Saturday, 16 March 2013

Flatliners, innovation and Inspiration

The latter part of the UCISA conference was excellent. The conference dinner on Thursday night was held in the crypt of the Catholic Cathedral, which I didn't know existed. Looking a bit like the Great Hall at Hogwarts, it was designed by Lutyens in 1930, built between the wars, and was going to be the base of an enormous new cathedral. However, after WW2 the money ran out and it was never built  - just the crypt remains under the modern cathedral. I had the privilege of sitting next to Mark Ormrod, a remarkable man, of which more later, and Martin Bayfield,  Rugby international. Boy, was he tall - just under 7ft I reckon!  Usual evening of food, amusing afterdinner speech from Martin, charity raffle, and some shots in the bar afterwards which seemed like a good idea at the time. Flatliners - Tequila, Sambuca and Tabasco. If anyone ever offers you one, say no.

Friday morning we had three external speakers. First was David Cotterril from DWP talking about an innovation game he implemented called Ideastreet. I've seen him speak before and blogged about it here. Worth a read, and his video clips are worth watching as well. This sort of crowdsourced innovation is something we hope to implement with Ideascale. There's a case study of it here.

Next up was Mike Bracken from the Cabinet Office, about the transformation work he's leading in government on their Digital by Design projects. Again, I've heard him speak before (that's how we get good speakers), and blogged about it here. Another really interesting and relevant talk about what we do with our legacy systems, how we move to totally digital processes, and the challenges around it. Some great stuff being done in government, such as the car tax site (everybody's number one), and we got a sneak look at a dashboard which had been developed for the Prime Minister.

Finally we had Adrian Woolard, Head of R and D at the BBC based in Media City in Salford. I hadn't heard him speak, but he had been recommended to me by Rory Cellan-Jones via Twitter! He gave a great insight into some of the developments that the BBC are working on. My favourite were the telethrones - full height 3-d projections to replace video conferencing. Photo by Gareth Edwards.

All of the above talks were recorded  and are worth watching - I'll post a link when they're available which should be in next couple of days.

The closing talk is always a motivational or inspiring one, and this one was truly inspirational. It was a young man called Mark Ormrod, who was a Royal Marine in Afghanistan and on Christmas Eve in 2007 he stood on an IED. It exploded and blew both of his legs and one arm off.   I could not possible do justice to his talk by describing it. It was gripping, shocking, awful and funny as Mark interjected his own black humour. Mostly it was gripping - at one point as Mark described the moments after the blast where he realised what had happened to him and asked his colleague to shoot him, I looked round and everyone had their hands to their faces with dropped jaws. Not a sound in the room. He was initially told he would never walk again, but now he walks with prosthetic legs and hasn't used a wheelchair for 4 years. His legs are amazing! With a cpu in the knee and using bluetooth to communicate between all of the sensors, the technology is very special.  A very inspirational young man, and if you get chance to hear him speak you should.

So, another great conference over, and I'm still on the organising committee, so time to start planning the next!

EDIT:  The talks are all now available here.

No comments: