Blog archive


Will McInnes

Notes from the Do Lectures 2011

I have never been to such a incredible thing as The Do Lectures.

Best speakers at any event, ever.

Most incredible place, fforest. Helpful, sweet people at every turn, beautifully designed, so great.

Lovely, talented musicians playing their music around campfires.

Angry, funny comedians.

And the FOOD!

But above all, the community that was created, the people and the conversations, the eating together (food again!).

Now that I’m gone and its behind me, it feels like an apparition, a shimmering oasis left behind. It was magical.

I made lots of notes. But some talks weren’t note-making-y – this doesn’t mean ‘notes = good; no notes = not good’. It just wasn’t like that. Still.

Here’s a précis of some of the ideas and memories I’ve taken away.

Laura Brunow Minow, founder of Phoot Camp

  • Laura has found herself producing events with learning-by-doing and learning-from-peers at their core
  • Flat hierarchically
  • Eating together (I feel this is massively underestimated – as my friend and mentor Pete has often said, the origins of the word company are in breaking bread together)
  • ‘Retreat’ as a concept
  • Start with a culture of warmth, kindness and sharing and then prompt others to ask themselves ‘what can I bring to the situation?’
  • Key takeaway: getting people together is magical; getting them eating together and creating together is even more so; and it’s do-able – there’s nothing stopping us

John Kearon, founder of BrianJuicer

  • On the importance of differentiating between System 1 and System 2 thinking
  • System 1 – reptilian, instinctive, intuitive, emotional, equivalent to 11m bits of computing power
  • System 2 – slow, cognitive, analytical, rational, equivalent to 50 bits of computing power
  • Nobel prize winner Paul Ekman’s 7 universal emotions:
  • BrainJuicer’s work looks at how advertising gets a response from these 7 emotions plus one further possible state, Neutral, which is the worst from an advertising perspective.
  • It was a reminder that you have to make people feel something – and to do so is hugely more memorable and powerful than making people think something
  • In fact, it reminded me of the brilliant scene in Mad Men where Don sells the Kodak ‘wheel‘ not as technology but as something far more emotionally engaging…
  • John ended by surprising us by showing his bum, which I personally thought was awesome :)

Neil Denny, Collaborative lawyer and author

  • Usual conflict skills follow this pattern: attack; defence; counter attack.
  • What Neil is trying to do is help us to broaden our repertoire to include:
    Agreeing differences
    Coming to solutions at the end
  • Neil’s point is that if we can broaden our repetoire to include a greater range of riffs and responses, we can find better, more collaborative outcomes, and not destroy one another in the process. Gotta be down with that.

Zach Hoeken, from Makerbot Industries

  • Makerbot is a 3D printer – which as anyone who’s read Makers by Cory Doctorow knows is an incredibly exciting and emerging area
  • Wicked lil’ video explaining 3D printing, with Makerbot included
  • What struck me having already partially explored 3D printing is the big impact it had on the Do audience – if that’s anything to go by, 3D printing is going to rip big exciting energy seams as these ideas and possibilities move into the mainstream
  • Zach was a great charismatic part of the whole Do thing – I heard some interesting stories about the last evening… :)

Nick Hand, talking about his project Slowcoast
This was a touching, personal and humble talk with video interviews taken from Nick’s project riding around the coastline of the whole of the UK (and later, Ireland), and along the way speaking with craftspeople and artisans. Absolutely mesmerising, to the point that writing anything down would have been rude and stupid.

You have to watch these little Soundslides – heartwarming…

If you only have time for one, watch this Stickmaker from Louth

Rob, improv
Rob’s was another enjoyable, warming talk about the power of Improv, which I’m sure our own in-house improv-freak Matt Matheson would’ve enjoyed. I particularly liked the point that Rob made that improv is ‘local to time and place’.

Les, Predictable Success
I really enjoyed Les’ talk, and chatting to him and his lovely missus. Les had a really interesting opening point about how our lack of a holistic understanding of the world we live in, due to its scale and the rapid period of change that we are going through, and therefore in our ability to access or find ‘profundity’. So Les wants all of us to share our piece of the jigsaw, our view of what we see going on in the world, so that somehow we as a society and people can link up these views to have greater perspective.
And then Les went on to talk about his Predictable Success model, which is effectively a simple and intuitive lifecycle-of-a-business model that you can locate your firm on to understand where it is, and what’s next.

Colin Tudge, Agriculture
Colin feels that huge change is needed in agriculture. He started by
saying that to make that change we need to answer three questions:

  • What is right? (morally)
  • What is possible?
  • What is necessary?

As Colin says, nature has been resilient for 3.8 bn years!

  • By being very diverse
  • By being low input (making do)
  • By being very integrated

So Colin believes that agriculture needs to follow suit.
That is, to achieve polyculture – lots of mixed, integrated species
And to be organic – labour intensive, but able to handle the
complexity of polyculture

This will not scale up. So to achieve scale we will need lots of small
to medium sized farms. This is the direct opposite of what ‘the powers
that be’ want. They now have piggeries in the USA with 1m pigs!

Colin believes we need a people’s takeover. I loved Colin’s talk, and the later workshop discussion we had as a small group about trees.

Dr. Mohammad Al-Ubaydli, Patients Know Best

  • Mohammad says that the miracle of modern medicine is specialisation.
  • The result of which is that the patient themselves are left to join up the specialist parts.
  • We, the patient, are the only constant and therefore have become the glue.
  • ‘It’s your health, you live in it’
  • Mohammad believes in the power of decentralisation in medicine
  • So Mohammad has created a business called Patients Know Best, which is effectively a web-based tool where I the patient can invite doctors to discussions, to view my records, and I hold my information and have full access to it – AWESOME.
  • Doctors can say ‘systems like this will attract the worried we’ll but Mohmmad says that a bigger problem is the unworried unwell: 50% of medicines are not taken as they are supposed to be
  • Surprisingly the older doctors typically get it quicker – they are more confident in their ability and more conscious of the challenges for patientsNice expression: ‘Trojan Mice’ – bottom up initiatives that are small and quick to start
  • The idea with PKB is simply that it’s my health so they are my records
  • Importantly, PKB as a tool creates positive social pressure from loved ones to help the ‘unworried unwell’ – so the social network is a powerful benefit and lever in treating conditions AND lowering costs
  • Mohammed also said ‘my family is very subversive’ – I love that. I hope my kids can say something similarly empowering and mischievous to themselves :)

Alistair Smith, Educationalist, creator of Accelerated Learning

  • As a wonderful start Alistair said: “We get nervous before presentations, because it MATTERS”. YES.
  • Education as ‘towing kids through the water’! Driving through set curriculum towards simply passing tests.
  • Learning model:
    Identify principles to shape
    Activities and give these
    Unlock prior knowledge
    Share strong sense of purpose
    Actively engage
    Space deliberate practice (little and often)
    Loop meaningful feedback
    Encourage deep questions and pattern recognition
    Provide real world transfers
    (Good example is the Forest Schools model)
    Outcomes to look for, beyond just knowledge:

Caroline Flint, Radical Midwife

  • An incredible, funny funny, warm human talk – can’t wait to share the video with friends
  • Caroline’s beef is that what she knows and believes as self evident as the way to care for mothers giving birth is the antithesis of the medicalised modern birthing experience.
  • Caroline describes what we have in the UK as “industrialised maternity care”
  • For example, in 35 years of midwifery, she has experienced 15 births in daylight – yet we light maternity wards with bright strip lights (for example)
  • Caroline’s beliefs are that women need privacy, low lighting, water, ability to move around.
  • The stats back it up – rates for c-section:
  • UK – 40-45%
  • World Health Org suggest – 10-15%
  • Caroline’s birthing centre – 12%

Arthur Potts Dawson, chef, restauranteur and social entrepreneur
Arthur, a succesful chef and the guy behind the People’s Supermarket, spoke eloquently about ecology and food. It was an interesting talk with some good ideas. My biggest takeaway was that Arthur would like to see an integration of the Health, Welfare and Food systems, which I think sounds like a very interesting idea worth more thought.

But what I actually took most from Arthur’s participation over the whole of the 4-5 days was how much he has learnt, how much he’s read, and how much passion he has. That was really impressive. I think we will see much more from Arthur. (Also had a hilarious and lovely chat with Arthur’s partner Paloma and a Spaniard called Miguel – great people.)

Richard King, Editor of Loops, on ‘indie’
Richard’s talk was brilliant and challenging but not the kind you make notes on.
For me, it was a celebration of pursuing ones own true path, staying true to roots, being truly independent, and saying fuck you to the mainstream. I like that. Thanks Richard. A good reminder that it might feel hard, but saying fuck you to selling out and doing what everyone else does is – in the end – the only way :)

Mark Shayler, Eco designer and all-round-nice-guy
Marks was another lovely talk that had us all laughing along.
I wrote two things down:

  • Get some chickens!
  • “Fear is our heaviest bag”

Cheers Mark.

Alan Webber, co-founding editor of Fast Company

The interesting thing about Alan was that there was already a palpable sense of anticipation in the Do village before he got on stage, just by virtue of all the interesting conversations he’d been having with people beforehand. Word spread, and I felt Alan shared some really wise observations on where we are and what is needed.

Alan’s idea is that we need, all of us, to be Radical Pragmatists.

And one can do this by answering the following questions:

  1. What business are you really in?
  2. Can you capture the world’s imagination?
  3. Have you raised the cost of the status quo?
  4. I think this was one of the most interesting suggestions to me. That to create radical change, we have to be pragmatic by helping the world around us truly understand and see the costs of how we already do things, which – if we have a better alternative – raises the cost of the status quo, and so provides a powerful lever for change. There is wisdom in this. It reminds me of Umair Haque’s points of how 20th century capitalists were able to hide many of the true costs of their products and services – the follow-on obesity, the waste, the environmental impact. By revealing and costing these, we show (and therefore raise) the real costs of the status quo.
  5. Are you thinking big by starting small?
  6. What is your definition of victory?

Alan finished talking about urgency, in response to a question, and described the need for ‘patient urgency’. I really liked that as
intuitively it works for me. Yes, it’s urgent. But we must be patient too.

Perry Chen, Kickstarter

  • Thoroughly enjoyed Perry’s talk as Kickstarter is so current and interesting, and I loved Perry’s attitude and some of the examples he was able to share.
  • Especially this one:
  • Perry described how artists being supported by subscribers rather than just patrons like the Medicis is not a new idea. Mozart and Whitman had supporters, say Perry, who would ‘subscribe’ to an artists work.
  • Kickstarter sees itself as somewhere between patronage and commerce, but definitely not charity.
  • Kickstarter permits ‘low cost, low friction affinity’
  • And opens up new possibilities due to the high bar of investment versus the low bar of affinity
  • With investment, the downside is that ideas can become contorted to have a revenue stream
    People are receiving value from participating
  • Some Kickstarter stats:
  • $95m pledged since spring 09
  • 1m pledgers
  • $25 is the median contribution
  • 150k repeat backers
  • 13k projects fully funded
  • From Concept-Build-Release to Concept-Backers-Build-Release
  • Perry’s talk led to the phrase from someone: “we need to turn consumers into investors”

Indy Johar, co-founder of The Hub and other cool stuff

  • One of the most thought-provoking talks, and Indy moved so fast it left me diving to catch each idea and thought chucked out – seriously excellent. I really need to hook up with Indy.
  • Made the point that the Knowledge Economy my be empowering the few at the cost of the many
  • ‘The Micro Many’ – how we can add up many distinct small orgs and groups go effect real change
  • Civic Economy – civic responsibility + entrepreneurship 2.0 – really like this concept
  • As examples of this Indy mentioned:
  • The Brooklyn Superhero Store
  • Incredible Edible Todmorden
  • Rutland Telecoms
  • Baiskeli – not just localism, but connecting globally
  • Brilliant question posed: How do we do global in an ethical way? Been wondering same…
  • Indy challenges ‘Single-outcome organisations’ – cannot be this way any more. The world needs multiple-outcome orgs.

Christiana Wyly, Satori Capital

  • Key takeaways from Christiana’s talk were:
  • ‘Patient capital’ and ‘Likeminded capital’ – love these concepts. Money that comes with similar values and is willing to play the long game. LOVE it.
  • ‘How much did it mean?’ > ‘How much did you earn?’ – an obvious suggestion, but how many of us are thinking like this actively enough, spreading this, living it? There’s more to do both internally (for me anyway) and in the world around us.
  • Multiple-stakeholder model – sounds like a good link with Indy’s point about single outcome orgs

Faisel Rahman, Fair Finance

  • This was a brilliant and eye-opening talk about poor people and financial services in the UK
  • In uk 12m people use non-mainstream lenders
  • 2m are without bank account
  • Payday loans typically have 2,500% rate
  • But counter-intuitively, poor people like the humanity of doorstep lenders – they like the dignity, the lack of questions and judgement, the simplicity.
  • Faisal believes there are three aspects that poor people care about with banking:
  • Access and flexibility
  • Simplicity and honesty
  • Respect and relationship
  • What if there could be a private bank for the poor?
  • This is the work of Fair Finance – love it.

Joe Casey, career coach

  • Joe spoke eloquently about the journey to finding a path and work that one can truly love
  • Importance of knowing yourself
  • And then know how you like to learn:
  • Linguistically
  • Logical/mathematical
  • Musically
  • Kinaesthetically
  • Spatially
  • Naturalistically
  • Intra-personally
  • Inter-personally

Chido Govera, Chido’s Mushrooms

  • Hugely inspiring – utterly moving, and so captivating I hardly wrote a thing. Amazing woman.
  • From terribly challenging childhood, taking on her 5 year old brother at age 8.
  • Eventually learning to grow mushrooms
  • ZERI foundation funded Chido’s learning – need to check these guys out
  • Mushrooms as the first aerofoil!
  • I don’t know how to summarise, other than to watch Chido’s talk when available on the Do website.

Frank Chimero, designer and author

  • Frank’s was a lovely engaging storytelling and conceptualising kinda talk – the kind of talk he’s known and loved for
  • I very much liked and identified with Frank’s story about “we do things the long hard stupid way” [this is the best online reference or root of this I could find] – we definitely do things the long, hard stupid way at NixonMcInnes…
  • Gift-giving as efforts that improve the ambience of the space
  • Another fabulous fable of “The smell of fish”
  • The  ideas that the more a gift is passed, the more value it has and the thought that goes into the gift > the cost of the gift

I’m sorry these notes are so long. They really don’t capture the magic of Do. Do was and is amazing. THANK YOU to everyone involved. I will never forget.

This post was filed under Broadcast, Events, Working culture Comments are currently closed.


  1. I am really jealous. This sounds amazing. Am also a big believer in food amongst events. Think about all the great conversations and laughs at dinner parties with friends. Love Kickstarter – great, great idea. Indy sounds wicked and Phoot Camp too. I REALLY want to go and stay in those tents.

    Posted 23rd September 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
  2. Amazing!

    Have had my eye on the do lectures for a year or so… was very interested to watch interviews on you tube of people at the event. Great to read your notes and investigate your links, cheers!

    Posted 23rd September 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  3. Coño!

    It is the best experience till now (in terms of community knowledge transfer and sharing ideas and visions). Will have resume it very well, and i´ll translate it to spanish (make it readable for about 500 million people)

    Posted 24th September 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Do Lectures: the people and the music « Will McInnes on 27th September 2011 at 5:12 pm

    [...] I’ve already published my Do Lectures 2011 notes over on the NixonMcInnes blog. [...]

  2. By » The long version A little do. on 28th October 2011 at 9:55 am

    [...] been lots of reviews from people who are much more articulate than me (like here, here and here) but here’s my own thoughts and personal highlights on the whole [...]

  3. By #cltrshck weekly ammo #9 « Will McInnes on 27th December 2012 at 10:35 pm

    [...] I’ve been to was the Do Lectures – if you want to, you can read more about why in my ‘Notes from the Do Lectures 2011′ (though in them I forget to mention my favourite moment, Tom Fishburne’s talk, because I was [...]