I was invited to ‘keynote speak’ at the Forum when I was in Beijing and I decided to change my flights to be included on the speaker list. The way it was put to me was simple, “It’s a business forum, but we’re being innovative about it…” it was to be “degustation-inspired”, with the food theme kept throughout. I was invited to be the ‘group dessert’. What a title. How could I say no?
The day opened with Kylie Kwong talking about her business trials and tribulations (key insight – she swears by the original “E-Myth” book) and was followed by a diverse ‘tasting menu’ of speakers who each had twenty minutes to share their knowledge of the topic.
The format meant that the sessions were fast-paced – 20 minutes each – enough time to get a sense of whether you liked the topic; liked the speaker and wanted more. And that’s where it got interesting – after each session, we were invited to attend a “Master Class” with the speaker we’d just seen. If you were prepared to forgo the next scheduled speakers, you could ‘go deeper’ into the topic. What a great conference model!
So in the afternoon it was time for ‘dessert’… Well, here’s how my 40 minutes broke down…
- Introduced myself and my work as a futurist / innovation expert
- Talked about futures studies / innovation and the role they play in business – ie. new products and processes… It all starts by asking the key innovator’s question: “Is there a better way?…”.
- Talked about the rise of BRIC nations (Brasil, Russia, India and China) and specifically about the rise of China… Then, since I’m fresh of the plane, taught some valuable Mandarin to the crowd “CHINA – LET’S GO!”. Seeing 170 people on their feet cheering in butchered Mandarin was one of the most surreal moments of the day and confirmation that this was a fun crowd.
- Described the trends I’m seeing in business, particularly some highlights of my favourite innovation programs:
- The Clean Plumber – constantly innovating, the business’ latest move is replacing a utility truck with a motorcycle for many plumbing jobs – it zips around the Sydney streets with ease; saves on fuel and keeps the business’ promise to be on time.
- Dell’s Ideastorm, which I believe is one of the best examples of open innovation, particularly given that Dell actually takes advice and turns it into improved products.
- Australia 2020 – inviting an entire country to participate in your innovation program is a brave move for a Prime Minister – if Rudd pulls it off (by implementing good ideas or at least explaining why he’s not using the ideas he doesn’t like), it could be the beginning of a new attitude of innovation from Canberra
- and Google… I mentioned the 80/20 rule (20% of time dedicated to innovation), but I also would have liked to discuss their use of Google Labs, which is fantastic.
- Gave ten tips on how to spot a great innovation culture – that was fun because the pens came out and the heads started nodding – I think I was talking to a room of innovators!
- Dropped in a top tip – innovation programs are a great ‘Gen Y’ retention tool because they give younger employees a voice and demonstrate that all staff opinions are valued – especially if ideas are acted upon!
- Examined the major shift from closed/R&D-based product development to open/inclusive innovation programs…
And BOOM! It was 40 minutes… Wait, what?! We’re just getting started… Oh man!
I guess that’s the problem with tasting menus – sometimes you just wish you could have a little more of each dish – and I did get twice as much time as most of the other speakers, after all…
After my presentation, all sorts of business leaders shared their stories with me – I met heaps of bankers, a bullet maker (REALLY! YIKES!), a guy whose business is hydraulics, a guy that runs a solar-panel installation business, a bunch of innovation people from Telstra and ANZ, a logistics guy (who told me truck stories), a recruiter, a few marketing types, a couple of event managers… It was a good mix, that’s for sure.
It was a great day (a good way to spend my birthday!) and a really warm crowd to welcome me back to Sydney. Can’t wait to see my family, friends and clients and get settled back into Sydney!
Congratulations and thank you to the NSW Business Chamber and to the BigThinkers who made the day such a great start to my Spring in Sydney…