The emerging media technologies forum closed with a keynote from Peter Hinssen of Across Technology which proved to be both witty and wise.
He started out with some visual experiments, to make the point that culture affects what we see. In the west we are culturally inclined to see what is in front of our faces, while Far Eastern cultures tend to appreciate the shape and structure of the background.
It was the set-up to talk about technological advances becoming the new normal. And although we feel we are immersed in digital technology today, Hinssen thinks we are only half way there, in the mid-point of the s-curve.
As we cross into the second part of the digital s-curve we will start to talk about the benefits, not the features. Then it will become the new normal.
Consumerisation means that we have better technology at home than at work. Hinssen defined work as the brief period during the day when I have to use old technology.
He suggested that the current battlefield is mobile technology. In Europe there is 127% mobile phone penetration; 60% of smartphone users take them to bed; 23% would rather lose their wedding ring than their smartphone.
He looked at Apple, and pointed out that it did not innovate – there were MP3 players long before the iPod. But where it is supremely effective is in constantly driving for simplicity, looking at every single product from the consumer’s viewpoint. That is why it is able to seize markets.
From there Hinssen moved on to our instant society: instant messaging, instant gratification. Businesses struggle to keep up with this, finding it hard to be agile enough to develop products and services to meet the new expectations in this era of now. The Rand Corporation defines this as the Vuca world: a business and political environment of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
The millennial generation suffers from continual partial attention, he said. They can multi-task but only on a superficial level. They lack the ability to go deep.
One of the key themes of the forum has been the vital importance of data. To illustrate this, he described the Nike+, which was launched as a way of driving the jogger’s iPod to choose appropriate music to match the pace. But it also tracks the course of your run, where you go and where you stop. Aggregating the data means Nike knows favourite tracks, and where people stop. Is it selling common rest points to Starbucks or juice bars? Certainly it is.
He also quoted Linked In. 98% of Microsoft executives are on Linked In, he suggested. Who knows more about Microsoft’s business plans: Microsoft or Linked In?
The biggest problem of innovation is not clever people, it is the organisation which surrounds it. And research shows that as businesses grow, their productivity falls. If a company triples in size, its productivity falls by 50%. Bigger organisations stick to small company organisation charts, and Hinssen recommended all delegates return to their companies and burn all their org charts.
The old ideas of absolute control have to be abandoned. Businesses have to be organised as networks, as organisms. Innovation flows faster in a network.
Hinssen said that if you want to really promote innovation, you have to allow that failure is an option. You have to try things quickly and see what works. You innovate not just by having clever people, but by having the ability to kill quickly those ideas that are not working.
In the new normal there is no business side and information side: we all work in information now. Technology has never been more exciting – you have to let that sense of excitement radiate through the whole organisation.