Berlin, July 27th – 29th 2017 was my very first experience of a TA conference. Walking towards the Technical University of Berlin on that first conference morning, I remember academic encounters (which had nothing to do with TA) at that same place from many years before. Quantitative research comes to mind… statistics… My mind’s eye adds images of management scholars in suits and ties presenting findings with power point and text. Feelings of excitement as well as boredom are part of these memories. I call myself back to the present and look around me. People are gathering in the foyer. I see smiles, hugs, clothing from conservative business casual to colourfully eccentric. I see diversity. In the middle of it all I see the conference banner: BOUNDARIES – A PLACE… TO MEET… TO DEVELOP… TO DEFINE IDENTITY.
All these people are here to consciously meet in this city that was divided by a wall going through it in the past. I get goosebumps. I have never seen so many TA people in my life and I’m glad that I am one of them. As if to support this thought, someone waves at me. In recognition and with joy, I wave back. I am meeting Susannah Temple (the originator of Functional Fluency) and Jane Hicks (company secretary of the Fluent Self CIC) face to face for the first time after many emails and skype conversations. This is so easy, so natural!
That is what I end up enjoying most about the three conference days in Berlin: spending time with really nice, open, authentic people; chatting over coffee and dinner with people I’ve met and worked with before; making new connections with new people in interactive workshops in overfull seminar rooms and during break times walking up and down long flights of stairs, because the lifts are way too full already. We are all human. We are all working on developing ourselves. I’ve never experienced such a vibe of acceptance and togetherness at any academic conference and I love it. At the same time, I understand why some people I studied with box TA people as airy-fairy and not-serious. If we are busy experiencing and developing all the time, we don’t get around to checking, documenting and communicating to the world how TA concepts and methods actually impact on the well-being and effectiveness of human beings in their private and professional lives.
The keynote speaker on the second day – Dr. Mark Widdowson (who was awarded the ITAA Research Award at the conference) – clearly named this when he stated that TA research is in its infancy and called loudly for people to please contribute to its growth. This really got me thinking about boundaries between experiential development and scientifically tested and accepted knowledge… and I’m not done thinking yet.