The Stephen Johnson work I am describing is partly here. I believe deeply in expanding what is possible for our own learning and the learning of others.
This is the entire point for me: conferences can “give me the time and space to try new things and to discuss new ideas.” The way you are articulating this here is potent, and I do believe that until you have had some of these hallway or session moments, you don’t see professional learning (at conferences or anywhere else) for what it can be: transformational.
I believe in what Stephen Johnson talks about with “the adjacent possible”. Essentially, he says that new things are only possible because of what the last set of innovations has opened up. I think that effective PD is much the same way. While we might not immediately see the direct effect of attending a session or having an engaging conversation with a colleague, we should trust that new outcomes are now possible because they are now adjacent to our thinking. It is the “time and space” that allows us to expand what is adjacent to us.