Digital Strategy Innovation Summit

September 20, 2018

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve spent the past couple of days in Sydney:

  1. Sleeping in a capsule hotel,
  2. And doing nerdy things at the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit.

Capsule hotels, it turns out, are just glorified, high-tech hostels. Felt like I was in Aliens or The Fifth Element… Not sure if Mila or Sigourney ever wore thongs to the bathroom to avoid getting athlete’s foot though.

On the other hand, the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit definitely covered innovation, digital and strategy. Most of my digital and strategy skills are self-taught (peppered with a few great short courses here and there) so it was eye-opening, reinvigorating and inspiring to hear experienced strategists and innovators talk about things in my wheelhouse. And also comforting when it turns out that vague concepts in my heads are actually frameworks with fancy names.

Here are some quotes because everyone loves a quote:

  • “Digital is not a threat. It can be your answer. If you get Facebook really right, you have 500K marketing managers for your radio station.” – Linda Bracken, Former Head of Audience Strategy & Digital Design, ABC.
  • “Transformation is a subset of innovation. New technology is a symptom of human curiosity.” – Scott Ward, Founder, Digital Infusions.
  • “Machine learning is the high interest credit card of technical debt.” – Paul Tune, Machine Learning Engineer, Canva.
  • “Data only takes us so far. It shows us what’s happened in the past. Design thinking helps us figure out why things are happening.” – Scott Ward.
  • “Creating a product is easy. Selling a product is hard. You have to create something that people need rather than selling something you have.” >> Sadly did not catch this person’s name! Believe she was in marketing/comms strategy, and replaced someone who was ill so isn’t listed on the program.
  • “Don’t capture people’s data for no reason. Solve a problem, solve a beautiful problem.” – Jennifer Scott, GM Digital Transformation, ANZ.
  • The customer is in the centre.” – Rob Hango-Zada, Co-founder, Shippit.
  • “Creative disruption is the new business as usual.” – Scott Ward.
  • “Whenever you see customer friction, this is where change is going to happen.” – Jennifer Scott talking about waiting in line for a supermarket checkout, and then seeing what Amazon Go is doing in the US.
  • Not a direct quote, but Ali Adey (Head of Digital, Simon De Winter) and Kim Peirce (Founder, Babe Australia) talked about how they find micro-influencers to be more valuable than influencers for brands. While they have less followers, their audiences tend to be more niche and engaged. They’re also seen to be more authentic when endorsing brands because they aren’t already up to their eyeballs with brand deals.
  • “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable with uncertainty. We need to get excited about being uncomfortable with uncertainty.” Harmandeep Singh, former VP of Strategy and Innovation at Brady.
  • “Engagement is captivating interest for long enough that they give a shit.” – Rob Hango-Zada.

The recurring theme here was HUMANS.

Whether it’s customers for consumer-facing activity like marketing, sales, customer service and product innovation, or staff if we’re talking about processes, product development and digital transformations. A common sentiment across the board was that the best technology, processes, apps and ideas mean shit if they don’t fit the people. If you haven’t thought about how your team feel about something or how they are going to implement it, or you’re assuming blindly that people want your product, then you’re in trouble. (Side note – I have many, many thoughts about how this definitely still applies to creative industries like music. There’s much debate about writing music for yourself vs. writing music for the market, but that’s a giant blog post for another day.)

Story time. Back in my early twenties I worked in the diamond industry for a couple of years doing quality control and logistics. (Before you stalk me on LinkedIn, this job ain’t listed on my profile.)

My office was a very secure diamond vault, and I needed to get through five floor-to-ceiling fridge doors to get to it. Imagine the Get Smart credits – that was my morning walk into my office. It was also super cramped and so dark in the vault that I could barely read the tiny barcodes on my diamond bags.

The company paid a consultancy firm some hefty cash to help us improve productivity and therefore make more money. Some creepy dudes in suits came in for a few months, but not once did they actually talk to any lower level team members. Instead they went to lunch with upper management a few times, and then back with ‘business solutions’.

Their improvement for my role was to swap out my normal product trolley with a giant ‘high productivity’ trolley that did not fit into my bloody vault. I pointed this out to them, and they said they were 100% sure it fit because they checked the building’s blueprint. Turns out they didn’t think about the fact that a human needs to be able to fit WITH the trolley in the vault to put things on it, so I had to instead have my trolley outside the vault to do my work and walk double the distance every single time I retrieved a product. And also – no new lights.

People are important apparently. Talk to your humans. 😂

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