Getting innovative at B2B Marketing's Intech conference

Keith Varty

04 April 2018

A couple of weeks back I headed off to the HQ of global satellite telco Immarsat on Old Street Roundabout. I was there to attend B2B Marketing’s InTech event that was rather gloriously and ambitiously titled: ‘the power of innovation’.

Conferences come in different shapes and sizes, and you’re never entirely sure what you’re going to get. Ostensibly they rely on two things to be successful: good speakers and good attendees.

First observation: Old Street gets busier every time I visit, with new HQs for the likes of Uber and Amazon, the so-called ‘silicon roundabout’ is very much the home of the newer tech companies and the start-up community in London.

Arriving on your own to any event like this requires some proactive chatting, so I make my way to the sponsors stands and meet with Showpad, essentially a smart way for salespeople to access the most relevant content for a sales pitch/presentation or, in B2B Marketing speak, a sales-enablement platform. Looks good and certainly, if you have a large sales team, I can see it being effective. 

A couple of mini-croissants later, and I’m in the main conference room to listen to the keynotes. 

First up, we have the Founder and Editor of B2B MarketingJoel Harrison, a very likable man with the task of defining what innovation is, and how we will know if it’s being done well in our organizations. He has some practical tips such as ensuring the sales function is aligned with relevant stakeholders.

Next up is Jada Balster, Marketing Lead at Workfront. Jada is smart and confident and hits us with the fact that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be made up of millennials and whilst they are tech-savvy. they are also lazy and self-obsessed. Us Gen Xs in the room loved that! Her point was that we should understand the motivations and restraints of the audience before trying to implement a culture of innovation.

Malin Liden, who is the VP of Innovation at SAP, gave a great presentation. An innovation practitioner, she told us her story of getting and doing the role—quite a challenge being the Innovation Lead in a technology company!

Malin strikes you as totally unflappable—clever, curious, and calm, she tells us that it was the job everybody wanted but she got. The big challenge was to justify that she was, in fact, the right hire.

She starts by telling us not to compare ourselves with others; to dream first and worry about execution later; to set the stage for the big win; that strong people are cool as long as they are able to lift and not suffocate.

Be prepared to feel stupid, as Malin says: “You aren’t working in an area you’ve based a career on, it’s all mostly new and you won’t understand it to start with.”

Finally, she says, “Create a safe environment for people to take risks,” a statement often trotted out in large organizations, but Malin convinces us that she has the personal skills to make this really happen. Oh, and one parting thought: “Never reward the successful jerk.” 

After lunch, a chance to see an Art + Film project and a little networking. 

The day was rounded off by Dr. Christine Bailey, CMO at Valitor, who had the audience in the palm of her hand with her mix of intelligence, humor, and honesty. Christine tells us how to break free of our comfort zones with a series of quotes and stories from her life and career journey.

Now, I have to confess, I’m a little cynical of the quotes-for-quotes’ sake approach and particularly when they are a little philosophical, but Dr. Bailey got this just right. We get her five steps to breaking free:

  1. Dare to begin before you’re ready.
  2. Challenge your limiting beliefs.
  3. Fight the imposter syndrome.
  4. Dream big but take small steps.
  5. Feed your brain.

And we finish on a quote from Dr. Seuss (who else?): ‘Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind’.

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