“Build off the shoulders of giants. Just do it better.” - Frank Stephenson, Frank Stephenson Design Studio
Companies, organizations and individuals invest heavily to attend conferences. It’s not just the conference fee, it’s also the accommodation, travel and time away from doing what they would normally be doing, not to mention the emails entering the inbox every hour.
So why invest? Why go? Why take the time? After all you could read the book, subscribe to the newsletter, look it up on Google or watch a You Tube clip.
At the Boston Innovation Festival held recently there were 600+ scheduled meetings booked on the conference app after delegates undertook a brief match-making exercise. Ever-curious I asked the people I connected with how they found the meetings and if they had formed any solid leads. The answer was always yes. The 600+ doesn’t include the relationships and leads that were created outside of the app. And that’s one of the reasons people go to conferences – to form connections.
If you work in, or are simply curious about the innovation space, it’s also imperative that you step outside your zone of comfort. In order to follow a path of continuous improvement you have to continuously learn. One of the best ways to find out what you don’t know is when a group of thought leaders is purposefully gathered to help you make connections and to widen your sphere of knowledge. And that’s why you go to conferences.
At the Boston Innovation Conference there were tracks in Structure and Governance, Acceleration and Scale, Venture Partnerships, Disruptive Technology and Project Management. Companies such as Google, Proctor and Gamble, DowDuPont, Corteva, IBM PepsiCo, Microsoft and educational leaders such as MIT and Smithsonian, unveiled case studies, successes and failures, with the objective of sharing their knowledge to benefit conference delegates.
What happens when the delegates return to work, away from the like-minds and inspiring presentations, and face the several hundred emails and back-to-back meetings, is where the value of the conference is either realized or eluded.
Speakers at the Boston Innovation Festival shared suggestions for incremental changes that could be embedded into organizations immediately, and conversations that could be started to impact the decision makers and urge them to action. They shared stories of failures, learnings, passions and purpose.
And the emerging themes? They can be summed up under the following categories
- Collaborate and Connect. It would be interesting to put a value on the long-term connections and potential business that was created over the three days.
- Fail/learn/unlearn/get curious. We simply don’t know what we don’t know. Read, talk and share the stories. Set up structured sharing moments and areas for ‘collideation’, where humans collide, and ideas can be shared.
- Go with as diverse a team as you can possibly create. There was an entrepreneur at the conference that was 13 years old! Ivy Ross from Google is in her 60s. There was a mixture of race and nationality, gender and ethnicity. Diversity also relates to the fields of expertise. Put your scientists and engineers with your creatives and designers. The more varied the creative source, the more explosive the output.
- Create time and space for innovation and creativity. Great ideas don’t come from full inboxes and back to back meetings, they come from the spaces in between.
At the conference, I sat with colleagues from a major company, who are in a similar field to me. As we spoke of an issue they were experiencing, and I offered up my experience and advice, I apologized for potentially telling them things they already knew. “Oh no, it’s great to have validation for what we are trying to do”, was the response. I completely empathized with their statement. It was at an executive program that I received the validation I needed to take the bold step to rebrand as UtopiaX.
And that’s another reason we attend events where we can mix with our tribe, with like-minded souls. In the ever-moving, ever-changing world we live in, it’s great to hang-out and realize we aren’t the loony in the asylum after all.
About the Author: Christina Gerakiteys is the Founder of UtopiaX and CEO of SingularityU Australia Summit. She is a change catalyst and instigator of Moonshot Ideation. Christina opens hearts and minds, inspiring impossible to possible.