Brain Disruptions from The Do Lectures 2013. First Bit: Purpose, People & Crowdsourcing

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This post was first published on “Look Up!” by Paul Kaan, where I share personal Musings, Inspirations and Play, and, on Medium.

In a forest I met Giants. One of them was very big, the others very small. The small ones had the hearts of Giants.

The Do Lectures Wales 2013 Walking amongst Giants by Paul Kaan

This is the first in a series of four bits exploring the brain disruptions I experienced at the 2013 Do Lectures. Important things come from the heart, sometimes they require more words! For those of you who this resonates with, please share your thoughts.

First Bit

Sometimes we forget to take time and look for the beauty in things, our brains become cluttered with the day to day. We get tunnel vision surrounded by the same people, places, jobs. We forget to look up!

The Only Way is Up! Baby for you and me now! Do Lectures Wales 2013 by Paul Kaan

Over the last three years I’ve been on a mission to do two things. Disrupt my brain and raise my levels of awareness. Awareness of what’s happening in my neighborhood and around the world.

What better way to disrupt your brain and raise awareness than to play with 120 others: “in a field, in tent , in a small clever country called Wales” the home of The Do Lectures. Good things take many steps, in this case 17177.98 kilometers (km) as the crow flys between Melbourne (Victoria, Australia) and Cardigan (Wales, UK). Every step was worth it!  Why The Do Lectures? Two clever friends Sam Bell and Ross Hill shared their Do experience with me. Ross shared David Hieatt’s post “10 Reasons not to attend The Do Lectures”, it was clear this would hurt my brain in a good way, this was for me.

If you’d like to keep up to date with the Do Crew of 2013 and a few other Doers, I curate a Twitter list you can subscribe to. You can’t add yourself to a Twitter list so if these rambling resonated with you, follow me on Twitter @PaulKaan.

Imagine being in a space with incredible vibe. A place where you can meet giants, a place where I met many wonderful people. A beautiful space to just be. Fforest, with two f’s, home to The Do Lectures, in Wales is such place. A place that has all the ingredients to release your mind.

Tranquility - Collyn Ahart and Nick Hand at Do Lectures Wales 2013 by Paul Kaan

The layers that we sometimes have to sift through to get to the core were instantly discarded by all. We shared freely, we shared transparently. The alignment in values of the people attending helped.

To digress, removing these veneers from the rest of our lives starts with us. The amount of our lives that is available for anyone to see on the internet is growing – but getting comfortable with this and looking to the positives whilst understanding the negatives is a massive challenge and will continue to be so for some time. The reputation economy is here! Our social profiles are increasingly viewed by employees current and potential, customers, suppliers, credit providers, landlords, suitors and beyond.

Back on track, The Do Lectures 2013, themed “Do Startup” was designed to get participants doing, working on big, global issues.  It helped to evolve thoughts that have been swirling around in my brain for some time. Thoughts around:

  1. Purpose.
  2. People.
  3. Crowdsourcing.
  4. Design.
  5. Critical & Consequential Thinking.
  6. Quality vs Quantity of Money.
  7. Time.

Purpose Part I

I’ve always been a believer in understanding your Why? Your purpose. Something I’m still working on and struggle with. When you truly have it nutted out you can really push great ideas with passion and conviction.  Sometimes the only way to work out your Why? is to start down a path and do. Through the experience, you can get closer to your Why? I see it as a changing and evolving creature rather than a destination, you just need to get close enough to see the heart of it at whatever instance in time you’re looking for it and grab a hold for the ride when you find it. Doing it in style is the trick!

The only  time I have experienced an enduring state of flow was during my first career making Filthy Good Vino. Flow lasted for 18months, for six of those we worked for over 100 hours a week. You have to love what you’re doing to be that committed. Wine is no longer my #1 purpose. I focus more on the drinking than making these days, although that will be changing. I share my thoughts about wine at

You’ll have to wait for the fourth post in this series before I finalise my thoughts on Purpose. To put Purpose into a personal context it’s essential that, through the first three posts, I explore People, Crowdsourcing, Design, Critical & Consequential Thinking, Quality vs Quantity of Money and Time.

So, here goes …


I’ve aways focused on people. The psychology of engagement is intriguing. How can we use psychology for good, not evil, understanding what drives people, how evolutionary psychology driven by natural and sexual selection affects our perception and language (thanks Collyn Ahart for the tip) and the challenges people are having finding the balance between work and life. I think trying to achieve work life balance is not the best way to optimise. My approach has been shifting to integration, finding my passion projects, asking who benefits and how, looking for reciprocity (avoiding those who suck time offering nothing in return), finding the moments of fun and play, saying “YES!!” when the boxes get ticked and having the discipline to say “NO!!” when they don’t. All focused on the people.

From the digital perspective, yes, content creates an opportunity to engage. But, what creates greater context, enabling deeper relationships, opening doors for the potential to co-create and collaborate? People are the most important ingredient. Sometimes we forget digital is just a tool, an overlay on what we’ve been doing in other ways forever. I’m a massive advocate for digital, but, we need to make sure we put it in perspective, hug it out more often than we do and design for people.

I met brilliant people at the Do, in an environment that immediately offered a high level of trust and purpose. Our relationships had instant context. We had the opportunity to talk, read body language, share a pint, a plate and table. The shared experience of showering outside, sleeping in tents and warding off the cold with 6 layers of clothing in an incredibly beautiful environment deepened that context. It was a human experience, one where strengths and frailties were shared.

A few of the Brilliant People at The Do Lectures 2013 hanging in the Tipi by Paul Kaan

The connections have been consolidated and kept warm online through interactions on Twitter, Medium and other digital networks. Deeper understanding has been driven through the sharing of our digital profiles as individuals, members of businesses and other communities.

The Number x Depth of Relationships = Happiness

How do we replicate this using digital? I don’t think you can. We don’t need to separate digital from physical, they’re symbiotic they enhance and amplify each other. Touch, sense, conviviality, laughter, looking into a person’s eyes, dirt under our fingernails, these things makes us human, bond us. Digital keeps these experiences alive, deepens relationships. That may change in the future as technology evolves and telecommunication advances with the likes of holography.

To truly be successful, I believe we need to bring the people to the front. Amy Jo Martin’s Do talk reinforced the importance of this. It’s easier than ever before to show more of yourself .. yet it’s a mind shift to be prepared to do so.  As Amy Jo said “Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable”.

There was an incredible diversity of people at The Do.  Young, old, geeks, designers, sports fanatics, bread makers, from around the corner and around the globe, people that had done it all, people just starting, all united by two traits: passion and a desire to Do.

What will I be Doing?

  1. I’ll be putting people upfront and centre in my business, show the face both strong and frail, happy and sad, learning and evolving .. human.
  2. I’ll continue to push my own digital profile down this path.
  3. I’ll be pushing the businesses, organisations, NGO’s and individuals I work with to put more of their people front and centre.
  4. I’ll be seeking exposure to a diversity of people and trying to ask questions that will elicit the full potential of the relationship. What inspires you? rather than What do you do?


If people are the not so secret, secret-sauce, how can we harness their collective capability and the power of the crowd. Tapping into cognitive surplus to drive collaboration and co-creation for communities at a global scale is becoming the norm. This practice is often called crowdsourcing.

The Do Startup sessions were a perfect example of crowdsourcing innovation and co-creation. It was inspiring to watch the beauty of serendipity blossom by having such a diverse group, who, as a whole, didn’t know each other, work together on projects with meaning. Get lots of brains in a room with intent, different perspectives, different wisdom and a limited timeframe and it’s amazing what you can get done.

Coders would call this a “Hackathon”. The model of bringing passionate people together for a shared purpose. Focused minds working to create, to innovate for real impact. The hackathon has been around for ages, initially to hack code, now to hack health, sustainability, food, education, you name it, as long as the right people, people who care are in the room.

I need to push this more with my life. There are many who argue that the rate of disruption today is making it a challenge to just cope. I disagree, I believe we can harness this disruption using crowdsourcing and agility to survive and thrive. Perhaps equal to this is focus and mindulfness, but, that’s for another time.

On the digital front, a Do Lectures video posted in Wales today can be seen by me in Australia 17177.98 kilometers away instantaneously, I can make a comment, it can prompt a spark to evolve my thinking and do something different, something better. I can explore this thinking with a quick Tweet and the conversation will grow.In reality humans have been doing this forever, digital simply makes it possible to accelerate the innovation process, shorten the cycles and reach further than before.

The projects I worked on ended up being called “10 Jars”. It’s a global sustainability initiative, to be tested in Wales and shared with the world. It’s vision is still being refined, currently it goes something like this:

To give every child the innovation skills they need, through growing, making and selling food, to shape a smarter,more resilient world for their future.

The project now has global crowdsourced cognitive excess being applied to accelerate its progress. We’re working on finding the best ways to efficiently and effectively harness this incredible goodwill!

The 10 Jars Crew - Do Lectures 2013

I’ve started a Google+ Community for 10 Jars. You can find it here, come say Hi. It’s a place where we can share our thoughts, skills, experience to help the 10 Jars and any other Do Startup project thrive.

What will I be Doing?

  1. I’ll be looking at pushing my innovation quotient through crowdsourcing at a global level. 
  2. I’ll be stimulating serendipitous interactions with clever people.

It was amazing to see how much was done to address seemly massive issues by focusing and aligning minds for 72 hours. I can only imagine what we could do if we had 72 days.

Next up …

Brain Disruptions from The Do Lectures 2013. Second Bit: Design, Critical & Consequential Thinking

Read it now!

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