On November 17, Malala Yousafzai spoke to attendees of the World Business Forum about bravery and the importance of fighting for the right of everyone to receive an education.

The youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize lead a cast of speakers that included activists and athletes, educators and economists, CEO’s and pioneers among many more presenters at the two-day conference in New York.

For the third year in a row Insight Studio took a group San Luis Obispo County business and community leaders to stretch their imaginations, explore new ways of approaching challenges and return inspired to continue growing the impact of their personal and professional lives.

This year’s conference explored the challenge of transforming ideas into businesses in an environment of constant change. Attendees learned from companies defined by their progressive cultures and dynamic strategies; individuals who have demonstrated a willingness to risk, fail and risk again; and thought leaders who offered insights into what it takes to succeed.

We asked a few of the attendees to share their main takeaways. Their answers are below.

Attending the WOBI conference in New York was inspirational and emotional. Listening to Malala Yousafzai speak of her story and her focus on global education equality was amazing. She carried herself with such poise and positivity, it was hard to believe she is only 19 years old. She exudes passion and has great clarity on what is important.

Andre Agassi delivered a message of determination and finding your purpose. He shared his deepest struggles and how he overcame them and found purpose in his life. He was genuine and vulnerable, his message brought humanity and humility to the conference, which left me feeling moved and inspired.

Vijay Govindarajan shared his theory on the “Three box solutions: A Strategy for Leading Innovation.” He was followed by Amy Cuddy of Harvard who challenged us to examine our body language and lead while being present, but to also add an element of power by adopting body language that says, “I’m here. I’m confident. I’m ready to lead.” When we feel powerful, we act, we are present, and we expand.

There were many take-aways from this conference that can be applied in our everyday lives, both personally and professionally. We learned techniques that our team can use to lead with confidence and enthusiasm going forward.

Amy Cuddy left us with a fitting quote from Leonard Cohen: “Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” 

– Susan Whalen is a principal at RRM Design Group

I was fascinated by Martin Lindstrom’s talk about the impact of Small Data. Small Data provides clues into people’s lives that uncover huge trends. Generally Small Data leads to emotional clues into why we (and our customers) do what we do. Lindstrom made the point that 85 percent of what we do does not make sense so we can use Small Data as a way to “live with the customer” and uncover huge trends going forward.

Jeff Buckingham is president of Norcast Telecom Networks

As a first-time participant in the World Business Forum, I got more that I had hoped. Three of the speakers were heroes of mine, and they alone were worth the effort. But the other nine speakers were of equally high caliber.

Since the conference theme was “Be Beta,” or “stay innovative,” two of the main takeaways for me were:

  • Every new business, or even a new initiative is an When we treat them this way, we can be more objective about monitoring progress and making decisions about changing course (pivoting) or persevering, or even cancelling the project. “Let’s try an experiment” is less daunting than “Let’s launch our new major product line.” This reframing helps me encourage my client companies to be more nimble and eager to innovate.
  • In the urgency of day-to-day business, we must always reserve time for the future. That means creating the time for the team to step away from the rush of the day-to-day whirlwind to focus on the non-linear changes that will create the great ideas of the future. Unless these are built into the meeting rhythms of our organizations, we run the real risk of becoming outpaced by our competitors.

And, a major plus for me was to spend some time with fellow business leaders from San Luis Obispo!

– Ed Cox is principal at E.S. Cox and Company, LLC., a business coaching company.