FEATURE7 March 2016

IIeX Europe day two: curiosity, bravery, and the number 47

Europe Features Innovations Trends

Last week saw industry innovators gather at the Insight Innovation Exchange (IIeX) Europe in Amsterdam. Here’s Bronwen Morgan’s summary of day two.

Where the theme of day one at IIeX had been ‘getting future focused’ (unofficial theme: Trump bingo), the theme of day two was ‘delivering on the promise’.

If the promise was to get as many Star Trek references into one presentation as possible, Annie Pettit of Peanut Labs delivered in the first session of the day in her talk on turning big data into actionable data (otherwise known as: what significance does the number 47 have to Trek fans?)

In his morning talk on automation and interpretation in a visual world, Matt Lynch of Big Sofa urged researchers to “stop chasing the ball of automation; it’s taking away our added value”. His message was that thinking should be the real innovation, and technology just the enabler. Marcus Jimenez of Sticky Docs, who followed Lynch, had a similar message – reminding attendees that their organisations had hired them for their brains, not just to “hoard data”.

In her talk on curiosity, insight, revolution, Jane Frost of the Market Research Society – which celebrates its 70th birthday this year – posed a very interesting question: “wouldn’t it be great if we as an industry could own curiosity?” She believes this could be the a key differentiator for market research. Though it’s worth noting that later that day, in her session on futures intelligence, Yvette Montero Salvatico of Kedge revealed that she doesn’t believe we should refer to ‘industry’. “The word industry is meaningless," she said. "What industry are Apple and Google in? They’re both making cars now.”

And while that could be seen as a bold, even brave statement, the Ginny Valentine Badge of Courage panel unveiled many other examples of individual acts of valour. Annie Pettit (still in her Star Trek costume) talked of how we are now at a point in time where we can (using advanced text analytics) “click a button and find out if the Bible or the Koran is more violent”. While she admitted that she’d be brave enough to click the button, but not to share the results, she doffed her cap to Tom Anderson, who had indeed taken that risk. Importantly though, Pettit said he had “clicked the button, used the technology, but also applied his human brain”, i.e. he had shared the information in a sensitive way – a lesson for all researchers.

Another interesting take on bravery emerged during an afternoon panel discussing partners in innovation. Andrey Evtenko of Nestle and Ben Robins of Audible in particular discussed the individual bravery it can take to be innovative in a role. Evtenko talked of having had a project fail early on in his role at Nestle, but that luckily he had enough ‘personal equity’ to bounce back from it – though he confessed that that took two years. Robins talked of the importance of timing your attempts at innovation correctly – in his role at Audible he said he made sure to build momentum with some ‘easy wins’, then timed strategically when he brought in outside partners.

And that more or less sums up what I took away from day two: be brave, be curious, but above all, use your brain.