The first morning session of AASCIF 2013 here in Austin, TX is now behind us, and it is clear that improving communication at an individual and industry level is a big part of this years agenda. AASCIF is the American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds, and every year one state fund hosts the group’s annual conference. By all appearances, this years host, Texas Mutual, appears to have been up to the task at hand.

This morning’s keynote was author Thom Singer, who most impressed me with his assertions that we are struggling today with managing an overload of information. He stressed the ongoing need to nurture and maintain relationships at a personal level, making a compelling argument that trust and understanding resulting from those efforts far exceeds anything Twitter or LinkedIn will ever produce. Singer also touched on a concept that many people do not consciously think of; that each of us is responsible for creating and controlling our own “brand”.

That is a scary concept, particularly to those of us who can barely control our own bladder. 

I mean, controlling our own brand can be a daunting concept indeed. Still, Singer made the case convincingly by equating the concept of “brand” with that of trust, and citing a well known article from the 90’s entitled the “The Brand Called You“. It all plays back into how important strong networking skills and personal relationships are, not just in business, but in our private lives as well. In the constantly connected age of Twitter and Facebook, it is a lesson worth remembering.

Joe Navarro, a straight shooting retired FBI Specialist who is not afraid to call “crap”  crap, followed Singer by moving us into the realm of non-verbal intelligence and communication, showing the audience that how we dress, how we stand, how we position ourselves and the physical movements we make affect the messages we send, as well as how others read and perceive us. It was quite fascinating, and Navarro also hit on the concept of branding. He told the audience that we need to be very careful what we write lest we damage our brand, and when referencing social media, used the phrase, “If you post you’re toast”. 

I suppose that means I am completely screwed in the branding department. I am just glad, with his affinity to call crap crap, that Navarro has likely never read my blog. I just couldn’t take feedback like that, non-verbal or otherwise. 

The lunch keynote was a woman called Jana Owens, who gave us tips to improve our memory. I can’t remember the specifics of what she said, but I am sure they were quite helpful. Changed my life forever. In all seriousness, she did provide a unique demonstration on how we can master and use the memory talents hidden within all of us. I will practice what she gave us, and if I can remember my name before my morning coffee tomorrow, will count it as a smashing success.

Perhaps the most refreshing notion about this workers’ compensation conference is a specific lack of specifics about workers’ compensation. It is similar in that vein to the AASCIF conference held last year in Portland, OR, which was excellent. I suppose this resonates with me because it is along those same lines that my blog is structured – if my blog has any structure at all, that is. One of the complaints I hear about my own musings, besides that I am a talentless blowhard (which is true), is that I don’t always write about workers’ compensation. I write about lunacy, idiocy, hypocrisy and other flawed elements of the human condition, but, as charged, it is not always directly related to workers’ comp. It doesn’t have to be.

You see, it doesn’t always have to be about workers’ compensation in order to improve workers’ compensation. We don’t always have to listen to actuarial assessments on the impact of an increasing pharmaceutical spend, or improving data analysis to produce better medical outcomes, in order to better ourselves and our industry. Sometimes it should just be about the people, and improving their abilities and performance. If we can do that, the other improvements will follow. 

AASCIF 2013 clearly gets that. It is about building a better industry by building a better workforce, and communication, that core skill necessary for all human interaction and success, is rightly placed at the top of the list. 

I just hope I can remember all of this in the morning. 

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