CMO’s Notebook: Of Ubertrends And Innovation

If you’re involved in your company’s digital transformation, you will want to review these highlights from a recent event hosted by the Silicon Valley Executive Network.

CMO’s Notebook: Of Ubertrends And Innovation

Innovation is a digital-transformation must that requires C-level executives to keep close watch for “ubertrends”—a major movement, pattern, or wave emerging in the consumer lifestyle that ripples through society, leaves many subtrends in its wake, reflects a fundamental change in population values.

That’s what the most recent “Future of Marketing Series,” hosted by the Silicon Valley Executive Network (SVEN) at Accenture’s Technology Labs in San Jose, Calif., was all about.

The program keynote was delivered by Michael Tchong, founder of Ubercool Innovation, an innovation agency and incubator, and an adjunct professor of innovation and social media at the University of San Francisco and UC Berkeley.

“Our world is changing at warp speed,” said Tchong, who also founded MacWEEK in the late 1980s. “Massive waves, like the time compression, digital lifestyle, and unwired ubertrends, are reshaping society. It’s challenging to keep pace with the changing data points in a digital world.”

Tchong elabarated on those ubertrends during his “Unbox Your Thinking to Create Innovation Breakthroughs” presentation:

• Digital lifestyle: “As technology becomes more tightly interwoven with the fabric of life, you need to appeal to dominant values ruling this world: connectivity, convergence, and convenience. When Starbucks rolled out unlimited Wi-Fi several years ago, that was a very smart, strategic move that recognized our new digital needs and behaviors. The business results: In fiscal year 2016, Starbucks experienced its most profitable quarter and year ever.”

• Robots: “Think about the AI robotic wave that has just begun to disrupt. I saw a Relay robot in my AC by Marriott hotel lobby this morning. Aloft and Hilton have robots greeting people in many of their hotels now. Robot love is here.”

• Tech adoption: “Did you know that nearly half of Americans have cut back on spending, including for travel, food, and health care, in order to afford their technology, according to a recent CNBC poll? Did you know that 6-year-olds understand digital technology better than adults? Or that we now talk hashtag hieroglyphics and emojis? Think about the implications for your business.”

• Unwired: “We are now all ‘unwired’ and have raised a generation of control freaks. Unwired is creating a highly mobile, independent lifestyle. The chief value impelling users to unwire is freedom. They want to decide when and where to use services, while seeking greater control over life’s daily interfaces.”

• Time compression: “The pace of life is accelerating. Moore’s law is in full swing. At the same time, the average attention span of a human being has dropped. … Time compression has led to a multitasking population that’s in love with instant gratification. Respect this world by offering customers simple, fast services to better manage their increasingly valuable disposable time. FedEx has built their business on this.”

Click here to view the video of Tchong’s presentation.

**Panelist Insight

The SVEN event also featured a group of panelists, who imparted innovation insights that were both inspirational and highly actionable. Tchong and I moderated. Here are some key points:

Don Bennion, director of business strategy, Adobe: “Innovation at Adobe is everybody’s job on behalf of the company. More and more, we are looking externally for innovation working with strategic partners in an ecosystem to solve big problems to keep pace with how fast our marketplace and customers are moving–for example, in AI, machine learning, etc. Innovation takes a village. We are going to innovate with the entire ecosystem, including our customers.”

Vasu Jakkal, VP, corporate marketing, Brocade: “We don’t have a chief innovation officer. We also believe innovation is everyone’s job. Marketing has responsibility for all market-facing insights and trends and to identify where the opportunities are. We use traditional structured data, like Forrester and Gartner, but we also use unstructured data. We sit down with our customers twice a year to understand the problems in their world and co-create solutions with them.”

Steven Tiell, senior principal, technology vision and digital trust, Accenture: “I love it when a client asks for us to bring innovation examples from outside of their industry in advance of our innovation discussion. That tells me that they are open to new ideas, open to being disruptive, they are really hungry. Chances are … they are going to do something. The conversations with these types of clients turn out to be really interesting, engaging, and pushing the state of the art.”

Mitra Best, principal, PwC New Ventures & PwC Innovation Leader, PwC: “We really do believe that innovation can come from anyone and anywhere. We co-create with our clients every day. This is key. We talk with our clients to understand the problems and issues they are facing. We also have the advantage of having data and insights across multiple industries, which helps us cross-pollenate across industries and the nexus of different fields coming together.”

Lori H. Schwartz, senior digital innovations executive, StoryTech: “The best innovation movement I’ve seen at companies is when leadership commits to innovation and operationalizes it. Just doing lunch-and-learns does not do it. Innovation must be an everyday thing. My advice is to invest and get behind a chief people officer who has responsibility to make sure that innovation is ingrained in the culture and operations every day with everyone.”

Click here to view the video of the entire panel session.

(l-r): Steven Cook, Don Bennion, Vasu Jakkal, Steven Tiell, Mitra Best, Lori Schwartz, Michael Tchong