: The World Innovation Forum Speech (New York, June 8, 2010) :

Hello, you can do four things with the speech I gave at the 2010 World Innovation Forum in New York:

1. Play or download the mp3 of the speech,

2. Leave your comments on the slides and see the annotations of others,

3. Leave your comments on the transcript and see the annotations of others, and

It was exciting to be part of the World Innovation Forum, an event packed with insights and a turnout of more than 800 thought leaders and a fantastic line-up of speakers. I had great company on stage, speaking between Chip Heath (who I went to grad school with) and Biz Stone (who co-founded Twitter).

I have put up the audio of my talk [mp3, 35 min, 32MB], the transcript [pdf | docx], and the slides [pdf | pptx]. And in terms of press commentary, check out what The Huffington Post, FastCompany, HSM, OnInnovation, and Steve Todd write about it, and please add your own thoughts via the comment box at the bottom of this post.

I am fortunate to present the insights on WIF2010 and the Social Data Revolution by two guest writers: Noah Burbank, a student in Stanford’s Social Data Revolution class this Spring, and Ted Shelton, the CEO of Open-First. And, as always, please do tell us what you think by leaving a comment below. Thanks!

WTF is WIF??

by Noah Burbank

This last week I won an essay contest. The first prize was a trip to New York and pass to the World Innovation Forum (WIF). I had only one question when I got the congratulations email: WTF is WIF? It would be easy to be cynical about WIF. Why do people come to these things? Does each employee that you send to the conference really come back $1,699 more innovative, not to mention travel costs and lost work? But after two full days in my ill-fitting suit with ill-matching and equally ill-fitting shoes, I think I figured it out. Don’t expect your insurance company to transform into a new and shiny machine when the innovation delegation returns to the office. But if you take a broader view about shaping corporate culture and increasing mindfulness, then it’s hard to say this wasn’t a bargain. Those looking for answers probably went home disappointed, those looking for questions came returned much richer.

There were three kinds of information offered at WIF: histories of innovations, broad paradigms of thought, and new and actionable frontiers for future innovation. The histories inspire hope for future innovations, like Michael Porter’s story about the Western German Migraine Center, which coupled integrated, life-cycle migraine treatment with high-volume specialization to dramatically increase outcomes at a reduced cost. The broad paradigms of thought, like Chip Heath’s elephant and rider metaphor about how motivation is both emotional and rational, provided a common language with which to frame problems. While this is all good and well, without giving some hint about where future innovations can come from, it’s somewhat like giving a captain a compass and sextant but no maps: he can head north and keep a steady course, but he doesn’t really have any reason to go in any one direction rather than another. It was in this third area that Andreas excelled. Blazing very quickly through a number of exciting and complicated themes, Andreas gave the audience something to do.

Having taken a class with Andreas, I already knew a number of the tricks up his sleeve, but more importantly, I knew about what his goal when he speaks. He wants to discuss his thoughts and opinions about culture and technology (the zeitgeist, to use his native German), but he also wants to give people the first actionable steps to participate in the social data revolution. We all understand that the Internet is full of information, but until I actually started writing Python scripts and trying to use that information, I didn’t really understand. Similarly, while everybody can nod their heads along with Andreas about the transition from e-business to me-business to we-business, until you actually start seeing the data, you’re not seeing the whole picture. Not unlike in his class, Andreas gave the WIF audience four concrete homework that anybody could implement:

1. Put a plus sign (+) after a bit.ly link
If you put a plus sign (+) after a bit.ly link, suddenly you’re seeing all of this information about how many times the link was clicked and when. Just seeing the information makes you start asking questions, for example with the link Andreas used, http://bit.ly/16Zidx+, you notice that all 5,630 clicks occurred on the same day, the day the email was sent out. This tells you about the distribution channels. How about Twitter embeddings – who decided to repost this link? The right questions only appear when you’ve gotten your hands dirty and seen some of the data.

2. Ask for the last 1,000 queries entered on your website
Andreas talks about the voyeuristic pleasure of having everybody tell you their darkest secrets – but this is precisely what people enter into their search queries. Go to your IT person and ask for the logs of the last 1,000 queries on your website. Do you notice trends? Are there keywords that you’re not using which people tend toward naturally? Does something odd stand out? Are your competitors being searched on your site?

3. Engage with an individual on twitter who has been following your company or a competitor company
Is someone lamenting about the bad service of your company over twitter? Or, even better, your competitor? Reach out to people who are complaining about your company and assist them to make their experience better. And if they are complaining about your competitors, offer them solutions right when they need it!

4. Reverse mentoring
Does your company know what the latest social trends among the younger generation are? How do the twenty-five year olds spend their time, how do they communicate and think? A great way to find out is by hanging out with them, and learn from them! Get to know your youthful interns, learn about their friends and social lives to gain insights.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to participate in the WIF, and I think that I’ve come away smarter for it. Not smarter in the concrete, now-I-can-do-linear-algebra-but-before-I-couldn’t sense, but smarter for having spent two days thinking about how people have asked fruitful questions in the past, how to frame my questions for the present, and where to find the new questions for the future.

Results of the Open-First Survey at WIF 2010

by Ted Shelton

Speaking at last week’s World Innovation Forum in New York, Dr. Andreas Weigend outlined what the social data revolution is about and how these tools, methods, and data can contribute to innovation. In a survey completed by over 100 of the attendees after the talk, we had the opportunity to sample a cross-section of current thinking on data and innovation, with some expected and some surprising results.

The survey asked attendees three questions, what they felt was most interesting in the material that Dr. Weigend presented, how these ideas might be applied in their own companies, and what barriers they anticipated encountering in trying to implement these ideas.

Most attendees focused on the core tenant of the social data revolution: that people are willing to share information, indeed that Internet services we use every day are creating enormous pools of data. And that they are easily and inexpensively accessible and, if used properly, that they may be of enormous value to the enterprise. As one attendee put it, “you have opened my eyes widely to data and our digital air!”

While innovation was the primary topic of the conference and the talk, the importance of engagement with customers was another strong theme of the talk and one that was emphasized by many survey respondents. People’s willingness to share data is in part a function of the relationship that the company forges with them. And the balance of power in what Dr. Weigend calls “WE-business” is clearly shifting in favor of the consumer. One attendee put it this way, “…consumers have more power and control over companies than the companies themselves.”

A few clear action items came out of this talk for attendees. Armed with knowledge that vast amounts of valuable information are just a few keystrokes away, the majority of those surveyed stated that they intended to immediately look at how their companies collect, share, and use data in their innovation practices. One particular recommendation frequently cited was the suggestion to examine a company’s web logs in order to determine what search terms visitors are using both to arrive at the company’s site and, once there, what they are hoping to find.

One of Dr. Weigend’s messages that clearly stood out for attendees was that small steps could be taken quickly and inexpensively, and could be used to demonstrate value to the organization before larger investments had to be made. Showing the http://bit.ly site and examples of social networking and viewpoint services gave attendees a set of clear starting points for their own investigation (a full list of sites shown during Dr. Weigend’s talk is listed at the bottom of this article).

Nonetheless, one of the most frequently cited barriers to getting started was a lack of resources, particularly money. This was overshadowed though by the enormous number of comments on how difficult it can be to get an organization to do something new, summed up by one attendee with the simple comment, “change is hard.” For innovators this is, of course, the recurring deep challenge we have in every organization and the perceived barrier of limited resources or perception of exposure to risk are often protective coloring for an organization that is resistant to change. Numerous comments to this point were made:

“Culturally we still have people who protect data rather than share.”

“We are still operating in the old cathedral-like style of consumer management”

“The ideas can be seen as scare and out of the realm of control.”

Overall, however, World Innovation Forum attendees participating in this survey were optimistic that small scale experiments can be done that help the organization recognize the benefits of the social data revolution, and begin to accept the changes that it brings. As one participant noted “We need to make the case of why sharing opens us up more as a company and provides us with greater opportunities.”

Ideas abounded on how to start these experiments. A number of people noted that a great way to start is with one local branch or group that may be more forward thinking. Another noted that listening in the hallways and the lunchrooms to the company’s own employees could provide a simple small scale example of the power of social data. And utilizing online tools to gather customer feedback that is already available is another example given of how an organization can inexpensively show how social data can change how we think and work.

List of tools, social networking, and viewpoint sites discussed in Dr. Weigend’s speech:

Foursquare.com – geolocation check-in
bit.ly – URL shortener
Oakland Crimespotting – geolocation crime mapping
DataSF – open data for San Francisco
Bigapps – open data for New York
Fitbit – feedback data for behavioral change
Levi’s – sharing opinions via Facebook’s “Like” button
Groupon.com – collective buying power
Nike running – feedback data for behavioral change
Nokia Betalabs – concurrent engineering with consumers
My Starbucks Idea – product design with consumer input
Threadless.com – product design with consumer input
Stack Overflow – QnA with feedback and review system
Flatseats.com – airlines’ seats reviews
SeatGuru.com – airlines’ seats reviews
Tripkick.com – Hotel rooms reviews

Related posts:

  1. Predictive Analytics World Keynote: The Unrealized Power of Data
  2. Thursday, 17 September 2009, 5pm: Speech at NTU (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
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