female and male athletes,” which is a
completely di;erent approach.
Everyone kept saying we’d lose
a whole bunch of the audience and
people are going to walk away from
Gatorade because we’re not appealing
to them anymore, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. When you design
something with such specificity, it has a
much stronger and more breakthrough
point of view that brings others along
than when you try and appeal to everybody. I would say that I think it’s a great
philosophy that you could definitely
apply to thinking about being more disruptive in your event planning.
Speaking of disruptive, how do you
de;ine an extreme team?
In terms of building cultures that are
very innovative and disruptive and all
those good things — which we all need
to be in today’s fast-moving world —
you benefit from having what I like to
call spiky individuals. Those are the
extremers that are really, really good
at one thing or a collection of things,
but they may also have glaring weaknesses. By definition, they will not be
well-rounded. Those individuals can
perform incredibly well in a team if
you are very diligent about combining
strengths and weaknesses and opposing
points of view, which is really what the
extreme team looks like.
I always encourage people to not
be afraid of those people that have a
very strong, dominant skillset or set of
interests, because they will bring a lot
of thinking to the table. You just have to
make sure that when you put them into
a team, you’re thinking through how to
counterbalance them with people who
are strong in other areas.
How would you de;ine
In terms of great qualities that we
all need to see more of, definitely, I
think, proactivity is an important one.
And that sounds so obvious, but it’s
remarkably not. What I mean by that
is think about the number of organiza-
tions that we all participate in today
where we know that things can be better,
but we don’t step out of line to make it
happen, whether from fear of retribu-
tion or whatever it may be. I think great
leaders — certainly from the research I
did with my book — are the people that
have the willingness to get out of line
and drive change when it needs to be
driven. I think that’s a really important
quality. And, like I said earlier, willing-
ness to take risks, willingness to support
a team of people through circumstances
where the outcome is not known.
I talk a lot when I’m doing my
speeches about how in business 15
years ago you could run pretty certain
ROI models when you were doing a big
investment in something new because
the world wasn’t moving so fast. Today,
there’s no certainty that a big investment into a new category is going to pay
o;, but you have to have the courage and
willingness to take the risks and support
your team and create an environment
for them to thrive in a landscape where
nothing is necessarily known.
What is one takeaway you’d like to leave
with the Education Conference audience?
As someone who speaks at tons of conferences, I see a lot that’s out there. I
think your industry is like every single
industry. We’re all su;ering from the
sheer quantity of material, and we’ve
got to all figure out how do you break
through and have more unique, quality
experiences — so that your participants
coming to your conference are going to
sit in every session and feel like they’re
hearing something they haven’t heard
before. That’s hard. My overall message,
which ties into everything I believe in,
is this: Don’t be scared to really push
yourself out of your comfort zone in
pursuit of new ideas. I don’t think you’ll
ever lose by trying.;.
Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.