Finding meaning from The Meaning Conference (and ideas to share)

Last week we spent three days in Brighton to go to The Meaning Conference and take part in some of the fringe events.  Quite a time commitment, but oh was it worth it!

Meaning Conference ‘connects and inspires the people who believe in better business’.

We thought we’d share some of our key takeaways from the conference and fringe events…and maybe we will even see some of you there next year.

We heard many brilliant speakers, took part in a number of workshops and connected with some really interesting progressive thinkers – so we can only give a sample of what we gleaned from it. We plan to follow up this blog over the coming weeks with more thoughts on specific subjects, inspired by Meaning.

Branding, culture and people

We kicked off with a lively workshop led by Samantha Whittaker from Human Change Agency and Kelly Smith from Neo – addressing the importance of bringing brand and culture together (a concept we embrace in our approach to holistic legal advice). We were invited to consider a murmuration of starlings and the fact that we all know just what they are simply from their movement and rhythm in the sky – a delightful image for us to keep in mind as we reflect on our own businesses and whether the actions of our people (right through the organisation and all the decisions that we make) truly reflect our brand and culture.

Self awareness for business leaders

Garry Turner led a thought provoking workshop on the importance of self awareness for business leaders.  We talk so much with our clients about the importance of the leaders embracing the purpose and values of their organisation and generally ‘walking the talk’ in their leadership, but we don’t often talk about the importance of these leaders being self aware.  Without properly exploring what self awareness means for individual leaders (and the impact in turn for the organisation and its people), there will inevitably be a gap between the theory of embracing purpose and values in leadership and what actually happens day-to-day.

Map of Meaning

At the main conference, we listened to Professor Marjolein Lips-Wiersma and Lani Morris, who talked about the struggle for finding meaning at work. They are the joint authors of ‘The Map of Meaningful Work: A Practical Guide to Sustaining our Humanity’. They posed some challenging thoughts and questions which we will consider in later blogs, but it is worth mentioning here how finding meaning is personal – we each have our own meaning, including from our work.  In workplaces, it’s important for leaders to remember that what can sound like complaints are actually often about the absence or destruction of meaning.  Lani shared the illustration, the Map of Meaning, as a tool to help people evaluate and create their own meaning.

We felt inspired to incorporate the concept of everyday meaning, as an additional layer, into our conversations with clients about their organisational purpose and values.

More ideas on self-management

Meaning also triggered discussions on ways of moving away from traditional hierarchies and thinking about self-management in the workplace. We heard from Brendan Martin of Buurtzorg Britain and Ireland, a UK partnership with Buurtzorg in the Netherlands.  Brendan talked about some of the practical challenges of adopting a structure of self management, but also the benefits it brings.  He shared how working within a self managed team is absolutely not a soft option; it requires discipline.  There needs to be a no blame culture, so people aren’t afraid of making mistakes, and leaders need to have a mindset change for a self management structure to work.

This led perfectly to the fringe event workshop we joined, Stop Motivating your Employees.  This was brilliantly facilitated by Lisa Gill of Tuff Leadership Training.  We explored how leadership is not just a way of doing, but a way of being.   We considered how many styles of leadership are based on an adult to child dynamic in the workplace and how an adult to adult dynamic is essential for a more self managing structure to truly work, day-to-day.  We tried this out in role play scenarios and it was surprisingly challenging for everyone, but really highlighted the difference in approach which is needed to lead without adopting some sort of parent to child dynamic.

Lisa hosts a really interesting podcast, Leadermorphosis, which further explores the emerging world of self-management and progressive organisations.


We left Brighton with new ways of looking at things, new connections and increased enthusiasm to explore these ideas further with our clients and contacts. It felt so nourishing to be immersed in such fresh ideas about meaning at work and connect with like minded people. We would thoroughly recommend a dose of Meaning in 2019!

Our comment

There was lots to think about and this is just a flavour. We’ll follow up on a few areas in more depth, but if any of these ideas really resonate with you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch to discuss them.