TBD Conference 2019 – ‘Risk / Reward’ had been talked about long before it happened earlier this month in London. Creator of TBD, Paul Armstrong, has been building a reputation over recent years for creating thought-provoking events under the #TBDConf banner.

However, by all accounts Risk / Reward TBD 2019 was something special. T/F/D was privileged to provide support to Paul on the day (full disclosure), however we think the hundreds of attendees would still agree with us – this event was surprisingly inspiring.

It hosted a heavy-weight list of presenters, including: Tom Standage, Deputy Editor of The Economist to John Ware, veteran BBC reporter, as well as representation from well known brands such as PwC, Google, Twitter and Slack  The conference also included some people who we met for the first time in Sam Conniff, Author of ‘Be More Pirate’, Jane Evans, Founder at The Uninvisibility Project and Amy Williams from Good-Loop.

For the purposes of this post, we will zoom in on just a few of the presentations – so we’ve chosen to outline key points from Tom Standage, Sam Conniff and Jane Evans:

Tom Standage, Deputy Editor of The Economist – State of The Global Nation

Natalia Talkowska’s graphical representation of Tom Standage’s presentation

Tom opened up the day with a whistle-stop tour of the big 10 macro-trends to watch out for in 2020. Don’t worry, we won’t be detailing all 10 here. But there were a number of trends Tom presented that we wanted to highlight:

  • New World Disorder: Tom outlined how the traditional global rules of trade and geopolitics alive since the Second World War are currently being rewritten, with unsurprisingly Donald Trump and the Brexit proponents a key driving force. The result is unprecedented uncertainty over the next few years from an economic standpoint
  • The Techlash Intensifies: Bi-partisan U.S. dislike of tech giants and more pointedly the huge influence that tech giants have, are affecting elections. Instagram is increasingly a forum for misinformation due to the viral nature of Instagram and the power of Chinese tech companies outside of China – Huawei and TikTok which forms a good argument for keeping off deregulation of U.S. tech companies
  • Climate Inaction: Generally public sentiment is shifting towards more action. Companies are therefore being expected to move into this leadership vacuum. There also needs to be new technology such as ‘direct air capture’ to start negative omissions initiative.

Sam Conniff, Author of ‘Be More Pirate’ – Professional Rule Breaking

Sam Conniff, Author of ‘Be More Pirate’ – Professional Rule Breaking

After talking to a lot of companies over the past year, Sam has come up with a framework for business rules that need breaking. These rules fall into three areas: siloes and hierarchy, permissions and communications. 

Sam presented a redefinition of what breaking a rule truly is – ‘rule breaking is not longer the risky thing to do, it’s the only responsible thing to do’. 

In addition, he outlined how we can break the rules:

  1. Learn how to ask really, really, really difficult questions
  2. Find more than one way to ask why something is being done e.g. Toyota’s ‘theory of five whys
  3. Break rules from the heart (like you mean it)
  4. Rules have to be written with those who will follow them
  5. Very civil disobedience – saying sorry and doing it anyway
  6. Mutiny is the beginning of the workplace rebellion – Sam had a great example of a workshop where the whole room stood up, except for the CEO, to design a new rule for the business
  7. Success is getting nearly fired once a year – because then something is really happening.

Sam also asked for those listening for feedback on whether he should start his new ‘anti-consultancy’ based on this research – the feedback was resounding ‘yes’. So, good luck Sam in 2020!

Jane Evans, Founder at The Uninvisibility Project – You Ungrateful Motherf*ck$rs

Jane Evans, Founder at The Uninvisibility Project

Later in the day Jane presented around the touching, alarming and inspiring issue of women over 50 in the workplace – women over 50 are the most powerful consumer group on the planet, as they buy 47% of everything.

However, a generation of women despite fighting for equal opportunities, paid maternity leave and sexual harassment laws are now one of the fastest growing demographics in the UK likely to commit suicide.

Over one third of over fifties face long-term unemployment and its much worse for women. Women have 31% of men’s pensions, because maternity leave was not readily available, and 72% of men’s earnings in general.

A harrowing statistic.

But there was also lighter notes – particularly Jane’s point about Helen Mirren always being the photo the media uses for 55+ (who is 74) – an amorphous oversimplification of this growing demographic. 

Thank you for an incredible presentation Jane!

Also, a special shout out to Esi Yankey, Founder of Poetry Prescribed, for her motivating poetry ‘the new norm’. And to all those on other speakers which we didn’t mention in this post specifically – you were brilliant too!

A big thank you to Paul Armstrong for organising this amazing event – we can’t wait for the next one in Los Angeles next year!