Joining the DOTS in 2016


Friday 16th September 2016, Brighton Dome, Studio Theatre


DOTS, now in its third year, is a day of talks, TED-style but double TED length. Ten acts of advocacy and no time for Q and A. The lack of interaction is deliberate. This is a day to immerse yourself in content and the trick lies in the well curated diversity – from a story of change at Land Rover to a ballad-writing musician immersed in a Victorian workhouse.

Participants gathered for a busy, rich and full day…


In a packed Brighton Dome Studio we were glad to be out of the rain and the secret here is in the building up of the day. The interaction takes place in the breaks – the reflections and reactions, debate and discussion whether it be over a cuppa and an almond cake or a fabulous curry at the Chilli Pickle. The day builds and talks begin to connect and ideas to intersect. We start to join the dots.

It was at its best when it was humorous, cutting and insightful. I enjoyed it less when it was bullet pointed PowerPoint (fortunately rarer then many events I’ve attended).

By unashamedly going for largely one way communication it really is all about the curation. There were twelve very contrasting pieces and yet many speakers found themselves referencing other speakers during the day. (See the DOTS reading list for underlying inspiration). Dots were even joining up on stage.


Themed as “Connecting, Inspiration.Action” DOTS offered a fully loaded agenda of talks in Double Ted sized portions. It was one of 190 events in the Brighton Digital Festival. Founding partner Antony Mayfield opened the proceedings and then MC’d the day, summarising well, with humour and one immortal impersonatio …

We were invited to a day of curiosity,  asking the right questions and generating ideas  with an underlying theme that had informed the curation of getting “behind the scenes”.


A day to learn, listen, absorb, select, and mull over. But ultimately a day like this is about the golden insights. If you walk away with a handful of those, then the day is more than with your time. I found at least one golden insight in every talk at DOTS. Here they are …

Lydia Nicholas
Digital Anthropologist 
Title: Being Us Online

Golden Insights:

We are weird squishy mammals – we are complicated, understood by our biological roots and heritage, rooted in evolution, but also in our complexity and less predictable future potential.

Studying what is easy and can be done by cheap surveys but asking Why is a very expensive and strange question 

Anthropology has a lot to tell us about our digital lives. 

Our filter bubbles have become more like filter bunkers. The digital realm tends to polarise us into different, exclusive and limiting “camps” instead of helpfully connecting us up and finding easy and useful synergy.

Our public space has become s  divided we can really converse any more 

Most people don’t know what the cloud means. Privacy policies are designed not to be read – are they made deliberately obscure?

The concept of the cloud is not understood and is deliberately confusing 

Our imagined privacy is a self delusion 

Every act of disclosure is a choice with consequences 

Context Collapse occurs online (read more here)

We currently have leaky identities in the digital realm

Chris T-T
Writer and artist 
Singing in the Workhouse 

Chris is a professional songwriter and musician. With funding from an Arts Council and National Trust collaboration, Chris went artist-in-residence at a prototype workhouse in Southwell. (More on Chris here)

He immersed himself in the space and produced music and other artistic insights and outcomes. Largely he was inspired to write and compose a new set of ballads

Golden Insights:

Workhouses were precursors of the NHS 

In situ creativity can be priceless. Only when we immerse in context can we often really find out muse and socially relevant art and creativity

History leaves a footprint, and in that footprint, stories and lessons, insights and ideas still live

More on the project here:

Nina Jones
Jaguar Land Rover
Joining the dots at Jaguar Landrover to achieve unbelievable things 

Jaguar Land Rover sold half a million cars last year but is still a “troubled child)

Trying to create a movement across 20000 people is not easy, is hard work and there’s nothing better than getting out there among real people, in real dialogue. To create consistent behavior, the company created 5 “customer first principles”;

What customers want …

Easy to do business with
Make me feel special 

Golden Insights

Icons are everywhere and Iconography is powerful in a digital age – a language

Icons needs to be eloquent, artistic, simple and meaningful – inspiring and aiding memory

We begin with the customer = what do they really want – not our guess, but their true need

Nishma Robb
The power of communication in changing gender stereotypes

Her passion project, Nishma is Chair of Women at Google, As well as offering a talk, she showed us some powerful videos that demonstrate how gender used to be portrayed and how new creatives are changing the game. We are hit by 5000 adverts per day so there’s potential here to influence our consciousness of gender in a profound way. In a Google survey – half of women felt stereotyped or discriminated against and young women feel it is getting worse. (More on Nishma here and here)

Golden Insights:

A good place to start is in the media space. We can offer “antidote” images and media that turn prevailing views and prejudices upside down

Reach into education, surprise the children with what they can become, break down stereoptypes early – (here’s a wonderful example that Nishma shared)

Professor Vyv Evans
Bangor University 
Adding value to brands using emoji 

Based on research, Viv was the academic in the room and shared research into the growth and development of emojis. (More on Chris and his research here and watch his film)

Golden Insights

Messages nowadays are becoming made entirely of emoji. Emoji offer to possibilities for simplified expression, and potential complexity and even nuance when (and if) they become a shared sentence-based language

Emojis are a new and growing real mode of communication 

Emoji is the fastest growing new language 

Many younger people find it easier to express themselves using Emojis than through words 

Duncan Hammond
Guardian News and Media
Turning strategy into action 

In news oublishing there has been huge disruption in the market , sending many newspapers to the wall.  85 cents in every dollar of digital advertising goes to Google and Facebook. This is a huge challenge for the traditional media corporations such as the Guardian. Duncan shared how they’ve responded.

They identified 5 reasons for optimism and 5 unvarnished truths e.g questionable reader loyalty or unviable business model, not agile nor fit for the digital world . It seems the key has been to break the collusion of mediocrity and to get real.

Golden Insights:

Re-imagining journalism is not easy, requires unvarnished truths to be spoken and shared, and then turned into action, not as a big bang, but in human-scale steps

Huddles are  Cross functional teams and are vital to change. We break down traditional silos and change is not a peripheral thing but core to the work we do – it is rooted in a wish to be able to move faster, t be agile and no longer the slow, monolithic corporate dinosaur

There must be a real through line from and back to the strategy with OKRs – objectives and key results 

Dan Shute
Creature of London
People like dogs, don’t they ?

We heard the story of how Dan and his company has worked with the Green Party. Dan shared his version of the ten golden rules of advertising and how he and the Green Party broke every one of them. My golden insights pick a few of them. It was also key that any strategy was real. Really real! The Green Part wasn’t (and isn’t) yet a party of government. It wants to be heard, to agitate government. This requires a different approach, something more creative and off the wall.

Golden Insights:

F*ck pitches

Turn advertising on its head 

The rules of advertising could be a sign of a lack of trust 

“Just blithely set out to change the f*cking world”

Martin Gill 
Let customers lead your digital strategy 
Research Director

Thinking we know what customers want or need can lead to commercial disaster. Martin takes us back to Star Wars in his talk and points to the dangers of not listening to fans – you end up with box office pain and characters that make the wrong top tens.  (Read more of Martin’s research here) What was really needed and more recently successfully offered in the newest movies was the recognition there were “Awesome new fans” wanting “the same plot”

Golden Insights:

Do you really know what your customers want but also WHY?

Use both Surveys and ethnography 

Collaboration is key . Get the customers involved. In Star Wars, the Force Awakens, fans were invited to create the new droid, R2D2.

David Greenfield
Surviving the digital transformation 

David arrived on stage decked out in Adidas Gear. We saw a video of the Adidas brand and approach and some useful insights emerged…

Golden Insights:

Digital is a culture change. It runs deep and isn’t tokenistic

It’s hard work  – you have to work at it and you won’t get it right first time always. Learn from mistakes, be ready to try newness and adapt

So: Design and iterate  

Andy Whitlock
Head of brand at Lost My Name 
Messy, scary, stressful and joyful

Lost My Name  make “impossibly personal gifts”. Here we had a story from roots, through shoots to fruits. The company almost stumbled upon a new idea that has grown exponentially requiring fast innovation and people who share the love of the product. Personalising books has a cost to it but one supplier so loved the idea, they worked to make it work!

Golden Insights:

Archetypes.that are important to children and parents  E.g. a journey home  led to “Personalisation – my address”. This allows for a standard story to become important and unique to each child. 

Key process for developing the product: Hack, Hone, Operationalise , Optimise 

Find an idea people love  – Love really is all you need – from all key players, designers, innovators, suppliers and customers

Will Hudson
It’s Nice That 
Building it’s Nice That 

Created this while at university, It’s Nice That “believes passionately that creative inspiration is for everyone and by championing the most exciting and engaging work online, in print and through our events programme, we want to open up this world to the widest possible audience. Founded in 2007, It’s Nice That has grown across many platforms and has a reach of over half a million readers a month.”

Will shared the story, from first beginnings until now, looked ahead into the future and shared insights along the way.

Golden Insights:

Tone of voice is key. Then people know what they are engaging with. 

It is a  business founded on relationships  and this is key to success – ongoing and developing relationships

“Work hard”

Dream Big, Experiment small

Luke warm is no good 

Caroline Webb
How behavioural science can help us all to have a good day at work

“Caroline is CEO of Sevenshift, a firm that shows people how to use insights from behavioural science to improve their working life. Her book, How To Have A Good Dayis a best seller. She shared three main insights”

Research arising from Neuroscience  and Cognitive science is finally confirming what many more traditional sources of wisdom have been saying for millennia. There really are simple ways to function more happily and effectively in life and work. It has significant implications for how we use our digital devices as well!

Golden Insights:

Not every day can be a good one 

There’s a lot of life that’s about luck but what’s our wiggle room ? We certainly can influence how our days is going.

We can control more of our daily experience than we think – Tiny tweaks can have big effects on how our day feels 

You can edit your reality 

Our brain filters out what isn’t “top of mind” for us. But we can learn to re-prioritise and see beyond what our brain presents to us

How do we make time go further ? Multi tasking makes us slower, less accurate, wise or creative  – we need to take ourselves offline = We need to singletask more 

Impacting on other people’s moods… Our emotions are strangely contagious …We can decide what to put into a room — a mood … we can be more positive as a choice

Assume the person in front of us is good person who might be in current bad circumstances and get curious about the circumstances 

My Final Reflections

DOTS 2016 was a successful day for its variety of content and speakers – a well curated day. I think there is scope for some panel discussion and Q and A a couple of times during the day – not just Q and A but also speakers reacting to each other.Maybe even an Open Space the day or a week after!

That said, you can see from the insights I gained and shared above in this blog, it worked well for me! A place to be stimulated, disrupted in a good way, and to leave loaded with insights. Thank you DOTS, and Brilliant Noise, those dots are continuing to join up.

The Full Line Up (Speaker details here)

This was the full timed outline and line up of the day…

10.15 – 10-35

Lydia Nicholas
Being us online

10:35 – 10:55
Chris T-T
Singing in The Workhouse

10:55 – 11.15
Nina Jones
Joining the dots at Jaguar Land Rover to achieve unbelievable things

11:15 – 11:20
Experiments in design

11.20 – 11.40Morning Break
11.40 – 12:00
Nishma Robb
The power of communication in changing gender stereotypes

12:00 – 12:20
Vyv Evans
Adding value to brands with emoji

12:25 – 12:45
Duncan Hammond
Turning strategy into action

12:45 – 1:45The Chilli Pickle
14:00 – 14.20
Dan Shute
“People like dogs, don’t they?”

14:20 – 14.40
Martin Gill
Let customers lead your digital strategy

14.45 – 15:05
David Greenfield
Surviving the digital transformation

15.05 – 15.30Afternoon break
15.30 – 15:50
Andy Whitlock
Messy, scary, stressful and joyful

15:50 – 16.10
Will Hudson
Building It’s Nice That

16.10 – 16.30
Caroline Webb
How behavioural science can help us all to have a good day at work

16.30 – 17.00Close
17.00 – 20.00Drinks

About Paul Levy

Paul is a writer, thinker, facilitator, theatre-maker, and conversifier. He is the author of the book, Digital Inferno.

Posted on September 18, 2016, in Key themes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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