Disclaimer:  this is not a post specifically about agile.  Please feel guilt-free in skipping bits (or all) if you’re not interested in Emotional Intelligence or the EQ Summit.  (If you are interested, but need a grounding in what I;m talking about, try this article from Advance Systems Inc. who cover the basics really nicely.)

What is EQ?

EQ stands for Emotional Quotient. It measures Emotional Intelligence, in the same way that IQ measures intelligence.  Emotional Intelligence is about empathy with others, self-awareness and self-discipline, amongst other things.  In essence it is to do with how well you can manage both your own emotions and the emotions of other people.
It breaks into 3 main skills.  
  1. Identifying emotions
  2. Managing emotions (both yours and others)
  3. Applying emotions to something you are doing, such as solving a problem.

Its about the mindful use of the part of us that make us human. The bit that we couldn’t replace with a computer.  (Having read quite a lot on artificial intelligence lately, that last sentence feels a bit risky to publish!)


Why Would You Have a Summit About EQ?

Quite simply, it’s reckoned to be the single biggest differentiator in improving your bottom line.  Which exec doesn’t want that?  And if it comes with a heap of on-trend extra benefits like better mental health for staff, what’s not to love?

FastCompany have been writing article after article about it for several years now, saying exactly that.  So have the Huffington Post and the Harvard Business Review.
As we automate more tasks, those tasks that remain un-automated do so because they require an element of EQ. They are harder (perhaps impossible) to automate.  This means as time moves on, the jobs that remain will require humans BECA– USE they are human.  They can do something a machine cannot.  They have some degree of EQ.

Who spoke and what about?

First things to mention were that the event was hosted by Roche Martin, and Sky seems to have been a principle partner for the event too. I mention this as their CEO, Jeremy Darroch was one of the speakers.

Daniel Goleman

So the idea of EQ has been around since a 1964 paper by Michael Beldoch. It was Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence 30 years later however, that took the idea to the mainstream.

He talked about finding the sweet spot. The place where we are stimulated enough to be performant, but not so overwhelmed we become stressed. The latter affects our performance negatively.

He also talked about how leadership style can make or break the working climate for staff.

His talk covered the core reasons why mindfulness is important for society, and how we can go about bringing it into our everyday lives.  His slide on Crucial Competencies was possibly the most photographed of the conference!

Possibly the most insightful slide in his entire deck

Sir Ken Robinson

This was by far the stand-out talk of the day for me.  Sir Ken is an excellent public speaker, and immensely funny in a way that makes it look almost accidental.  If he had talked gibberish for the length of his talk, it still would have been a master class in public speaking.  (Have a look at him on YouTube to see what I mean, or at his TED talk form a decade ago.)

As it was, Sir Ken spoke about innovation, creativity and how to lead innovative and creative people to maximize these traits.




I was far too absorbed listening to his talk to take many photos, here are a random couple with which I got lucky!

His talk was called “the pulse of innovation” and cultivating these traits.

Looking back I still love this particular slide.  The idea that we are moving away from the ‘job for life’ scenario our grandparents and other ancestors knew is not news.  What is mind-blowing to me is how far it has flipped. The idea that the average age of a person is now significantly longer than the average age of a company (and trending upwards) is so significant, and we can watch it change the way we work in real time (“Gig Economy” anyone?).

I’ve bought his latest book The Elelment.  He has written several others about Finding Your Element, another about creativity and several about education in schools . (Again, see his TED talk if you want to get a quick overview).

Baroness Susan Greenfield

Baroness Greenfield spoke about the scientific aspects of EQ, and how it related to areas of the brain.  Her talk was called “When Neuroscience Means Business”.  She kept her talk on message, and I loved the relatively deep brain science, and had a great time during her talk. I think it probably wasn’t for everyone though.  If this is your kind of thing too, Youtube has just what you need 🙂

Jeremy Darroch

Rather than a straight up talk this was more of a live interview.  As a format it worked very well.  Mr Darroch (as CEO at Sky) spoke at length about how important EQ and related skills were to the workforce at Sky.  I would have liked to have heard more detailed case study type information, but that’s always the case with me!

Dr Martyn Newman

This is the guy who wrote the book on mindfulness, and another on Emotional Capitalists.  I enjoyed his talk a great deal, even though I am not a mindfulness practitioner.  Don’t get me wrong, I know I am missing out here, it is not something I am proud to admit!  (I did sign up for a LinkedIn course on mindfulness recently…9 minutes I lasted before I wandered off to do something else!)

People who practice mindfulness are better focused and have better mental health than those who don’t.  Let’s be honest, I know I need the help.

Dr Martyn’s talk made lots of sense, and was enjoyable to listen to.  But here’s the thing (and I’m ashamed to admit it), I can’t recall for the life of me any actual, usable nuggets of wisdom I got from it.

I intend to buy both the books.  I obviously need them!

Ruby Wax OBE

Ruby Wax

I grew up watching Ruby Wax on TV, and while I knew she was clever. I rather think you have to be clever to be really good at comedy. What I didn’t know she had a masters degree from Oxford. (American people:  this is impressive, think “Harvard” or “Yale” 😉 ).

So, when she makes you laugh about neuroscience, mindfulness and what she calls being ‘frazzled’, its fun to learn! (School was never like that.  Sir Ken is definitely on to something about schooling).

Her talk was about how stress is part of human evolution, but constant, high levels of stress are not.  Her message was simple: try to notice how you feel, and accept the feeling without letting yourself be sucked into actually feeling it.  (No, I don’t tell it very well.  It’s the same with jokes tbh).

What was most interesting is her new project with Marks and Spencer’s to run local ‘Frazzled Cafes’.  Its very early stages, with just a couple in the big cities at the moment. The pilot has been a huge success, however, and they are rolling out over the coming months.  Do have a look.

I’m really delighted she has been lending her support to the current focus on mental health. She has first-hand experience, which she readily shares and which she makes hilarious whilst doing so. People learn well when education is fun 🙂

She has written about it in her new book which looks like this:


Somewhere in the middle….

At one point during the day we broke up and chose one of 2 workshops to attended.  I chose the one about building resilience in young people, a topic I am very interested in this idea. This turned out to be a talk rather than workshop and Jay Baughan certainly had the credentials and information to educate me.  I confess I found the talk so packed with info, that I struggled to find piece it all together. It needed what I call a ‘story arc’ for the talk.  It meant I (and several others I spoke to) really struggled to join up the data he presented in a meaningful way.
If you’d like to listen to his talk, you can listen to it here.  It might be good that you can’t see the slides, as it narrows the info you need to take in :). There is lots in it, and it is very interesting.

Was it worth the ticket price (quite steep at £1000)

Short answer: ‘Yes, but….’.

Why ‘Yes’?

Daniel Goleman & Ruby Wax were an absolute delight to listen to speak.  Baroness Susan Greenfield’s talk was frankly the equivalent of my own personal catnip. Obviously, I did love it, but it may have been more science-y than many would like.

The stand-out for me was Sir Ken Robinson.  He was epic.  Funny, clever and beautifully well-informed.  To be honest, it was worth the ticket price to see this man alone for me!

What’s with the ‘but…’?

Whilst Jeremy Darroch was very interesting to listen to, as he spoke about the importance of EQ at Sky, I was left feeling it still felt theoretical.  I didn’t feel I’d got any nitty-gritty examples of change, or measured improvement from his talk.  Whilst I don’t doubt there have been some, I would dearly love to know about them!  This talk didn’t give me that, which I only realised after I reflected on it later.

The other thing is very minor.  I was lucky enough to be attending in what amounted to an NVM ‘gang’.  There were 6 of us, which was really great for me – usually I attend conferences alone.  
However, the layout of the refreshment areas didn’t encourage conversation or networking between attendees. I’ve said before that I am a little shy with introducing myself to strangers. This may, therefore, have been my own personal gripe, and not something other people felt, but I bet I am not the only person who felt that way. Had I been to this conference alone, I think it would have been less fun.  For an EQ summit, that felt like a bit of an obvious point to miss.

Would I go again?

It was a lot of money, and these are people whose work I read anyway.  But there really is something special about seeing people in person.  I’d love to go again, but the pain induced by the ticket price would need to be strongly eclipsed by the calibre of the speakers again to make it a must-see.

Other people have also written reviews on their experience of the conference, so here’s one written by Joanne OMalley in case you want another opinion.