Last (well, for me, I left a bit early) but definitely not least was Adam Lowry, one of the two co-founders of Method, which could be described as a cleaning products company, but one that is turning the category upside down. Adam's talk was the most dear to my heart because he talked about a topic which I've been thinking about lots lately: the design of business.
He thinks business is an opportunity to change the world for the better, and that you can make 'change by design'.
He said they love it when their business model gets copied, because that will create a new (and hopefully better) state of equilibrium. If Method brings out a product that is better for the environment, and P&G copies that, it's good for everyone.
'Don't make the consumer sacrifice, make the product better!'
About change: 'Start small, to prove the business case, and then scale it up.'
The most important skill a business needs is DESIGN. The definition of design is changing: it's going from being mostly concerned with aesthetics to design entire processes. Currently design is about the present tense, in the future we will need to think about yesterday, today and the future (something he calls 'design karma').
Who is a designer and what needs designing is changing: everyone = a designer and everything needs to be designed.
Little do: think like a designer, even if you're not formally trained as one, you'll be able to make change better that way.
Big do: 'help me redefine design'!
And this is an awful pun, 'concrete', but I couldn't resist. David Rosenberg, CEO of Hycrete, a concrete company. Though I think he'd beg to differ: after a few introductory slides, he said that his is not a concrete company, it's a insurance company, they provide peace of mind. Which is when I sat up and started listening even more intently.
Let me repeat what he said: 'we're not a concrete company, we're an insurance company.' What a great example of changing the way you think about your business. You're rarely in the business of the product or service you sell, you always 'sell' something else. He also mentioned they have moved from seeing themselves as a product company to a solution company.
That taught me (yet) again the lesson of humility. Even things which to me sound initially far beyond my comprehension or interest can be very interesting. And teach you a lesson. And that David definitely did.
I wonder if this guy is Superman. And I don't mean that in the 'he's kind like Superman' way, no I mean it in the 'oh my god, this could actually BE Superman, he just changed his name'. Ben Hammersley was up next, and if there's anyone out there that can make you feel like you've done preciously little with your life, it's him. And I say that in the nicest and most awe-struck way.
Right, now to the actual talk/lecture, the title of which was 'The Optimised Self': choose a thing to maximise and focus on that by measuring what you do and then maximising it. Socrates said it all these years ago: 'The unexamined life isn't worth living.'
Before you start running out and focussing the hell out of something, you have to figure out what counts: 'Making things better depends on learning what to count.'. If you choose to measure something, that's what you focus on, so be careful what you wish for. Or measure for.
There is a trend at the moment to collect personal data (and it's likely I'll write more about that at some point, since I'm fascinated by it) and publish it for the world to see. And building on that there's a whole host of applications that build on that, e.g. Citysense, and people will start to use data to analyse their own and other people's behaviour.
Emotional data is a big deal and online sentiment analysis is the next biggest thing online (you heard it here first!).
People are already maximising their lives, companies need to offer the opportunities to do this. By concentrating on the numbers first, you free up time for creativity: you take away all the uncertainties, then creativity is left.
Little do: what are you measuring right now (and everyone measures something) and figure out if that's the right thing to measure.
And as an extra bonus, some sage life advice:
* In the most dangerous situation: smile. It helps.
* How do you become a foreign correspondent? Go to a foreign country and correspond!