Last Friday, we were lucky enough to be invited along to the first in a series of new BBC initiatives for collaborative work - Connected Studio, held at their new studios at MediaCity UK, Salford Quays.
Daniel and I were, slightly embarrassingly, first to turn up (contrary to our plan of turning up fashionably late). We were greeted by John, a member of the Connected Studio team who led us up to the fifth floor where the studio was to be held, offered us our introductory packs and the much-coveted meal vouchers. We grabbed some breakfast and settled into what would be our surroundings for the day in the form of the amazing new Quay House.
It's quite an outstanding place - but I guess that's to be expected of a facility of this stature. One of the most striking features that stood out to me was how the the whole place steered it's ambience toward creative thinking and flexible working. A favourite being the somewhat cheesily-titled 'Thought Wheels'. See pic below.
As a bit of a background, the idea of Connected Studio is that throughout the year a number of these events are to be held, each focussing on a different BBC product. The BBC will work with internal and external teams to develop new ideas which are finely tuned on the day by working with BBC staff, audiences and other people you meet there. This initiative has been commissioned in order to spur creativity and innovation through the collaboration of the BBCs internal staff and other individuals.
After an introduction from Adrian Woolard, we were then guided through the Homepage to date, given a fly-through of the previous iterations and the stats that had led them to the current version of the homepage and some basic information that would help shape things to come. Attendees could either use the following few hours to refine their existing ideas in their teams, or advertise new ideas and build groups based on their concepts in order to collaborate and use mixed expertise for their pitch at the end of the day. It's worth pointing out at this stage that a number of attendees were there for a closed pitch - including ourselves - so amongst others we used the available resources to change refine aspects of our own concept and use real-world examples in order to prepare our pitch.
Everybody was encouraged to utilise available resources on the day such as 'Speakers Corner', where various BBC staff would do a Q&A about their own aspect of the HPSN - such things as Market, Tech and Personalisation. Personally, I found these sessions extremely useful as it gave a great insight into the world of the digital BBC. We also made good use of a live audience Q&A, or 'focus group' if you will. Again, this was a fantastic opportunity to ask the right sort of questions to a panel of users who regularly visit the BBC homepage and use their answers to strengthen our own proposition.
We found the BBC staff throughout the day extremely approachable, never finding ourselves without an answer to our questions - which is arguably exactly what the day revolved around.
After our pitch (yes, i've tactfully avoided talking about the pitch itself), we made our way back into Speakers Corner where we sat in on another Q&A session, this time about pitching. As you can see good timing was order of the day for Daniel and I.
Before long we found ourselves sat where the day began where we would be watching a series of open pitches, made by the teams who had either collaborated on the day or who had developed their ideas and were happy to share their ideas with the rest of us in the room. A total of 23 pitches went before us, perfectly orchestrated in terms of switching between laptops for the all-singing, all-dancing keynotes to classic pen and paper presentations. It was great to see the results of such a day. How ideas can be developed in such a short amount of time thanks to the resources available and the skill of the people who had come together to make things happen. There were some great ideas, some a little more practical than others but on the whole it was fantastic to see such a spectrum of ideas.
Following the Studio on Friday, just 3 of the 30+ ideas that were pitched in total will go through to the next stage of a 2 day long build of proof-of-concept, so we're still sat with fingers crossed but regardless of the outcome we got a lot out of the day on the whole. It was great experience to learn from, inspiring surroundings to be in and the resources available for refining our own idea were brilliant.
It remains to be seen how the whole Connected Studio works in the long run, but many large corporates could learn a thing or two from the model as a whole, and we for one would love to go back.
Oh, and the Cheeseburger & Chips in the canteen was top notch. Enjoy the pics.