Last week I was lucky enough to have two full days at Unbound London. The theme of the conference was uncovering the power of innovation in the future of tech. The two-day conference had a jam-packed agenda, boasting two stages as well as exhibition space with lots of startups, all discussing the central theme of innovation.
'Innovation' has become a staple of the marketing buzzword library. It's a word we use often, in many different ways, and it means very different things across the marketing spectrum; from creativity to technical builds to NPD and everything in-between.
What was clear at Unbound was that whilst ‘innovation’ differs, an ‘innovation mindset’ is universal; to make things better – whether that’s a product, a service, a community, the world or anything else.
There were five themes that stood out to me across the two days:
Business does not a brand make
What a business does or the products it makes is just a starting point. The words ‘business’ and ‘brand’ are often used interchangeably, but they differ: a business does and makes whereas a brand stands for something. By building a brand, businesses move away from just what they do or make and begin to focus on what they make possible for people.
Bupa’s Julie Fedele asked “how do we create experiences that enrich people’s lives?” and although questions like this are tough to answer, solving them creates memorable connections.
“The biggest determinant of what succeeds & what fails now is psychological, not technological” said Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland. This was the audience’s introduction to ‘innervation’. Sutherland discussed today’s data-obsessed culture, where we continually try to be logical, but to embrace real innovation we need to get out of comfort zones. That means “test weird things” – the final pearl of wisdom he left the audience with.
There was a lot said about data science and the art of instinct when it comes to businesses and brands. Sutherland said that ads with animals always perform better - it's human instinct to like things with cute faces. Focusing on what motivates a person rather than just focusing on the masses of data collected on them, changes the game for technology businesses who are continually collecting data - it's like lifting your head to get a breath of fresh air and to see if you're on the right path.
Team work really does make the dream work
The stand-out example of this theme was a call to arms from Valtech. On a panel about smart cities Chief Data Officer Dan Klien told the audience to lobby the government to create a centralised data team (just as they did with digital) to enable innovators to help build smart cities, driving home the message that by working together we can build the cities of tomorrow.
Another example is how Monzo leans on their community. Head of Marketing and Community Tristan Thomas said “we grow through word of mouth and people telling their friends – about 80% of our growth comes from that” so community is still a huge part of Monzo’s marketing focus – even asking their Community what their new name would be when they faced trademarking issues with their original name ‘Mondo’.
Sustainability equals success
Hege Sæbjørnsen also touched on the theme of teamwork in a panel on building a sustainable future with innovation. “This is an absolute critical time for collaboration" she said, citing how businesses, governments and individuals all need to be working together to do this. Sæbjørnsen went on to say that sustainability is no longer about mitigating risk, it’s now about growth and innovation - “we firmly believe that is what is going to ensure we’re still around in 75 years” she said.
Martha Lane Fox also pressed the importance of the responsibility businesses have: "there's been a period of time where we weren't considering the unintended consequences of what we were building, but that needs to change now.”
Human at heart
Martha Lane Fox went on to discuss humanness in technology. "The companies themselves need to understand the consequences of their technology. Is it okay that a person at the other end of the phone doesn't know if they're talking to a machine? That matters to me as a human being.”
In his talk Monzo’s Tristan Thomas also stated that for Monzo it’s not about the technology, it’s about “what we can do for people”.
Even Vodafone’s Paresh Modi talked the audience through tech innovation that can help mankind through Imperial University’s Table of Disruptive Technologies.
Reflecting on everything I heard at Unbound, it's Martha Lane Fox’s words that haunt me: “we won’t build as good a future as we can if we don’t have diverse people building it.”
Without people driving positive innovation for the world, the world won’t get better. It’s not all doom and gloom, but as Fox said, “when it comes to our culture and society we need to be optimistic about the potential but realistic about where we are right now.”
To me that means, at the very least, we need to do more than we did yesterday. Ideally we should find ways to enable and empower people from all walks of life to help make their world a better place – without that, the whole world doesn't stand a chance.
Catch the mainstage talks on Unbound’s YouTube.