The scene was set right from the start of Disruption 2014, when Katie Mihell challenged us all in her opening address. She told us this conference would undoubtedly engender change in each of us fortunate enough to be there, so what we needed to focus on was ensuring that those changes were big and impactful and, that we left Port Douglas bold, brave and ready to implement.
Megan Quinn’s opening keynote kicked straight into the need to change thinking around retail, with creativity being an absolute essential of winning the hearts and minds of modern day customers via constructing a world they want to be part of. Megan speaks with enormous credibility and as one of the founders of Net a Porter, she definitely created a world I love being part of! The thrill of a beautifully packaged Net a Porter black box arriving is always a delicious experience.
Megan’s thoughts around communication and customer collaboration, linked with Catriona Wallace’s analysis around the added value delivered when the customer is able to be involved in the design of their experience, certainly stimulated my thinking around the work we are doing at Epic on our new digital products.
Sophisticated use of data and customer information to increase personalisation was another theme that continued to thread through the sessions. The QT wifi was put to the test as we all downloaded Pandora radio after hearing Jane Huxley explain how they use sophisticated algorithms to create a truly personalised music stream, and while I don’t think there were too many in the room who hadn’t already spent time playing on the Shoes of Prey website to design their dream shoes, hearing Jodie Fox speak about the tech that drives it was really enlightening.
In addition to the sessions that challenged us from a business perspective, there were just as many sessions that challenged on a personal front. I don’t think anyone present will ever look at nutrition information again without dividing the grams of sugar by 4 and contemplating whether they really want to consume that many teaspoons of sugar after hearing Michelle Chevalley speak! Therese Kerr also challenged us to think about the chemicals we were bombarding our largest organ — our skin — with every day, while Lyndey Milan and the many women from agribusinesses in attendance really opened our eyes to the challenges of life on the land and the need to support Australia’s farmers and their wonderful produce.
These were just a few of my take aways from the huge array of fantastic speakers over the few days, but despite the fantastic content in the sessions, the magic really happens outside. It was impossible to go anywhere over the course of the conference without finding women deep in conversation, generously sharing their advice and friendship and providing invaluable contributions to each others lives and businesses.
The real value we all place on these conversations hit home when the music started and no one immediately got up to dance; a highly unusual scenario when you get a large group of women in a tropical location away from their businesses and families! I’m happy to report that the dance floor did eventually fill and, until photographic evidence to the contrary is submitted, I’m refusing to own up to any physio-unapproved dance floor action!
The friendships that form are lasting and deliver real and ongoing value, and as we each move forward on our bold, brave journeys of Disruption, we do so in the knowledge we have this extraordinary support network to cheer us along, celebrate our successes and lift us back up again with support and encouragement when times get tough.
Thanks so much to Commonwealth Bank and the Women in Focus team for your passionate support for women in business, it means the world.
Photo credit to the gorgeous Frankie Pollick, who does such an amazing job of capturing the spirit of these events in her images.