An experience. That’s how one could sum up this year’s Food for Thought event, hosted by Ads24. The elements included three insightful presentations as well as cuisine which certainly got people talking.
From the moment you walked in the door, you questioned the future and alternative realities. Talk about Alice going down the rabbit hole: On arrival, we were presented with a pill. It’s purpose? Sucking on it altered a person’s taste perceptions, transforming lemon juice into orange juice. The unique cuisine continued with coffee cubes, muesli jelly, and 3D printed cream cheese to top scones.
Reflected in the food, and throughout the presentations, was the theme for this year’s event: Humans versus Robots. Host and referee for the debate, Don Packett, warmly welcomed everyone, with much humour, before Ads24’s general manager for sales and marketing, Ané Honiball, commented on the reason for the event.
“The main reason for this event is to give back to our loyal advertisers, and advertising agencies as well, who are our loyal supporters. We think about the future a lot and we feel by hosting an event like this we give people the opportunity to be informed and enriched just by a different experience. We want it to be memorable and for them to think of us as innovative and forward thinking… and for them to think about us differently,” she said.
She added that the theme was chosen to make sense of the world, which has become a hybrid of humans and machines, and what people need to do with it.
Overcoming legacy thinking
The first speaker was the entertaining Richard Mulholland, founder of presentation firm Missing Link, who spoke about ‘legicide’ (how companies stick to doing business in certain ways, which then become obsolete).
“We fall in love with a solution when what we really need is to rekindle our love for the problem … Solve problems, refine your solutions and then solve new problems,” he emphasised, adding that innovation doesn’t happen when you start doing something new, but rather when you stop doing something old.
A powerful quote from American writer, futurist, and businessman Alvin Toffler summed up Mulholland’s key takeaway for businesses perfectly: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
For Mulholland, legacy thinking is a major problem in business. He provided this handy cheat sheet (left) to help businesses. If your business is struggling, ask yourself whether the problem you’re solving is really still a problem. Constantly innovate and come up with new solutions, and deep dive further into other problems and solutions you can offer.
‘Accelerated Improvement’ rather than ‘Artificial Intelligence’
The next speaker was Rapelang Rabana, founder of learning-tech start-up, Rekindle Learning. She spoke about Artificial Intelligence and its role in aiding development, coining the term ‘Accelerated Improvement’.
“Artificial Intelligence can assist with Accelerated Improvement, speeding up solving problems such as inequality, poverty and unemployment… AI will help humans be smarter, do more, be better humans, and see further into the future,” she said.
While she admitted that AI will take some jobs from humans, many more will be created through it.
Human food versus robot food
Main courses followed her talk. The theme, Humans versus Robots, continued through the cuisine, with the same meal being served, but in two separate ways, one to reflect the human approach and the other representing the robots.
The human side
Brad Shorkend, co-founder of relevance bureau Still Human, was the final speaker, as he touched on the human side of the debate.
He rather views Artificial Intelligence as Intelligent Assistant, something which humans programme, but which makes their lives easier and more efficient.
“Humans need to apply themselves differently, understand the world differently, and understand technology… Technology is a tool, but a fool with a tool, is still a fool,” he said.
“We are now moving into the fifth industrial revolution, a society where humans and machines work side by side, but humans programme them and trust is the theme,” he added.
A major point of his presentation was employee empowerment and development. He touted businesses to create a culture of “Companies Behaving Awesomely”, with several major areas of focus, including innovation with intent, meaningful connection, ‘awakedness’, people push, recognition, and knowledge flow.
A question and answer session then took place with these two key insights from Rabana and Shorkend:
“The next generation of marketing won’t be marketing at all. Product drive will be built into the product itself. Design of products will be how it is marketed” ~ Rabana.
“We need to start creating individualised experiences for humans, personalisation is key … The future should be ‘what are humans feeling’, a reaction to that … The fastest way to get and maintain a consumer’s attention is to get and maintain trust, and form a connection and relationship” ~ Shorkend.
To wrap up the theme of the event, dessert was brought to attendees via drones.
Here are some pictures from the event:
Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8
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