Aspirations and Anxieties

Last week at the kick off (or should that be the get go?) of the Thomson Reuters’ New York Project Management Unconference, we asked people to express their aspirations and anxieties about the afternoon ahead of them. Here’s some of what people told us:


  • Building community
  • Sharing ideas
  • Recognition
  • Excitement
  • Lead by example
  • Collaboration
  • Renew motivation
  • New ways to look at things
  • Communicating with confidence



  • Will people get involved?
  • Not enough collaboration
  • Same old same old
  • Only do this once a year
  • Don’t recognize anyone
  • How to network?
  • Dealing with change
  • 20 people won’t show because of work pressure


The bullet lists summarise what people told us and you can click on the thumbnail pics above to see and download much larger, easier to read versions if you want to digest the whole thing. I think there’s some real power in what people said, particularly around the anxieties they expressed.

What we went on to experience was one of the liveliest, most participative sessions it’s ever been my privilege to be a part of, and though I have no evidence to back this up, I feel strongly that in part it was because people were invited right at the start to make a contribution. There was no fuss, people weren’t asked to stand up and ‘incriminate’ themselves, we just created some mental space for people to get involved, gathered some scribbled notes and then Tim Casswell and his team got on with illustrating them.

We had a photographer on hand and though I’ve not seen the pics yet (apart from one) I understand that they too give a really good impression of the energy levels and the sense of useful fun in the room.

Here’s some post event follow up from Anthony Allinson. There will doubtless be more to follow about the event and our experiences as I and others have the chance to digest what we talked about and learned, but for now I just wanted to share this first thought with you. We all want to be heard. Create an environment that’s all about your guests, invite them to talk and play, and your time together will be so much better for it.

Time Stands Still

I started writing this post at 11pm on my last evening in New York City. I may have had a few drinks.

Today has been great, useful fun. The good people of Thomson Reuters have turned up to their unconference and questioned, participated and contributed to the max.

We’ve articulated our anticipations and anxieties, shared raw, personal stories, and worked our way through awkward silences. Most importantly, together we’ve delivered a day that is truly about the people in the room and those who are important to them.

In particular I want to reflect on an uncomfortable moment when having shared many ideas, the group were trying to distil them and get to grips with the questions they wanted to explore next. This process can be difficult, frustrating even – something doesn’t always emerge immediately, particularly when trying to form ideas from such a wealth of initial output. A question was asked along the lines of ‘So what is it we should be talking about?’. It seemed a perfectly reasonable question and I’m pretty sure many others were thinking it. In the moment I turned the question back to the group and on the 30th floor way above Times Square, time stands still.

What followed was a short period of awkwardness before, after some more bouncing of ideas – we got to somewhere useful. I know it was somewhere useful because the blast wave of conversation that followed was pretty much unstoppable. Even more importantly – in that moment the group clearly saw the purpose of their gathering was all about them. They matter, their views and ideas matter.

I’ll share more from the day when I get home. For now I’ve got to pack up and leave my apartment. Thanks to everyone who has made my stay so much fun, I’ve learned loads while I’ve been away, and boy….I’m ready to come home.

Six Minutes and Forty Seconds

Ahhh, the Pecha Kucha – a lesson in brevity and discipline. For those who don’t know, a Pecha Kucha (which is Japanese for chit chat) is a presentation of 20 slides, each one set to autoforward after 20 seconds, so the whole presentation is complete in six minutes and forty seconds. They are a challenging way to tell a story and a good way to pave the way into a group discussion. The rigid format is not to everyone’s liking and I encourage everyone who has not tried one before to give it a go. My good friend Flora Marriott blogged a great piece including fab tips on Pecha Kuchas here, highly recommended reading.

I was fortunate to help Thomson Reuters and their Project Management community and guests have some useful fun thinking about how to make work better earlier this week. We used Pecha Kuchas as a way of sowing idea seeds that some people chose to intellectually water as part of some bigger, very energising conversations. We played with lots of ways of developing content throughout our time together and the essence of each Pecha Kucha was captured by Tim Casswell and his team at Creative Connections. I thought rather than share the presentations themselves, I would like to share the pictures Tim and co made of the presentations with you, I hope they spark a few thoughts in you too.

Anthony Allinson on Community

Anthony Allinson Pecha Kucha
Anthony Allinson Pecha Kucha

Yours Truly on Why Are We Here? (in part a scene setter for the day)

Doug Shaw Pecha Kucha
Doug Shaw Pecha Kucha

Nicky Maddalena on Learning Experiences

Nicky Maddalena Pecha Kucha
Nicky Maddalena Pecha Kucha

Brian Knights on Fit For Purpose

Brian Knights Pecha Kucha
Brian Knights Pecha Kucha

Tom Defoe on Entropy

Tom Defoe Pecha Kucha
Tom Defoe Pecha Kucha