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Information or Knowledge?

Smart business people keep up with best practices. It’s a competitive must and emblem of personal and professional pride. There’s always something new to learn. And, increasingly, there are more and more ways to seek it out. It’s a long and growing list that includes conferences, online courses, e-seminars, podcasts, and more. Just check your email inbox, and you’ll probably find more than one a day.

But information alone is not always enough. Facts, figures and presentations can make you more informed. But, information doesn’t always become knowledge. Often, it’s not what you know that counts, but how you put it to work to make changes, reach goals and solve problems.

That’s the premise behind the NCA Coffee Summit, which was held last week in Philadelphia. It’s a hybrid learning platform that combines traditional education with collaborative thinking and “open space” engagement. The facts and figures are filtered through the prism of the expertise and experience of fellow professionals. The output is knowledge that’s ready to put into play to solve nettling problems you face each day.

Say you’re a small café owner who wants to deliver a new coffee experience to customers. Or, a micro-roaster who wants to promote sustainable coffees. Or perhaps a maker of coffee-related accessories who needs to keep on top of consumption patterns and brewing trends?

The NCA Coffee Summit is designed to bring together diverse professionals from up and down the coffee “supply chain.” Bringing a spectrum of perspective to each discussion, participants mold raw information into workable strategies to solve real-time business challenges. In this way, participants can attack individual challenges from the different angles that come from their different business roles and functions. In turn, participants can go home with strategies and solutions that have been put through the business filter of professionals who know how things work.

Program
This year’s Summit teed up three topics with special currency – sustainability, the single-serve format and risk management. Four, short presentations on the topics were followed by opportunities to interact with the expert speakers, as well as brainstorm on the topic with other attendees.

The Summit also featured a collaborative Learning Exchange. Three broad questions were raised by the professional facilitator to spark thinking and discussion on the topics. Each table of 10 participants captured their collective thoughts on flip charts, which were posted publicly for all to review. After each question, participants were shuffled to maximize attendee interaction.

Another important element of the Summit’s design is “open space” discussion. Two sessions were held, during which participants were encouraged to pose their own “big questions” to engage others in problem-solving discussions. The sessions are designed to cull the expertise and perspective of colleagues who share your concerns, and put them into play to tackle your problems. Often, insights emerge when issues are approached from the viewpoints of those who fill different roles along the supply chain.

Interactions among the participants were dynamic and fruitful. The group generated over 100 pages of flip-chart notes, which will be shared with all attendees as well as transcribed into a report. Speaker presentations will also be made available.

Clearly, the NCA Coffee Summit is a dynamic PD choice for coffee professionals in all functions and sectors. It’s a chance to explore industry issues, get your big questions answered, and go home with some practical solutions.

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