A Day For The Disruptors: Disruption Summit Europe 2019

Cross sector collaboration, disruptive innovation, business, the public sector and much more…

Disruption Summit Europe returned on 10th September with more speakers, exhibitors, and delegates than ever before. Now in its third year, the event welcomed an extremely high calibre of attendees to 133 Houndsditch, London to explore the key themes of disruptive innovation, technology and purpose.

Here we take a look at the highlights and key takeaways of the day.

A healthy dose of inspiration

Kicking off the morning session at Disruption Summit, three keynote talks set the scene for the day. Frazer Bennett, Chief Innovation Officer at event partner PA Consulting, heralded a new type of leadership designed to unlock the ingenuity of people. He noted that in today’s world, the concept of top down control that characterised organisations in the past simply won’t wash, and we instead need to find creativity, collaboration and meaning at work to pursue solutions to our challenges.

Futurist and founder of Futuremade, Tracey Follows, then explored the model of ‘backcasting’ – looking at the kind of distant future we might want to see, and working backwards to achieve it. Of course, none of us really knows what the future will look like, but Follows posited that it will give us a greater ability to define our own identities. David Gram, Intrapreneur in Residence at LEGO, followed this up with a captivating look into innovation at one of the world’s favourite brands. A particular highlight was how the company harnessed the enthusiasm of its followers to co-create new LEGO products with them, further strengthening these consumer relationships.

Change, Growth, Exchange

After the opening sessions, attendees were invited to join one of three conference tracks: Change, Growth and Exchange. These sessions were all designed to explore similar concepts through a different lens. The Exchange track, for example, looked at what the private and public sectors can learn from each other, given the similar challenges they face as large organisations, with legacy technology and a pressure to deliver excellent products and services.

“It’s great to see so much confidence in the public sector and the development of intelligent user design in public organisations,” said Haydn Shaughnessy, D/SRUPTION expert and business strategist. “There’s a lot that private companies can learn from the public sector, including honesty and psychological support.”

Collaboration is key

This sense of exchanging ideas, making new connections and building relationships was a defining theme of the conference as a whole. In a conference format that breaks the mould of many traditional corporate events, Disruption Summit Europe invites attendees to come together, in the knowledge that we can effect positive change if we learn from each other and work together.

“In my view, Disruption Summit has done a lot in working towards reaching the desired objectives,” said Natasha Heyland, Communications Lead at IBM Client Innovation Centre UK. “There was something for everyone: good quality speakers, insightful inspiring talks, and a wide range of attendees to network with. The atmosphere at the event was one of buzz and positive energy, the kind that is inspired by the prospect of discovering new things and meeting new people.”

Of course, thinking about change can often raise more questions than it answers – a fact demonstrated by Professor Alan Brown, who questioned panellists, and the audience, on their views on personal data. This critical analysis of a difficult issue was also seen in the Growth track, where representatives of companies who have successfully scaled from startups discussed how to balance the need to grow whilst remaining innovative.

The Growth track also hosted the awards ceremony for the winners of the Disruption50 Index – D/SRUPTION’s pioneering research mission combining expert opinion and artificial intelligence to find and profile the 50 most disruptive companies in the UK. In one of the most popular sessions of the day, the final rankings of the Index were revealed, celebrating the innovation and drive of UK companies in an impressive number of fields.

An instant networking opportunity

On the exhibition floor, technology demonstrations were in full flow from the likes of 3D printing company Ultimaker, and PA Consulting’s talented summer interns, who amongst other projects, designed a facial recognition program to gauge shoppers’ interest in products on the shelf.

There’s nothing quite like a chance networking encounter, but delegates favouring a more structured approach could also make use of the Grip event networking app to schedule meetings with each other. Importantly, the app also contributed to Disruption Summit’s sustainability goals, by eliminating the need for a printed agenda.

“It’s really important for businesses to address sustainability and be environmentally conscious,” said Kev Cooke, Chief Creative Officer at D/SRUPTION. “One small way that we have approached this is by using the Grip app, which replaces physical event guides.”

Speaking from the Summit, D/SRUPTION’s Rob Prevett also emphasised the importance of working with others in order to meet the mounting challenges of operating as a business today.

“Each year, I’m amazed by the breadth of speakers and delegates at the Summit. It’s incredible to watch innovation leaders from so many different businesses in the same space, finding solutions for the issues that affect them most,” he said. “This is what the Summit is all about – creating a space where these conversations can happen, sharing experiences and realising that collaboration is critical to success.”

All change, please

In the closing keynotes of the day, what3words founder Chris Sheldrick and Change Please CEO Cemal Ezel demonstrated exactly how much impact businesses can have once they adopt a company wide disruptive approach with an integral social purpose. In presentations that packed a significant punch, both Sheldrick and Ezel showed how their companies are using simple, innovative solutions to change the world. From helping emergency services save lives with what3words addresses, to giving the homeless a new start through great coffee, these businesses left attendees in no doubt of their disruptive – and purposeful – credentials.

This year’s conference directly reflected a central theme which sits across D/SRUPTION’s business intelligence network: in a world of unprecedented change, businesses can’t go it alone. By taking advantage of the convergence of technology, innovation and purpose, organisations can go beyond the usual and become leaders and pioneers. In spite of bewildering change, it’s possible for companies to achieve success, and do good in the process… Disruption Summit Europe showed them how.

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