For the 15th time, the InnoTown Innovation Conference inspires the audience with motivational talks and practical business cases. As always, it gathers brilliant speakers who share their personal success stories and enrich the listeners with cutting-edge ideas.
InnoTown’ 2018 was kicked off with a short but thought-provoking session from a cross-cultural expert, speaker, and communications consultant Pellegrino Riccardi. Born and raised in an Italian family in Great Britain, he spent over 30 years of his adult life traveling around the world. It gave him a deep understanding of cultural specificities and, together with various professions which Pellegrino mastered, made him an invaluable expert in cross-cultural business communication.
Pellegrino touched on a thought-provoking topic, “What is love in business?”, and I think this is quite interesting. We all want our customers to be satisfied, and both personal and professional relationships require from us honesty and benevolence to both our professional contacts and our loved ones.
Contagious; Why Things Catch On
Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, is well-known in academic circles as the author of many high-ranked publications and a teacher of Wharton’s online course. New York Times and Harvard Business Review also often cover his activities both as an academician and a business consultant. But his most popular work is a bestseller Contagious: Why Things Catch On and Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior, which resulted from 15 years of studying the mechanisms of social influence.
In his talk, Jonah revealed the secrets of content virality. He took the audience through the six key STEPPS to emotional contagion: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotions, Public, Practical Value, and Story.
That is, to attract people to your product or idea, you need to build communication in such a way that people feel like insiders, are triggered by your message, involved emotionally and understand the practical value of your proposal. Wrap it in a beautiful story which people want to replicate—and turn your customers into your advocates.
Jonah used a really vivid metaphor, having compared content with a Trojan Horse which secretly carries your ideas wherever you want.
The future beholds; Nanotechnology
Swedish physicist Maria Strömme, Head of Department of nanotechnology and functional materials at Uppsala University, introduced to InnoTown attendees the nanotechnological breakthrough called “algae battery”. This environment-friendly battery can charge at exceptionally high speeds due to manipulation at the atomic and molecular levels. Maria stressed that there are multiple applications of nanotechnology which open up a world of opportunities.
One of the most important issues we face today is finding sustainable energy supplies. Currently, North America spends as much electricity on cooling buildings as Africa spends altogether. We utilize only a fraction of the energy available from the sun due to inefficient silicon technology. Maria is convinced that this problem can be solved by harvesting solar energy more efficiently with the help of nanotechnology. In addition, we have just started to explore micro energy sources, like body movements, sweating etc. Much is yet to come.
Earth is facing accelerating urbanization. As a result, affordable and adaptable materials are needed. Hewlett-Packard has recently presented a 4D printer able to print material which can adapt and change shape based on external impact like pressure change.
Another sphere in which nanotechnology is already adopted and has a great future is healthcare. Most likely, the world will soon reach “Peak Child” stage, meaning that the maximum amount of children in the world is now at its highest. The average age of the worlds’ population is and will continue rising, and we need to keep our bodies young and healthy, and it can be done with nanotechnology.
Last but not least, Maria talked about sustainable and smart packaging which helps to reduce pollution and replace plastic with organic and recyclable materials. The oceans are filling up with plastic debris, and we do not want this to be the heritage we leave for our children.
Empathy in the age of AI
With the rapid development of new technologies, such as robotics, quantum computing, IoT, AI, and VR, the alarming questions are what risks for the human society these innovations might bring and how to avoid them. Today, when these new technologies blur the lines between physical, digital and biological domains, we need a new, deeper understanding of what it means to be human. Rapid technological development challenges our efficiency as social beings.
Anita Nowak, a talented educator and an expert on empathy and social impact, investigates skills and practices necessary for humans to survive and thrive into the future we can barely imagine so far. She is convinced that empathy is all the rage these days and the cornerstone for the development of a new human society.
While tech-geeks like myself embrace Artificial Intelligence, it is quite refreshing to listen to Anita and try to grasp the potential consequences of the fourth industrial revolution in case we don’t implement it in the correct way. We need to be even more cautious keeping in mind that our children crave for new technologies, which results in less direct interaction with friends and family compared to the way we grew up.
Still, I choose to look at the bright side, hoping and believing that we will find an augmented approach where humans will be more emphatic and machines will handle cognitive tasks.