I recently visited Copenhagen for three days to speak at the IntraTeam conference and run a workshop, but I actually came away with a far better articulated reasoning for the benefits of travel and working internationally in the round. Further exploration of its breweries, the renowned and 1920s Art Deco style of Tivoli gardens plus museums and fantastically porky based food I will have to leave to a future visit.
Why Copenhagen? Why anywhere?
With the exception of nearly five years at PwC in the UK my whole career has involved close international working through some means, with countries in the Americas, Asia and most lately Germany. Clearly, there are differing styles and characteristics for each and its logical to want to get involved face-to-face. Conferences in London, Germany, Austria and now Denmark have provided me not only with real life demonstrations and talks about differences in approach and style, but mainly the chance to elaborate in a slightly longer form than a phone or video.
That networking is the prime reason for these events is generally accepted, though this doesn’t really create a compelling business case or a Cost Benefit Analysis for paying to attend them. However, a Scott D McArthur talk started to create this. An international phone call, email, video conference or even LinkedIn connection is usually a result of a reasoned process to contact that person, with a very specific ask in mind – even if you are proficient in cloaking this ask through well deployed small talk. This is, I have learnt, called level one networking and is basically a direct ask.
An event, however, doesn’t work on this principle. It’s basically a loose agreement to be open about experiences and expertise while picking and choosing some things to learn or investigate yourself. It’s far less direct and suggests a wider range of experiences. As Scott talked around, this wide field can go in ways you don’t expect. The best creative opportunities can and often do come from these random experiences. Put into my words, the best creativity and innovation comes from people right on them limits of your professional expertise, and sometimes beyond it.
Professionally, this took me into sessions about how AI headsets can provide learning opportunities, chat-bots as helpdesk operatives and news navigation and, as an experiment, whether there was anything I could learn from the technical implementation of an email client (for the record, way too technical for me and there wasn’t much there. But you have to be prepared to lose somewhere.) Stuck in a non-creative rut in the day job, getting some creative stimulation is at least a start on providing that CBA case for leaving the office.
It’s only really a hop, skip and a jump from this point to establishing that travelling is Level 2 networking on the assumption you do it to speak to different people and see what’s different, culturally, from home. I’d like to think I’ve been doing this for at least half of the last five years travel and certainly from the time span of this blog. It’s probably a leap to suggest it massively improves your creativity, but I’m certain it does open opportunities such as this project in progress, an early attempt to introduce baby Taylor into some international habits and the different opinions and insights on familiar subjects from these guys in Chicago.
It’s just a battle now to stop this sounding wildly pretentious or out of touch and more like it is intended: a positive expansive outlook and not a fearful retreat into oneself.
A tick list for a future visit
Of course, working on all this cerebral material meant I was, ironically, confined to the hotel where the conference was based and didn’t get out much at all. Perhaps this was wise: it was minus eight degrees at times and rumour circulated that windchill had made it feel like minus 17 degrees. Nonetheless, a walk over and along the network of rivers and islands in said conditions did offer the opportunity for dinner at the unintuitively named, cowboy-themed Rio Bravo for Danish specialities such as double pork stew with mega sized pork scratchings. It kept the cold out well and I’d opine that if a trip to Noma is on the agenda for Copenhagen, this is needed for balance.
This was my third ever trip to the Nordics, with the second being two weeks earlier and the first merely 90 minutes long and mainly confined to a bus. During these visits I have been tentatively cultivating the theory that the Nordics incorporate all the positive attributes of the Germans paired with more style. To this extent, the Art Deco pleasure Park feel of Tivoli Gardens might work as the centre piece of a Christmas Market trip at some point, the Christmas Markets being Germany’s finest contribution to the festive season. This, plus a hefty dose of anticipated creativity, is on the plan for someday.