Business Leadership Exchange Dinner at the Royal Institute – review

I was invited to a very interesting dinner on Thursday night at the Royal Institution by Nimbus Ninety as part of their Business Leadership Exchange program.

The event was held under Chatham House Rule (although none of us signed anything), so I am not sure how much I can say.

The BLE looks at the effect of digital disruption, and on this particular night brought together an amazing group of people – from a range of very diverse companies.

The main ideal of the group is to develop an intimate network of C-Level executives with a shared aim to “explore the opportunities and understand the impact of digital disruption.

The discussion was very lively, and drew on the amazing experience of the 16 or so of us around the table.

One of the first themes of our discussion was around the fact that many of today’s chief executives don’t even know what there are being asked to approve when it comes to digital marketing.

The group discussed how the role of the “Chief Digital Officer” was on the rise, to help both the CIO and CEO navigate these new disrupted times.

One of the group mentioned that they had been asked to sign off on a multi-million pound PPC campaign (and they thankfully know what a PPC campaign is), without the requestor being able to articulate how the campaign would be measured, or what the objectives were.

I would argue (as did the group) that there a great many CEOs that are being disrupted themselves as they aren’t able to clearly understand how digital disruption is affecting their business.

We also spent some time discussing how the current era would be remembered.

Our host for the night was Professor Frank James, who is the Professor of the History of Science and Head of Collections, and also took us on a guided tour of the extensive collection in the basement before dinner.

Professor James commented that the period from 1830 – 1860 in Great Britain would be remembered as one of incredible change. The group also looked at how fast technology has changed over just the last decade.

The question of innovation and risk was raised. One interesting comment was that both Google and Facebook both have a very aggressive approach to innovation, and in many ways Google still takes risks in the same way a start-up does even though it is a multi-billiondollar company.

It is these risks taken by just a few companies that is helping to drive other companies to develop new platforms and products.

It was fair to say that many around the table represented some very conservative companies, and in their industries taking the sorts of risks that Google does is not an option.

The discussion lasted well over 2 hours, during which a fabulous meal was served, and I know everyone left the dinner feeling that the first event had been very worthwhile.

I was delighted to have been invited, met some very smart people and participated in one of the most interesting debates for some time about digital disruption.

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Based in London, Andrew is an internationally renowned thought leader in the field of social business and social media networks. Andrew is a Global Partner with IBM, with a focus on Social Business.