Before the doors had even opened onto the sixth Virgin Disruptors event, people were already getting down to business and making eager introductions in the line that ran down the road and around the corner. Four sessions, eight hours, 15 speakers, 650 ticket holders, and countless cups of coffee later, so what was the verdict?
I caught up with some of the attendees to get their hot take on the order of the day, and find out what they really think disruption is all about. This is what I learned:
1. Everyone loves Richard
"I’m here to see Richard Branson, because he’s my hero, my biggest inspiration," Katy told me, as we sipped our morning coffee before the sessions kicked-off. Unsurprisingly, lots of people were just as excited to hear Richard speak, and took away plenty of inspiration from his thoughtful reflections on being a business leader. For one woman, Helen, it was a real 'pinch-me' moment: "When I first started my business, I used to watch hours of videos with advice from Richard Branson, and I had his quotes all over my walls, so it was almost him who gave me confidence to do it, so that’s why I’m here today."
2. Networking was the order of the day
Mingling over drinks after the final session, with stunning views down to London’s iconic Tate Modern and the Shard, Elroy told me, "It’s been fantastic for networking because the people here are so diverse but we have that common energy of making change, disrupting, doing things differently, and having some consideration for the environment and people." He wasn’t the only one busily swapping business cards with likeminded people, as "networking" came up countless times in my chats. Victoria, an entrepreneur and big Richard Branson fan, said the chance to meet new people and be open with them was the most memorable part of her experience: "I liked the guy [Dominic Price, Atlassian] who got us to speak with someone you didn’t know, and you shared your fears and they shared theirs back. It was quite refreshing to say it out loud, because you think it a lot when you’re on your own at home, working alone…"
3. It’s time to start leading with purpose
It’s a topic that ran through the programme, as speakers discussed their values and thoughts on how to use leadership to make a positive change. For Peter, a product designer looking to make his next step, it unlocked an entirely new mindset: "From my product design point of view, I now want to add an element of sustainability. I can see that’s useful in the future, and I can see it’s something I can do now."
4. Collaboration is key to success
Katie, an entrepreneur and business owner, said she had one big take-away from the event: "Empowering my staff - not just leading them but empowering them to lead themselves." Karen agreed, saying the one big thing she had learned was "the belief in how important your people are in making this happen. At the end of the day it comes down to a person’s idea, the commitment to do it and the determination to stick it through."
5. Start before you’re ready
It was a line from the day’s MC, Holly Ransom, that struck a chord with a number of people, including Kolleen, a risk manager: "I’m quite a perfectionist, so a few things stood out to me - how 80 percent is good enough, and Holly saying 'start before you’re ready'. Those are the key things that made me think I should apply that a lot more in my life." Helen reflected on the same theme, telling me "it doesn’t have to be 100 per cent finished, just get it out there, just act on it. There are people here like me, who work for themselves, who don’t have fancy offices or massive budgets, who are doing amazingly well, and there’s no reason I can’t do that."
6. Disruption is what you make it
It was a topic everyone had a point of view on.
Simon felt true disruption had only just begun: "Disruption is changing the way in which business is done, more efficiently, more quickly. Innovation is part of the picture, and there is so much more innovation and disruption to come. My mind is buzzing."
Karen thought Disruption was about radical change and creating value: "It means doing it differently, dong it really radically differently in a way that adds real value to real people."
Peter said it was about redefining your comfort zone: "Disruption means pushing yourself a little bit and not just carrying on with status quo; allowing yourself to go out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself even if it’s a bit uncomfortable.” Kuljit agreed, saying it was all about your state of mind and “being comfortable with being uncomfortable."
But I’ll give the last words to Elroy, who I think captured the essence of the day perfectly: "Disruption, for me, means getting out there and doing things differently, facing your fears, embracing change, being adaptable and thinking about making a change whilst being innovative and courageous in your steps forward."
If you joined us in London and would like to share your highlights and how you've been inspired to make a change in your world, drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Virgin Disruptors 2016.
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