Last Wednesday night (9th October 2019) saw the Pepper Club convene at the Champagne Bar in St Pancras International Station, London. Previous events were held near our Leamington Spa offices, but for this event, a new location was chosen, within the remarkable architecture of a revamped Victorian train station.
The purpose of The Pepper Club is to bring together people with different experiences, from diverse businesses, to share and learn in a relaxed and informal setting. The event ticked all the boxes and provided guests with a fascinating insight into the 3 chosen topics.
The first topic was entitled "The case against the business case". In short, this was a passionate plea to find ways to encourage and support innovation, where budgets are only allocated if the business case has a clear plan and benefits statement.
In many organisations a business case is required to fund each new initiative. The business case has to provide a date when the ROI is achieved; it's required to give details of specific functional or implementation milestones; it has to provide a cost breakdown and it has to offer a level of certainty that allows those in control of the budget to give the go ahead, safe in the knowledge that it is money well spent. Innovation doesn't follow those rules; an end date is impossible to determine; the functional details won't be known at the start and budget holders are required to accept they may never get a return on the investment. So how, in a large hierarchical organisation, can innovation be fostered and thrive?
This topic was hotly discussed because it's a subject familiar to anyone who's worked in a large organisation, and tried to do things differently. One suggestion that I particularly liked was to change the language slightly, so instead of saying "fail fast" try " learn fast". It provides a positive rather than a negative perception.
Our second speaker was a self confessed data-geek, whose topic was "Data driven business transformation". The premise of this talk was for organisations to recognise the huge amounts of data that they have and to treat it as they would treat any other valuable asset.
An analogy was that we would never leave a building empty, or a member of staff doing nothing. In both cases, to most organisations, it's obvious what needs to be done to get value from the building, or from a member of staff. So why are so many organisations unable to recognise the inherent value in the data assets they have? A key message from this talk was the need for organisations to develop a Data Strategy that supports the Business Strategy.
And finally, as we headed towards dessert (very delicious) our third speaker was all set to talk about "Is distributed ledger technology really going to change the world or is it just for criminals to launder money and college dorm projects?" In a last minute alteration, and to pick up on a theme that had been raised several times during the evening, our third speaker changed tack, and instead spoke about "Teams and how to effectively lead and inspire people." This talk was the perfect end to a very engaging and enjoyable evening.
Thanks to all our speakers and to all those that attended and contributed. I hope everyone learnt something new.