FEI Europe 2017 Recap – Denise Fletcher, CIO
FEI Europe — Adapt, disrupt, innovate.
This year’s FEI Europe conference in London was full of energy and ideas and I left feeling more motivated and inspired than ever to continue to find new ways to disrupt stale approaches to innovation. While every success should be celebrated, it is vital that companies don’t make the mistake of resting on their laurels. We must continue to innovate and look for new ways to think about and use technology. The good news is that there was plenty of that happening at FEI Europe.
London provided the perfect backdrop for a week of exchanging ideas at FEI Europe. The city is a unique combination of history and modernity that constantly reminds us of the importance of our past and the need to create a better future. It also didn’t hurt that I got the opportunity to meet with other thought leaders and enjoy world class meals in cafes and restaurants and soak in the sites around the city.
If there is anything I could change about the week, it would be to have spent more time meeting with the innovators in attendance. With that in mind, I have put together a post full of highlights and insights from the conference so that you can find your own inspiration.
Peter Meier, the Founder and Managing Director at Orokoko GmBH, gave a keynote speech titled: “Is Innovating Easy? NO WAY” During his talk, he discussed what he calls the New Innovation Ecosystem and how this environment is affecting industries all over the world. He also pointed out that there is an abundance of information available on innovation. In fact, there are over 114,000 books on innovation in publication! With all that information at your fingertips, there is no excuse for not innovating.
In particular, Meier recommended the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, which draws on findings in the field of psychology to look at the way we think and how easily our thoughts can be influenced. While we may try to make rational decisions, our actions are ruled by inherent biases. Understanding how we think can help us become more self-aware, which will ultimately affect the way we reason through problems, weigh risks and rewards and pursue happiness.
Other book recommendations, from FEI Europe, you might want to check out include:
- Frugal Innovation: How to Do More with Less
- Collaboration and Co-creation: New Platforms for Marketing and Innovation
The Future of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Another big topic at the conference that had everyone buzzing was artificial intelligence or AI. Saisangeeth Daswani, the Advisory Strategist for Stylus, talked about the fact that we are moving from being a world where mobile technology reigns to one that is driven by AI. In fact, by 2020 a full 30% of our web browsing will be conducted without a screen and the market for voice activated solutions is predicted to reach $1.8B by 2021. In the future, we will turn more and more to Alexa and other voice activated IoT devices instead of sitting down at the computer or picking up our phone.
For brands that rely on serving ads to their customers as they browse the web, their efforts will become increasingly fruitless. Instead of fighting this trend, brands need to find a way to integrate advertising with voice activated assistants and other AI tools by leveraging information on consumer behavior. For instance, when I check out of a hotel, I usually call Uber for a ride. With AI, instead of opening the app, Uber will know I have a flight and what time I should leave and will send me a text message asking if I need a ride. Thank you, Uber, for thinking for me.
Engaging in “invisible marketing” will rely heavily on the notion of industry convergence. We are already seeing more and more instances of partnerships where companies collaborate in order to take advantage of a consumer moment. For example, Campbell Soup Company partners with the Weather Channel to promote a recipe that suits the weather. It’s all about marketing to the individual with an interaction that is timely, relevant and helpful.
During FEI Europe, Amber Case also gave a talk on AI and calm technology and the idea that technology should be invisible, automated and a positive force in our lives. Currently, we live in an era that is full of interruptive technology. Just think about how many different alerts you receive from your phone throughout the day. If you also have a smartwatch, those alerts are probably doubled. In this way, technology can become a distraction that makes us less present.
In addition, an abundance of other “smart” tools and appliances tend to add unnecessary technology into our lives that actually requires more maintenance and programming. There are instances where smart devices are created to solve problems that don’t actually exist. Do you really need a smart fridge that opens after scanning your fingerprint? Updating the program will actually be more work than simply manually opening the door.
Instead of interruptive technology, we should be focusing on creating and integrating calm technology, which is a term that was coined in 1996 in the paper “The Coming Age of Calm Technology” by Marc Weiser. He is credited as “the father of ubiquitous computing” although he argues for technology that does not intrude on your consciousness. Calm technology goes to work all around you without requiring your involvement. Take, for example, automatic doors that open when you approach or lights that come on when you enter the room.
Innovators are now working on ways to design calm technology that both amplifies the best of technology and the best of humanity. The point is not to create machines that act like humans, which could lead to a world where humans start acting more like machines. Instead, we should be automating the annoying and tedious aspects of life so that we can feel more calm and peaceful. In order to achieve this goal, data analytics and neuroscience are coming together to help better understand the consumer and why we do what we do.
Another example of calm technology is the Sleepcycle app. Instead of simply providing an alarm that will wake you at a certain time, the app collects data on your sleep patterns so that you are gently awakened during your lightest sleep phase. This will allow you to wake up feeling more refreshed.
Sleepcycle is the perfect example of technology remaining largely invisible and going to work when we need it to without forcing us to intervene. As we continue to live in an ever more connected world, calm technology needs to be a priority. If technology is only disruptive, then is begins to lose purpose.
During my time at FEI Europe, I was also excited to learn more about the non-profit MassChallenge, which is a startup accelerator that provides equity-free cash prizes to entrepreneurs looking to make a positive impact in the world. The organization was launched in Boston in 2010. Since then, they have been able to successfully replicate their model in Israel, Mexico, Switzerland and the UK. To date, they have “accelerated 1,211 startups, who have collectively raised $1.8B in funding, $700M in revenue, and created 60,000 jobs.”
Part of their success is the fact that they not only work to provide funding, but also sales, software and mentoring support. MassChallenge matches scientists and corporate leaders who possess a certain skill set with startups that would benefit from their experience and insights. This comprehensive approach sets startups for success, which ultimately translates into more jobs and a better society.
The success of this organization highlights a few important facts. First, it reinforces that there are innovative people and ideas out there just waiting for the right opportunity. Second, it shows that nurturing ideas and companies isn’t just about providing equity. Finally, it proves that we can build a new economic model for supporting companies and driving innovation.
These are just some of the highlights from the conference! You can imagine just how many more ideas were exchanged over the course of a few days. I didn’t want to miss a thing and there was so much to take in that it almost felt overwhelming. The entire experience left me feeling excited and hopeful about the future. Rest assured that there are truly innovative leaders who are using their skills to make a better world with the help of technology.
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