Dots digest


Brilliant Noise’s first Dots conference was held last week, all about connecting ideas. Feedback from speakers and attendees alike has been very positive and there’s already some eager talk of what Dots 2015 might look like.

Over the coming weeks we will revisit some of the themes and talks from Dots, but if you would like to get a sense of what was talked about, or revisit some of the talks if you attended, I’ve put together the following summary thoughts I noted while hosting the event and links to the brilliant live blogs provided by Adam Tinworth for each speaker.

Russell Davies, Creative Director, GOV.UK: The strategy is delivery

Russell gave an account of his team’s work delivering a revolution in how the UK government communicates. A revolution, demanded by its instigator, Martha Lane-Fox in a letter to the Government after she’d completed a review, and one recognised (GOV.UK won the prestigious Design of the Year award in 2013) and now being copied by governments around the world. The piece of advice that really stuck in my mind was his directive that: “no innovation should be allowed until you have fixed the basics”.

Read the live blog of Russell’s talk here.

Hugh Garry, Director of Storythings: Where do ideas come from? 

Hugh by turns delighted and inspired the audience, connecting dots from the profitable decline of Spandau Ballet’s creativity to squatters in Manchester and the rise of Acid House to emphasise how mercurial and slippery our creative processes can be. Exhorting us to let our subconscious minds work their magic, he declared – to the delight of many – that “focus is overrated”.

Read the live blog of Hugh’s talk here.

Ian Crocombe, founder of Evolver: How to get your innovation initiative supported

Ian brought us right back to the practical challenges of getting innovation projects backed in a large organisation. For all the positive sentiment about innovation, organisations are usually inherently conservative and real innovation can be very hard to get off the ground. Ian’s experience at big agencies like AKQA and as an SVP of innovation at American Express can be distilled as: tell a story about what a project will do to affect business outcomes and back it up with data.

Read the live blog of Ian’s talk here.

Anjali Ramachandran head of innovation, PHD Media: Looking beyond the familiar

Anjali said that a great deal of her work is getting colleagues out of their “London Zone 1” mindset and understanding how people actually think and live. She took us through projects in Australia, Africa and Asia from the likes of Unilever and innovative start-ups like Jana Marketplace and Zipdial and showed how inspiration and innovation can spring from carefully watching how people behave.

Read the live blog of Anjali’s talk here.


Joanna Choukeir, design director at Uscreates: Using digital tools to change behaviour

Joanna gave us a masterclass in how think about combining user experience and behaviour change models. Despite the power of thinking about these together – and some fascinating case studies – it is something that happens too infrequently. She also made it clear that when it comes to creating positive behaviour changes we have only just begun to explore the possibilities.

Read the live blog of Joanna’s talk here.

Mark Earls, founder of Herd: Copy, Copy, Copy

In a masterful talk, Mark unpicked the myth that Elvis was an original to show us how humans are “copying machines”. This is an uncomfortable truth for most, but once embraced we can gain from its creative potential. He encouraged us to copy and “make errors” – it’s the little mistakes we make when copying that give birth to new ideas. “Copying from a distance” – looking at ideas from unfamiliar fields – often yields the most interesting results.

Read the live blog of Mark’s talk here.

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, founder of Good Night Lamp: The internet of things is just beginning

The “internet of things” is in danger of becoming a depleted, buzzword of a term. Alexandra emphatically cut through the hype (and Gartner’s hype-cycle)  to tell us how important it was and would be as a concept. This despite the plethora of nonsense-IoT projects, especially in the wearables space that she showed us (anyone want a ring that glows when they have email?). She also offered some powerful sceptical  and cautionary thoughts about the emerging consensus around lean, agile and maker culture.

Read the live blog of Alexandra’s talk here.

 John Willshire, founder of Smithery: Relativity: connections in time and space

Having created Artefact Cards, John has been exploring ideas around creativity and Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s concept of flow – a state of absorption and focus where the time seems to fade away. Flow is one of our values at Brilliant Noise. Celebrating the third anniversary of Smithery, John wrote a post a day and has developed the beautiful and intriguing idea of how Artefact Cards – among other things – can help you develop a “flow engine” way of working.

Read the live blog of John’s talk here.

James Haycock, founder of Adaptive Labs: Will banks become the next dumb pipes?

While, as Andrew Marr points out, the response to any headline, especially in Daily Mail, that ends with a question mark is “no”, the answer to James’s questions about banks was an emphatic “yes”? Becoming “dumb pipes” was the nightmare scenario that faced telecom firms for the past 15 years and has arguably become reality. James took us through the stages that banks are likely to pass through as the web disrupts their business fundamentally.

Read the live blog of James’s talk here.

Professor Martin Elliott, co-medical director at Great Ormond Street Hospital

While the Lean Start-Up movement has made us all used to the phrase “rapid prototyping”, this was the first time that anyone in the audience had heard the phrase applied to 3D printing body parts. In a talk that was in turns inspiring and deeply humbling, Martin showed how “copying from a distance” (to quote Mark Earls) had saved lives at the famous children’s hospital, GOSH, by bringing the expertise of F1 pit-stop teams into the changeover between operating theatres and intensive care. He also gave a lesson we can all learn from – that real change through innovation can only be achieved with “leadership and choreography” – and that when it came to error-free execution it was all about the mantra “rehearse, rehearse, rehearse”. That may seem obvious, but experts in a particular field often feel that rehearsal is unnecessary.

Read the live blog of Martin’s talk here.

Eamon Fitzgerald, managing director of Naked Wines: How not to be a dinosaur – from a blank sheet of paper to £35m turnover in five years

The fantastically successful and popular Naked Wines has been tagged with any number of buzzwords in its short life, such as crowdsourcing, social commerce and customer-centric. Whatever you decide to call their approach, the results of a business built around connecting customers and winemakers and cutting out myriad middlemen has reaped great rewards. Eamon took us through their approach and some heart-warming stories that have come out of their work.

Read the live blog of Eamon’s talk here.

Nathan Guerra, industry head, creative agency partnerships, Google: Innovation and fame

Nathan took us to the heart of new kinds of fame and celebrity developing in YouTube culture. Differently famous YouTube superstars were shown being mobbed on the streets of London and the story told of one group having to be escorted from a One Direction concert because they were being mobbed by fans. We watched the footage of one of these stars as the crowd went wild around them – except for the parents of the kids at the concert who were completely bemused as to who they might be.

Read the live blog of Nathan’s talk here.

Rosie Yakob, founder Genius Steals: Collective genius

A fitting end to a day where Dots attendees were buzzing with ideas and collective potential, Rosie gave us another angle on the “myth of originality” explored earlier by Mark Earls. Her company’s name – Genius Steals – is itself stolen from Picasso, who said “talent imitates, genius steals”. Or was it? Other say Picasso stole it from Wilde or TS Eliot, who wrote:

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.

Anyway, Rosie pushed home a message that is essential and valuable – ideas aren’t yours. They pass through groups, through history, they emerge. Embracing this and caring less about credit and authorship can help us all do better work.