Ta da! Here comes Meaning 2015…

We’ve been hard at work putting together this year’s Meaning and it’s time to draw back the curtain and give you a peek at what we’ve been up to.

This is a year of transition for Meaning. But before I talk about the future I feel the need to recognise its past. Meaning grew out of NixonMcInnes. It was the brainchild of Jenni Lloyd (me), produced by Louise Ash and curated first by Will McInnes and then Tom Nixon.

Initially I wanted to find a way of positioning our consultancy within the radical business community — to find a channel to share our belief that business should be a part of the solution; to make connections, learn and instigate positive change. I presented an outline* to the board in June 2011 — which Will promptly gave the code name ‘Tiger Whallop’, before pouring energy, ideas and commitment into it. We weren’t sure if it would work, or how it would be received so we kept it fairly separate from NixonMcInnes. It looked different, it was staffed separately and it’s fair to say that we learnt a lot as we went along.

And it was ace. A truly great day that made us all so proud, inspired and energised that there was no doubt we should carry on and do it again. And again. And again.

NM has undergone a radical transformation in the last year, moving from being an in-house team of consultants to an associate and partner-based operating model. This fundamentally affects the purpose of Meaning — as there’s now no real need for a conference that supports a particular positioning or creates a pipeline of clients. But we know that Meaning has a life of its own — that there’s a committed Meaning community and that we have the drive and energy to continue to run it.

So this year Meaning has grown up and left home. It’s not something that most people will notice — we might look a little different, but we’re still working to our original goals. We’re here to convene the community, to inspire, to connect and to support people to create change in the world around us. And we’ll still do the best conference lunch around.

Today we launched our shiny new website — made with love by Louise Ash, Ollie Aplin and Luke Greenaway. And with it we’ve announced our first tranche of speakers. This is the first time I’ve curated the event and it’s an interestingly complex task — a blend of voraciously consuming amazing ideas and stories, and herding cats. I’m privileged that so many great people have made the time to talk to me and discuss their ideas, and so grateful that they’ve said yes. Here’s a quick run down of what you can expect:

James Vaccaro, head of strategy at Triodos Bank
James thinks it’s time to re-imagine the role of banks in shaping our society. He believes that banks have the power to put human wellbeing above profit — a belief that has helped build Triodos’ reputation as one of the leading ethical operators in a deeply troubled sector.
Jackie Lynton, head of transformation at NHS Horizons
Jackie is bringing change to the NHS. She believes in working through the disruptive power of connection rather than hierarchy. At Meaning, Jackie will use the story of NHS Change Day and the School for Radicals to show how its possible to create a grassroots movement in an old-school bureaucracy.
Jaideep Prabhu, Professor of Marketing at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
In his book — ‘Frugal Innovation’ Jaideep argues that the western model of innovation is bloated, wasteful and out of sync with current market realities. At Meaning we’ll discover what can be learnt from emerging markets where frugal approaches to innovation are creating competitive advantage.
Marcus Coates, artist
Best known for his shamanic performances, artist Marcus Coates channels the practices of ancient cultures in an attempt to communicate between the human and animal worlds. At Meaning, he will be inviting us to place greater value in our subconscious mind and to use its power to solve the problems we face in life and in business.

I’ve learnt so much through this process and been so inspired — I’m really excited to know how everyone else will respond to our speakers and their ideas on the day. We’ll continue to share details of our other speakers over the coming months, so follow us on Twitter to stay up to date.

Lots has changed since the first Meaning — not least the number of other events that have popped up to serve the community. We take this as a sign that the movement towards better business is growing, that there is an appetite for change and a cohort of people looking for others like them.

To keep things fresh we’re planning a few new twists this year:

We want to broaden the audience to include a more diverse blend of people, so we’re introducing ‘gift seats’. Any of our supporters can buy an additional ticket, which can then be gifted to someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to come.

Excitingly, we’re planning an unconference the day after the main event — a chance for the community to come together and take action. We’ll provide the space, the food and caffeine — whoever shows up are the right people and whatever happens is the only thing that could have. If you’ve got a session you want to run or something you’d like to contribute, get in touch.

And lastly, we’ve always wished we had a backchannel for the community to get to know each other, share their ideas and plans and generally help everyone get connected. So we’ve set up a Meaning social space on Slack — it’s informal, easy to use and free so send us an invite request by email and we’ll get you set up.

So please — check out the new site, book out Thursday November 12th in your calendar — and buy a ticket!

*Here’s a link to the original Tiger Whallop document — it’s like Meaning’s birth certificate. I haven’t cleaned it up and I haven’t asked permission from the others who contributed to it — but I thought someone, somewhere might be interested.