6 lightning talks at the #dareconfparty

Last night I was at the Dare Conference Party, a sort of taster menu of Lightning Talks sandwiched in between the two main days of the Dare Conference. And here are my notes from the talks…

“3 things that unexpectedly made me a better collaborator” — Alison Coward

I really enjoyed Alison Coward’s talk. She said that working as someone who encourages collaboration, she’d found techniques in her own personal development that helped her to understand and teach that.

1) Meditation. She’d used the MindCandy app called Calm, developed a guided meditation habit, and realised that
recognising the emotional effects people were having on her made a huge impact on her day-to-day work.

2) Curiosity over judgement. Inspired by an article from Jeffrey Pfeffer, Alison has shifted from making judgements to exercising more curiosity. Rather than placing an evaluation on an action, she said, she wants to find out more. Where did this action come from? It must have come from a series of events, and asking people about that series of events opens up opportunities for conversations.

3) Recognising fear. Alison said that in any difficult conversation between two people it is because one of the people is thinking about fear—losing something, uncertainty, being threatened or the fear of looking stupid. When you feel threatened by something you often don’t realise that you are being defensive. Alison suggested that you should explore where your own defensiveness comes from.

Alison stated that thinking about these three things has improved how she deals with things. It’s nothing, she said, in the problems or the relationships that have changed, it’s her reaction that has changed.

“What happened after #dareconf…” — Samiya Parvez

Samiya Parvez is the CEO of Andiamo, a start-up whose tiny mission is to “build new healthcare solutions that will provide any person, across the globe, with the medical devices they need in less than a week.”

So no big deal!

The first area they are looking at is Children’s Orthotics, and they use 3D scanning and printing technologies to provide a much faster turn-around of devices like neck braces. They aim to be user-centred and to save health services money.

Samiya was reflecting on what the company has achieved since she previously spoke at a Dare Conference event. They’ve got families going through the service now, and have been nominated for prizes which have enabled them to start paying wages to people on the team – a big step up.

They are doing work on the ground working with one NHS trust, and also have interest from companies in both the UK and Scandinavia in what they are doing.

It’s an intriguing area to look at from a tech development point of view. For political and ideological reasons there are people in the UK who think private business has no place in the provision of NHS-funded healthcare services. But start-ups like Andiamo and app DrDoctor which aims to save the NHS billions by shifting appointment bookings to SMS are seeking to innovate in healthcare in a way which the NHS is currently unable to.

Samiya believes very firmly in the mission of Andiamo. “The way things work right now doesn’t work for families” she said.


“Tampon Club” — Alice Bartlett

Founded—according to core77—by “a shadowy cabal of menstruating women”, Tampon Club is about leaving tampons and sanitary towels in workplace toilets, so they’re available when required.

The idea came from Alice Bartlett when she realised that between picking up a tampon from her locker and heading to the toilets, she’d been dragged into a work conversation where she spent the whole time with a clenched fist concealing the tampon she was carrying. Not the most relaxed stance to be faced with if you are a co-worker.

She was initially worried that a collective stash of tampons would be cleared away by cleaners if left in workplace toilets, so she put them in a Muji box, so they looked like they belonged, alongside a borrowed poster of Tim Berners-Lee saying “This is for everyone”.

Tampon Club survived that first encounter with corporate cleaners, and Alice has now had emails form people setting up tampon clubs as far afield as New York and as exotic as Basildon.

Where Alice works is now funding the tampons in the women’s toilets, something she hadn’t thought would be a possibility in the short-term. To get there though she had to endure 6 months of conversation with the man in charge of stocking stuff in the office who couldn’t bring himself to say tampon. He always called them “vendables” or “consumables”

Here’s Alice’s original blog post on Tampon Club.

Menstrual blood is something that comes out of your body as a result of being a live human being. I’ve never had to pay for toilet roll anywhere I’ve worked. I can’t see any reason why employers shouldn’t provide free tampons to women in the way they provide toilet roll to everyone.


“How I learned to tell personal stories about change” — Amy Wagner

Amy Wagner is an Agile coach, who works mainly with government departments. She also said she is an avid listener of podcasts and stumbled across an interesting study in the science of changing people’s minds.

It spoke about an experiment with changing people’s minds around the issue of same-sex marriage in the US. The study claimed to demonstrate that having someone talk about their personal experience of discrimination was more likely to cause a permanent change in someone’s attitude to equal marriage than bombarding them with facts and figures. However, when trying to dig out a link to it I found that it appears the study has been retracted because the data was faked.

Which is sort of by-the-by though, to be honest, because the lesson that Amy had taken from it into her own workplace still applies, and was the main point of her talk.

She said one of her biggest problems was encountering a certain kind of senior management type who was cynical of her message and fairly certain that they didn’t need to change anything they were doing.

So Amy found an advocate who had gone on the journey already. Somebody who was a civil servant who could tell the story of how she hadn’t believed any of this agile guff when first introduced to it, and then gradually converted to it over time. She’d started in the same place the listener was now, and was one of them, rather than an outsider preaching. That, Amy said, sparked more questions and interest and discussion than her hectoring and lecturing.

“We all make digital civilisation” — Anne McCrossan

Anne McCrossan was talking about her project “The Emergent Code Chronicles”. She said she wasn’t a digital native, but then went on to wow everybody in the room by revealing that one of her first clients in her first role at an ad agency was none other than Steve Jobs.

Anne helped launch Apple in the UK, and said when she saw the spray paint tool in MacPaint she had an epiphany that “this is going to change everything”

Her view now is that states developed historically once humans found a way of writing on stone tablets. This allowed people to make inventories. And inventories allowed states to measure and exercise control.

Anne feels that digital connectivity is bringing humans to a similar moment—partly evolutionary, partly about human behaviour.

With everyone digitally connected and amplified, Anna asked “We have BC and AD. What if this is a whole new chapter?”


“Being cheeky never hurt anybody” — Yee Mun Thum

Yee Mun Thum had originally titled her talk “founding an eyewear start-up” but said it should probably have been called “surviving founding an eyewear start-up”

She told two tales of being pushy and seeking forgiveness rather than asking permission, both of which put a big smile on my face.

In one tale, she explained how her company Scarlett of Soho was invited for a business mentoring sessions with [VERY FAMOUS ENTREPRENEUR REDACTED BY LAWYER]

Everyone on the team was really excited, but it transpired that only one person was allowed to go on the visit. Undeterred the whole team went on the coach taking them on the first part of the trip, convincing the people running it that it wasn’t a big deal. Next they had to walk to where they were meeting [VERY FAMOUS ENTREPRENEUR REDACTED BY LAWYER]. Again they persuaded the people running it that it would be fine if they all walked along. And so when they got to the destination, they were able to pull the “Well, we’re all here now. Is there really no way we all can’t go in?” bait/switch and effectively gate-crash.

Her second tale was about [A BIG CONFERENCE NAME REDACTED BY LAWYER]. They’d paid what for them was a considerable sum but what for the organisers was presumably peanuts to be one of the zillions of start-ups with stands at the conference expo. They were on day one and noticed firstly that the signage was easily removed and transportable, and that there were quite a few businesses who hadn’t rocked up to occupy their stalls. And so, on day two and day three they smuggled their gear in, and just set-up on empty stalls.

Yee Mun Thum’s lesson from this is that it is great to be surrounded by a team you can trust, who will also egg you on a bit to be bolder and take risks.


Disclosure: Together London gave me a complimentary ticket to attend the #dareconf party