Global Ideas Forum

October 25, 2015

Over the weekend of 22nd – 24th October, I was a co-facilitator at the Global Ideas Forum. Global Ideas is an interdisciplinary community of global health innovators, and their annual forum is a crash-course on cutting-edge global health thinking from diverse industries and perspectives.

The Big Picture

Looking across the three days, two key themes emerged in the keynotes, panels and workshops.

One big theme was how sacred our attention is. Our brains are hardwired to think like water and take the easiest route available.  But with access to everything, our attention is too valuable to waste. It needs to be consciously directed every day to the things around us so that we are better thinkers, better doers, and better world citizens. This was also a core theme in The Lab Report, and it’s interesting to watch this rise slowly into mainstream thinking.

Another key theme was about our understanding of the world through distinct, separate “silos”. As our interfaces with the world have become more personalised and separate - for instance via online advertising algorithms and Google search prioritisation - we’ve restricted our bases of knowledge to only include what we’re prepared to consume. There is a lack of surprise in the everyday and often a lack of preparedness to listen to ideas that we may not agree with.  As a result, our communities have become increasingly more extreme or polarised in their opinions and outlooks. Again, this was also a dominant theme in The Lab Report.

Image courtesy of the fantastic Zahra Zainalwhose hand-drawn sketches brought the weekend to life. Go to for more.

Highlights & Take-outs

My take-outs from the Forum were vast and wide-ranging, but below I have summarised some of the key highlights that relate to the world of brands, consumer research and happenings at The Lab.

Tim France spoke about how we’ve digitized our world, and now we need to cognitize it.  This is the notion that we don’t need more data, we just need to understand how to structure and decipher what we already have. France encouraged people to break their silos and seek surprise through lateral thinking. With this in mind, France’s company has developed an AI search engine focussed on the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG insights. France’s twitter also tracked the conference play-by-play.

Mackenzie Kosut introduced us to Oscar Health, the first healthcare insurance in the US to build from the consumer up, marrying data, tech and design in a consumer-centric model. Oscar is disrupting the US health scene by putting the consumer first, with a simple app, a design-focussed product experience (for example through packaging and social media presence), and free wearable tech with cash rewards for exercising. Forbes has a nice article about it, too.

Jonathan Harris, an artist, storyteller and digital anthropologist, told a captivating story about life and art. To me, his digital projects speak directly to consumer and cultural understanding.  Amongst these are We Feel Fine, which measures the emotional temperature of the human world through large-scale blog analysis, Network Effect, which explores the psychological effect of Internet use on humanity, and Cowbird, a public library of human experience.  He’s also done a couple of TED talks.

Will Dayble is a total dude who I have written about indirectly in my previous life as a culture journalist. At the Forum, he ran a workshop on how to do, rather than just think – a difficult feat in overcoming cultural indoctrinations.  Have you ever realised how hardwired we are to stick to the letter, not stick to the spirit? Check out his TEDx talk on Dangerous Ideas.

Karapanagiotidis preaching to the crowd.

Finally, Kon Karapanagiotidis, founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Center, set the room on fire at the Forum. He spoke about risk, messiness and the brutal loneliness of authentic leadership, as well as the infinite rewards. It is difficult to explain the value of what he spoke about, but you can read about him at Dumbo Feather, and he has also spoken at TEDx.

Amongst the packed program of unconventional and inspirational talks, it was great to delve a little deeper into the people and ideas that are driving ethical change, innovation and enterprise in the world today. No doubt this will help us to shed new light on some of our findings from this year’s Lab Report.

Beyond the Forum, the Global Ideas program also involves Labs and Fellowships. It’s open to people of any age from any industry. If you’re interested in knowing more, get in touch.