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News IoD Open House

Inspiration abound at last month's IoD Open House

03 Apr 2018

Over the three days of IoD Open House we were treated to a host of inspiring and thought-provoking sessions at 116 Pall Mall. Here is a summary of the highlights to give you a flavour of what you might have missed…

IoD Open House was billed as an ‘unconventional convention’ and the tone was set by our very first speaker on Monday morning. Caspar Craven told his extraordinary story of how he sailed around the world with his wife and three young children and we discovered that it is possible to sell a business, while floating in the Pacific Ocean, for over £1m.

Among the many highlights on day one was a hugely entertaining talk, peppered with a number of expletives, from Henry Dimbleby, the co-founder of Leon Restaurants. Dimbleby had everyone in the room hurriedly scribbling notes as he revealed the secrets of Leon’s success, the challenges of scaling up and the importance of listening to your customers.

Employee wellbeing and good mental health are issues that the IoD have championed since launching our ‘A Little More Conversation’ campaign this time last year. So, it was heartening to see the sessions around those issues were so well attended. Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson hosted a seminar on Wellness in the Workplace and observed that had this event been happening a couple of years ago she might have struggled to fill the room. Paul Farmer, CEO of mental health charity Mind, also spoke on the subject on day three.

There were no prizes for guessing who was the star attraction on day two, as every available space in the main room was taken up for Baroness Karren Brady’s keynote speech. She recalled how she overcame sexism in football and spoke about the research she’s currently doing for a forthcoming TV programme on the gender pay gap. It was evident in the Q&A session which followed that Brady is an inspirational figure to many business leaders.

Continuing the theme of challenging the status quo, Carrie Grace is the woman who took on the BBC over equal pay and she drew another large audience for what proved to be an emotional session on her battle for parity at Broadcasting House.

Perhaps the most surprising session at Open House was a workshop with author Sam Conniffe Allende. He explained why the Golden Age of Pirates provides a range of unexpected role models for today’s entrepreneurs, examining how they introduced a series of working practices that would be considered revolutionary in today’s world.

The final day in the main room began with a talk on the Rise of the Robots. It was only fitting that guest speaker Dr Umang Patel should quote Sir Stephen Hawking who passed away earlier this month, by saying that “we only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”

Elsewhere, Paul Lindley, who transformed Ella’s Kitchen range of children’s food from an idea to a multi-million pound business, offered a call to arms for delegates to ‘empower your people to change your organisation from within and shift authority to where the information is’.

Stephen Martin closed IoD Open House by offering a huge thank you to everyone who attended and said, “To see so many leaders come to the IoD over the past three days has been truly enthralling.”

We’ll leave the last word to one of the people who attended last week and helped to make this event a success.

Rachel Mitchell tweeted, “So many highlights from my three days here at #IoDOpenHouse. I’ve met some great people and been informed and inspired by the speakers. Thank you!” We look forward to seeing Rachel and everyone else who came to IoD Open House back here in 2019.


IoD members regularly get the chance to hear from inspirational, successful leaders like those attending IoD Open House. 

How can IoD membership benefit your leadership development? 

Contact Press Office

Donjeta Miftari, Head of Communications  

020 7451 3285


Euan Holmes, Press Officer

020 7451 3280


Press office