Wave, tacit knowledge and the competitive advantage of face to face events

Wave is both a great way for a group to record what it’s learning and an incredibly powerful learning environment.  This combination holds two profound and profitable promises for the face to face event industry:

  • As a learning record, it will allow the Event Industry to fully embrace the outcomes focus of modern business and create value propositions that resonate more effectively with the modern budgetary approval process, and
  • As a learning environment, it can move us from a business model based on the delivery of explicit knowledge, which increasingly “wants to be free,” to one based on the construction and sharing of tacit knowledge, which The Shift Index, a 2009 report from the consulting firm Deloitte about the impact of the digital infrastructure on business, calls “the most valuable type of knowledge”(p 46,) going on to observe that “Interactions in face-to-face settings are where tacit knowledge creation and exchange is most rich” (p 47.)

These two characteristic are woven together in Outcome-Based Education (OBE,) which Wikipedia describes as:

“a recurring education reform model. It is a student-centered learning philosophy that focuses on empirically measuring student performance, which are called outcomes. OBE contrasts with traditional education, which primarily focuses on the resources that are available to the student, which are called inputs. … OBE generally promotes curricula and assessment based on constructivist methods and discourages traditional education approaches based on direct instruction of facts and standard methods.

Modern management is increasingly focused on results and expenditures which can show they deliver desired outcomes have a much greater chance of approval.

Until now, event education hasn’t been able to follow public education’s move to outcomes because event managers can’t force attendees to subject themselves to the kinds of tests which students are forced to take.

As a result, events have continued to “focus on the resources that are available” to the attendee: the speakers and panelists who are the “inputs” providing “direct instruction of facts” through their presentations.

In my previous blog post I wrote about using Wave to enable event attendees to create a collaborative set of conference notes, pointing out they’d serve as a rich resource for participants, people who can’t attend and the next marketing campaign.

They’ll be an effective marketing tool because they’re a way for prospects to see what people got from the event, i.e. they’re a record of collective outcomes.

As such, they can be the centerpiece of a marketing strategy that not only tells prospects what they’ll learn, but shows them actual outcomes.  And just as importantly, they can fit the event more smoothly into a purchase authorization process that’s geared to matching product outcomes to organizational goals.

Constructing a set of collaborative notes of the “direct instruction” from a panel or speech is inherently disruptive because construction and instruction are on opposite sides of education reform.

The momentum of social media, educational research and learning preferences are all on the side of construction and Wave represents the kind of catalyst that will enable entrepreneurial thinkers to change the learning style of the entire event (not just the note taking) from knowledge consumption to knowledge construction.

Knowledge construction is such a valuable learning methodology because it surfaces tacit knowledge, “which often embodies subtle but critical insights about processes or nuances of relationships (and) is best communicated through (the) stories and personal connections”(Shift Index p 46) which characterize collaboration.

Wave’s unique ability to provide both the medium for and the empirical evidence of the attendees’ ability to construct, create and exchange tacit knowledge creates the kind of real time feedback loop about which both educators and marketers dream.

However, the challenges are worthy of the rewards.

  • Event professionals are used to thinking in terms of the resources we’re going to make available, such as “a nationally known thought leader to give the keynote” or “networking breakfasts every day.”  Reimagining our product into result-measurement pairs introduces a completely different methodology and
  • Constructing and unpacking tacit knowledge is not about the wisdom of crowds that characterizes much of social media but about turning the entire event into an inquiring organization that uses dialogue and discussion to navigate ambiguity and mine indirection.

Wave’s triad of collaboration, assessment and public record provides a unique platform for resurrecting the competitive advantage of face to face interactions by reshaping events to provide the tacit knowledge their attendees will require to succeed in the 21st century.

And it’s also the death knell for the status quo.

How do you see it?

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