The Extensible Self


I'm somewhat biased (since I curated it) but last Friday's Dots Conference, run by the smart folk at Brilliant Noise, was excellent. One of my favourites out of a whole bunch of inspiring and insightful talks came from Stuart Turner, founder of Robots and Cake, who talked about the transformational power of robotics. 

Stuart began losing function in his arms and legs over ten years ago and became a complete quadriplegic when he was 31. But he refused to accept the shrinking world that seemed to present itself to him and hacked together a wide variety of different technologies to help him use his computer, take pictures, create a smart-home and even control a drone remotely through micro-movements. He made a lovely point about how APIs and making technology scriptable and hackable had left the door open just wide enough for him to be adapt technologies to transform his entire life. Technologies that weren't designed with disabled people in mind but that had allowed enough wiggle room, just enough of a crack to let the light in.

Stuart described how flying drones had started to change the way he thought about technology, giving him the feeling of space, control and movement that his body denies him. Something he called the 'extensible self'. The idea of physically interacting with the world remotely. The fact that visiting the National Museum of Australia by using their robot can be easier than going to the end of his road. Disabled people, he said, have grown used to living as disclocated selves, but the idea of interacting remotely with the world, extending ourselves through robots, is something that far more of us will need to get used to in the future. It's a fascinating thought.

Dots Conference 2015


Last year I curated Dots Conference - run by Antony Mayfield and the smart folk at Brilliant Noise, and a key part of the Brighton Digital Festival. It was lots of fun, and the feedback was great from the people that came along, so I was really happy when Antony asked me to curate it for them again this year.

This time, the theme for the conference is 'Transformation' and we've got an amazing line up of speakers coming at the topic from multiple angles including people who are leading real change and digital transformation within large organisations, a couple of great authors who have compelling points of view about change, inspiring people who have come up with transformational ideas and done something about it, and technologists who have fascinating angles on how technology will empower a transformational future. So far, the line up includes:

  • Tess Macleod Smith, Publishing Director at NET-A-PORTER
  • Tom Hopkins, Product Innovation Director at Experian
  • Steve Chapman, Author of Can Scorpions Smoke?
  • Eva Appelbaum, Digital Director at BBC Earth
  • Adam Morgan, Founder of EatBigFish
  • Christina Scott, CIO of the Financial Times
  • Sam Conniff, Co-founder of Livity
  • Ciara Judge, Founder of Purchasemate
  • Stuart Turner, Founder of Robots and cake!
  • Antony Mayfield, CEO, Brilliant Noise

It should be excellent. The early-bird discount for tickets ends Friday, and you can both read more about it and buy them here. See you there.

Bake a Bigger Pie

In the Q & A following her wonderful talk at Gooogle Firestarters last Wednesday, Sue Unerman drew from this quote, taken from Guy Kawasaki's book Enchantment:

“There are two kinds of people and organizations in the world: eaters and bakers. Eaters want a bigger slice of an existing pie; bakers want to make a bigger pie. Eaters think that if they win, you lose, and if you win, they lose. Bakers think that everyone can win with a bigger pie.”

What a fantastic analogy.

Google Firestarters 16 - The Magnificent Seven


For our next London Google Firestarters event we have an absolutely stellar line up. We are bringing together seven of the smartest brains in strategy and planning to answer a simple but compelling question: What is the most useful thing that you have learned to date in your career? That’s it. No gimmicks, no long drawn out speeches, just short, punchy talks full of brilliant insight and inspiration from some of the wisest minds in media and advertising. We are going to hear from:

  • Richard Huntington – Group Chief Strategy Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi
  • Amelia Torode – Chief Strategy Officer, TBWA London
  • Phil Adams – Planning Director, Blonde Digital
  • Leo Rayman – Chief Strategy Officer, Grey London
  • Sue Unerman - Chief Strategy Officer, Mediacom 
  • Candace Kuss - Director of Planning, Social and Innovation at Hill and Knowlton
  • Andy Nairn – Founding Partner, Lucky Generals

We were going to call it ‘The Famous Five’ but happily we had another couple of people I really wanted to hear from confirm and so now we have ‘The Magnificent Seven’ which is even better. The event will be held at Google HQ in London at 6pm on 10th June. As always I have some guest passes to give away to readers of this blog so if you’d like one do contact me direct or leave a comment below. Can’t wait for this one - it’s going to be excellent.

Creativity in Business

This, from The Book of Life:

" creativity is a little different from artistic creativity. A company is a group of individuals gathered together to solve a problem for other people. This helps to define what the true focus of business creativity should be: intense and lateral thinking about what could be missing from the lives of customers. Business creativity means skill at identifying and profitably meeting the needs (many of them unspoken and vague) of customers. Everything else – the factories, the technology, the logistics, the spreadsheets – is in a sense secondary to this aim; whatever efforts are subsequently lavished on execution, a business cannot succeed if it hasn’t zeroed in on a real, that is, sufficiently urgent, human requirement."