Vision 2016 – fearless bears, super chickens and what is it about coffee?

Vision Bristol 2016 programme

Gorgeous personalised programme

I’ve been at Vision 2016 for the last two days – which probably explains why my feet hurt and my head feels like it’s been filled up with interesting and fascinating things three times over and then shaken vigorously.

I haven’t been to Vision since 2012, when it was beautifully timed to coincide with me starting my independent career, and provided huge amounts of inspiration to set me on my way. It’s moved venues (from the Paintworks to the University’s Student Union building) and the catering has improved, but I’m pleased to report that the inspiration levels remain constant.

The highlight of the conference, for me, was Margaret Heffernan. She held the entire room gripped as she talked (with no notes or slides) about why creativity and innovation are not innate talents found in special people (or super chickens) but all about what happens between people and within teams. Not only does this view challenge the prevailing meritocracy approach to everything from education to pay and reward, but her down-to-earth, human and humane attitude made her a hit with everyone I spoke to afterwards. Creating the conditions for innovation and creativity is one of the biggest challenges facing today’s business leaders, so this was not only fascinating but timely.

Dave Allan, founder of innovation consultancy ?What If!, had a tough job on his hands following Margaret Heffernan, but he pulled it off. He also discussed the ways in which leaders can build an innovation culture, as well as the value of experimentation rather than strategising in isolation. I was interested to hear him discuss how leaders who get stuck in to projects and engage with people at the coal face are able to spot road blocks early and clear them out of the way, making it more likely that projects will be successful. This is something that emerged strongly from a recent Accenture study and which I wrote about on the Solverboard blog last week.

Sadly I missed the first half of Mark Curtis of Fjord’s keynote, which was really annoying as the second half was absolutely fascinating. I’m not going to try and summarise it here as I didn’t see it all, but I was taken with his metaphor of businesses moving from a solid state through liquid, gas and finally plasma as they embrace complete digital transformation. When the videos of the sessions are available I’ll catch up on the first half and write something more useful about that.

Fearless the Bear

Fearless the Bear from Taxi Studio

Other great features of the two days included Battenhall founder Drew Benvie’s super clear but also quite daunting presentation about the next big things in social, which resulted in me feverishly downloading Snapchat; Glen Tutssell of Taxi Studio’s lovely session about fearlessness (which included the cutest but most inconvenient free gift ever – can we have it in a bag next time Glen?); and CoolBrands’ two-person session about building your personal reputation, which made me promise to Google myself more often.

I can’t leave out Mark Borkowski‘s hugely entertaining session, worth it for the dead tap-dancing dog story alone, and as ever, I bumped into lots of friends, and made quite a few exciting new ones.

One last thing about coffee. Both Mark Curtis and Dave Allan mentioned the Nespresso machine that reorders its pods automatically when you’re running out in their presentations – Mark as an example of transformation as a form of economic value, and Dave Allan as an example of a game-changing product.

Leaving aside the question of whether you can really say that something that re-orders coffee pods for you has transformed your life (but then I don’t drink coffee, so what do I know?), I wondered what it is about coffee that makes it so compelling. From Anthony Head in the Gold Blend ads to Starbucks to the Nespresso pods, coffee seems to be strongly associated with innovation. Maybe if I drank it, I’d be more innovative.