London - Bertelsmann Creativity & Innovation Conference

Friedrich Kalthoff and Maximilian Kloes represented Gruner + Jahr at Talent Meets Bertelsmann 2014. Their team won the first prize: a trip to London to participate in the Bertelsmann Creativity & Innovation Conference. 

For centuries, London has been the creative hub of arts and sciences in Europe, if not the world. So, could there be a more apt place to host a conference on creativity and innovation? When we were given a rough idea of who was expected to speak at the conference at the Talent Meets Bertelsmann party back in July, we were already excited. The final line-up of speakers, however, exceeded all of our expectations. 

Before the conference started, however, the TMB team got an extra day to explore London. We – that is Nico, Miriam and the G+J team – climbed the O2 arena together, got a great view of London from a cablecar and enjoyed dinner and cocktails in the cabaret restaurant Circus. Our team, which arrived from different parts of the world, grew even further together and generally had no difficulties extending the schedule further into the night on several occasions. 

Inspiring Talks on Creativity and Innovation 

Then it was time for the main event: Bertelsmann invited entrepreneurs, artists, celebrities and scientists to provide the participants – mostly consisting of executives and our Talent Meets Bertelsmann team – with their unique perspectives on creativity and innovation. The list of memorable speakers is excessive, so we just focus on a few that really stood out. 

David Whyte provided insight into how a poet perceives the world. Reciting some of his works and poetic inspirations in a very personal and emotional lecture, Whyte showed how the smallest details can be creatively processed into something beautiful. The Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington emphasised the need to retreat from professional life more often. Only through relaxation and fulfilment in what really makes you happy could you strive for greatness in business life. (Her concept of mindfulness was also elaborated on psychotherapist Chris Cullen and neuroscientist Estanislao Bachrach.)
Conductor Itay Talgam was the last external speaker of the conference – and easily the most engaging. His lecture on different types of leadership was enlightening, entertaining and had all of the audience humming along. 

Many other speakers, such as celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, Pixar president Ed Catmull, producer Simon Cowell, musician Jean Michel Jarre, digital entrepreneur Michael Acton Smith as well as young business founders and YouTube personalities such as JacksGap, completed the line-up. They provided inspiring insights into their journeys to the top, their coping with major setbacks and their different approaches to creativity. 

The agenda: network, discuss, eat and be entertained 

However, the conference not only consisted of sitting and listening. Many breaks and mealtimes provided an opportunity to network (or simply enthuse over the great food), workshops encouraged discussions about different developments at Bertelsmann and the entertainment was splendid. A private concert by Beth Ditto? A surprise performance by opera singers in the stairwell? Talking to speakers in a more private setting over a few drinks? Bertelsmann made all of that happen and therefore transformed the iconic St Pancras Renaissance Hotel into a sparkling hub of thought. 

Taken together, it was an inspiring and entertaining four days. Our prize showed us even better what Bertelsmann was all about and what working for this media giant might look like. Moreover, Bertelsmann’s wish to have us at the conference does not only demonstrate their openness but also their willingness to engage with the youth. The organisers of both conference and our TMB winners’ trip did a great job. No wonder we became slightly sentimental over our final lunch together at Jamie’s Italian.

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