s an acronym for (pardon the French) “Just Fuckin’ Do it” and the mantra of “Do It” (NY Accent for effect) was a constant refrain throughout the weekend.

The venue of the event was outside Austin, TX the weekend before SxSWEdu which many people appreciated so they could coordinate it. We were at Lake Buchanan Damn on a cabin site called Willow Point Resort (http://willpointresort.com/) right on the lake. Campfires at night, with stories, songs, and lots of opportunities for many to see stars they never have a chance to see in their otherwise bright cities. People shared cabins.

For someone who was new to this environment, I felt immediately at home and welcomed into the fold. I feel like I made rich relationships with many people there I never met before and strengthened some relationships with people whom I see in my usual world (but never nearly often enough).

I have 4 major thoughts going through my head right now:

  1. How can I convince my wife to let me go to Overlap?
  2. I also really want to figure out to come again to @up2us13 (but let it be 14)
  3. What would an event like this look like for my more direct community?
  4. I really want to do my consultancy to help organizations interested in better design create the culture necessary to allow design to flourish, or otherwise bring “design culture” to organizations that have never even thought about it before.

Thank you Aaron and Megan for creating such an amazing event and I’m only sorry I had to leave early due to my own big mistake. Thank you everyone else for being so warm and welcoming (deep in the heart of Texas).

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  • Mark Sheppard

    Thanks for sharing these insights, Dave. I share your curiosity in how to make an unconference work with my more local colleagues.

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