Technology and Society supper: Review

It was The Economist which said that ideas are more powerful than “blood or money” and we agree that the power of ideas drives everything, not just at Armadillo and not just in business.

With that in mind, I was delighted to co-chair our inaugural Technology and Society Supper at the Groucho Club, alongside the great connector, Julia Hobsbawm OBE, and in partnership with the leading opinion former network, Editorial Intelligence.

We were thrilled to be joined by a group of entrepreneurs, startups, editors and authors, including David Rowan, author and founding editor-in-chief of Wired UK, Guardian and Financial Times writer, Stefan Stern and Jessica Butcher MBE, Angel, Mentor and co-founder of Tick and Blippar.

Here’s Head of CRM for McDonald’s, Andrew Ellis’ take on the evening:

Interesting conversations with great people in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. Provoking thoughts and challenging perceptions. This event delivered on all of those – in a great location!

Whilst Chatham House Rules applied, there were some key themes that came up in conversation.

Reaching a tipping point

It is widely agreed that we are at the beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to one another.

We’re reaching a tipping point where humans are starting to resent the time they spend on tech and the lack of attention it affords them, and startups are noting this discomfort and the speed of network adoption and abandonment and are developing tools to sate this behaviour.

Tech innovation isn’t limited to start-ups

We were treated to a sneak preview of David Rowan’s upcoming book, Non-Bullshit Innovation, which contains 16 rules for anyone looking to adapt and thrive in the digital age, including empower the team, embrace customer needs and reframe value. With global examples from businesses including Claridges, Intercorp in Peru, the Pentagon and Hayward Hill Books, we’re looking forward to getting our hands on a copy when it’s published on 16 May.

David’s takeaway thought:

Talent is a great differentiator. In order to empower people to deliver great work, you need to have confidence to do something that may be inconvenient for the company.

Create the circumstances in which crops can grow

Stefan Stern then gave some insight into his book, How to be a Better Leader, with the key thought:

Humans need management and leadership

A business structure can be flat and less hierarchical, but the instant one human meets another, a hierarchy is formed. Leaders have to provide the conditions and support that allow others to develop. They need to:

  • Be sense makers, making sense of the world we’re in and giving direction
  • Be optimists, providing hope and positivity
  • Sacrifice to deliver service, understanding that it’s not about them

The off button is a magical thing

With the prevalence of tech and our always-on society, it’s easy to become reliant and forget that tech is a tool that serves us, and there is always an off button.

Some tech leaders are out of control

It’s no surprise that the conversation turned to the no-need-to-be-named tech leaders, with a general agreement that there is a lack of faith in them and their tech development. There is a need for regulation, and some of the tech leaders are calling out for their tools to be regulated as a means to retain their monopoly and rebuild some trust.

However, world leaders are looked at as sense leaders, but in a world that doesn’t make sense, politics is being left behind. There’s a concern that our leaders aren’t allowed to change their mind. They can’t say ‘let’s see what will happen’. With public consciousness outstripping what businesses can do, young people need more immediate action. As has been seen with Greta Thunberg’s ability to provide a focal point and mobilise people.

Further reading/viewing

During the course of the evening, a number of books and TEDTalks were mentioned, which you may find interesting.

Have your say

This was the first in a series of Supper and Breakfast events, so if you’d like to join us, please get in touch.