We are not a patient people. As with any personality trait, there comes with this realization the good, the bad and the ugly, all angles of which were explored at Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored (#IUNY13) conference in New York City last week. According to the parade of speakers, the tradeoff looks something like this: we have ushered in the digital age—the good—to create a work dynamic that makes the one-career path no longer viable—everyone seems to be on the fence as to whether this is bad, though it was noted more than once it can certainly get ugly! This and just about everything else during the event was a mind-fuck, in the best sense of the compound word’s definition.
Editor-in-chief of Fast Company’s print publication Robert (Bob) Safian (@rsafian) kicked off the event, noting how with the advent of the digital age, we have reached a time during which everything we do requires telling a story, something we at adroyt believe with a vengeance. He also told the crowd that with the coming of the futurist age, which appears to be closer than most of us would like to think, we will find ourselves exploring scenarios that have to be both plausible and provocative—in a nutshell, people without critical thinking skills, you are about to be left behind.
There was no one clear-cut answer for how we make the adjustments to adapt to this brave new world, though a number of presenters have figured out their own ways of being nimble on their feet. Justin Kan (@justinkan), founder of Exec and Justin.tv, keeps calm and pivots. It appears he’s on to something, as skillfully effecting the pivot—a lateral career move, or a business segue from one scenario to another just before an idea goes south—is going to be one of the most important career weapons for success in business in the future. Embracing the definition of this and three other words—disruptive, hacking and iteration—are going to come in very handy in the imagination era. Fast Company experimented with Vine during the conference and Krista Donaldson’s clip is either proof of this or a sign that everyone at the conference was a victim of brainwashing.
More than once during the conference, corporate leaders championed an investment in young talent, which they described as tantamount to the survival of our country. Venture Capitalists are certainly sold on youth, as was evidenced by the procession of the under-30 set ebbing and flowing from the stage, including David Karp of Tumblr, at 26, and Brian Wong of Kiip, at 22, who presented a 7-minute Master Class in the video below with enough verve to ignite a small mid-western town’s power grid. According to Wong, it’s impossible not to bump into money on the street in Silicon Valley. It also seems quite certain skipping classes in school is a prerequisite to nurturing a successful tech startup (Just ask Tony Hsieh of Zappos fame!).
That’s the macro view: the grander scale of futurism was also a hot topic, no surprise as it is a worldview embraced wholeheartedly by Fast Company. A panel on the topic, led by Morgan Clendaniel, the editor of Co.Exist, included Jamais Cascio, David Evans and Rita J. King, whose philosophy espouses the intermingling of science and art—science being the process where curiosity rules and art being an exploration of what it means to be human. “Art gives us a chance to ask ourselves what it means to be human while we are entwined with machines,” she said. “If we don’t consider what makes us human as we code the future, we may leave too much of our spiritually out of the equation.”
Evans made the point that we have two interconnected brains but we come up with only three-percent of our most creative ideas when we are ensconced in offices because the right brain finds the atmosphere woefully boring. “The definition of cubicle comes from the Latin for bedchamber,” he noted. “Our work environments put us to sleep!” For a steady stream of their futuristic thinking, follow them on Twitter—Evans, Cisco’s Chief Futurist, tweets as @DaveTheFuturist; King tweets as @RitaJKing; and Cascio as @cascio.
Fast Company editor-at-large Jeff Chu directed a storytelling session titled “The Future of Giving,” which included Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker, Tal Dehtiar of Oliberté Shoes, Krista Donaldson of D-Rev and Melissa Kushner of goods for good. It was an excellent example of companies looking to make a difference in the world, and it has inspired us at adroyt to look at ways we can make our company more mission-driven and socially conscious. It’s something I have long admired about the way Stephanie Odegard runs her business. I attended the conference with Corey Finjer of Hawkins International Public Relations, and I asked her to share with me her takeaway just before we finished our last cocktail together. “I’m seeing that there are times when companies have to be willing to take some risks in order to take things to a higher level of actualization,” she answered.
Host Baratunde Thurston ended the conference on a high note as he recapped the events of the conference that included him nominating nearly everyone who had walked across the dais for mayor of New York City. Yeah, we’re pretty desperate for someone enlightening (or at the very least engaging) to enter the race. I cast my vote for Mario!