I'm back from a two-day conference and I think I've discovered one of the reasons conferences are becoming a big waste for me--the homophily problem, otherwise known as "birds of a feather, flock together."
Most professional conferences are made up of people who are in a particular occupation or industry, which means people who tend to look at the world through the same lens. We tend to view problems and solutions within familiar, proscribed frameworks and to see the same enemies and heroes in any given situation. The problem is that this gets boring. It's also dangerous, because it impedes our ability to see and adopt new ideas.
What if we did a different kind of conference though, one designed to specifically address the conference homophily problem? I'm thinking of a conference mash-up, where we combine different groups of professionals or industries into a single conference where the workshops and networking could let us build on each others different frames of reference.
We could start small--maybe combining people in similar occupations who work in different industries. I'm thinking, for example, of a conference for classroom teachers and corporate trainers/educators. We have a lot in common but there are enough differences in what we do and how we do it that we could definitely learn from each other.
A conference mashup could be really radical too--like accountants and graphic artists or the financial services industry and bio-tech. Surely we could learn from each others approaches. If nothing else, we'd probably have some really interesting conversations.
What do you think? Could this work? Or is it a completely crazy idea?