Fast Co Innovation Fest

posted November 13, 2017

Fast Company Innovation Fest: A Recap

Jessica Neville

Two weeks ago, I participated in one of the most energizing conferences I’ve ever attended: Fast Company Innovation Festival. This one-of-kind conference featured over 150 content “fast tracks” hosted at companies across New York City over five days, allowing for attendees to go behind the scenes at the biggest and most innovative organizations. Content tracks varied from technology to design, entrepreneurship to creativity, and so much more. I walked away from a jam-packed week invigorated and inspired. Here are my biggest takeaways from the conference:

Divergent thinking will enable innovation.

I visited Huge and listened to CEO Aaron Shapiro and Managing Director of Technology Gela Friedman speak about their approach to innovation, what they call “Future Making.” Huge believes in embracing different potentials to achieve a desired future experience, encouraging cross-collaboration and divergent thinking to get the best ideas. They’ve actually developed an innovation intensive process that lasts 20 days to bring innovative ideas to life for their clients. This process is rooted in the belief that the best ideas come from the intersection of divergent thinkers.

At a “breakfast in bed” with Casper’s Product Officer and Co-Founder Jeff Chapin, he shared that Casper fosters creative outlets for their teams to keep them motivated and inspired. External inputs and experiences have led to better thinking and work.

We all need to start thinking as designers.

The idea that we should think of designers as the champion of the user was echoed across many sessions. At a panel with IBM design leads, we talked in depth about the “designer of the future” in that design-thinking is cross-discipline. In essence, it’s about creating great experiences.

At Gensler, creative and research leads shared how they are thinking about digital experience design in terms of not what is possible with the technology available, but how it can be used to benefit people. Their team takes human-centered trends (like increased customization and health & wellness) and works through how data and technology can positively impact users from their office space into their community.

As marketers, we’re all creatives because we are designing an experience for our customers through products or interactions. The focus should always be the people we are solving the problem for (“human-centered design” was a big theme) which requires a focus on empathy and understanding the user’s values, beliefs and experiences. SImply put: design-thinking will create more impactful experiences.

Organizations must be set up for digital transformation to stay relevant.

Two of my favorite tracks were around organizational change and culture. At Frog Design, we participated in a workshop on Org Activation: thinking through the actions an organization could take to foster collaboration and align on their purpose.

SYPartners, a business strategy and innovation consulting firm, believes that change in organizations happens through people changing behaviors. With digital forces reigning every aspect of the world, businesses must have a positive culture in place to support transformation in the way they think and work. We dove into four attributes SYPartners believe form and change company cultures: collective speed, restless ingenuity, deep agency, and radical collaboration.

To be an organization that can adapt, you have to continually be asking questions and be willing to adapt and evolve, which starts with the organizational culture.

Customers will have more power to be content creators.

During a VR panel, tech leaders Debra Anderson, Co-Founder of Datavized, Roland Emmerich, CoFounder of Vrenetic, and Clint Kiser, President of Madison Wells Media touched on how VR will be more accessible and how that would impact distribution as well as creation. As innately social beings, VR isn’t something people want to do alone so we will see shared social spaces being created to develop, share and engage with VR content. In the not so far future, customers will likely be able to stream live VR content, fostering a unique social experience and connections between people that we as humans crave.

At Vimeo, I had the chance to ideate alongside other attendees and Vimeo employees about a future in which the average human creates two hours of video a day and how to solve challenges and seize opportunities related to that. With the average person generating that much content per day, and new avenues of content creation, brands need to start thinking about opportunities to leverage this content and new ways to collaborate.

I also had the chance to hear from Kate Hudson of Fabletics, Andy Cohen from Bravo, Cecile Richards from Planned Parenthood, Walmart CEO Marc Lore, Laundry Service CMO Mike Mikho and many other leaders of innovation and inspiration. The conference theme was “Leading with Optimism” and as such, I left feeling very optimistic for the future of Dagger, the overall digital space and the opportunities we have as marketers to impact people in positive ways.