Last week Phil and I attended the Thinking Digital event in Newcastle, a three day conference which combines workshops and networking for people from the world of tech, digital and mobile. While we were there we saw a number of talks from experienced speakers (more of that later), however, much of what we took away came from the social interactions we had with the other attendees. Whether this was discussions in the bar or even just putting a face to a twitter handle, meeting new people is what Thinking Digital is all about. The importance of actually shaking somebody’s hand is often lost, but actually having a face to face conversation with a new person about innovation can be the spark you need to kick start creativity.

Sharing Ideas

The purpose of the event is not necessarily to learn exact sciences read out by speakers, rather it is to be part of the experience as a whole. The time spent away from the office is valuable as it allows you to focus on big ideas outside of the day to day matters that take up so much attention. Making new connections and sharing the conference experience with others was fantastic, and being able to exchange thoughts with each other filled the place with enthusiasm.  Excitement is contagious and I’ll bet there were a lot of people eager to get started on creating or developing their own ideas.

The Sage, Gateshead

We came up with 2 or 3 action points for BirchenallHowden as a direct result of attending the event which were born simply by being in a creative environment. Not all of these will have an immediate impact though; some will be implemented over the coming days and weeks while others perhaps won’t be put in place for months or even years.


It should be noted that the speakers we saw were excellent. One of our favourite sessions was delivered by Aral Balkan (@aral), which has certainly changed the way I look at things. He discussed the “culture of mediocrity” in which so many of us live. Talking about poor systems and bad product design that we put up with every single day, Aral questioned the motivation of those that make money from poorly designed products and services. I think most people left the talk wanting to be part of a culture that tried to improve and innovate rather than settling for second best.


We loved every minute of this year’s Thinking Digital and will definitely be there next year. Whilst the conference is only six years old it is already attracting attendees from across the globe, and although the focus is on digital technology, there are also sessions focused on media and the arts. It’s a lively and diverse three days that I highly recommended!

Want a taste of Thinking Digital? Just download the app for a full video archive from previous years. Well worth a view and a great app from the team Gospelware.

TEDx Sheffield

If you are thinking you missed a trick and can’t wait until next year for Thinking Digital you can still book tickets for TEDx Sheffield on the 11th June. Many of you will know TED, a global network of conferences held under the banner of “ideas worth sharing”.  The TEDx format lends the TED brand to locally organized events that, while not officially organised by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, still carry the ethos of more high profile TED Global conferences.  You will even find a few speakers from this year’s Thinking Digital at the Sheffield event, and for only an afternoon of your time and £30 what excuse do you have not to go?

Written By: Neill Birchenall