It was

I had a stimulating, at times over-stimulating day out at Interesting2007. I don’t go to many conferences whose subjects include reinventing egg bacon, chips and beans as uber-haute cuisine; life lessons from Ibsen and the Muppets, the joys of woodchopping, what it’s like to turn up on Oprah too soon after surgery, and why tubes are good. Plus a man playing Wichita Lineman on a saw (video here) or the editor of the Spectator impersonating Al Pacino to make a point about brevity.

I kept thinking of David Weinberger’s books: Everything is Miscellaneous and Small Pieces, Loosely Joined. Here was an event that didn’t have any explicit purpose, and only the vaguest of themes, that seemed to engage and enthuse both speakers and participants, all for £20 a head. So many business books suggest managing people as if they are all the same and can or should unite around some single passion or laboured mission statement. In the real world, something way more interesting and complex is going on and events like Interesting seem to point to that.

You could frame the whole day as a celebration of a very English kind of eccentricity. A nation that probably wasn’t held enough as a child perhaps, so expresses its love via the safe medium of eccentric passions for obscure subjects, and by kindly interest in the passions of others. Plus in one of many small acts of genius, Russell laid on scones for tea. (Pic from Tim Duckett)

Russell asked me to compere the morning which was nice of him. I guess I do facilitationy stuff because I keep learning from it. I learnt some more yesterday… and did enjoy it too.

As compere you get a microphone, but don’t think that means you get to control the audience. I generally get that, because audiences will always remind you who’s really in control (a mixture of no-one/everyone). With a microphone, you get to make bigger disturbances, some of which seem to create what you expect and some of which don’t.

I should write a separate post on this but for now I’ll just throw out this notion: all our efforts at control – be they rules, suggestions, sarcastic remarks, pleas, force, whatever – they’re all just disturbances of a big complex system. As humans, we’re sort of in the business of disturbing each other. It might be good to embrace the uncertainty that implies, and maybe also remember the value of humility. (Pic: Steve Bowbrick)

PS It was great to finally meet Grant McCracken who flew all the way from New York to tell his Oprah anecdote. Brilliantly.

3 thoughts on “It was

  1. Will

    Sorry I didn’t get a chance to say hello on Saturday.

    I enjoyed your compereing, and I’m watching your twitter to see whether you’ve been driven round the (U) bend by plumbing..

  2. Deborah Khan

    Couldn’t agree more with the word humilty. Your lack of ego ensures you truly facilate the event Johnnie and are in the moment. As opposed to planning the next gag, response or stunningly profound line that will draw the attention back to you, rather than the event.

    Stanislavksi had it sussed, I feel.

    You compered with aplomb Johnnie. It was absolutely the right tone. Far, far tougher than it looks.

    Well done. Lovely to see you, albeit briefly.


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