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Trinity Global Business Forum 2016

Lara Connaughton, Auditor of Dublin University Business and Economics Society

August 2016

The inaugural Trinity Global Business Forum took place on May 26th 2016 in the Biomedical Sciences Institute building, affectionately called the ‘Biomed’ by students and staff alike. Dean Andrew Burke of Trinity Business School wore a lanyard around his neck as he greeted attendees and panellists , all equipped with the same Trinity-branded conference lanyard – a stethoscope of sorts, to listen to the pulse of Irish activity on the international stage of enterprise.

Stephen McIntyre of Twitter gave the opening address, with a healthy dose of energetic wit as he spoke about his personal journey as a businessman in the Irish context of commerce – past, present and future. Indeed, it was the future that was the focus that day; academics, industry experts and politically affiliated individuals discussed and debated topics including ethical leadership, flexible work, social entrepreneurship and the prevention of financial crises. The goal of the TBS organisers was to evolve past the static concept of merely possessing a strategy for the future, and to facilitate the discourse surrounding how exactly leaders in the business, social and political realms are going to have the vision to execute this strategy.

The aforementioned Stephen McIntyre spoke eloquently about an Omega watch which was presented to his father after years of employment, which he subsequently bestowed onto his son. McIntyre admitted that the old timepiece had a tendency to lose time, and while he kept the watch for sentimental reasons, he had invested in an upgraded Omega model for everyday wear. There was certain credence in this anecdote which rang true in a number of the panel sessions: to retain the practices that work well, but to discard habits that result in suboptimal performance; to learn from the past through both replication of success stories, and the release of that which may hinder the future.

Paul Dreschler of the Confederation of British Industry was another keynote speaker, who was asked the inevitable question on his prediction of the then-looming Brexit referendum. Mr. Dreschler did not have a crystal ball at his disposal to answer this question, and indeed that was not the aim of the Forum; the task at hand on the 26th of May was to diagnose the current situation in Ireland, impacted by domestic and foreign trends, and to deliberate on the appropriate course of action – not to have a simple summit in an echo-chamber with star-gazers and speculators. The BioMed was populated that day by thinkers and technicians, engineers and entrepreneurs, millenials and baby-boomers, all courting the uncanny concept of real change.

One of the closing addresses was given by recent Trinity grad and former Business Student of the Year, Ben Butler of Stripe, who drew on tale from ancient Greek mythology to elucidate part of his presentation: Sisyphus was a king who was forced to roll a gigantic boulder up a hill, and then watch it roll back down again, over and over for eternity. This story was quite poignant in its placement at the forum: fifty years ago it was fathomable that the twenty-first century would bring about pedestrianised space travel, and all sorts of futuristic ways to while away your days. The reality is that the same human needs of consumers are being met by businesses, albeit aided by advancements in the field of information and communication technology. But the same rocks are rolling up and down - a fact illuminated by the fire-side chat with former Pogues manager, Frank Murray, who has seemingly seen it all.

This Global  Forum was indicative the new era of practicality in the TBS, as Trinity was coaxed out of its traditional ivory tower, invited outside, and also encouraged to let the wider world in.