TEDx Glasgow: Innovation can power business in Scotland to new heights

A full evacuation of the Theatre Royal and a procession of fire engines, sirens blaring, was a suitably 'disruptive', if unplanned, start to Tedx Glasgow on 3 June.

The theme for the 2016 event – a day of presentations from leading thinkers, doers and innovators – was, after all, A Disruptive World.

The independently organised Ted (technology, entertainment, design) event was a highlight of the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design calendar, promoting and raising awareness of innovation in Scotland.

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Co-funded by the Scottish Government, the day of talks, lab sessions and discussions explored how “disruptive forces” can shape the ever-changing world around us.

Over 100 volunteers, partners and speakers contributed to the success of Tedx.

Curator Gurjit Singh Lalli kicked off proceedings, stating the aim of the event, which embodied the spirit of the Scotland CAN DO framework – to enable Scotland to become a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation.

“I want you to engage with the people around you, I want you to share your ideas and I want you to be disruptive,” said Singh Lalli. “Our mission is to support those great ideas.”

Aberdeenshire-born BrewDog is not a brand known for its conventionality. Founder James Watt was the first speaker of the day and explored the idea of fostering a disruptive company culture. Watt attributes the success of his craft brewery to breaking with tradition and bridging the gap between the company and the customer.

“The best companies are the ones that have as little as possible between themselves and their customers,” he explained.

“Everyone inside and outside your organisation needs to know what you do, how you do it and why you do it.”

Watt practices what he preaches – there are no secret ingredients at BrewDog and recipes for its beers are made available to the public so they can try them out at home.

Cyber security

Global head of security at Sophos James Lyne’s presentation was a wake-up call.

Lyne talked about “Nigerian prince emails” in which people are contacted by members of a “royal family” seeking to transfer money out of the country and explained how while this kind of scam is easy to spot, cyber crime is becoming more sophisticated.

“There has been a huge increase in high quality social engineering,” he said. “That’s people asking you nicely to give your data away.”

Trainee lawyer Ruairidh Wynne-McHardy pitched his idea to encourage the legal profession to embrace innovation and technology.

Technology has revolutionised countless industries but “cautious, analytical and conservative” lawyers are yet to realise its potential.

“We have flirted a little bit but we haven’t really committed,” he said.

He suggested that we put our solicitors on the spot and ask them how they use legal technology.

“It is a culture of expectation that will force lawyers to sit up and take note,” he said.

The drive to encourage entrepreneurship in Scotland is a hot topic but it was “intrapreneurship” that was the buzzword at Tedx Glasgow.

The term was coined by Steve McCreadie, founder of the Lens, who spoke about how to nurture intrapreneurial talent within existing organisations.

“The Lens develops people and ideas and it helps organisations realise the talent and creativity that’s in their teams,” he explained.

“Many of us have great ideas but we don’t always have the ability to transform them into action.

“Intrapreneurship is simply thinking like an entrepreneur within an organisation.”

The spotlight in recent years has been on Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem but with more of a focus on intrapreneurship, talent within organisations will be recognised.

“We can create super computers of people by creating communities of intrapreneurs,” said McCreadie. “Let’s find our intrapreneurs and connect them because that will change the world.

“Tedx is about sharing ideas and the Lens is about turning those ideas into actions so what better fit.

“I don’t think I’ve been to an event with such a rich, diverse mix of people who are interested in looking ahead. What I’m interested in now is what actions flow as a result.”

“Don’t just be a spectator” was the message from Ellis Watson, chief executive of DC Thomson, who gave an inspirational talk entitled Disrupt yourself or die trying.

Success is the result of hard work and sticking to what you know won’t encourage innovation.

“Don’t stop trying,” Watson told the Tedx audience. “Don’t stop discovering. Don’t stop doing things for the first time.

“Stop conforming. Try running whatever distance you think might be too much for you. Then the next day you will go that little bit further.

“Ask yourself when was the last time you did something for the first time.”

Jason Leitch, national clinical director, Scottish Government, shook up the stereotype of the NHS dealing with patients as statistics rather than individuals by explaining the “What matters to me” initiative.

By writing what’s important to them on a whiteboard by their hospital bed, patients and staff can build more meaningful, caring relationships.

Scheduled breaks throughout the day were a chance to meet other delegates, swap notes on the presentations and check out the latest developments in Scottish technology on Innovation Avenue.

Edinburgh start up Neatebox demonstrated a proximity-aware automatic button press which uses Bluetooth to help people with impaired vision or mobility cross the road safely.

Meanwile, PufferSphere showcased the world’s first small format spherical display solution.

It was an opportunity to see the electronic hand developed by Tedx speaker Dr Ravinder Dahiya’s team at Glasgow University in action.

In his talk Animating the inanimate world, Dahiya explored why we have created machines without senses and said the future of robotics is electronic skin.

Cyber resilience lab

Scotland’s small businesses are “unconcerned and unprepared” to face the threat from cyber crime.

That was the finding of a research report published by KPMG in February 2016 and the theme of the Tedx Glasgow lab session, The rise of cyber crime as a disruptor to business but do we care, hosted by the Scottish Government.

“There’s a threat. It’s real, it’s growing and we need to accept that it’s worldwide,” said Keith McDevitt of the Scottish Government’s cyber resilience team.

The former policeman led the discussion on how we can wake up small businesses to the reality of the effects of cyber crime.

Ken Main, owner of Glasgow salon Ellen Conlin Hair, explained what happened when he realised he was the victim of a ransomware attack last October.

“We have 4,500 people on our database and all their information that was on the computer was encrypted at 3am one day, prior to a backup, so we couldn’t do anything to alleviate it,” said Main.

The salon lost three days’ business as the attack affected the appointment reminder system.

In a bid to retrieve his clients’ data, Main paid the ransom demand but 80 per cent of the information remained encrypted.

“My wife was in tears, she thought we had lost the business.”

The Scottish Government has been pushing forward an agenda on digitisation, led by the cyber resilience team.

“Do you have any idea if you have a cyber criminal inside your phone?” McDevitt asked delegates.

“I’m not sure how much I care and that’s probably the issue.

“The threat is not something you can see, feel, touch or smell like other threats, but the vast majority of it is preventable.

“There’s a lesson here but are we too busy to care or is the message not getting to us in a way that we can engage with it.”

• This article was produced in partnership with the Scottish Government