Food for thought – BBN Academy 2013

I’m excited. This is my first trip to Italy and I’m en route to the BBN Academy. As prime movers in the world’s only true Business to Business Network, Fifth Ring have elected to send me over to progress my understanding of the tools we use to deliver our services. My colleagues, however, think I’m on another jolly and their envy is tangible.

First stop, Terminal 5 and we make a connection with some very tired-looking members of the Tag Enterprise team from Toronto. A short hop over the Alps and we’re pulling into the driveway of Cascina Erbatici, a converted rice farm near Pavia, south-west of Milan.

My programme for the next two days included a series of workshops and presentations. The first day was a focus on the Evolve toolkit which we share across our B2B network. I considered that I might have some knowledge of two of its three components, given that I am involved in some aspect of delivering them almost on a daily basis. Articulating the benefits of the idea succinctly is trickier than I thought.

I had a perception going into the workshop that I knew what I didn’t know. By the end of the day, I had more questions than answers and I found this refreshing. As part of a creative team that has been together for some years now it is all too easy to slip into a creative coma.

I’m reminded of something I read from writer and comedian Sandi Toksvig: “When I was a student an anthropology professor held up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved into it. 'This is often considered to be a man’s first attempt at a calendar' she explained. ‘But what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is a woman’s first attempt at a calendar’. In that second I stopped to question almost everything I have thought about the past”.

The whole workshop was fun and educational but what really struck me was in that room, working on the briefs, with agency people from all corners of the world, we were all talking the same language. There was a common understanding of what we were doing and of the best way to solve our conundrums of the day.

We may have all been talking the same language at the Academy but we had all brought different views and experiences. As a creative it is fundamental to constantly view things from different angles, to short-circuit those cognitive behaviours that lead us down well-trodden creative paths. Even on day one I left the conference hall with new thinking and lots of questions. For me, that was a fruitful day's work.

The next day was packed with a series of presentations on all manner of topics highly relevant to anyone interested in the leading edge of B2B marketing. The sheer calibre of thought leadership from around the world managed once more to reset my ideas and fill it with new ones. I was starting to get a real sense of the power of BBN and it’s nice to know all these talented people are my virtual colleagues. It may be early days but I have no doubt we are at the sharp end of B2B Marketing wisdom and the momentum is building.

It’s possibly easier to be impressed when you have no real expectations but the food on offer at Cascina Erbatici was an endless array of the finest I could imagine. Anything I could have thought of, they had it laid out in abundance. I could talk more about the free bars and everlasting buckets of wine but it would be missing the point, which of course was learning and development!

If what I got from the Academy was food for thought, I am stuffed.