Insights from Thinking Digital

Thinking Digital is an annual conference held in Newcastle that’s for anyone curious about how technology is shaping our future. The topics covered are diverse, from medical robotics, home automation and new mapping technology, to digital humanitarians and business romantics. There was even a live coding DJ set. You can’t fail to come away inspired and excited.

Here is a quick taster of a few of the themes that struck me most to warm you up for the Manchester Thinking Digital event on 3rd November.

‘Ridiculous beats rational’ — Ian Wharton on youthful creativity

Once upon a time, Ian was a talented Junior Designer here at Manchester digital agency Code Computerlove. He’s since gone on to create the award-winning Jamie Oliver app, and is now Group Creative Director at AKQA.

In his talk, Ian made a passionate call for un-policed creativity that removes barriers and advances not just ourselves and organisations, but humanity. He encouraged creative thinkers everywhere to give themselves the freedom to explore ridiculous ideas rather than killing them with rationality. Data, trends and predictions can guide us, but for true originality you need to rediscover youthful thinking.

For more on this, check out his latest book ‘Spark for the Fire‘.

‘How will you change the world?’ — Ken Banks & Patrick Meier on technology for social problems

A major theme of the conference was around using technology for positive social change. Both Ken and Patrick gave inspiring examples of how grassroots innovation has been used to solve real problems on the ground.

Ushahidi famously used text and social media messages so people on the ground could aid the emergency services in disaster zones. With a host of tools from FrontlineSMS, to Micro Mappers, drones and 3D modelling, this is developing into a hugely valuable field. This is where technology gets really exciting for me — when it’s used to improve lives and reduce suffering.

For more on how emerging technology can lead us to a better, fairer, more connected world, take a look at — this site has up to date news on work in this field, but also community tools to help people reconnect and make better use of resources.

If you want to know more about becoming a ‘digital humanitarian’, you’ll find loads of great content on; this is definitely something I hope to get more involved with myself.

‘When was the last time you experienced romance at work?’ — Tim Leberecht on the business romantic

This talk wasn’t about seedy office relationships, but about rediscovering moments of unexpected love and awe, moments that ‘make you lose control and fall in love with everything’! How wonderful does that sound?!

Tim spoke about making business personal and full of authentic human connections. His advice was to look for the big in the small, inject mystique and surprise, and be willing to sacrifice a little in order to belong and feel more alive. You can find out more about how to do this in his book ‘The Business Romantic’.

There were plenty of other fantastic speakers over the course of the three-day conference, and I thoroughly recommend you go along to the Manchester event to find out more for yourself.

I’ll leave you with a final thought from the opening speaker in Newcastle.

Luciano Floridi reminded us that we are the generation that has the responsibility for laying the foundations for the society of the future. His advice is something I hope I will keep with me for years to come…

Think deeper, design better, be mindful“.