Last week I had the pleasure to host the 10th annual Like Minds Festival at Exeter Castle and was truly inspired by the amazing line up of speakers who really did knock my socks off.
I felt compelled to provide a brief recap on their keynotes, introduce some of their principal points and perhaps encourage a deeper dig to see if the amazing presenters and their words can help you improve in business or life. With such a highfalutin introduction, it is best to qualify exactly what Like Minds is. For the uninitiated, I think that the best summation of Like Minds was provided by Robert Bean:
“Like Minds is an intellectual playground where thinkers, strategists, agents provocateurs, innovators, challengers, and mavericks can open up, share ideas and be inspired in a warm, welcoming, global environment.”Robert Bean, Founder, Founder at The Robert Bean Branding Company.
Curator Andrew Ellis ensured year 10 was amazing with a roster that was guaranteed to inspire, engage and enthuse the 315 assembled on the day!
Alongside the 12 keynotes were workshops on business-related topics ranging from successful networking, scaling business and fostering cultures of collaboration. Each one was chaired by experts from as close as Exeter to as far afield as India (yes Aji Mathew, I’m talking about you)!
Before I get to the recap of the keynotes, I must tip the cap to fellow attendee Paul Bay who dug out this magnificent quote from philosopher John Stuart Mill that further encapsulates the spirit of the event;
“It’s hardly possible to overstate the value, in the present state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with other persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been… one of the primary sources of progress.”Paul Bay, Founder at Citizen Bay.
The event proper and kicked off with the true heavyweight Felix Velarde who gave a brief treatise into his 2x3y system that can rocket power business. Learnt by, in his own words, ‘making every mistake an entrepreneur can make’, he set the tone as he whizzed through some of the more salient points learned on the coalface of founding one of the world’s first web design companies (Hyperinteractive) as well as co-founding agencies that helped define SEO, interactive TV, and CRM!.
He was followed by the true inspirations from Laura Willis at Shine Offline, who held a mirror to all the phone addicts in the room; of whom I certainly count myself as one! She made some pretty shocking observations from research carried out by her business;
· 83% of people feel stress or overwhelmed by their phone
· 92% feel digital distraction impairs the ability to work
· 1 in 3 phone users will check their phone in the middle of the night! (that’s from Deloitte)
The penny really dropped with me when she pointed out that email was intended to replace the fax machine (mine is up all day, every day!). It wasn’t all a horror story though, the closing stanza of the keynote suggested means to overcome the internal and external triggers that cause phone ‘dependency’.
Minter Dial was next and I must admit, I’ve become something of a fanboy following a chat in one of the networking breaks (amongst other things he introduced me to the glory of The Grateful Dead)! He spoke about the three untapped levers for productivity; Empathy, Sleep, and Purpose.
I was surprised to see some of the key moments in my time as a professional rugby player crossed over into business, not least was finding your true north when talking about purpose. His whirlwind presentation certainly inspired me to delve into the science and importance of sleep and I would encourage you to do so too…
After a small break, we heard from the babyfaced assassin herself Nicole Yershon. A veteran of 17 years on the coalface of innovation at Marketing leviathan, Ogilvy she now runs the Nicole Yershon Collective and discussed her experience of true innovation and disruption. She examined her 8 rules of disruption:
1. Develop curiosity
2. Learn to learn
3. Talk straight
4. Lead with honesty
5. Ask why 5 times
6. You will never know everything
7. Simplicity wins
8. There is no off switch
I was certainly fortunate at the close to get a copy of her book Rough Diamond which I’ll be reading soon!
That, however, must wait until I complete the latest work of the next speaker Daniele Fiandaca (who I’d already commandeered to present me with an edition of his book Creative Superpowers and accompanying pin badge!).
Co-founder of culture change business Utopia, Daniele spoke about key teaching in his publication and how to mimic the childlike state of creativity we lose as we grow.
He wasn’t the only speaker to reference the talk Ted talks by Sir Ken Robinson during the day, he soon shifted tack on to the modern definition of a hacker (you don’t need to be a computer whizz to be one!).
He also brought up perhaps the most pertinent quote of the day;
“the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”.Daniele Fiandaca, Author of Creative Superpowers.
He concluded with reference to the Token Man initiative that I would encourage everyone reading this to check out.
Next on the log was the ‘harbinger of doom’ Suki Fuller (that’s a joke, she’s actually really, really nice – her topic however is rather scary) from Miribure and her discussion of the interconnectivity of data we so freely give online! In thirty minutes, she managed to terrify and educate in equal measure.
Discussing how internet giants are currently teaming up to clumsy effect (Spotify and Ancestry.com anyone!) through to governments collating facial recognition details, she painted an ominous picture of the future. The takeaway was certainly to avoid ‘sharenting’, look up the Big Brother awards and to keep personal details personal or we may have a world where social mobility is decided at birth!
The seventh keynote came from self-confessed ‘lucky man’ Chris Moss who I think its fair to say has got to the top of the mountain and is looking back with the wisdom achieved along the way.
Creator of iconic brands including Virgin Atlantic, 118 and Orange he took a tour of some of the more fun experiences he had during his journey and was kind enough to hand out some pretty impressive bracelets with positive messaging to everyone in the room. The overriding message from Chris was to have fun, enjoy the journey and see things differently!
One of the most famous sons of Exeter; Luke Lang, founder of Crowdcube, came up next. He discussed how we are witnessing a shift from people desiring more to desiring meaning. He explained how anthropological research (Dunbar’s Number)has shown it’s very difficult to maintain more than 150 personal relationships (100 casual, 35 close, 10 very close and 5 intimate – ish!).
This limit on personal relationships correlated with the numbers of businesses and brands that we can associate with. He noted how people are choosing to align with brands that share common values. In certain instances, the alignment goes as far as to buying into a business, best exemplified by Brewdog and the ‘equity punk’ initiative. He suggested that as businesses, your core purpose must be a key driver, if you start with a why, in the modern world, you will find your tribe and you will succeed!
Perhaps the most fascinating talk of the day came next from Canadian Kim Arazi. Her company Innosensi focusses on getting people to overcome the information overload of the modern-day by getting back in touch with our senses. Her tour through the value of the senses and simply getting back in touch with ourselves, surroundings and one another was full of interesting truths one doesn’t normally consider.
By taking the time to appreciate the now and basic biological drives health is improved, productivity goes up and, most importantly, happiness goes through the roof!
From the sensual maestro, we were entertained by the creative genius of Dave Birss who extolled feeding curiosity as the foundation of creativity. By talking through a few of his magnificent experiments (the Newt/Judge was a personal favourite) he helped to demystify creativity, highlighting that it is a skill that can be nurtured and grown. Indeed, I have taken on the challenge of left-handed drawing with my other half to our great amusement!
The penultimate speaker, Adah Parris gave a fascinating talk as she picked patterns in life that others skim over. As a culture change expert by trade, her forensic exploration of how to create a positive community-centered on building a bridge from external projection to internal understanding. In order to make sense of this broad topic we heard about:
· The concept of reciprocity without ego
· The value of personal brand and
· How the digital landscape has hugely impacted upon culture
· The importance of curiosity through play in creativity
· Activism being positively encouraged and embraced
· The value of diversity – if you go to the same well, you’ll get the same thing
· The power of humility
With the bar set so high and with the day drawing to a close, it was fitting that Robert Craven lifted the energy levels with the final keynote of the day on the lessons he learned working with Google. The exploration of what high achievers do that the average person does not certainly challenge the audience.
The key pointers were to think differently and to encourage a quicker process with ‘moonshot thinking’. The interstellar theme was continued as he discussed escape velocity – the speed it takes to break the earth’s atmosphere. Ultimately if you want to achieve big, you must aim high and go for it!
So that’s Like Minds in a nutshell, a fantastic day spent with some amazing people and a day of inspiration, big thinking and overall improvement. The next day I was totally goosed from the sheer level of knowledge taken in but, as my father always says, “you get nothing for an idea, its in the application things happen”.
I appreciate the words of my old man may not be the best to conclude this treatise so I’ll leave it to a slightly more famed thinker Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can; begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now”Johan Wolfgang von Goethe.