What can you say about 2016? A strange and disconcerting year in so many ways. But there is also lots to be grateful for. Every year around this time I write myself a kind of end of year review listing all the main things I've been involved with throughout the year, as a way of taking a step back and looking at the shape of what's been going on. A kind of 'yearnote', I guess (like weeknotes but longer). Opportunities to look at the bigger picture of what I've been doing are rare, but it's been seven years now since I launched my own business, so it's a valuable thing for me to do. 2016 has been a bit scrappy, but I'm fortunate in that it's been another busy year and one in which it feels as though some important things have moved forwards. So in no particular order:
- We ran another ten Google Firestarters events this year and covered some fascinating themes including the future of digital advertising, artificial intelligence, and 'fast' in planning. Speaker highlights included some great talks from Adam Morgan, Tracey Follows, Martin Weigel, Ian Leslie, Tom Goodwin, Dr Nicola Millard, Tom Chatfield, Patricia McDonald, James Haycock. Our Performance Marketing strand of events provided a great counterpoint to the planning Firestarters (it's always so interesting to juxtapose the discussions), focusing on programmatic, AI and automation. And we did another two events in Auckland and Sydney which were both enormous fun.
- I seemed to do a lot of webinars this year. This included my regular talks on innovation and change for the Google Squared programme, and a whole series on a similar subject for a digital leadership programme
- Speaking of digital leadership, my work in this area (which has been growing over the past few years) seemed to take on a whole new level this year. We really have come to the point I think, where the most senior leaders in large organisations are recognising that they need to get a far more intuitive and fundamental grasp of what digital truly means not only in terms of innovation, product development and service delivery, but also organisational agility, culture and working practices. It's really gratifying to see. So in 2016 I ran a whole series of senior leadership workshops for a global FMCG (I really enjoyed travelling to New York, Lausanne, Munich and Tokyo as part of this), and others for a large financial business, one for a supply chain management team in a large services provider, a session for a UK utilities provider, and one for a global telecoms company, and also projects for fascinating businesses such as Camelot and LEGO
- Alongside my work in digital transformation and leadership, I ran a number of digital marketing training and strategy workshops with companies as diverse as Merlin Entertainment (which meant I got to go to LegoLand Florida - yay!), Speedo (which meant I got to go to Nottingham - yay!), another FMCG (which meant I got to go to Brussels and eat my weight in Moules Mariniere), Casio and EDF. I also did a series of public Digital Marketing fasttracks with Econsultancy which meant I got to meet some great people from a whole range of companies, and I did my first Guardian Masterclass this year, something which I hope to do more of next year.
- Digital Transformation consultancy ran alongside a some of the workshop work, including projects for a large sports apparel company helping with structures, and one for a national charity looking at transforming fundraising.
- I really enjoyed doing the speaking gigs this year, and spoke at the Festival Of Marketing, Travel Tech Europe, Ad Week, Magic IT Summit, International Management Seminar in Madrid, CAMP in Lima, Peru, and MCI conference in Marrakech. I also did a whole series of one off in-company talks and sessions for organisations like TUI, a couple of UK County Councils, the London College of Communications, the IAPI in Dublin, and MC & C
- I've been leading Econsultancy's quarterly trends service Digital Shift now for four years, and this year saw another four reports and associated webinars. Doing Shift has always meant that I need to keep track of (and make sense of) a rapidly moving environment which is a good discipline and useful for my other work as well
- I'm biased of-course but Dots is consistently one of my favourite conferences of the year, not least becuase it means I get to work with Antony Mayfield and the smart folk at Brilliant Noise in curating it. This was the third Dots Conference. Highlights for me included talks by Duncan Hammond from The Guardian, Caroline Webb, Andy Whitlock, Lydia Nicholas, and Dan Shute (you can see the talks here)
- Alongside the client work, there has of-course been some important side projects. Fraggl has continued to grow this year, and we've had some plans in place for a good while to do some upgrades and improvements to the algorithm but if I'm brutally honest we just haven't had the space and time in amongst everything else - but it's not forgotten and we'll rectify this early next year
- My weekly newsletter had it's sixth birthday this year, and there was another 46 editions. The subscriber community grew nicely which I'm happy about. It's always difficult to judge the return on the time invested but that's not really the point in doing it - I enjoy it, people seem to get a lot from it, and there is a real and growing community around it.
- I wrote 104 blog posts this year - a bit less than last year which I guess is not surprising given the other writing I was doing. And I still haven't moved off Typepad. But blogging still gives me enormous value. It's my thinking aloud. I couldn't do what I do without it. So I am of-course going to continue
- And speaking of writing. 2016 was of-course the year in which I wrote a book. I've been writing about organisational agility for over five years and putting all my thinking into a published book has been a long-term ambition. It was something of a marathon trying to write it amongst all the mortgage paying work but I'm very happy with the result and it will be published by Kogan Page in early April next year. As I've said before, I see this as the start of a conversation and a community around the whole topic of agility and digital transformation - it's such a focus for so many businesses right now and there's plenty of new, challenging and useful thinking in the space. I'll be writing more about it here of-course, but our starting point is a Medium publication and a subscriber list where we'll be sharing our thinking and some exclusive content ahead of the launch. So do give us a follow, sign up, and let us know what you think.
It's no exaggeration to say that 2016 has been an extraordinary year, and not always (outside of work) in a good way. But as always I'm grateful for a steady stream of interesting projects, the great people that I've met along the way, and the continuous learning which has been a consistent feature of my work life, especially since I gave up corprorate world to go it alone. The book will be a real focus for 2017, but I'm also looking forward to more varied and interesting work along the way. My thanks to all those with whom it's been so great to work with this year (you know who you are) and to those who also took the time to meet up. As always, it's been fun.