One of the very nice things about travelling around the world speaking and working with the SF approach is that we have lots of friends and colleagues all over the place. Jenny and I have been working with Debbie Hogan and her colleagues at the SF Academy in Singapore (www.sf-academy.com) for ages, and so when she mentioned that they were having a conference in Bali, at a time we could be there, well… we jumped at the chance.
The venue was the Melia Bali resort hotel in Nusa Dua, one of Bali’s top places to stay. A long long flight from the UK via Singapore got us there late on the 9th June, and the following morning I gatecrashed Harry Korman’s pre-conference workshop on ‘The Common Project’. Harry was sharing some excellent material about the start of SF sessions – the construction of a common project between client(s) and therapist. (Jenny and I call this platform building.) Harry made some excellent distinctions – one I took away was the difference between asking ‘what has to happen in the session for it to be worthwhile’ (a question about the process of the session, one which many clients struggle with) and ‘what would a small sign in the next few days that this session has been worthwhile’ (a question about the results of the session, much more relevant to clients).
The following day the conference proper kicked off with about 120 people from across the S|E Asia region, including a good turnout from Indonesia (Bali is part of Indonesia!). Dave Hogan was a good MC to get us underway (Debbie having been struck down with tummy trouble after a dodgy balsamic dressing). The opening plenary saw me and Harry Korman talking about our Inbetween paper (link), where we attempt to define what SF is NOT, as well as what it is. Not the easiest start, but it seemed to go down well and I had some nice comments afterwards. It was very good to share the platform with Harry.
The conference featured four sets of workshops looking at different aspects of SF practice (marriage/family, coaching, organisations, parenting, education etc) facilitated by members of the SF Academy team. I was very impressed with Chris Robinson’s leading of the SF in Organisations session – a very wide range of experience in the room was well used, and we discussed some quite sophisticated ideas amongst everything else. Peter Szabo led the second plenary, based on his Coaching Reloaded paper. We had had a discussion the previous evening about the role of coach as witness, and Peter started with making clear his position – the coach is largely a witness along the way of the progress of the client (but has to take a little of the blame for progress too :-)). As usual with Peter, the audience was enthralled by his simple and playful presentational style. A barbecue fish dinner on Jimbaran Bay ended the day.
The second day of the conference saw me leading off with a plenary entitled ‘The Locust and the Bee – why SF Consulting is the way forward for organisations’. I used the metaphor of locust-consultants and bee-consultants to show how SF people act more like bees than locusts – not eating everything and multiplying, but cross-pollinating, creating more honey than they need and visiting from time to time rather than sitting around for months. I illustrated this was an example from our own work, where Jenny and I did two workshops over a three month period to help a reorganisation project – the rest of the work being done by the organisation.
More workshops, lots of sharing, and all too soon we were on the final plenary, a panel discussion about the evolution and future of SF. We talked about research findings and the need for more and better research, the risks of SF being seen as just a technique rather than a paradigm/framework for practice, possibilities for progress in the S|E Asia region – lots of great and thoughtful questions. The session finished with a video by National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones called ‘Celebrate What’s Right With The World’ (click to watch a preview). This is a rather good film – check it out.
The conference was over – but we weren’t done yet. I had offered to do a post-conference workshop on iFLOW – Deliver More, Stress Less, using material designed by my sfwork colleague Shakya Kumara. 16 people joined me to learn about organising themselves and their work to flow more, using sf ideas. You can read the preview of the workshop here. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and I had many nice comments afterwards. This is a new workshop for us, this was the first public outing for it, and I am hoping to be offering it in the Uk and in-house soon.
So, an excellent event and a great excuse to visit Bali! Our thanks to the Sf Academy team – Debbie and Dave Hogan, Lilian Ing, Chris Robinson, Denise Wright, David Blakely, Edwin Choy, Alan Yeo and our excellent Indonesian hosts, expecially Harlem, Vania and Charles for a great time.