We attended: 99u Local event in Melbourne


Matt Smith and I were lucky enough to attend the 99u Local event that was held at the Deakin Edge in Melbourne on the 14th of September. Here is what we learnt.

For those of you who are not familiar with 99u or the 99u Local concept, I would highly recommend visiting the site, after you’ve finished reading this blog of course.

The description of the 99u Local event from the site is: ‘This is not a conference. It is a casual, intimate, local 99U-style experience in your city. The event will consist of three curated talks that share road-tested insights on making ideas happen followed by a casual networking and drinks session.’

The speakers at the event where Gavin Aung Than, Amantha Imber and Jason Fox, with Mykel Dixon at the MJ for the evening. Each speaker was inspiring as they shared their journey and their insights into how to make ideas happen.

Here are the key messages that I took away from each speaker.

Gavin Aung Than - Zen Pencils

Gavin shared with us his inspiration journey from an unfulfilling job in corporate graphic design to starting the now very successful ‘Zen Pencils’. It was really great to hear him talk about how he knew what he wanted to do and was able to take a leap of faith into pursuing his goals with total commitment.

Through his talk, he focused on three key things he believes are the key to his success:

#1. Be the first
#2. Be consistent
#3. Be honest

The biggest take away from those for me was related to ‘#1. Be the first’. Here Gavin spoke about how you don’t need to be the best in your field to succeed, but you do need to be the first to come up with an authentic idea. In his case this was taking motivational quotes and creating original cartoons for them.

The other thing he said that resonated with me was "Share a bit of yourself with your work." This for me connected nicely with ‘#3. Be honest’ in that whatever you create and put out into the word, you have to ensure it’s something that you believe in and is representative of who you are.

Amantha Imber - Inventium

Amantha was up next and she spoke about innovation and decision making. There was a lot to take in from her talk. She spoke about changing the culture of holding onto new ideas and being secretive of them, to ‘sharing generously’ and looking at ideas from a perspective of there being plenty of work.

This was quite interesting as often organisations are not keen on sharing their new ideas in case someone will steal them. This mentality often stifles innovation as a new concept is launched. The creator becomes protective of anyone using an idea to build on, rather than openly sharing it with the view to drive innovation and the evolution of ideas.

Apple is an example of this mentality. They are more focused on ‘protecting’ their ideas rather than sharing them, just in case someone improves on their ideas and they don’t make as much money.

Amantha also talked about ‘decision fatigue’. This is actually a very insightful look into how we all make decisions and the fact we do have a limited amount of capacity when it come to how many decisions we can effectively make each day. Google is going to be your best friend to read up on this further, but the key thing to remember; don’t make important decisions after lunch-time.

Amantha was really great at sharing this quite complex knowledge in a way that allowed people to take away some very practical ideas.

Jason Fox - Dr Jason Fox 

Jason Fox had the task of bringing the event home and as usual, his talk was mind blowing, insightful and challenging. There was a lot to take onboard but the key statement that encapsulated his talk was:

"We need to change our relationship with doubt"

The essence of the talk was that ‘doubt’ is viewed in most organisations as a negative and there is a drive to eliminate all doubt before embarking on a new idea. The challenge there is that this ultimately leads to ideas being pulled back, scaled down and delayed as everyone invests time and effort eliminating doubt.

But doubt should be looked at in a positive way as it challenges us and actually helps make ideas happen. Jason listed the following three points about the benefits of doubt.

#1. Doubt makes ideas stronger
#2. Double makes leaders better
#3. Doubt makes life more wonderful

This was also a really nice closing topic to the night as I was able to reflect on Gavin’s story, and how it would have changed if he had tried to eliminate all doubt before embarking on his journey.

If he hadn’t had a good relationship with doubt, would Zen Pencils exist today?

This was a really fantastic event and I would like to thank both the speakers, and the Centre for Workplace Leadership for making the Melbourne chapter of the 99u Local conference happen!