#cong 18 Report – Three Days of Ideas | Engaging | Connecting | Sharing

Under the theme of ‘Ideas’ CongRegation 2018 the three day ‘mind mesh’ festival this year further expanded to include 7 different events as part of the weekend.

This was the sixth year of the event that witnessed over 100 Irish and international speakers debate, discuss and share their expert insights into the world of ‘Ideas’.

Consisting of 8 separate events over the weekend in 10 different venues the conference featured an evening of talks in Ashford Castle, Adults Physics Workshop, Full Day Unconference, Children’s Smart, Music and Drumming workshops, a learn the Ukulele music workshop, poetry recitals and finishing with foraging walk in Cong wood.

The centre piece of the weekend is the unconference which saw coffee shops, book shop, art gallery, restaurants and shops in Cong Village turned into mini conference centres or ‘huddles’ with attendees debating Ideas from the perspective of artificial intelligence to how to get ideas off the ground.

This year also saw the launch of a problem solving muse for attendees.  Over the course of the event attendees simply entered a problem at www.thypia.com and a creative muse delivered an anonymous personalized response.

Once again, tickets were earned through the submission of a 600 word unique article on the theme of ‘Ideas’ that is posted on the conference website.  In total 97 articles were submitted using a range of mediums (audio, video, written) and format (from poems to quotations).

Ashford Castle and Physics Workshops.

This year the proceedings started with 5 International and Irish speakers sharing their unique insight on the world of ideas.  This was followed by a ‘Semi-Conductor’ workshop in Cong Village.  The full report and video is available here.

Unconference Day

Gathering in Ryans Hotel from 9am on November 24tha split of experienced CongRegation attendees mingled easily with first timers, as tips for the day and how to read the timetable were expressed. After a quick orientation by Eoin Kennedy the 100 attendees broke up into their randomized groups in 8 different locations.  This year included the newly opened Byrne & Butler, the relocated Rare & Recent Bookstore along side Pat Cohans bar & restaurant which remaining open for a longer season.  Ryan’s Hotel, Puddleducks Cafe, Elizabeth Toghers Gallery and Danaghers Hotel completed the list of locations.

Each location was managed by a specially briefed chairperson who guided proceedings.  Each session opened up with an ice breaker, which ranged from life tips, business guidance through to IT tips.  Frequently the ice breaker became the talking point of attendees as they floated between the 4 different sessions.  At each session 3-4 people were invited to speak for 10-15 minutes with moderated Q&A.  Attendees decided where, when and how they presented.

The talks were generally ‘off the cuff’ or a verbal chat through the article the attendee has submitted.  As the time available is short speakers focused on the strongest and most salient points which acted as a catalyst for conversation and connection.  Fueled by free flowing tea/coffee/pastries and lunch, attendees moved after each 1 hour huddle to a new venue with 12 new people until everyone has spoken.

The fourth huddle finished at 4.30pm with the customary photo at Cong Cross and a short thank you address, before retiring to Ryans Hotel for drinks followed by dinner in Pat Cohans and other venues.

Children’s Workshops

The children’s workshops at Congregation started as a way of easing the pressure on parents of attendees but have now grown to be a stand alone event.  Over 36 children attended the ‘Smart Fabric’ and precussion workshops in the Crossroads Community Centre.

Delivered by Shirley Coyle of Common Ground Design, the smart fabric workshop started by allowing children to design their own clothing on cutout models before exploring how to embed sensors into clothing and experimenting with different fabrics from slow vanishing UV light designs.  Mixing motor skills (sewing) with technology (embedded diodes, sensors) the morning session was spent making and experimenting.

Following a lunch from Byrne & Butler and a movie showing the group of children again assembled under the expert tuition of Anthony McNamee of One World Drum for a percussion workshop.  The two hour workshop ended with a 20 minute concert for the parents where the entire group worked in a coordinated drumming master class.

Poetry Open Mike

Following a request from John Davitt, who had published a book of poetry, a stand up session was introduced to this year preceding after the conference dinner in Danaghers.  The session was MCed by Paul O’Mahony who guided the poets through rapid fire recitals by John Davitt, Richard Millwood and Anne Tannam (both whose pieces were written for their fathers) and this years youngest attendee Caoimhe May.  A number of impromtus recitals were also delivered by including Karl Thomas, Gillian Godsil and Celia Keenaghan.  Fears about the reception the poetry session would receive were unwarranted as the audience listened with rapt attention.

Ukulele Workshop

Having delivered a master class on the bodhran and harmonica in previous years, Sean McGrath once again pushed the limits further with a ukulele workshop.  Focusing on the basics Sean has the entire group playing the instrument with minutes and finished up a with group composition.   He also left the group with no just the enthusiasm to play more but a full set of resources to continue the learning journey.

The impact of the deep sharing from the conference, the emotional experience of the poetry sessions and the fun of music playing was evident in the free flowing interaction amongst attendees that continued late in to the night.

Foraging Workshops

One of the things that make CongRegation special is the beauty of the physical surrondings of Cong Village.  A quick trip through the 12 century abbey and across a wide stone bridge, with leaping spawning salmon leads to the Cong Woods which was the location for a foraging walk guided by Alex, a cook in The Lodge Hotel. Over the course of 2 hours under blue skies and sunshine he located edible mushrooms, salad ingredients and natural flavouring in the ancient forest.  With opportunities to sample nature’s bounty he shared how they use the ingredients in the kitchens in the hotel.


As a free event CongRegation relies on sponsors to underwrite the cost of organizing and running the event.  However it is important to have sponsors who buy into the ethos of information sharing balanced with commerce.  This year sponsors have all supported previous years and delivered support beyond financial contributions.  Their ongoing support and engagement is very much appreciated.  I would personally like to thank Mayo.ie (www.Mayo.ie), the Advanced Productivity Skillnet (https://icbe.ie/skillnets/advanced-productivity/) MKC Communications (www.mkc.ie)and Blacknight https://www.blacknight.com.

Night of Ideas in Ashford Castle

The fact that there is only 32 seats in the private cinema in Ashford Castle is the biggest weaknesses and strengths of the beginning event of CongRegation.  The luxurious surroundings and the ‘pulmanesque’ seating allows for a level of intimacy that connects speakers and attendees closely but the night is always oversubscribed.

This year five speakers shared their unique stories of ideas in an evening which started with a prosecco reception in Ashford Castle’s Connaught Room.

Daphne McKinsey stared the evening with a presentation exploring fear and its impact on ideas noting that sometimes we need to completely step away from an idea before we can reassess and implement it.  Generating something new challenges us and Daphne’s story behind the Sean Edwards Foundation deeply resonated with all.  Daphne lost her son Sean in a tragic motor accident which inspired her to create a foundation that would improve driver safety in the motor racing sector.  Daphne also shared the plans for a new communications and collaboration platform that could revolutionise driver to spectator the safety with enhanced first responder and incident data.

Peppered with a lifetime of tips and stories of products he developed David Gluckman shared insights on what inspired new gins, vodkas and wines.  Contrary to a systems led world he suggested that ‘sometimes it helps to take something right to the wire.  The cold sweat of panic can concentrate the mind wonderfully.”  The search for ideas is a 168 hour a week undertaking he also noted.  “Wherever you look, you can find something. Just keep looking” said David describing how he has found inspiration from ordinary things like a crossword puzzle. He also told attendees to look at the information you already have rather than continually looking for new data. David also revealed that for him the process of ideation it was “never a team game’.   Acknowledging the role of buyers of ideas he advocated the need to learn how to buy as well as sell ideas.   David finished up with a final piece of advice for all to implement the morning after test on ideas – what seems like an inspired concept might not seem like such a good idea the next day.

Speaking without slides but based on a lifetime of stories from working in the media Valerie Cox shared how headline grabbing stories come about.  By pulling bags of rubbish out of ditches around the country, searching for clue of ownership she tracked down dumpers to interview them for ‘Ditch Watch’.  Over 5 years this caught nationwide appeal and radically changed behaviour.  Aligned to this she also narrated uncovering a series of illegal dumps based upon following up on rumours that led to high court actions.  She also spoke about gate crashing wedding for scoops to following numerous lines of query to gather enough information to make a story worth while.  Valerie also shared how the media worked to extremely tight deadlines that forces journalist to rapidly work contacts, gather information, turn them into a coherent narrative and make them readable.  The life of a journalist is not for everyone with its multiple rejections and sometime dangerous reactions.  One of Valerie’s final stories was on revealing the practices of Irish psychics that prayed upon people vulnerabilities after weeks of recording interviews.

Lee Tunney Ware in his presentation on ‘New Mindsets = New results’ used a series of audience participations that had everyone on their feet to demonstrate the connection between know and believing. ‘We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are’ he said acknowledging the role of belief over perception.  He brought the exercise home to attendees by asking them to see how many ‘F’s they saw in a sentence.  Most missed a couple of them demonstrating that the mind does not always see everything.  Lee maintains that beliefs are the barrier to truth and are only summary commands.  He finished up telling the audience that ‘your limits only exist in the mindset that created them’ and encouraged everyone to take a new and open view on what they could achieve.

The evening finished with Joan Mulvihill narrating her new journey as an artist. Joan was better know to the attendees as the CEO of the Irish Internet Association and more recently as centre director of IC4.  With only 24 hours to prepare for the presentation she also discussed the role of ‘fear’ and ‘acceptance’ of exposing new ideas.  Illustrating the progression of her paint from photo realistic to more emotion fueled impression she articulated the movement from ‘Someone who can but someone who doesn’t…..’ to  ‘Someone who can and someone who does…’  She also questioned who decides if someone is or isn’t something.  When is someone a Musician, author, Poet, Comedian, an Entrepreneur or in her situation an Artist?

Is it defined by the ‘effort’ or the ‘output’?  The reaction by the attendees to her work answered some of this but people willing to buy her work was perhaps a better indicator.

She also spoke about embracing how some people will hate her work and the honest feedback this provides.  She finished by talking about the difficultly of giving something away that she has created, although financial payment helps.

Following the evening in Ashford Castle the group retired to Danagher pub where Mags Almond, Richard Millwood, Chris Reina and Stephen Howell brought the group through making simple electrical circuits and explaining the role and function of diodes, conductors, semi-conductors.  By using the now infamous fluffy chicken Pieu Pieu showed how our bodies can act as conductors followed by hands on making of glowies.  In the course of 20 minutes the impact on sparking curiosity, understanding and questioning was clear to the attendees and even clear how this can be transformation for children.  Deep electronics concepts through fun and experience.


Summary of #cong18 Ideas Submissions

Almost 100 submissions were published this year in the run up to #cong18 on Nov 24th under the meta theme of ‘Ideas’ and due to the diversity of insights grouping them into common sub theme is a challenge.  Some submissions were specific from tips on remembering ideas to more psychology led analysis of what constitutes an idea.  Attendees were given a blank canvas on which to map out their unique perspective which was a difficult task as it involved distilling and focusing their thoughts on a broad and complex area.  Many people reported spending long journeys pondering their thoughts before committing to paper.  The process of  writing these thoughts down takes discipline but also deeply embeds the learning.

Grouping submissions in to common sub themes is also a very subjective process especially as many submissions cover multi arenas in a short space but they loosely gravitate and cluster around the following areas:

  • Ideation: Process/joy of coming of up with ideas
  • Implementation: The difficulty of ideas and what happens next
  • Psychology: Insights in to the thought process and what ideas actually are
  • Business: The commercial perspective of ideas from patents to copyrights
  • Society: The impact of ideas on how we live and our survival
  • Education: Learning from children to reimagining the education system


Kick off this year Alan Costello articulated the learnings from recording an idea every day in The Power of One Learning Per Day.   Karl Thomas supplemented this with his insights of a year of Ideation in Reflections On the Last Year of Ideation proposing that if you ‘lack’ creativity, get good at communication and collaboration.

Richard Millwood reflected on how taking a contrary approach can uncover new thinking in Being Contrary.

Sabine McKenna gave some granular tips for remembering ideas from writing them down and creating memory hooks in Ideas and How to Hold on to Them.

Carol Passemard in Ideas and the Eagle  proposed that often ideas arise through “need or problem solving” whether it was the need to change, make money or because something is broken.

The complexity of simple ideas  by Mags Almond spoke to how a simple change can harness the insights of all especially in groups.

Dealing with the tricky arena of AI and Ideas Victor Del Rosal gives a pragmatic view in The future of innovative ideas  where he sums up as “Coming up with innovative ideas, aka the game of innovation, will surely remain for a long, long time one of humanity’s favourite endeavours. The question is, to what extent will AI also play the game?”

Claude Warren is a proponent of following a logical progression of understanding about the nature of things to build idea with a natural link to machine learning and a mix of humour in Brain Storming, Machine Learning, Humor and the Origin of Ideas

John Davitt’s Rewilding Ideas shares his learnings from from swapping urban living, international keynotes and software development for a hillside & sheep farming deep in deepest Mayo

In his second submission Want bigger ideas? Ask bigger questions! Alan O’Rouke explains that the ideas you generate are constrained and shaped by the questions you ask.

In an interesting storytelling narrative Conor O’Brien points to the wisdom of leaving space for ideas and how extreme can be positive in Bring Out Your Ideas and Move Them On

Jeffrey Gormly delivered some insights by an artist for unfolding the creative process from finding a rhythm, making space using intuition in Creativity wants to flow

In an era of google and AI Cyril Moloney points out that ideas will be a precious commodity that we need to invest in now to avoid disruption along with where ideas come from in Is it time to Brainstorm with Google?

Through a video submission and a selection of Ideas quotes Paul O’Mahony in I have no idea  looks at how ideas happen reminding us that before our idea were our feelings.

Asking if Are All Ideas Instinctive? Romain Couture explores the conflict between reason and instinct.

Shirley Coyle questions if school is killing creativity and recommends making learning fun and encourage curiosity in Ideas – Nurturing Creativity

Zanya Dahl believes that the greater the mind’s exposure to experiences and different sources of knowledge, the more opportunity for interesting connections to form and the greater the propensity of ideas in No idea is a bad idea

You don’t have to be an ideas person but find others who bring out your creativity is the message from Pamela O’Brien in Ideas and where to find them

Emphasing the importance of ideas Tom Murphy advocates that if we didn’t have good ideas we would have been done away by evolution in Evolving Ideas.

Maryrose Lyons proposes that Average people talk about people, great people talk about people’s ideas but extraordinary people talk about ideas in Average? Great? Or Extraordinary?

Revealing how he blends old school writing ideas in moleskins before calling them out and using voice transcription and AI for surfacing the best ideas Bernie Goldback also proposes sharing your ideas through immersive experiences in While Talking to Myself in My Attic.

Gillian Berry tells us that Translating ideas into meaningful contributions is a challenge worth taking in Necessity is the mother of invention- A 360 reflection while also advocating self belief and freeing yourself from constraints.

Using his years of running Maker Workshops, Chris Reina suggests we should  embrace our Maker spirit and share with others in We’re All Makers and Learners!

Derval Cunningham shares the essential elements for the generation of ideas covering a Quiet Mind, Space, Time and Connection in No idea what an idea is? 

Encouraging people not to give up on ideas Aoife Keady shares that the best ideas develop when you see a future for them or more importantly when you cannot see a future without them in I Cannot Sleep At Night Until I Have At Least Tried My Best To Bring An Idea To Life! 

Stan Kuznetsov encourages kids to generate ideas, read more books, stay away from modern media and take time offline in The Idea of Unblemished Mind.

Adding to voice of encouraging ideation in children Sinèad Curran advocates allowing children to be in control of themselves and being mindful of how we use negative and positive reinforcement in At what age should we be allowed to have our own ideas?

Listening to those reoccurring ideas is important – they push you to do things outside your comfort zone and drive you to do things you wouldn’t normally do. Unshakable ideas happen for a reason and are a sign you need to act on them says John Reilly in Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Emphasising the role of fun in ideation Richard Curry tell us about the How to cook ideas in the furnace of craic!

Gavin Duffy tells us the best way to generate ideas is to bring people together to form a neural network of idea generation machines! in The Neural Networks of Cafe’s and Bar’s

Using a poetic form, Alan Tyrrell narrates that ideation is not easy but that’s what makes ideation so addictive and that they need harsh treatment as well as support in Ideas have legs….an ode to Cong

Gar Mac Críosta in a poem tells us that in ideation we should looks for the gaps, explore the edges, explore and share in  Disciples of Curiosity


In addition to documenting our internal survival instinct Paddy Delaney also advocated that for ideas to become actual Idea they required some form of action in Beware Your Lizard Instinct. Simon Cocking advocated reading books for ideas and taking time away from the screen.  Eileen Forestal in Ideas – 10 a penny …. or are they worth their weight in gold ? spoke about spreading ideas.

Reflecting on the managing constantly ideation Ailish Irvine in “This time next year Rodney” advocated  you win some, you lose some.

Cutting straight to the chase Alastair McDermott delivers some hard truths but solid recommendations to evaluating and giving ideas the best chance of survival Your Great Business Idea Is Completely Worthless

Using a lifetime of experience Paul Passemard  in Champion or Underperformer  suggests using an established structure of Independent peer reviews or a critical friend to keep ideas and projects track,

Alan O’Rourke in Cat Herding For Poets  encourages us not to fall in love with our idea and to find a partner who will go “Oh oh” to add some realism.

With a focus on execution Michelle Gallen takes the unusual route of rewording a poem in Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Idea.

Noreen Henry advises being being the thinker and the doer in Ideas Won’t Put Food on the Table!

In Ode to a Cracked Pot Idea  Joan Mulvihill encourages us to  be generous with our talents and share our ideas.

Geoff Gibbons shares his start up experience with execution in Wonderful Dreams stating ‘The execution of your idea should equal to or exceed the dream that inspired you’

Failing to think straight by Bernard Joyce tell us we can further develop our creativity in developing out ideas by giving ourselves the permission to fail intelligently when we try out new ideas.

Mark Usher in We Must Make Great Ideas Safe to Follow tells us that our ability to thrive depends on our capacity to find the courage necessary to follow our greatest ideas.

John Tierney shares his experience of ideation noting that sustainable idea development needs funding and a team in What Is.

In I Have a Cunning Plan Niall McCormack digs into his life time experiences and advises asking for feedback and to keep learning which he cements in quoting the proverb ‘When arguing with a fool, first make sure that the other person isn’t doing the exact same thing.’

In Ideas are Deceitful, Gold-Digging Parasites Damian Costello  advises caution in the mindless pursue of ideas and to take a realistic perspective stating that smart entrepreneurs treat ideas like commodities

Barry Murphy presents another contrarian view that Ideas are over-rated, perhaps at the cost of those who actually go ahead and do stuff in  Nappies and Lobster Pots

Harnessing his experience of moving ideas forward Brendan Hughes in Another Great Idea! What Next? recommends checking that your idea is better, easier, faster or cheaper for people, using the data that is available (no need to be the expert), creating prototyes and surrounding yourself with ambitious problem-solvers

Getting team buy-in, timing, testing, prototyping, evaluation, end-user validation and at the very minimum an objective, critical discussion with the right people are all critical factors in enabling ideas to move forward according to Anne Wilson in What is a Good Idea?

In Ideas: Growth and Execution  Emer Flannery tell us that execution is better than procrastination EVERY SINGLE TIME

Aileen Howell questions the barriers to ideas becoming reality in  Where do ideas come from and where do they go?

Using the learning of hackathons Stephen Howell explains that teams and execution trumps ideas alone in Idea or Execution

Sharing the experiences of implementing the ideas from Scaling Up by Verne Harnish John Horkan tells us how his company has made ideas become reality in Ideas are not Enough!

Emphasing the pressure and lack of resources Helena Deane tells us that difficult situations test our tenacity and make for better problem-solution analysis in Necessity is the Mother.

Using his own recent experience in his business Paul Killoran explains that when the stakes are high, implementing ideas can be difficult and your gut instinct can count for a lot in Ideas of Burst No Pressure.


Asking and answering the hard questions of Where does the word idea come from? What does the word idea mean? What does it mean to have an idea?  Anne Tannam in Fresh into Ideas covers deep thought processes.

With a focus on resilience and listening to your inner voice Thérèse Kinahan advocates Trust Yourself – You Can Do It

With deep insight psychometric testing Celia Keenaghan in Imagining Ideas and Finding Flow guides us to that finding your flow is finding your path of least resistance and your path to greatest impact.

Lee Tunney Ware tells us we have the power to make the changes we want if we would only change our mindset in Ideas | Where do they come from?

Dermot Casey encourages us to change our thinking of Ideas as things when we should think of them more as a process in The Trouble with Ideas. Some thoughts on the nature(s) of ideas

Using the theory of Charles Horton Cooley and the concept of the Looking Glass Self Jane Leonard explains how your idea of who you are is not just a biological state but is the result of our interactions with others in The Idea of You and Me.

We need to connect to and express our emotions to change the limits of our language and our world and challenge specific ideas of manhood which distorts and limits our ability to act in the world says Dermot Casey in a second #cong18 submission in Killing John Wayne.

Contentment with your ideas and what you have achieved is the biggest challenge of all says Brendan Reddin in Ideas are the true food for life, challenge them, embrace them, pursue them


Geraldine O’Brien takes the stance of keeping a customer focus in They are my customers and so I walk in their paw prints or building client relationships

Colum Joyce articulates some new thinking on how Innovators can get better returns from their Intellectual Property with new thinking in Ideas: Mind the Gap.

In An Explosion of Ideas in Exponential Times Russell Buckley finishes with the scary prospect of ‘You have 4 minutes to take action before you drown’

In Ideas for Sale Alec Taylor probes the “successful handover” of one of our ideas to someone else and the role of legacy in a lifetime of ideas.

Gillian Godsil shares her ideas journey to finding blockchain that has ignited her passion in There is nothing more powerful than a person who found their IDEA

In My Business Partner Is 57 and doesn’t understand me Seanie Walsh suggests that the power of ideas, is not in what you say but what you’re listening to before revealing that validating his thoughts through an adult in the room taught him that there was as much value in mapping trajectory to discovering an idea was totally useless and moving on.

Sean Brady promotes new ideas and thinking in Travel Should be for Holidays not Business

By using the available online tools Declan Mungovan articulated how Ideas can be quickly developed, deployed and easily scaled up providing a competitive advantage in Ideas: The Final Frontier in a Cloud Based World 

Ginger Aarons shares her 20 years of developing ideas in the tourism industry and investigates what happens when you’re idea is no longer THE ‘new idea’ in It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Using the story of  legendary Norwegian artic explorer, Fritjof Nansen Morgan McKeagney explains that the value of an idea is the action and the stories it inspires and that few ideas survive their impact with the world intact; and once they get into the wild, that’s when the fun begins in Into the Wild: Adventures beyond Ideas

Using the story of the electric car Billy Kennedy narrates the negative role of big business in Why Good Ideas Die


Clare Dillion in Technology Evangelism – the discipline of spreading good ideas in a digital world explains the three main competencies in evangelism – craft the message, spread it engage and support communities.

Brian MacIntyre shares a lifetime in the media and the symbiotic relationship between Stories and ideas in The Story Behind Big Ideas advising that if you’re looking for that next big idea, figure out what the world needs fixing.

Storytelling helps us to capture attention Rose Barrett tells us in I Have an Idea, Tell Me a Story 

A sustained focus on communication at every stage of the Ideation process to build belief, clarity and ultimately implementation is needed says Barry MacDevitt in Communicating Ideas – a process not an event


Joy Redmond adds realism to the mental health debate in It’s time for Some Real Suicide Ideation and advocated more honest debate.

Frank Walsh grabbles with the difficult but real notion that all ideas come at a cost – generally to our planet in Ideas: Killing the planet since the year dot?

Ideas are being stifled by the straitjacket of consumerism and the market and as a result, really big ideas are in short supply suggest Billy MacInnes in Where’s the big idea?

Rural Communities need a vision that’s strongly held says Tracy Keogh in Spreading Ideas where she articulates the impact that remote working could have.

Without ideas, we have nothing maintains Padraig McKeon in Ideas – the building blocks of civilisation where he also shares that  the formation of ideas can’t be stopped and they support people, organisations and governments, formally and informally

Mary Carty asks what would possibilities could we create if we revaluated old ideas and broke away from old frameworks in Ideas that Bind. What possibilities could we create?

In Dear Fellow Inmates Caoimhe O’Rourke uses a poem to share new ideas on openness and dialogue on mental health.


In Opening the door to creativity  Eva Action ask how does our education system fosters ideas encouraging the breaking of the mould, tapping into talent and learning to fail again/fail better.

Terrence O’Brien believes the joy had been completely sucked out of learning in our schools and that the assessment process is deeply flawed in Why Students Say No to the Teachbot 3000 – and Why Second Level Education is Out of Ideas

The theme for #cong19 is ‘Community’

The Story Behind the CongRegation Themes

CongRegation has morphed and grown since the first incarnation experiment in 2013 although the fundamental structure of what makes it special has remained the same.

One of the key things that changes annually has been the theme and interestingly the original theme of ‘Social Media’ still features strongly in some people’s perception of the event.  Let me take you through the evolution to this years theme.

The first year focused on social media which as a sector was still evolving and needed lots of discussion and guidance.  We gave options to people about submissions ranging from Case Study, Tips, How to Guide through to a what was called a ‘Rant’ (positive or negative perspective on the topic).  Most submissions took the form of a leadership type piece essentially a smart positive rant, where opinions were given space to be elaborated, dissected, reassembled and made ready for discussion.  It was clear that this was the type of contribution and form that people were naturally more attracted to but is the most difficult of all the options.  It takes time to narrow down the vast choices, percolate the ideas, build a reasonable case, research, compose, edit, test, rethink and finally submit.

This single choice of submission was carried into year 2 but the theme broaden out a bit to include digital media, partially as a reaction to the broader nature of year one submissions.  Rather than just document work done, attendees wished to dig deeper and ponder the topic at a more challenging level, rather than just deliver a blog post that could have featured on a regular social media blog. This was the what I saw as the emergence of what I called the ‘Mental Itch’.  We are surrounded by all the theme areas but we rarely really question them or construct our thoughts into a robust argument or stance.  In a world of twitter, microcontent and limited attention span long form content forces us to consider things with a bit more depth, sometimes to quite personal self reflective areas.  We are also all incredibly busy and possibly don’t reward ourselves with higher debate and thinking when stuck in the now.

Year 3 became a bit more challenge focused with the theme exploring the impact of technology on work and personal lives. This evolved from conversations at year two as personal impacts were questioned.  As the diversity of attendees expanded and as the curious nature of attendees grew there was a collective desire to look at something bigger and tap into the collective mindsets.  If my observation from year two was around the general willingness to tested (submission and conversations on the day) year 3 taught me that the more meaningful content frequently involved peeling back layers of the onion to really see what, who was ticking.  This happens naturally during the day in Cong but year 3 contributions contained not just smart insights but also deeper personal perspective.

Year 4 ‘The Future’ emerged as a natural extension of the Year 3 theme of the impact of technology on our lives.  Technology has a role but it’s not the only player in town and year three surfaced a lot of fears and reservations that people had about the future direction we were heading.  An attempt to capture on the day insights in the form of an open challenge to create a better future was also attempted but these themes are so big, multi faceted and broad that consensus is almost impossible to achieve.  In fact, we could not even reach consensus on who should get the award for best contribution (the crystal ball is still sitting in my office).   Addressing the final challenge on the day of producing ideas on what would make a better future proved difficult as the more views on the future that emerged the more questions that accompanied it.

The ‘Innovation’ theme of year 5 reflected the emergence of ‘meta themes’ and could be viewed as an additional component of the convergence between technology and future.  This allowed the flexibility to explore experiences, expertise and scratching of the mental ‘itch’ – something that was always nagging you at the back of your mind that you wished to explore more deeply.  The compliance aspect of the submission (ie cannot get a ticket without it) was replaced by sometime cathartic release of energy and focus on a blank canvas topic.  CongRegation creates a peer based, trusted environment to explore areas and it was heartening to hear challenges to conventional wisdom and counter intuitive approaches.  As the attendee profile also broadened so did the entry point and background perspectives. The range of angles, perspectives, commentary, guidance and strong opinions reinforced my own internal view that everyone has a piece of the jigsaw puzzle and no one has all the pieces.

Last years theme of ‘Ideas’ proved difficult for people as not alone do we rarely think about ideas in an external inquiring stance but we generally live in the moment of having an idea and the problems it poses. Ideas is related to the Innovation theme but interestingly many felt that Innovation had become abused as a concept due to over use – words matter.  Similar to innovation, executing on an idea was a key exploration thread.  In normal life this theme gets superficial treatment and is often interwoven into bigger fabrics.  David Gluckman’s presentation in Ashford Castle and his comments about Ideas alerted me to this rich vein – if we just viewed it differently and pondered it more deeply.  Rather than a collection of idea pitches the submissions contained a mix of well thought out reflections and probings.

Informally the theme has come out of conversations after each CongRegation and this year was no different involving late night (strike while the iron is hot) chats in Danaghers after the huddles and ukulele session finished.  Four key suggestions emerged:

Fear: this popped up in a lot of huddles, would connect in a very deep way but also risked becoming very personality focused.

Imperfection: This was viewed both as perfection and imperfection and could produce fascinating divergent views

Transition: This originated from a conversation where it was felt a lot of people at CongRegation has experienced change or were undergoing deep self reflection (career, life).

Community:  In its seventh year is CongRegation becoming a community that takes place in a rural community.

The date and theme were put out as a Twitter poll (not the most scientific way but I wanted to make it a bit more objective) and Community was the clear winner.

Over the last year I have had many conversations with Tracy Keogh about community from a business perspective from how do you define it, to the different perspectives to the joys and problems of working with communities.  I have lived in rural and city communities, in communities in different culture China, Spain, Canada.  I worked with different work communities and communities of practice.  I have watched online communities grow from the early email lists and the fascinating worlds that evolved and have become the tail wagging the dog.  I live in a rural community but see multiple levels, complications, fantastic endeavors, open mindedness, closed mindness to completely unconnected groups.   Everywhere I look I see tribes, formal/informal groups of people and witness the same people behaving in completely different way.  Community surrounds us, united us, it drives and moulds us and we rarely question it deeply.  My curiosity is only now starting and I like all the contributors have permission to think, reflect, express and share our insights.

Only starting also is the awareness of how much I have to learn about this arena.  Since agreeing the theme I have had fascinating conversations with sociologists about community and place, the evolution of communities through migration and the view/power of filtered, collated research to explain what I see daily but do not necessarily understand.   As per Joan Mulvihills comments I have become hyper alert to community related topics to the point of having email conversations with a poet who featured on RTE Sunday Miscellany, straight after the show as he had a unique perspective on a community where I lived.  Coffee time discussions have uncovered doctorates who have tried to implement industrial standard on to a rural community to try improve the community.  Psychologist friends fascinate me on the way the thread multiple theories and thinking into explain how and why we operate in groups and communities.

Personally I am really excited about this theme, I am looking forward to being challenged, reflecting, researching , wondering, writing, scrapping, sharing, testing and I hope, like all the contributors, that this process along will enrich me a little bit more.

Media and Ideas #97 #cong18


The media operate in a pressure cauldron of time constraints and ideas flow from talking to people, using contacts and running with gut instinct.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Ideas can come from simple things
  2. Ideas come alive by storytelling
  3. Trust your gut
  4. Be brave

About Valerie Cox:

Valerie Cox spent over 21 years working in RTE as a journalist and researcher covering a multitude of shows from Today, Drivetime to Morning Ireland.

Contacting Valerie Cox:

You can follow Valerie on Twitter,



By Valerie Cox

Ideas from the Inside the Box #96 #cong18


Ideas come from a wealth of sources, take time to form and clients need to educated on how to buy them.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. ‘Morning after’ test
  2. Look at the info you have
  3. Never stop looking – everywhere
  4. Learn to buy as well as sell ideas

About David Gluckman:

David Gluckman was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on 1st November 1938, the day that Sea Biscuit and War Admiral fought out the Race of the Century at Pimlico Park, Baltimore.  Educated in Johannesburg, he joined a local advertising agency after university and soon fell in love with business. He made the pilgrimage to London in 1961 and worked as an account executive on the introduction of Kerrygold butter into the UK.  Always a frustrated creative, he escaped into brand development in 1969, met a man from a drinks company called IDV, and his life changed forever. A lover of cricket, he considers his greatest achievement bowling the West Indian legend, Joel Garner, first ball in a pro-am 6-a-side tournament.

In 1973 David invented Baileys, the world’s most successful cream liqueur, which has since sold over 1.25 billion bottles.

Contacting David Gluckman:

You can connect with David on LinkedIn or see his book ‘That Sh*t Will Never Sell’



By David Gluckman

Kick starting #cong18 in Ashford Castle David shared his life time of ideation, the hard work involved and sources of ideas.

See David’s presentation below.

See David accompanying presentation slides below.

Art, Ideas and the Creative Flow #95 #cong18


The creative process of idea generation involves hyper alertness, embracing fear and evolution.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Ideas come from everyday observation
  2. Styles evolve
  3. Fear can be a blocker
  4. Trust your gut

About Joan Mulvihill:

Joan is the centre director of IC4 – the Irish Centre for Cloud Computing and Commerce.  Previously she was the CEO of the Irish Internet Association..

Contacting Joan Mulvihill:

You can contact Joan on Twitter, on LinkedIn and via email.



By Joan Mulvihill

Kick starting #cong18 in Ashford Castle Joan discussed her discovery journey as an artist, how the creative process works, how ideas evolve and sharing your idea.

See Joan’s presentation below.

See Joan’s slides below.

Embrace the Fear #94 #cong18


On October 15 2013 Daphne McKinley lost her son Sean Edwards in a motorsport accident. From this tragedy she established the Sean Edwards Foundation to improve safety conditions and awareness in all levels of motorsport. From this acorn of an idea into she created a movement that is achieving real change in this global sport.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. We must embrace and harness fear
  2. Ideas take focus and effort to become real
  3. Sometime you need to step back
  4. Inject passion

About Daphne McKinley:

Daphne McKinley has a broad commercial background with decades of property development experience in the UK and Monaco. She has developed validated financial analytics and a successful planning process for creating value, complimenting her perspective on award winning design through her design and construction management team.

Contacting Daphne McKinley:

You can connect with Daphne on LinkedIn and see her work in the Sean Edwards Foundation.



By Daphne McKinley

Disciples of Curiosity #93 #cong18


Coming soon

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Coming soon

About Gar Mac Críosta:

Gar Mac Críosta is co-founder of MindRising. In Gar’s other life he has 20+ years, working in the areas in the areas of business model innovation, digital strategy, architecture and organizational effectiveness (lean/agile) across a variety of industries. His work as a digital architect, instructor and speaker has taken him around the world.  Gar is a certified architect professional (IASA CITAP), a Fellow of the Irish Computer Society and Certified Lego® Serious Play Facilitator. Gar has served on the board of the Irish Computer Society and the Board of Iasa Global.

Contacting Gar Mac Críosta:

Coming soon



By Gar Mac Críosta

We are the disciples of curiousity

We live in the liminal

We search out the gaps, we look for edges

We must look, we crave to see

Answers we seek to problems unknown

We connect we explore we share

We sense signals and follow the gossamer threads

To the curious the future

We are the disciples of curiosity

Ideas or bust. No pressure #92 #cong18


When the stakes are high implementing ideas can be difficult and your gut instinct can count for a lot.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Trust your gut
  2. Be brave
  3. Don’t shy from the easy choice
  4. New ideas can rejuvenate your company

About Paul Killoran:

Paul is the founder & CEO of Ex Ordo. Fundamentally he is a problem-solving engineer that tries to think a little bit left field, much to the frustration of his fiancé. He is passionate about startups, the tech community and Galway. Random Fact: Before founding his first tech company, he trained as a ballet dancer in London, which probably explains his twitter handle.

Contacting Paul Killoran:

You can follow Paul on Twitter, his personal or work websites or connect with him on LinkedIn.



By Paul Killoran

When you’re the founder of a company, you live and die by your ideas.

In the early years, ideas were wonderful creative opportunities that had no boundaries or risks. As time moved on and the level of my responsibility grew; the pursuit of good ideas became more of a necessity to feed the money machine and less about my own creative endeavours.

Faced with the prospect of leading a company of incremental growth, we made a decision to raise some investment last year. We closed our investment round in April 2017 and we started building products and marketing mechanics to drive growth in our business.

By the end of 2017, I was faced with a very stark reality. Our revenue for 2017 was disappointing and unless something changed quickly, all of our financial models suggested that we were going to run out of cash somewhere in the middle of 2018. The answer was clear. We had to increase sales and we needed to come up with ideas. Fast.

Ideas or bust. No pressure.

For the past couple of years, I’ve always known that our brand and message was wrong. We’d spent years trying to sell to academics based on a brand that was serious, prestigious and intelligent. Unfortunately, despite a lot of hard work we showed modest sales.

Even though my gut was telling me it was time for change, I had enormous self-doubt. I was afraid that making such a change might alienate our existing customer base and cause a decline in our overall sales performance. So I did what most people do when they lack conviction, I hired consultants to tell me what to do.

The consultants carried out surveys and market research on our behalf. They interviewed our customers and asked probing questions. Finally, they compiled all their research and produced a wonderfully animated presentation. In conclusion, they reported, “There’s nothing wrong with your brand. Your customers love your brand. You don’t need to change anything.”

This wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear. I wanted them to confirm my belief and show me the path to success. I was frustrated, my team felt a rebrand was now unnecessary and we were stalled.

We started 2018 with lots of energy and an understanding that 2018 was going to have to be a big year for us. My team organised themselves on the first week of January and defined an execution plan for the first half of the year. And then in the second week of January, I tore up the script and threw the cat amongst the pigeons.

Discarding the advice of our expert consultants, I was intent on following my gut. It was time to rebrand.

My announcement was met with disbelief and resistance. What about the consultants? What about the company plan for 2018? Why are we wasting time rebranding? Why now?

I dug my heels in. I put my neck on the line. I committed my reputation to a 10 week rebrand project, that I needed to deliver on.

Like most rebrand exercises; it was difficult, it was uncomfortable and it consumed a lot of creative energy. But 12 weeks later, we emerged with a new brand, a new message and a new story. On the 26thof April we launched our new brand into the unknown in the hope that it might improve our fortunes.

Today, 6 months on from the day we launched the new Ex Ordo, we can see the effect of that idea and that decision. The traffic on our website has tripled, the number of quotes we receive has increased by about 250% and the value of the deals we’re closing has doubled. And as a result, Ex Ordo turned profitable for the first time in 2.5 years in August 2018. It has since continued to grow its profitability and we’ve high expectations for 2019.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is; despite the pressure, fear and self-doubt, we all need to find the courage to back our own ideas particularly in times of high stress and pressure.

Following through on ideas is easy when the stakes are low. However, it takes a huge amount of courage and self-belief to execute ideas when the stakes are high. The more you succeed, the higher the stakes become and consequently the more courage you need to back your own ideas.

Ideas or bust. No pressure.