The sun had it’s hat on at the ‘Blue Skies and Green Lights’ event. Given the temptation of sitting and eating an ice cream in the glorious gardens at Dillington House it was going to take quite a line-up of speakers to get the delegates indoors. Thankfully the quality of the speakers and diversity of the programme meant that the theatre was packed.
The first speaker was Jack Russell from PDC Inspiration with a highly interactive and provocative talk in which he extolled us all to be positive. Jack came up with numerous examples of how we are held back by a negative belief system and by a tendency to use and react to negative language. A key learning point for parents; next time you see your child walking on a wall don’t say: ‘don’t fall!’ as this will put the thought of falling in their minds. Instead say ‘stay on the wall’! Jack moved on to ways to meet and interact with others more positively and effectively which set the tone collaboration which continued throughout the day.
Next up was Dr Timothy Whitley, MD Research and Innovation at BT. Timothy gave a fascinating insight into how BT is planning for the future. He broke this research and innovation into 2 main areas. The first of these was around improved information transmission through enhanced networks. The second related to the usage of big data and he introduced the concept of ‘task omniscience’. This involves the application of historic and real-time data to increase the efficiency of tasks such as waste management and traffic management. Timothy emphasised the importance of open innovation to the innovative process at BT.
Simon Gough from Red Front completed the main presentations with a description of how the business model should be the starting point for the development of a business. He outlined the main underlying principles of lean start-up and how important it is to visualise, test and refine an idea. A key message was the need to test ideas on potential customers and to ask oneself ‘what is the simplest thing I can do to test my product’
The majority of the rest of the event involved smaller workshops which looked at the Business Model Canvas and how it is used in lean start-up, how to collaborate, how to use new technology and how to raise finance.
The response from all delegates was incredibly positive and I had a real sense of a desire to embrace new and innovative ways of doing business as well as the building of a community of businesses eager to work together to raise the profile of Somerset. John Carter from Somerset County Council and Roger Hall from Plymouth University must take huge credit for running this event and previous events; they are having a huge impact on attitudes to innovation in this beautiful part of England.