A meeting of minds: Turning great ideas into products and services

Glenn Le Santo finds much to enjoy at the Like Minds event in Bristol.

For my money, business conferences fall into two distinct categories. Ones you wished you hadn’t gone to and ones you’re glad you attended. Like Minds, the brainchild of Drew Ellis, certainly falls into the latter group.

Drew drove Like Minds through the heady early years of social media and start-up fever and has managed to mature the brand and find a consistent groove in innovation. It’s the theme that guides the Like Minds events and ensures they deliver inspired – and inspiring – content.
The recent Bristol edition of Like Minds, powered by Barclays, kept the thread going with plenty of help from the main ingredient of any great show – great speakers.

Drew never fails to gather together amazing people with tremendous stories and great delivery. One highlight was Chris Moss, the man who helped Richard Branson build the Virgin airline brand. Chris always moves his audience with great stories and his lateral way of thinking. I love watching this charming man hold an audience. He’s so affable he lulls you as you listen to his tales. He doesn’t lead you into any comfort zones and likes to challenge everything. He showed a slide that simply said: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Chris had a message about thinking differently, and that standing out takes courage. Chris knows how to be brave. He launched a mobile phone company called Orange in the face of many who thought it was the wrong name for a phone company. The lawyers even told him they couldn’t trademark a colour. So he told them it wasn’t a colour. It was a fruit. Orange of course has grown to be one of the most recognisable brands in the UK and, thanks to Chris and his team, the strength of the brand is a testament to his inspired bravery.

Deri Llewellyn-Davies is known as the strategy man and he presented his idea about strategy on a page – getting your entire business plan onto just one page. He champions this brevity in what is normally an over-stuffed document partly because: “You only read the first page anyway, you lazy b******s!”

Trying to get a business plan down to one page might seem like mission impossible to some but Deri is a doer of the impossible. He stared into the jaws of death when was stranded for three days and nights in the Himalayas after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.

He survived and earned the undeniable right to show the slides: “Live life with no regrets” and “build a business with no regrets”. He urged everyone to do business for the right reason, and for him that isn’t money.

Like Minds speakers have a habit of saying at least one thing that really resonates with you. Something they’ve picked from their personal journey that somehow fits your experience perfectly. Tiffany St James did this for me in one slide. “Lead from wherever you are” it said.

This is such great advice if you’re pushing for change and innovation from within a complex structure. Don’t wait until you are on the top, make the changes and influence business outcomes from wherever you are.