Home » Archive » Three ingredients for change: talkers, wallflowers, and movers

, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

I love conferences.

There’s no better example of how dedicated we are to ignoring everyone else. Conferences are even better than meetings because we actually pay to be there. We pay for speakers to come just so we can ignore them. We spend a great deal of time and energy explaining why each one of them is wrong. And when we get frustrated enough, we go out into the hall to make expensive long-distance calls on our cell phones.

Yesterday I went to my first conference on bioenergy. 

So, we all piled into this tiny room in the basement of the hotel.  Around 70 of us. And for nearly eight hours we tried to get past the filters of “agriculture”, “forestry”, and “energy” paradigms to build a “use everything that grows for it’s best purpose” paradigm.  We didn’t get far.  Breaking molds is tough work. 

I left the room with three pseudo-conclusions:

  1. Anyone with a sliver of expertise and a tonne of eloquence could hijack the show.
  2. Five players hold fragments of the whole story and none of them work well together.
  3. Only two in a room of 70 are ready to move.

It felt like a bloggers conference.  All the jazzy ideas, a few funny speakers, lots of “we” that means “me”. A bunch of earnest seekers trying to find their edge. Lots of talk about change without getting any.

We were talking about a revolution. For us it was changing how the world things about energy. For bloggers its changing how the corporate world thinks about its customers.

Hugh included the thoughts of Marketing Hub and Johnnie) in his summary of how bloggers are doing. There are three suggestions in his post that are just as useful in the bioenergy area:  Few companies are ready to move, most are waiting for their partners or clients to move instead, and the best that’s come from all the conversations to date isn’t inducing someone else’s evolution — it’s our own.

Isn’t that good enough?  Not just good enough, but actually the whole point?

Look around for the biggest players you really wish would change.  Figure out how long they’ve been around.  And make an intentional assessment of how important that company really is.  Is that thirty-five year old company, who’s already being hunted by a three-year old company, really the best target for your change?


It’s point two in the list above where change can be engineered.  Ignore the rehetoric.  Forget the other 68 wallflowers.  Just focus on the five fragment holders, grab the two that want action, and get stuff done.  Then get really good at telling the story.

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Copyright Jeremy Heigh


Interesting insights – I was at the conference as well. Perhaps it was the influence of reading your blog as I really pondered the motivation behind this event more so than any others I’ve recntly attended. I think it is often taken for granted by attendees that a conference has a clear and relatively transparent raison d’etre. I do believe there was a benefit to most of those who attended the event, but as the event prgressed, the focus narrowed (as is expected) and it became clear who had the most opportunity to “profit” from the shared information. The sharing of information invariably leads to progress, and a well crafted agenda can greatly expediate that progress.

Perhaps you could clarify for me what you mean by “the best that’s come from all the conversations to date isn’t inducing someone else’s evolution — it’s our own.

Ah, I was unclear. If you read Johnnie Moore’s post (Hugh summarized it in his) you’ll see what I was referring to. Johnnie suggests that conversations, like those we had at the conference, count most for the speaker. The act of having them changes us.

So, for the conference, the speakers probably gained the most.

Anyway, this is pushing the edges of what Hugh and Johnnie meant to say. And all I meant to say is that focusing on the change in others might be misplaced.

Maybe we ought to focus on making the change ourselves.