The Great 21st Century Management Debate – questions vs. answers


Blogger: Barry Siskind, Author of Powerful Exhibit Marketing

In reality, the search for answers often opens the doors to more questions. Answers are often regarded as the panacea to management challenges, but, I suggest a change of focus on uncovering questions is of more value.

Answers are helpful in the short term. They are valid for a very narrowly defined set of circumstances. The problem with answers is that they often trigger more questions. It’s as if answers themselves are like rocks dropped into a still body of water and the ripples created are the endless questions that arise.

Asking questions and encouraging staff to do the same are, in my opinion, what differentiates great leaders from the mediocre. Any one can ask “why,” but the astute executive is constantly wrestling with the “when,” “how,” and “what” of a business activity.

I mention this because at our recent 82nd Congress in Milan participants were left with many questions worth consideration. The opening and closing keynotes are great examples of this.

The conference began when Professor Vito do Bari, an innovation designer and futurist, told the audience what he predicted the face of the exhibition industry will look like in 2030. With the help of a great video he revealed how technology has the ability of personalizing an exhibition to the individual visitor’s needs to help them plan and execute a more productive visit.  The closing keynote was Andrew Keen, author of, “The internet is not the answer.” Keen’s message was that participants should move slowly into the technological revolution which as he said was in its infancy; two opposite points of view that open the conversation to questions about which approach is best.

Participants also heard both sides of the equation as they attended the various Special Interest Groups, regional meetings, Jochen Witt’s state of the industry and the panel discussions.

I believe the 82nd Congress opened the doors to more questions than answers and if that’s the case, I think was a roaring success.

One Response to The Great 21st Century Management Debate – questions vs. answers

  1. Yes the 8th UFI congress in Milano was a success. It has also shown that the exhibition industry is getting attractive as a work place for young people.
    Let’s start with the workshop on «Winning the war for talent». Contrary on public opinion (or on some opinion) the exhibition industry is highly attractive for the young generation. And yes, this includes the generation Y and the millennials. It was maybe a surprising conclusion of this workshop, but not if you know why. In the discussion it became apparent that the leaders of the industry put a great and honest effort into making the industry attractive to the young. I have verified my conclusion by speaking to a supplier of digital tools for event sales and marketing for the exhibtion industry. Aleksander tells me his company started with making apps. But it got too boring for them and they decided to develop services for the exhibition industry, because they deal now with real people, real industries, they can travel …
    As regards digital, I had eagerly expected the workshop on digitalisation and was again slightly surprised on how subtle, even if slightly conservative, the approach was. Gerald Böse of KoelnMesse summarised this approach in the question whether the exhibition industry needs to be a «first mover or a smart follower». The organisation he is CEO of, the KoelnMesse, has decided not to take a pioneering role in digitalisation. A member of the management team of KoelnMesse has explained to me why: Because there is not the one and only single digital solution for all industries because of their very different trade structures or purchasing organisations within the different industries.
    Do you know the joke about heaven and hell and which country supplies the police, the chefs, the mechanics, the best lovers and the organisation? Well the country of the writer of these lines, Switzerland, is reknowned for its organisational skill, but we may want to put Italy on the new map now. After seeing Expo Milano 2015 being a success with the public Fiera Milano has excelled in organising and executing the 82the UFI congress with great care and professionalism. Corrado Peraboni, CEO of the Fondazione Fiera Milano said in our interview, that Expo Milano 2015 has shown the world that is is possible to have a big event in Italy with no strikes, no traffic congestions and no safety or security problems. Expo Milano 2015 of course also served to renovate parts of the city and Corrado Peraboni is proud to say that one of the beneficiaries, the Fiera Milano, is now one of the best connected exhibition venues in the world. Read my interview in German language in the EXPODATA issue of 10 December 2015.
    It is easy to judge the value of an event like the UFI congress if you ask yourself if it did not exist would you seriously miss it and the answer, can only be a yes. For me the exhibition industry has become sexy and believe you me, I have seen it differently, I have worked in this field for over 20 years. This is why the 82th UFI congress for me was a kind of evidence that the exhibition industry has transformed itself into an attractive place to be.


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