Dare conference 2013

Whilst I was laid up with manflu I watched some of the videos of dare conf from the comfort of my living room. I had planned to go a when tickets first were released but events and my own indecision and social ineptness transpired against me so Kudos to the organisers who live streamed the whole event.

The tagline of the conference is ‘People skills for Digital Workers’ and in the main the conference focussed on the people skills and approaches and attitudes towards the huge transitions that often need to take place in Digital Transformation and made lots of references to the GDS team’s Digital By Default. At times it felt more like a big group therapy session than a Digital Conference but at the same time there were some great messages for all would be Digital Disruptors.

I have compiled some highlights for your enjoyment. The videos are becoming available at http://2013.dareconf.com/videos

Karen Mc Grane – I SUCK! AND SO DO YOU!

Karen begins by telling the audience how much better she is than all of us, how many more twitter followers she has than you – how she has a much better Klout score than you – how on Trippit she is leading you in a competition you didn’t even know you were playing.

  • She then confesses that she doesn’t actually think she is better than you – except at telling herself ‘I SUCK – I am not good enough’.
  • There is a tension between how we learn in digital – a constantly changing environment – yet we need to go out and ‘be the experts’ – this she calls ‘the loop’.
  • The loop is a no win situation – you will never have everything right.
  • The only way out is to have compassion with yourself.
  • The only reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our insides with everyone else’s highlights reels on Instagram and Facebook etc.
  • She talks of her spectacular project failures and then talks about a personal crisis which culminated in a breakdown.
  • All of these were massive changes.
  • She talks about how we need to have compassion with ourselves so that we can also have compassion for others.
  • When people are in a crisis or their ideas aren’t getting traction they go to what they are good at (their specialisms).
  • Problem is the technical skills won’t solve the problem.
  • They need to develop their soft skills
  • What makes me a great CEO? Technical skills or people skills? They have chosen to invest more in people skills than technical skills.
  • There is an irony in that Soft is a terrible name as they are far Harder to learn than technical skills
  • Stop looking for external validation – that will send you into a loop
  • Point of being at Dare is to build skills to internally validate and look after yourself
  • That will enable you to empathise with those friends, family and colleagues (and business?) who are going through the transformation process.

My takeaway – Transformation is about people – not skills


I have included Meri’s talk because she made me laugh and had some great advice for people management.

Meri talked about how she started out as a techie but quickly found herself as a people manager. There are loads of very interesting tips and lots of swearing on how to get the best and keep the best teams.

  • Managing people is hard – software is easy
  • It’s 95% PEOPLE and 5% Management
  • People can’t leave their personal lives at home.
  • You spend a massive portion of your life at work – so work with people you think are amazing.
  • They will need a sense of purpose – a greater good
  • And they need to be able to say ‘yes’ to the following phrase – “Someone like me can be successful here”
  • Don’t be a shit fan or a shit funnel
  • If the business is afraid of you learning at conferences and the such – leave.

My takeaway – People management is 95% people and 5% management. Soft skills are hard to acquire.


In his talk about company culture Dave talked about how often companies stated values can actually be quite different to their lived values. Taking Enron as an example whose stated values were ‘Respect, Integrity, Communication, Excellence’. He talks of how there are ‘unsaid’ behaviours in a company that need to be identified to figure out why companies behave the way they do. He then showed a method of Culture mapping out these values which can be used as a tool to open the eye’s on the business leaders.

My takeaway – The un-stated culture is as important as the stated culture and in order to successfully transform you must understand both.

Other talks I enjoyed

Nina Burrows is a cartooning phychologist – which immediately makes her cool in my book –  and draws an excellent metaphor of the way our own psychology can get in the way of us doing what we want to do and being brave – and that by understanding all of our internal voices/passengers we can better get at respectfully ignoring them.

Really Annet Baker talked about her own issues, her career and how she is going to put consulting and content strategy to the side to help educate people about Depression. This is why I love the Digital industry – the people are not afraid to break open taboos – and she reminded me of a difficult time I had been through many moons ago and how little help was out there. This was a brave and personal talk.

Neil Williams talked about how he reacted when Martha lane Fox produced a report saying that all his award winning government websites should be torn down and started from scratch – and how his initial fear led him to following his beliefs and then playing a key role in the now very successful GDS team.

You can see the videos at http://2013.dareconf.com/videos.