STREAM! Europe Review by Leigh Gammons
Boarding the plane to Athens, it’s safe to say, I didn’t have a clue what to expect at WPP’s Stream event. I thought probably lots of creativity, some good people and maybe a bit of fun. In the end, it was so much more than that. It was, in fact, a non-stop stream (pun-intended) of new, unexpected and enlightening experiences.
We debated whether branded content is dead; heard the letters A and I thousands of times; discovered everyone is a little bit gay; found that lazy people can be the most productive; made some friends for life; saw a real life rocket-man; laughed uncontrollably; talked through the origins of karma; played charades at 5am and did a running jump into the sea each morning to shake off a hangover.
It was a lot to pack into 3 days and that’s no where near an exhaustive list. Each day was varied and every delegate was interesting, intelligent but above all else, inquisitive. It was this innate curiosity which was etched across the discussion groups and which shaped the sports sessions, dinners, beers and jokes. Insights are far more impactful when they are not delivered in a fabricated environment and the authenticity of Stream meant knowledge-sharing was free and easy. Here are some insights that were new to me and that will certainly stay with me.
To be successful you don’t need to know what you are supposed to be doing ALL of the time. In both business and life, extremely successful people do not always have a plan and, guess what…. that’s OK! Some of the most inspiring stories I heard came from opportunistic moments of brilliance as opposed to constantly slaving away against a 5 year plan.
There is a new way to get over that Monday morning feeling. Take a jet pack to work instead. For a cool half a million dollars — and at up to 70mph — you can avoid London’s Northern line, which, after this morning, seems a small price to pay.
Karma comes in many different guises but it’s a great principle to adopt in leadership. When faced with tough decisions, applying the theory of karma to your thinking can provide greater clarity around doing the right thing. This should lead to more trusting and mutually beneficial relationships but, more importantly, relationships which will stand the test of time and adversity.
Lazy people can be incredibly valuable. When motivated in the right way their productivity can often lead to efficiency and innovation (spoken like the true lazy person I am).
Being more open minded is something we all need to work on. Stream really teaches you to leave your inhibitions at the door and explore all the possibilities of the day. For example, I was playing in a band, with strangers, less than 3 hours after touching down in Athens. We now have our own WhatsApp group and are planning a reunion tour. The sky’s the limit! I must caveat this by being honest about the influence large amounts of Greek lager had upon this reunion tour, but, no regrets allowed at Stream.
A particular highlight had to be the talk with the former Greek Prime minister. He came across as a balanced, considered and deeply moral person who will always look to find common ground. He stood out in the world of politics today, where consideration appears to be a thing of the past and it feels as though we are moving away from the original principles of democracy.
There was a general feeling that honest and open-minded politicians are now forced to form populist and divisive opinions in order to gain support. It also made many wonder how different the conversation may have been if Mr. Papandreou was still in office. And whether he left politics frustrated that having a platform to voice your opinion now seems to come with a set of terms and conditions.
What set Stream apart from any other event that I have attended was the lack of any personal agenda. Delegates were global and household brands, major partners, awe-inspiring achievers and powerful influencers. However, there were no sales pitches or forced networking. Instead there were creative and natural interactions, often resulting in unforeseen discoveries. Most corporate gatherings focus on what people do and who they do it for. But Stream demonstrated that our time is better spent focusing on the importance of what people think and why they think it.
My final advice to new Streamers: the nights are long and the wine is strong, so a running jump into the sea each morning is essential.