Nick Jago reflects over the AIPM 2019 (R)evolution Conference in Melbourne

The AIPM conference theme for 2019 was (R)evolution, a concept that was always going to be difficult to live up to – is the discipline of project management even due for a huge shake up or intervention from a disruptive source? Perhaps it is, and in fairness to the organisers, this was the feeling that I came away with at the end of the three day event.

There were three outstanding keynote speeches, each of them engagingly delivered to resonate completely with the audience. There was a recurring concept throughout them of challenging the status quo, pushing yourself to your limits and not accepting everything for the way it appears.

Futurist Steve Sammartino talked about how the original schooling system was set up to prepare people to work in a factory – by testing memory rather than ability to think originally. Repetitive factory tasks are easier to adapt to when the creativity has been strangled out of you.

We are currently undergoing significant change in the way our children are educated, and about time too – perhaps the impact on the workplace will see more originality. Steve also built and drove a Lego car fueled by air, so he is automatically a legend in my eyes.

Alan Sparkes, CV, OAM, VA, FRSN closed the conference with an emotional punch of a presentation, talking about mental wellbeing within the frame of his own extreme experiences. It was a touching and harrowing account of his heroism, descent into mental illness, and his astonishing path to recovery. The audience was visibly impacted, his words and images resonating on many levels.

My absolute favourite was Todd Sampson, who told us that we could alter how our brain works, and then proceeded to demonstrate how he had done it with his own mind, through a series of quite frankly ridiculous challenges, mostly taking on Newtons law of gravity. A fantastic talk which provided inspiration and insight in equal measure.

Outside of the keynotes, the delegate presentations provided their usual mixed bag. A particular highlight was the intriguing ‘Neurodiversity’, which covered the great work that the Dandelion programme has done to promote the engagement of individuals with ‘divergence’ (aka autism and other disorders).

This really reinforced the importance of diversity in the workplace, perhaps in wider terms than we might currently consider this phrase.

The element that most struck me and left me with the impression that revolution is required, was the demographic of the attendees. I’ve been attending this conference for the last 11 years, and genuinely find it of value each time.

What was clear this time round was that there is a considerable gap where the under 35 year old representatives should have been. In a time when the majority of Universities are offering undergraduate courses on project management, there were a dearth of delegates from this group.

The conference is a brilliant opportunity to share knowledge, it would be an ideal platform for young and upcoming professionals to tap into the insights of the established community.

At the same time, knowledge about technology, communication channels and other disruptive trends could be introduced to the older generations, making it a circular exchange of information – this would represent significant progress, embracing the differences across generations and improving everyone’s PM toolkit at the same time.

Our profession is founded on the basis of enabling change – so we must be prepared to embrace it ourselves.