#AgileBizConf18 – Were you there?

Blog post
By Pam Ashby | 28 September 2018

It’s conference season, and the same question’s being repeated – through the corridors of power, and across a variety of different sectors and professions. “How was your conference?” 

In the week following the Agile Business Conference over 300 people are likely being asked this question. What are they saying? If you were there, how do you answer?

This wasn’t a conference to provoke a ‘Fine, thank you’ response!

United behind a purpose

I spoke to one delegate who said this was the fourth conference he’d been to this month – by my reckoning that’s more than one a week! He was quite clear that this one stood out as the only one where every single person he had met was united behind a passion for finding new ways of working and improving their business agility and adaptability. It was great to hear, but I wasn’t surprised. The energy was palpable and lasted from the moment Dr Sue Black (OBE) delivered her opening keynote until Professor Eddie Obeng had delegates demonstrating how they needed to overcome their ‘formatting’ to break out of constrained thinking.

In his closing address, Consortium Chair Geof Ellingham applauded everyone’s “presence, curiosity and enquiry” and confirmed that all the sessions, discussions, case studies, roundtables and keynotes had pointed towards one single imperative – People First.

Geof’s advice to conference goers was “Now find some space to process what you’ve been listening to. Find the time to consider what you’re going to do differently.”

Removing the fear to move forward

There was a lot to process. It was an impressive line up. Dr Sue Black shared her personal and professional story. She told it with authenticity and transparency, highlighting hardships and mistakes, and clearly demonstrating the power that results when you have an Agile approach and are not afraid to start with small steps, get feedback, and then ask “What do we do next?” Sue was responsible for leading the campaign that saved Bletchley Park, the top-secret home of the World War Two Codebreakers. She explained how this had been home to over five thousand women during the war, and how that had inspired her to protect it. Sue remains a passionate advocate for women in tech.

Liam Russell is Staffing Business Partner at Google. He shared how Google lives by the results of the Project Aristotle research, which highlighted that excellent teams are defined not by the skill sets within them but by cultural aspects such as psychological safety, purpose and supporting growth. 

Dr Nicola Millard of BT believes strongly that the death of traditional 9 to 5 working demands a complete rethink about the structure of the workplace and how people communicate. “Email is a terrible collaboration tool,” she told me. I have to agree. 

Constant brilliant interactions

The conference included Agile thinkers from education, HR, procurement, sales and marketing, and across the widest range of industries. Bill Mills, CEO of Explore Learning is building ‘a generation of fearless learners’ through ‘constant brilliant interactions’. Professor Eddie Obeng implores us to realise that we need to learn to ‘overcome our existing formatting’ to face the challenges of the new world, and Consortium Chair Geof Ellingham confirms that ‘in the end it’s all about putting people first.’

Add to those messages that the conference included guide dogs, puppets, filming opportunities, and a coaching corner where delegates could benefit from specific sessions with the expert, and it becomes clear why the answer to ‘How was your conference?” is most likely to be

“Truly amazing.”

See you next year.


If you missed the 2018 Agile Business Conference, you can catch up with videos of the sessions at


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