Pillars, Principles & Participation
For the third straight year, we are working with Falling Walls in Berlin to bring braindates to their attendees. We wrote up some of our thinking for their audience and decided it would also be good to share here, to provide useful ideas for others’ learning projects and context for We Seek’s existence and direction.
e180 wants to help reinvent the way humans learn because life today demands that we, as individuals, constantly reinvent ourselves, that we be incredibly resilient, humble yet fierce. Humans want and need ways to explore problems that are outside of their comfort zones. We can’t hit pause. Rather, it is our learning strategies that have to follow the pace.
Our pillars, what learning must be today
In line with our vision, we have defined three pillars, influenced by our years of learning, of research and of practical experience in fostering learning for the thousands of participants we’ve met.
Self-directed — Take charge of your own learning
If there’s no question, the answer has nowhere to go. Learning is always anchored in the desire for a human to grow. Education is something someone else does to you: only you can choose to learn. Too often, people think of learning as something that’s done only in school but it’s actually something we do all throughout our lives, whether we realize it or not. When we reclaim our agency in learning, when we start making purposeful decisions as to what we want to perfect, which new fields we want to dive into, we are gaining control over our careers and our lives.
Collaborative — We need each other
Many answers to our questions live in the minds and hearts of people close and far, people who have succeeded or messed up before us. We learn better together. As much as we need to choose our own path along our interests, we also need to lean on others, to learn from their experiences but also to collaborate and create new knowledge together, to bring structure and accountability to our explorations. Discussion, sharing and support can bring what we create and learn to new and unexpected levels.
Experiential — Real growth means tackling real, meaningful problems
Learning happens when we feel compelled to bridge the gap between who we currently are, and who we need to become to overcome meaningful challenges. This is both extremely important and routinely overlooked. When we face a challenge and find a solution, when we are facing problems and surmounting them, we often just think of ‘getting through it,’ of overcoming: but we are also learning. When we see problems and challenges, even failures, as learning opportunities, as growth and evolution, we can not only approach these hurdles with a better mindset but also with different tools and gain more from the outcome.
Our guiding principles, the 5 C’s
Another structural piece of our work and thinking is called The 5 Core Cs of a bustling peer-learning community. It’s a framework that has both evolved from our work fostering meaningful discussions at events, and molded that work through the years. It helps us, our partners, and any organisation really, to generate peer-learning knowledge-sharing in events, cities, organisations and spaces.
To truly unlock a new kind of experience, organisers need to be committed to the learning aspect of their event as well as to fostering commitment in the participants themselves. That might happen through thoughtful scheduling, dedicated spaces or a specific opportunity for engagement but there must be a clear signal that peer-learning is worthwhile, and that a certain time commitment is expected.
Participants must be able to find “birds of a feather,” people they will be compatible with and with a shared interest to discuss. The creativity and ingenuity of learning humans always surpass our wildest expectations so it’s also important to orient and curate learning opportunities (‘offers’ in our braindate parlance, see below), to moderate lightly, so that the encounters are worthwhile and diverse, yet fitting in nicely with the rest of the event.
At a given event, the number of participants necessary to reach a critical mass will vary. The more precise and targeted the topic selection, the fewer people will be needed for a worthwhile experience. The more expansive the topic area, the broader the participant expectation tends to be. In either case, reaching critical participant mass will help to maintain a bustling marketplace of ideas and learners — and a richer experience for all participants.
The context is important to consider in designing a learning event. For example, will attendees be more interested in deepening existing relationships — as might happen with a local community? Or will they be looking for new people, to broaden their network — as often happens at large events bringing people from far and wide?
Everyone is living a busy life with limited free time. Event curators and community leaders need to do everything possible to ensure that each participant can benefit from good matches and the proper setting so that each can contribute to their best and come away with rich experiences every time.
Memorable events are about learning new things and connecting with the right people. Braindate helps you meet and share knowledge with great humans around you.
That’s how we describe our philosophy for conferences. Through our platform, attendees can set up a profile, think up some offers about what they want to learn or what they can share with others, and then schedule 30 minute face to face braindates where both can learn from each other through meaningful conversation.
Through braindates, participants can discuss topics relevant to them at that very moment, across disciplines and with actual practitioners. An attendee can post a very timely and precise topic which might not be covered in the main programme, then meet people from various backgrounds and fields of expertise, using those conversations to dive deeply into the topic and related research, exchange actionable solutions, relevant evidence and insights about their breakthroughs.
A second format for braindates is groups. In this configuration, a participant proposes a topic s.he will then lead in conversation with a few other people. Group braindates are excellent for discussing multiple points of view around some of the most popular topics, for when time is limited but the desire to connect still strong, or for certain subjects which may be better discussed with multiple voices Group braindates are meant to complement, not replace, individual braindates.
The first time we offered group braindates at an event, they resulted in almost 25% of total encounters and 100% of all available time slots for group braindating were booked prior to the event even starting. In other words, it’s a super popular, very approachable, way to find a group to learn.
Our 5Cs and our pillars are framed around our work with braindates and our partners but whether you are joining us at a partner event or attending any type of conference, you can use all of those ideas in better preparing for that meeting.
Define what you want to learn and determine what kind of specific topics, challenges or questions you want to explore or solve.
Think about what you can share with others so that your learning at the event can be a two way street where you also help others in their quests.
Commit to those goals and to being bold and open in your discussions with others.
Look for kindred spirits, people you are compatible with, but also search for different viewpoints and backgrounds.
Most importantly; take charge of your experience, always keep in mind that you can learn from a conference but you can also learn from attendees, discuss, collaborate, share knowledge and make strides in overcoming your meaningful challenges.
e180 is a social business from Montreal that seeks to unlock human greatness by helping people learn from each other. We are the inventors of braindates — intentional knowledge sharing conversations between people, face-to-face. Since 2011, e180 has helped thousands of humans in harnessing the potential of the people around them, and we won’t stop until we reach millions.