ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement: Day 2

The second day of ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement started with a keynote by Margaret Haffernan, an author and entrepreneur, who spoke about confirmation bias. We are drawn to the ideas and people that are familiar to us and that reflect our views–“We would rather be wrong than alone.”

In the workplace, that’s why we may be hesitant to question mistakes or authority.

“Investing time with people not like you makes conflict easier,” said Heffernan. “We have to reframe conflict as thinking and decision-making as hypothesis.”  Great questions are the heart and soul of great collective thinking—what is the dis-confirming data, what are the alternatives? The key takeaway is that willful blindness is part of being human, but we can work to overcome some of that bias.

This is a good lesson to impart at an international conference with thousands in attendance—and probably just as many learning opportunities.

A  not-unrelated takeway ran through the keynote of the afternoon speaker, Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose.org. The organization Best founded helps raise money for schools and teachers in innovative ways–such as funding field trips or school activities for teachers whose students do well on certain assessments (a system preferable for many to tying salary to student performance).

In the afternoon, there was another opportunity for expanding one’s horizons and networking with people from all walks of life. The exhibit hall extravaganza kicked off at 2:15 p.m. and featured live music, many giveaways and prizes, and afternoon treats.

The day concluded with yet another great networking opportunity—the networking reception, which most guests attended—or so it seemed.

Wednesday highlights:

-The closing session by keynote speaker, Analjit Singh, Founder Chairman of Max India Limited, and the International Team Excellence Awards Ceremony, 10:30-noon, in Delta Ballroom A.

ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement 2015: Day 1

Every ASQ World Conference gives guests a taste of the local flavor, and, so far, ASQ’s 2015 World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Nashville, Tennessee, has been no different. At the opening reception on Sunday, May 3, a Dolly Parton impersonator and a country band welcomed visitors to the conference and to “music city.”  Naturally, the conference isn’t all fun and games, although a bit of fun is always welcome.

The theme of the 2015 conference is a lofty one: Transforming the world through innovation, inspiration, and leadership. These themes, especially inspiration and innovation, ran through the opening keynote by Shawn Achor, a best-selling author and researcher on positive psychology.

Achor said research shows that happiness is a choice for the human brain, and it’s where we decide to devote our resources that determines our level of happiness.  Happiness is the joy you feel growing toward your potential (not mere pleasure).

In relation to quality and improvement, happiness means striving toward being better and improving our companies and products. It is the opposite of complacency. Happiness isn’t pure optimism, but it’s deciding how to tackle problems and issues. Finally, positivity spreads positivity, even if it’s through very simple, no-cost gestures, such as smiling or making eye contact. A positive culture can be a better culture of quality and improvement.

These themes were also apparent in keynote speaker Dr. Joann’s Sternke’s address. Sternke, the superintendent of the award-winning Pewaukee School District, brought many program improvement and innovations to the school system. From a Baldrige perspective, she touched on themes like innovation and leadership by building a mission-driven culture.

Other notable conference events included:

  • Creative “After 5” sessions on the lighter side of quality, such as juggling and statistics and using music  for quality-based innovation.
  • The exhibit hall, home to the popular ASQ Center which has many icebreaker and networking games and opportunities: a giant Jenga game, a photo booth with goofy accessories, a photo opportunity with life-size quality guru portraits, and a live twitter feed (hashtag #WCQI15).
  • Quality impact sessions/live team case studies by finalists in ASQ’s International Team Excellence Awards process. Of course, that’s not even touching on the dozens of information-packed concurrent sessions.

Events on the lineup for Tuesday, May 5:

  • A keynote by entrepreneur and author Margaret Heffernan, 8 a.m.-9 .m.
  • A keynote by Charles Best, founder and CEO of donorschoose.com, 1:15 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
  • The exhibit hall extravaganza, 2:15-3:45, with many giveaways, prizes, and entertainment.
  • And, of course, the networking reception (ticket required), 7 p.m. – 9 p.m., in the Delta Island.

The Pros and Cons of Conferences

WCQI ASQ booth

[This is a guest post by Julia McIntosh of ASQ communications.]

At ASQ, this is the time of the year when we focus on our biggest annual event, the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement.  This year, the conference takes place May 4-6 in Nashville, Tennessee (and, yes, you can still register).

As is our tradition on this blog, in April we often reflect on the value of conferences, networking, and professional meetings of all types.

We all know that in recent years, some organizations have cut back on conferences and events—both in planning them and in sponsoring staff to attend. These days there are many alternatives to such events, including:

-Local events: These include conferences close to home or requiring minimal travel. legosSome professionals choose to forgo regional events altogether, attending gatherings only in their hometown.  For example, this might include being an active member of an ASQ section in one’s city.

-Electronic meetings: Whether done via Skype, Webex, Google Hangout, or even a wiki, these meetings allow people to participate at little cost without leaving their desk.  ASQ blogger Michael Noble made the case for digital meetings in this article.  One topical argument in favor of electronic meetings–especially in the context of standards development–is that attendees who can’t afford international travel or are from developing countries can participate in such events.

In the meantime, in-person events have the following advantages:

-Meeting a wide variety of people: You can, of course, make connections WCQI banquet electronically, but in-person events have a way of bringing together those who might not normally find reason to speak. If you’re conducting business internationally, in-person meetings may be required so that nothing is “lost in translation,” such as body language, spoken nuances, etc.

-Social functions: There’s a lot of work that goes on during formal events and sessions, but arguably just as much can happen at unofficial or social functions, such as receptions, after-hours gatherings, lunches, and dinners.

– Networking: There’s an undoubtable advantage to networking in-person.  Networking is a major part of ASQ’s conference, and most such events, whether intended by the conference organizers or not.

Our question to the quality community is about the value of conferences, meetings, and in-person events. How do you decide which ones to attend? Do you stay close to home or is international travel desired or necessary? If you travel, do you go to learn, network, or both?

Educating a Quality Workforce

[This is a guest post by Julia McIntosh of ASQ’s communications department.]

Just as last year, ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement provided some great topics for discussion on View From the Q. One especially “hot” topic emerged during the last keynote of the conference, and this was the link between quality and education.

As summarized here, education reformer Michelle Rhee spoke about the poor quality of education in many U.S. public schools. Low-quality education results in a low-quality workforce, she said. Another challenge, according to Rhee, is that students in the U.S. are praised for poor performance or for “just showing up.” As a result, they expect to be celebrated for mediocrity, rather than for quality.

This message resonated with the audience more than any other idea expressed at a keynote–or maybe even the entire conference.

What do you think? Do you see a correlation between the quality of education in your country and the young people entering the workforce? Does your culture celebrate success or is any attempt considered “good enough”? And finally, what is the role of quality in improving public education in any nation?