Nope, Still Can’t Put LikeMinds To Bed

Image borrowed from http://www.exeter.gov.uk

It was a full-on three days – LikeMinds 2011. A packed schedule of keynotes, lunches where speakers and participants could continue conversations sparked earlier in the day and workshops aimed at giving hands-on practical tips and experiences. With a theme of entrepreneurship and innovation there were lots of stories around inspiration, change, overcoming challenges and being creative.

It has taken me three weeks to process it all enough to write this post, and I’m still not done.

I signed up for a three day workshop on creative business development. It was run by Malcolm Sleath, who compressed what is generally a two day training course into three 90 minute sessions. Sleath’s 12 Boxes is a conversation framework designed to help structure how you talk with clients. A consultative approach, it takes the ‘sell’ out of selling. You had to sign up for all three, meaning you had to miss all the other ‘immersives’ on offer. It was a gamble, but for me it paid off.

The 12 Boxes training was challenging – you were invited to analyse your own business and sales approach. The conference was challenging, posing many more questions than answers.

It almost had the feel of a retreat. It was intense. Certainly some of the people I spoke to were doing some personal/business soul searching. There was a touch of the evangelical about it. Maybe this is why it has taken me so long to draft a post. I’m not given to laying bare my feelings in public and LikeMinds was a little like a business therapy session.

Inspirational? Yes. Comfortable? No. Worth it? Yes.

So then, what are the things that three weeks later are still clanging around in my head, not having thoroughly found a home yet?

Just do it. This was a tale of inspiration from Glen Le Santo, who in an earlier life had wondered how to become what he wanted to be – an artist. He happened across a successful cartoonist and asked him how he had become so. “By being one,” was the wise response. (Le Santo became a journalist I should point out, but I guess the point is that he stuck to his creative guns and that still guides what he does today.) I take strength from this, to be true to my ambitions.

Push yourself out of your comfort zone. I had expected there to be evening entertainment scheduled – apparently there had been the previous year. But by the end of the first day, despite asking around, I hadn’t found the party. I headed back to my B&B not best pleased at the prospect of a night in. However, thanks to Gabrielle Laine Peters and Twitter, it wasn’t long before I did find out where people were meeting. I took a deep breath and headed back out to meet a bunch of people I didn’t know in a bar I’d never been to across a town I’d just arrived in. It turned out to be a great night and reminded me of the parting comments at the end of that day’s presentation from Erick Pennington: ‘Pick up the phone and make that call.’

I have to end this post on my least resolved thought ,still rattling around inside. Even in a progressive, innovative conference such as LikeMinds, tired old sexist concepts were bandied around as fact rather than as the ill-founded conjecture that they are at best. The men are from mars/women are from venus, male brain/female brain paradigm that stops us thinking, was there in full effect. Disappointing. I urge people to do some reading: Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine is a good one. A touch soap-boxy but nonetheless enlightening is Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism by Natasha Walter.

The conference kicked off with Molly Flatt asking a series of questions about how innovative we are. One of those questions was ‘have you exhumed your graveyards’ which was a call to be brave and ask ourselves difficult questions in the pursuit of being better, being creative.

Drawing on that, I’m going to end this post with a poser. I believe that perpetuating the old notion of male/female opposition can only limit how progressive we can be. You might disagree with me, but at least ask the question. Is there really more difference between men and women than there are differences within one group of men or one group of women?

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