Juxtaposition talks to stimulate thinking, futuristic views to visualize as plausibility, and novel initiatives to fill the spirit, last month’s Chicago Ideas Week 2014 delivered.
Visual summaries with suggested follow-up actions are in http://www.chicagoideas.com and there is plenty commentary via social media #CIW. The following are some personal observations.
Like crossed rubber bands, our minds pushed, pulled and eventually stretched throughout the week. The sensorial and mental talks balanced contemplative and doable ideas, each connected through the passion for finding a better way.
Food experimentation: Scott Heimendinger combined engineering tricks with culinary interests in absurd experimentation that is resulting in new concoctions. Who does not like to play in the kitchen? It was my favorite laboratory growing up.
Food provenance as birth of flavor: Acclaimed Chef Dan Barber, is looking deeper into earth and environment quality to add flavor to foods. Starting with nutrients on the ground to using the 87% of the wind fish that is usually discarded and turning it into succulent dishes, Barber reminds me of my Grandmother Esperanza. She fed the earth and looked far and wide for the best tasting seeds to grow. And she could make a gourmet meal from the smallest, unthinkable parts of any animal. Nothing would go to waste with the right flavoring.
Personal tech: Radio DJs joke that having our cell phones near to us is more important than sex. Teasing aside, our relationship with our electronic devices is personal. Our phones are becoming not just a tool, but an extension of ourselves, and that is without using that much robotics technology, just the rudimentary Siri.
Music universality: Music, rhythms do not know languages. Notes transcend our senses and drives our moods without notice. Tod Machover from MIT Media Labs demonstrated that even people who cannot communicate due to debilitating diseases, hear and feel music.
Music is underutilized.
Ambassador Robert Ford delivered a political overview that kept you wanting to know and understand more than news coverage, ‘expert’ commentators and party lines offer. It made me realize how little we know about deep, complex issues and how busy we are to find out, absorb or engage in meaningful dialogue about them. What are we afraid of?
Creative classes: A hands-on approach through classes and laboratories was a key feature throughout the week. I cannot draw a stick man even if my life depended on it, but it would had been nice to take a class by an artist. Take time to play, was the message.
Memorization unlimited: I do not remember the last time I had to memorize anything. We look things up, copy and paste into our super phone assistants and are ready. A technique for memorization by relating to space, familiar images and ignoring spelling but focusing on sounds spellbound the audience. We can indeed learn a forgotten art, which is more important than ever as computers could threaten our memorization abilities if we are not careful.
Honesty in lies: Penn & Teller, sophisticated magician duo, reminded us about being authentic and honest in what we do, even if it is all lies. Something to think about when using images, tweeting, and blogging without clear attribution to originators.
Yoga and meditation are no longer exports from Asian cultures and 1960s hippies. Meditation and yoga in the workplace, at home and instead of a sport is becoming popular as we seek quiet times from digital over stimulation.
Embracing Death: A talk about pop culture touched on the idea that is okay to talk about death as a normal life occurrence. My Mexicans friends know how to ‘talk, dance, embrace and celebrate death’ not just the Day of the Dead.
Diversity through representation: African-American speakers included a young politician, few entertainers and activists; also there were a couple of speakers with Latino sounding names and many women, the openly gay and transgender. It’s a good start.
“What’s better than nice?” said Emmy-Award nominated Joan Cusack concluding an iconoclastic interview during the Creative Process session.The existential ‘how to be happy’ —from within and by serving others—became a mantra for many speakers.
Anyone can take action, as did a young tinkerer when disassembled an ink jet printer to transform it into her eye shadow custom-printer. The presentation was an example of what I call in the innovation field the “DIY” or do-it-yourselves process tor innovation enabled through technology and knowledge accessibility.
Many entrepreneurs are doing the same with creative, artistic shoes, foods and levitating tables designs.
Several unique and heart-warming non-for-profit organizations tackling women health, hunger, penal injustices and other worthy causes are taking it upon themselves to help one person at a time, what governments cannot do.
We are in the Wild-Wild-West of technology. Even the most radical thinkers are starting to believe that it is time to reign in for order, quality and safety. I believe that adopting and following core common ways, values and principles will prepare us for the next stage in the digital revolution. Otherwise, we may miss it or blunder it unnecessarily.
In the marketing field, somebody mention ‘share of preference’. I advocate that given unlimited choices, marketers need to be early adopters of ‘share of preference’ and not wait until share of market to tell strategy decisions. Similarly, just as share of the cupboard is a better indicator of brand strength than market share in consumer package goods, share of performance —how much time does a consumer spend with your product— is going to become an important marketing metric to measure and track.
Another element that was common throughout was the concept of businesses whose value is to curate other products and services. For the curator, it is a high-margin model; for the curated it commoditizes brand equity. The issue is not discussed in these terms, yet.
Innovation inspired by cultural traits, customs, values, food and ancient ways of living abounded. The question that was not asked nor answered: when benefitting from these type of inspiration, are originators compensated? Based on a previous experience running a small online art business, ‘inspiration’ and sharing of cultures is prevalent by developed groups and countries. Who is going to protect those whose only assets are the way they live, their cultural heritage?
Management advice: Assign questions.
A last thought:
I believe the next technology revolution is about to start, with exponential growth never imagined. Discounting past lessons, structures and laws will diminish its success. Building on the good mastered, and creating-leveraging technology, investment, knowledge and imagination in new ways is the ideal combination. Every one and everything grows through maturity. Millennials also grow old.
People, all kinds of people, are and will forever be the greatest asset. The hundred of students invited is a good start. How can they stay engaged?