Guest Post – Off Island, IdeasUK Conference 2011


Today’s guest blog is from What’s the PONT – Bridging People and Ideas… Many thanks for an excellent article and glad you enjoyed the conference. Readers, please do visit What’s the PONT‘s blog for more interesting articles.

This week I’ve been spending some time ‘off island’ at the IdeasUK 25th annual conference.  It has been brilliant.

IdeasUK is an unusual organisation. It was set up 25 years ago as a not for profit, membership led association, for organisations interested in staff suggestion schemes. Their original focus is still hugely relevant, particularly when you link it to the experience of their Membership in: employee engagement, staff empowerment, innovation, new/improved products, better service delivery and greater efficiency / better value for money. All very high on the agenda in the current climate.

The conference brings together people interested in these areas, then it rolls in an Idea of the Year Award Ceremony, about 12 workshops and 3 keynotes all over 2 days (in fabulous Cardiff). It is an astonishing event, possibly the most diverse thing I’ve ever been to.

Somehow they manage to successfully ‘hot house’ people from different countries and cultures (I have shared a lunch table with a Southern Baptist from Texas and a strict Muslim from Dubai); different sectors (private and public) and organisations (energy generation to distilling and banking to border protection).

You can get to rub shoulders with someone who works on the production line in an aluminum smelting plant, runs a call centre at a Healthcare provider or directs a multibillion dollar research programme for a huge pharmaceutical company. Pretty diverse I think.

What unites these people is their interest in ideas; how you generate them, manage them and turn them into something useful. What delights me is how everyone will openly share their knowledge and experience on the subject, a common ground that brings together some really interesting and inspiring people. I’m looking forward to next year already.

By the way, the ‘Off Island’ expression refers to something I picked up at the conference. One of the Keynotes spoke about ‘Island Theory’. In essence he said that a species on an isolated island will become perfectly adapted to that environment. Species on the ‘mainland’ have to deal with competition from other species; as a result they are stronger, fitter, healthier etc. Organisations can often exist on ‘islands’, even if there is ‘in sector’ competition. Going ‘off island’ to the ‘mainland’ involves exposure to organisations, cultures and ideas from outside of your sector, which has to be a good thing. The IdeasUK conference was certainly a ‘Off Island’ experience or me. Over the next few posts I’ll share some more tdetails of what I learned.

So, what’s the PONT?

  • Going ‘Off Island’ is essential if you want to experience some diversity, difference and new ideas.
  • Be open and prepared to share experience and knowledge. The more you give, the more you get back.
  • Just because someone is from a completely different and remote island, don’t assume they can’t teach you something. I saw some amazing connections and synergies  emerge over the 2 days.
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