Leaders Ready for Change – CESSE Conference Recap

By Karen Barnett posted 07-23-2018 03:57:03 PM


Leaders Ready for Change – CESSE Conference Recap

Not that I’m superstitious but my hotel room was 911 and my return flight was on Friday the 13th. Oddities aside, attending ACCESSE18, the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives (CESSE) annual conference July 10-12 in Pasadena, California, with my IISE colleague Doug Long was a completely positive and inspirational experience.


Billed as “a unique opportunity for leaders and experts to collaborate and develop solutions to the strategic issues facing scientific and engineering societies,” ACCESSE18 did not disappoint. It was a refreshing deep dive into all things related to leadership and management built around sharing experiences and best practices with staff members of other technical associations.


Here are some highlights to share with you in hopes that you might find some helpful tips and information to apply in your own world. Certainly, ISEs more than many disciplines, can appreciate the importance of continuous learning and improving.


  • Ever heard of “Adultitis?” Identified as an epidemic spreading “stress, anxiousness and depression” by opening speaker Jason Kotecki, CEO of Escape Adulthood and founder of The Cure Adultitis Institute with his wife Kim, we were taken on a delightful, funny yet practical journey about falling prey to and beating this disease. There’s even a test for it you can take here.


The company’s purpose and the intent of the presentation: “help people rediscover the secrets of childhood in order to build better lives, businesses, and teams.”


Its mission reminds us to recapture our childhood spirit and sense of wonder as we tackle daily challenges. Turn things upside down and question so-called “rules.” #notarule is all about being successful by breaking rules that don’t exist.


You can even shop Jason’s online Lemonadestand. Several IISE staff now have a copy of his book Penguins Can’t Fly. His talk had the audience in stitches and definitely gave us a dose of perspective. Gee – was that a skip in my step as I headed to the next session?


  • Another thought-provoking session “Developing a Foresightly Perspective to Learn with the Future,” with Jeff De Cagna, executive advisor at Foresight First LLC, was chock full of insights and takeaways. Jeff’s presentation blended quotes with tips and emphasized that “we’re living in the Age of Transformation – not linear progress experienced to date – at a pace never experienced in our lifetime. Transformation today is comprehensive. It’s all of us. It’s global.”


And, because of this rapid change, we’re experiencing a “cognitive crisis,” where, Jeff explained, “we have to grapple with complexity, uncertainty and volatility.” Jeff quoted the late Barbara Jordan of Texas: “For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future.”


As a class, we were asked to hold up cards about how we approached the age of transformation on a scale of one to six with one being negative/hesitant about the future and six being ready to embrace it full-throttle. Where do you fall? I held up a six card – hey, it’s happening, we’re in it and should run with it. Take heed: either extreme of the spectrum is not necessarily a good thing. One to twos tend to be worriers in jeopardy of becoming victims rather than contributors and we should strive for five known as shapers with six being a bit extreme – perhaps leaping ahead without thought.


No matter our numeric choice, Jeff gave us advice for these unstable years. In our organizations, we should be “constantly vigilant of plausible futures” with planning through 2028 as our foresight horizon. Look for “signposts that signal the direction we’re heading.” And that developing a “foresightly” perspective is healthy.


Here are Jeff’s six attributes to achieve this perspective:


  1. Discard orthodoxy
  2. Clarify orientation
  3. Display humility
  4. Nurture curiosity
  5. Pursue discovery
  6. Embrace serendipity


For more about achieving a foresightly perspective, visit http://foresightfirst.io/ and check out Jeff’s e-book to be published this fall Foresight is the Future of Governing.


  • While there were many more excellent sessions, networking events and ah-ha moments throughout ACCESSE18, the closing headliner dovetails nicely from foresightly perspectives on the future to space exploration and its effect on economic growth and global leadership. We were treated to none other than Bill Nye – or as he is popularly called “Bill Nye the Science Guy.”

Bill Nye is the CEO of The Planetary Society, which was right down the street from the Pasadena Convention Center where ACCESSE18 was held. What a passionate and exhilarating speaker who makes space science and technology seem real and reachable for all of us.


He excitedly described The Planetary Society’s current key project LightSail, a citizen-funded small spacecraft, propelled solely by sunlight. And, made us all believers. With a “go change the world” attitude he encouraged all of us to display, Bill Nye was truly inspiring and a prime example of transformational leadership for the ages.


Be sure to check out LightSail and The Planetary Society at http://www.planetary.org/.


What a perfect closing speech to a conference whose pertinent theme was “Adaptive Leadership in a Changing World.” Thank you to IISE for an educational experience I won’t soon forget and to CESSE and its volunteers for a program that was put together with care and “foresightly” thinking as we continue forging ahead in a rapidly changing environment.



Blog by Karen S. Barnett, IISE Director of Communications