Recently, Acceleration hosted its first ‘Innovation Meet-up’. The meet-up was intended to be an opportunity to show our partners how innovations in the tech industry are revolutionising marketing and talk about how these innovations might affect their businesses. To enhance this conversation, we invited speakers from a wide range of professional backgrounds who, each in their own way, represent excellence in innovation.
The event took place on Thursday the 30th of June and was hosted in partnership with Google at the La La Library, in one of Google’s central London offices.
The event kicked off with Di Mayze, the EU Managing Director, making some introductory remarks, welcomes, and asking everyone to say a few words on what ‘innovation’ means to them. As we went round the room, some interesting patterns emerged. Everyone incorporated some aspect of ‘newness’ as being a key part of innovation, but many also talked about innovation as having some kind of commercial power. Alfred Biehler, our host from Google, only half jokingly described innovation as “turning ideas into invoices”. Another guest spoke about how business had to “innovate or die”. What was clear was that the people in attendance all thought that the ability to innovate was vital to their company’s future.
Alistair Sheppard – Saberr
Our first guest speaker was Alistair Shepard from Saberr. Alistair, an aerospace engineer by training, made the decisions a few years ago to turn his keen analytical mind to the hitherto very un-analytical subject of team dynamics and in doing so, founded Saberr.
In their own words, Saberr creates “products and services to improve teams’ performance”. It does so based upon the belief that the functional success of a team is based primarily upon the strength of the connection between the members of the team. This belief has been supported by Saberr’s ability to predict the success of teams in “short term entrepreneurial projects” and other such ventures that rely heavily upon teams working well together.
According to Alistair, the key to a good group dynamic, and therefore a successful team, is to group people together by values. In other words, groups that share a common value set will perform better than groups with disparate value sets. One rather unusual and amusing example of this is the way people feel towards horror movies. Alistair claimed that through their research they had discovered that the way two people felt about horror movies is a statistically significant predictor of the success of romantic relationships. So, before you shack up with anyone new, make sure you two have the same attitude to horror movies. You’ve been warned!
Alfred Biehler – Innovation at Google
To play into the meet-up’s setting, we asked Alfred Biehler to take a few minutes to talk to us about how Google, a company famous for its ability to continue to produce technical innovations time after time, encouraged innovation. The way that Alfred described innovation at Google was by telling stories around the lifecycles of ideas that he and others had had over the years.
At Google, it seems that as long as you can develop a convincing business case for why you want to do something, they will allow (or even encourage and support) you to develop that idea further. However, there are some rules. The first criterion is that you must setup the trial or proof of concept in a way that allows you to ‘fail fast’, which Alfred clarified was perhaps better understood as ‘fail cheap’ as long as you understood that a persons time has monetary value. If you are successful, then fantastic! But if you should fail, as is most often the case, you must unashamedly embark upon a post-mortem of your attempt. This post-mortem of the attempt is key, as it allows others to learn from the experience and allows you to salvage value from the failed attempt.
Another curious part about the Google culture is the celebration of failures. Unlike other companies, at Google there is an understanding that most ventures fail. If you do embark on a project and it does not result in what you set out to achieve at most businesses the effect would be a black mark on your file, but at Google it is simply accepted as what needs to be done to be innovative. In my opinion, this is the most powerful way in which a business can encourage innovation. Too often good ideas go to waste because people are reluctant to upset the apple cart, and often with good reason. Without encouraging failure, there will be few successes because people will not try to be innovative.
Cameron Hulett – Evrythng
Our last guest speaker was a former Accelerator who has gone on to become the CCO of Evrythng, a company that provides Internet of Things (IoT) consulting services and software solutions.
Cameron spoke about how brands are using IoT to get direct access to their consumers. Often brands are isolated from their consumers by 3rd party distribution channels, but by ‘connecting’ their products, brands have a way of keeping in direct contact with their consumer and adding value to their products.
Another of Cameron’s main themes was the importance of connecting connected devices (ironic, I know). Too often connected devices are what Cameron described as ‘point solutions’, meaning that they solve a very specific issue and then don’t do a whole lot more. The problem with these point solutions is that they fail to provide value to the consumer at scale. When the consumer starts to have several of these point solutions, his or her life becomes complex and inefficient. The true value in connected devices lies in their ability to connect to each other. The way that Evrythng is trying to solve this is by providing companies with a unified connected devices platform.
Igor Tolkachev – The Store (WPP)
As part of our IoT segment, our WPP colleague Igor brought in The Store’s IoT kit to show off to all of our guests.
The kit is a collection of components, circuitry, and sensors that can be used to quickly create ones very own connected device. It is intended to be a kick-starter for invention and it enables even those with limited hardware experience to build their own device relatively easily.
Please be on the lookout for future blog posts detailing what we are going to do with the kit!
David Butt – Machine Learning Workshop
Finally, to wrap up the evening, Acceleration’s very own David Butt did a practical demonstration of machine learning. Over the course of the evening, much had been said about the power and potential of machine learning to drive innovation. However, for many (including myself) the specifics of what machine learning entails remained a mystery. David’s machine learning workshop was an attempt to familiarise people with what machine learning really is, so people might have a better idea about its practical applications and constraints.
The workshop consisted of dividing the participants into two competing teams. Each team was given three sets of cards. Each set of cards (examples pictured below) showed various details about a residential property that was either in New York City or San Francisco. Two of the sets of cards had the location of the house indicated, but on the third set of cards, the location was unknown.
The goal of the exercise was to create a set of rules that correctly sorted the ‘known’ cards, meaning the NY City and San Francisco cards, and use these rules to sort the unknown cards into either NY City of San Francisco. For example, the teams would create rules like “If the house has a price higher than $1,000,000 and an elevation lower than 60 then the house is in NY” from the known sets and then apply the rule to the unknown set. At the end, the team that had sorted the highest number of the unknown cards correctly won.
The purpose of this event was to give our clients a forum to be inspired, to discuss where they could be more innovative and broaden their thinking. All the feedback indicated that this mission was accomplished; one client even stated that we had ‘reframed his view on the possibilities of IoT’ and he couldn’t wait to create a proof of concept. We will keep you posted!
If you think this event sounds like something you’d like to attend please email us at Marketing@Acceleration.biz to register your interest for upcoming events.