The Strategy & Planning Meetup #4 – insights, analytics and future planning

Thursday July 30 marked the return of the Brighton Strategy & Planning meetup. The evening was bursting full of insights, analytics and future planning, with our three speakers sharing practical tools and advice on what you can do now and in the future.

The talks:

Antony Mayfield – CEO, Brilliant Noise

Antony opened the evening by discussing how we talk (and argue) about trends and technologies. He shared some ideas that can make it easier to understand what’s (probably) important and what’s (probably) a distraction.

A theme throughout the talk was being mindful of predictions, and what people have predicted before. A great example was AT&T’s advert – ‘You Will’:

Antony, after kindly acting as the voice-over for the ad, pointed out that AT&T was simultaneously so right, yet so wrong, with its predictions. They certainly got the future of faxing wrong, but doesn’t that look an awful lot like an iPad that the sunbather is using?

The pace of change in digital is incredible, and it’s always increasing. Antony referenced The Second Machine Age, which suggests that we’re approaching the digital equivalent of the industrial revolution. Every industry is beginning to feel overwhelmed with the need to keep pace and not fall behind, and research implies we haven’t really begun yet.

Antony shared the Gartner Hype Cycle and the trends radar as two models that can help you be mindful of what’s coming, what you need to know, and how it affects you. He pointed out that, ultimately, attention is a limited resource and that should be treated as precious. You need to know where to invest your time (as you don’t have enough time to know everything).


Bex Carson – Head of Research Services – and Emelie Swerre – Research Manager EMEA, Brandwatch

Bex and Emelie shared some of Brandwatch’s largest research projects, illustrating how social media analytics can be used for understanding and predicting real world events and trends.

The first case study was the Social Oscars, an interactive data visualisation created to predict the results of the Oscars based on social media conversations.

screenshot of the brandwatch social oscars 2013

Brandwatch tracked both the public’s and the critics’ predictions for the different Oscars and created rules that could predict which nominees would win which awards. The visualisation was a great success with 83% accuracy in 2013 and 77% in 2014.

The second case study was Brandwatch’s predictions of the General Election, which weren’t as accurate, but the learnings were even more valuable. The research revealed that, on social, the left is better represented. If Twitter was to decide the final result, Labour would have won a landslide victory. The shy Tory factor (and the even more shy UKIP voters), combined with the simple fact that social media isn’t used by large portions of the population, means that political conversation isn’t as easy to measure as that around movies.

In both case studies, Bex and Emelie shared the method and the results, as well as the even more valuable lessons of how the projects could be improved for future work.


Nick Price – Strategy Developer, Speaker & Facilitator, Founder – Of Things Immaterial

Nick gave us an introduction to future thinking and how it acts as a pre-cursor to strategy, exploring possible futures. He also discussed some of the ways that future thinking connects to design thinking, user experience, and innovation.

One of the fundamental differences in approach Nick shared was the need to change from predictions to possibilities. Rather than planning for one eventuality and accompanying business goal, there are always multiple possible futures. By considering these alternatives, and identifying the ones that affect your business the most, you can plan and rehearse for the different eventualities and be better prepared. A great example of this is Shell’s New Lens scenarios in which they predict two possible futures of energy, one policy led the other driven by market forces.

When considering where we are, and possible futures, Nick emphasised the need to include as many differing cultures as possible to get the best understanding possible. He also raised that different cultures and customers will have different needs, and want alternative futures. Choosing which of these your company wants to serve is crucial – and Nick illustrated this using an example of museums, and how different generations want to experience them (you can find out more here).

Nick concluded his presentation with a slide containing a number of sources and communities around future thinking and Nick himself is available for contact if you’d like to learn more.

Thanks to our speakers and the Lighthouse for hosting us.

Finally, if you enjoyed our meetup – and the themes discussed – you may be interested in our conference, Dots, which is taking place in September as part of the Brighton Digital Festival. This year’s theme is achieving transformation and is set to be a day full of insights to help you see and make your company’s future.