Think Digital 2017: A Decade of Innovative Thinking

A man doing a speech on stage
A man doing a speech on stage
A man doing a speech on stage

This month marked yet another wildly successful run of the annual Thinking Digital Conference, now celebrating its tenth year. And, wow, what a show!

The main event, held on Wednesday 17th, saw a host of internationally renowned speakers gather at the Sage Gateshead.  Each ready to inspire and share insight on an array of topics; from the logistics of landing on Mars, to the mathematical complexities of The Simpsons.

We’re now a few weeks on, and as much as we’d love to re-live the experience and recount the full rundown of the day for you, we know we couldn’t truly capture the wonder of the day. Plus, a Livestream of the full event has already been recorded. So there’s that.

Instead, here’s our lasting top highlights and takeaways from the day. Rounded up and in bitesize chunks, because the TL;DR struggle is real.

Choose Your Team Carefully

A recurring theme of the more business-orientated talks centred around being careful with who you bring on board.

Darren Jobling of Zerolight said it best when he stated that there are two types of people in the world, “There’s radiators, and then there’s drains”. To elaborate on that point, there will be people in your team who radiate warmth and a can-do attitude, and then there are those who will drain the same elements out of a room completely. Or, as Mark Mullen, CEO of Durham-based Atom Bank, eloquently put it, “Rather a hole, than an a**hole”.

It’s a fair point. And it’s one that should get businesses truly thinking about the effect individuals can have not only their team culture but on their growth, products and even end-users. It takes time to get good people, but pick the wrong person and you have the potential to damage to your business far beyond just that role. So when you’re next interviewing, keep in mind that enthusiasm and gusto can take a person as far (if not further) than their experience or degree.

Don’t Get Distracted

Mark Mullen provided another one of the more Twitter-quotable soundbites of the day. That is, “Don’t bark at passing cars”. Again, it’s not hard to see how this can be a problem in business, where the temptation to get involved in multiple side projects or to take in business that doesn’t necessarily get you any closer to your end goal is all too present.

The key takeaway is to not get too swept up in what your competition are doing, or to follow the trends, but to have a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) and stick to it. Success most often accompanies unwavering belief in your goal, along with the mindset that you have to follow that plan irrespective of what happens outside of it.

A further point, made by Darren Jobling, is to ensure that plan is regularly communicated within your team. It’s a tip we can appreciate and vouch for here at Komodo, where our ‘free food Fridays’ have proven to be a great opportunity for the team to get together and receive updates, not only for individual projects but on the business as a whole.

AI & Chatbots

Predominantly a digital technology conference, it’s no surprise that chatbots and AI were on the menu. They’ve been big news at almost every developer and technology event this year – and as they fall into an area we are exploring internally through our R&D teams, our interest was piqued.

Here, Accenture MD, Laetitia Cailleteau, was brave enough to invite Amazon’s Alexa on stage to demonstrate a conversational financial transaction via the device. Despite the number of delegates and respective drain on the WiFi, the point was successfully made and Alexa performed to an impressed audience. Possibly the most interesting insight from Laetitia’s presentation, however, came from the number of live case studies and the range of organisations and businesses across Europe and the US already using Alexa and AI technology to great advantage.

One such case study presented a 75% query resolution rate for a Government Department in Southern Europe, using a combination of cognitive-semantic analysis and machine-learning algorithms to respond to customer queries. Combined with a 55% decrease in operator tasks after 6 months, the technology becomes especially appealing to any agency or organisation dealing with high traffic phone calls or repeat enquiries.

The Power of Magic in Design

A delightful thread of magic ran throughout the day – from Richard Wiseman’s captivating way of changing a whole set right from under our nose, to the preview of Di Mainstone’s TDC commissioned film piece portraying the Sage as a living, breathing entity capable of soaking up the noise within.

Yet one presentation stands out from the rest as eliciting the greatest applaud from the surrounding audience. That is, of course, Adrian Westaway of Special Projects. As a full member of the Magic Circle, Adrian has a unique angle of introducing magic into the world of design. Working with names such as Samsung and Blackberry, the UX focused agency assists clients by tackling challenging questions and “dips in the user experience”. One such question being, ‘How do you help an older generation through the setup process of a new mobile phone, without patronising them or creating frustration?’. The answer? You follow the ethos of magic and create unexpected excitement and anticipation.

The result is a fantastic and original storybook revealing the phone inside, with each page bringing a new surprise and instruction.

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