This week marked the third annual, but my first, Disruption Summit Europe in central London. The event brought together a wide range of brands, technologists and innovators to discuss what it means to be an innovative organisation and how to adapt your business to become truly disruptive.
With such a range and depth of topics discussed, below are my three key takeaways from what’s quickly becoming a must-attend technology event in London.
1. Take action and create the future
Tracey Follows, a leading futurist and founder of Futuremade, gave one of the most thought-provoking sessions of the day by providing a look at possible futures and how technology will come to define them. Before anything, she debunked a longheld assumption about what a futurist does – not predict the future, rather layout possible scenarios of what the future could look like by analysing the past and today, in this case focussed upon technology.
There were some fascinating looks at such ideas as the virtual world, avatar identities and the future of AI, the last of which was equal parts optimistic and disturbing (think Blade Runner 2049). The thought of developing an emotional relationship with a virtual assistant was something that drew many disconcerting looks from the audience.
Follows’ over-arching point was that whilst the future is uncertain, it’s disruptive companies that have the opportunity to determine how the future will play out. Rather than be apprehensive about what lies ahead, brands should invest in their ideas and craft the future. Her parting words left those in attendance with a compelling thought:
2. Sustainability is vital
After attending last week’s World Aviation Festival last week, our Partner Manager for Airlines James Edwards commented on sustainability, and how aviation is tackling sustainable travel was the dominant topic of conversation.
Disruption Summit was no different, with all presentations discussing technology’s influence on sustainability in some way. I met several Heads of Sustainability from established, scaling and start-up businesses, a job title that would have been hard to find in most industries a decade ago.
Despite it being a relatively new division for many businesses, it is producing some of the most radical and creative ideas in technology, with discussions around sustainable supply chains now put into action. One of the biggest takeaways came from PA Consulting’s Dr Steve Carden, who implored leaders to innovate collaboratively instead of relying purely on internal resources to tackle the challenge of sustainability.
Instead of protecting and hoarding intellectual property, businesses are willing to share their learnings and methods more than ever in an effort to create mutually beneficial relationships with other organisations to drive innovation in sustainability. Carden implored leaders to ‘rethink, reinvent and collaborate on sustainable growth in an era of ever-present disruption.’
3. Be radical, be ambidextrous
Perhaps the most impactful theme of the event was around the need for companies to do more when it comes to investing in product innovation.With the time between a market-first product being launched and it being adopted en-masse by industry, it’s vital for companies to be ready to not react when the time comes for new innovation, they must take the lead on disrupting.
That means becoming ‘ambidextrous.’ No longer can companies focus 90% of their efforts on their core business and 10% on what’s next. The investment needs to be more than a token gesture to truly realise the disruptive products they are working on. That means teams and resources need to be better integrated in existing businesses infrastructure to give them the best chance of flourishing and delivering innovation.
Above all it requires a shift in mindset. In the past companies would be reluctant to heavily invest in radical product development because of the level of risk it represented. However, the need to be disruptive is now vital and to be disruptive, this ‘risk’ should no longer be viewed as a choice, but necessary. As we near the launch of our app at Upgrade Pack, we are investing time and resources into the next phase of our product development, adopting this ambidextrous mindset to make sure we stay ahead of the market, and deliver a truly disruptive platform across travel, customer loyalty and employee benefits.