My first week at We Are Unstuck, a Design Thinking agency, was nothing if not immersive. With an ethos of ‘daring you to do things differently’, We Are Unstuck was a great match for Spark the Change. It seemed to me that the talks and workshops I attended at this year’s conference seemed to reflect two of WAU’s main mindsets which could have a great impact on any organisation.

Firstly, to spark a change, you must BE A PART OF SOMETHING – and an effective team which pushes boundaries and delivers results must be built on trust.

Eric Lynn’s CultureQs workshop threw groups of strangers in at the deep end, asking them to share more in 30 minutes than they’ve shared with their own colleagues over 3 years. Discussions on difficult scenarios and topics such as “how do you prefer to make decisions in a team?” cut through the small talk to build a solid foundation of a working relationship in a relatively tiny space of time. Being a part of this collaborative, trusting and honest environment facilitates the next facet of WAU’s mindsets that was supported wholeheartedly at Spark –

We must have the courage to MAKE MISTAKES. On an individual level, this means pushing out of the comfort zone to develop and implement new ideas which may often feel uncomfortable or risky. This requires support from the surrounding organisational hierarchy and from colleagues, line managers and department heads, who must make room for unintended consequences and facilitate the learning which can occur from such experiments. A mistake is only a failure if a business fails to take on board the lessons learned during the process.

Marcus Frödin’s discussion of how, at Spotify, “speed beats quality and mistakes breed success” was a perfect example of this. In a fast-paced and saturated market flops are rife, and so spending 18 months from idea to delivery on one product without any feedback is simply inefficient. For example, in Apple’s App store, only 0.07% of the store (870 apps) account for 40% of revenue*. Frödin discussed how the organisational structure of Spotify breeds quick prototyping, swift adjustment and allows them to “iterate with purpose”. By scheduling 6-week ‘taps’ to check in on delivery, Spotify puts those who ‘do’ closer to the effects of ‘doing’, allowing transparency and speed whilst retaining accountability. When in doubt, products are shipped; learning can only occur when the product is in front of the customer, and rapid iterations are more effective than spending years on flogging one concept (Frödin used the example of the gone-but-not-forgotten Spotify Apps).

The attitude at Spotify can be viewed as an excellent example of where being a part of something and mistake-making actively breed success. Employees are trusted to experiment (with purpose!) and the learning from these experiments feeds back to leaders, who then use these insights to guide the future intent of the organisation. The information gleaned from the downfall of Spotify Apps was used to create a new API which is now used widely within the company; an API which was then utilised to push a new product forward (the interface now used on Playstations by 11 million users**) in under half a year.

Spotify were just one of the many inspirational organisations and individuals at Spark 2016 willing to share their wisdom and become part of a bigger community committed to sparking change and innovation, and my biggest take-home from the entire conference was that this community was the most inspiring thing of all.

Spark the Change brings together leaders from across the business to explore how they can work together to create lasting and total change. With events in London, Toronto and Melbourne, Spark aims to inspire people and offer practical help in overcoming obstacles and developing your skills to make a change.