In Part 1 here, Malcolm Frank, EVP of Marketing and Strategy talked about his keynote and the audience vibe at the recent Cognizant Community. Here he provides color commentary on some of the other excellent sessions during the event.
Kevin Kelly, who was been the editor of Wired, kicked things off for us. Kevin is truly thoughtful, and one of the best trend-recognizers in the industry. He always makes things look so easy, but what he does, in predicting the coming trends in the market, is very difficult because there are so many “head fakes” out there. That is, there are so many trends that come along that seem to be exciting, that seem to have lots of potential, but then fizzle away, whereas others are truly impactful. Kevin, far more often than not, gets it right.
He delivered a terrific opening presentation, outlining seven technologies and seven trends that he thinks are going to have a tremendous impact going forward. It was a tour of force, as he highlighted the inevitability of areas such as cloud and edge computing, VR and AR, and how humans will interact with “computers” in the coming years. It was all very well received.
Kevin was followed by Dr. Eric Topol, and I think Eric is very important in many ways. Obviously, he is important in his field, as a leading light at the intersection of digital technology and the healthcare system. He is ringing the bell, saying, "We've got to do better with healthcare in the US, and we will do better when we apply digital to the system," to meaningfully change health outcomes in just one generation. A child, who might be ten years old today, in a generation's time is going to look back and think "How in the heck did my parents tolerate the nonsense that they did in the pre-digital healthcare system?" He went through case study after case study to give examples of digital revolution in the diagnosis and treatment of specific diseases.
There is a second thing with Dr. Topol, which is also important, and I think this is a trend we're going to see in the next three or four years – of how digital manifests itself in specific industries. He didn't just talk about horizontal trends; for example, what does Facebook mean to society or business in general. Those types of conversations for the past five years that have felt a bit theoretical. However, Topol was taking digital and applying it deep inside his industry and showing just how radically it will transform in the next decade. That was exciting for all to see. Topol has claimed the high ground on digital in healthcare, but I think we're going to start to hear similar voices in government, education, transportation, and so on. You can quickly name ten different industries or ten different sub-industries where we're going to have a similar awakening, and I think that that's going to be where the exciting work is going to be conducted in the next five to ten years.
Raffaello D'Andrea highlighted the world of robotics and drones. If you look at Amazon's robotics and the automation in their warehouses, that's his. That's his technology, Kiva Systems that he sold to Amazon about half a decade ago. He is now at the vanguard of drones, and really wowed the audience with the art of the possible.
With drones too many talk of dystopian things that may happen, like the slaughterbots video that went viral recently. However, Raffaello showed the wonder and beauty that drones can deliver today. He dazzled the audience showing his drones playing tennis against one another, and manipulating the world around them in ways that most people don’t fully recognize or appreciate. He showed his drones on tour with Metallica, how they are integrated very beautifully into their live stage show. You're mesmerized by the beauty of it but, then you pause and think "Wow, if you could use drones for such live shows in front of twenty five thousand people, there aren't many limits of their commercial uses today.” D'Andrea was fantastic from that perspective.
That was day one … yet, as good as that was, the second day may have been better.
Eric Ries, who has launched an entire movement around lean, gave a case study heavy presentation of his experiences, of what has worked and what has not worked in bringing entrepreneurialism to large organizations. We found clients were taking tons of notes, as they found these tales from the front to be very valuable. Many clients are now wondering “How do I hold off the digital barbarians at the gate? These young startups that can move incredibly quickly, how do I move at least at that speed, and how do I deal with some of the inertia that exists in my organization?”
Dr. Mary Lacity then spoke about robotic process automation, as well as cognitive automation. Similar to Eric, she’s a pragmatic presentation on what works and what doesn't work. Mary is currently releasing her third book on the topic, and is a world authority on automation. For those who are starting to look at what's happening with RPA, and I think it's right up there with blockchain, in terms of the hype cycle. It was great to have a pragmatic voice of reason outlining what's really happening in that world.
Following Mary, we had Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at NYU’s Stern School. Scott truly calls them as he sees them, and has recently launched his book "The Four", which focuses on the FANG players, how they rose to prominence and, more importantly, the impact that they're having on society, both good and bad. Obviously, given what’s going on in the news it was a very timely discussion. Scott did not hold back. In terms of where we are going around privacy, where are we going around the responsibility of these firms as media platforms? In his predictions of where is Amazon going next, where is Google going next, was really compelling, and it was quite well received.
Next up was Tim Urban, and Tim has one of the most popular blogs called "Wait But Why" Very thoughtful; Tim is a different type of blogger. Most bloggers will just walk around the world and write about things very superficially. So, you look over the course of a month and they may have written twenty things and their work is always a mile wide and three inches deep. Tim is the opposite. He is extraordinarily bright and very curious. He will just stop for four or six months, and go very deep on something, and then produce really compelling pieces.
What he's been focused on recently is Elon Musk’s Neuralink. He's gotten very close to Elon and his team, and his presentation did two things for the audience. One was explain how Elon thinks of markets, build a strategy for his organizations, whether it's Tesla or Space X or Neuralink, and how he and his teams are building these extraordinary organizations. Tim was able to describe that these aren't random events. Elon has a methodology. The methodology works extraordinarily well, and these ideas are actually tied together pretty closely.
That was interesting enough, but then Tim, and no pun intended, blew people's minds by talking about Neuralink, a future where you're going to have artificial intelligence actually embedded into people's brains. If something like Neuralink comes to fruition, this conversation you and I are having right now, we'd say that it's absurd. Why is one person talking into a phone and it's coming out in different phone from where then the person is listening and taking notes? Instead, I can just send you my memory of these presentations and then it goes directly to your brain, and you're reliving the proceedings as I saw them. It was one of those presentations, I think similar to Scott Galloway's, people were either excited and impressed or really horrified. I think everybody had both of those sensations as they were listening to Tim. But, I will tell you, regardless of how you feel about it, ethically and morally, technically, you could hear a pin drop in the room. Everybody was really captivated.
Then, we ended the proceedings with Platon, who is probably the world's foremost photographer of famous people. He walked through his career over the past twenty five years. He would put up a photograph of some figure – such as Muhammad Ali, Angela Merkel or Donald Trump, and then would provide an anecdote of that person, and what you learn from them? It was truly compelling. In fact, at a couple points, he reduced a number of people in the room to tears. For example, what was it like for a wife of soldier who was killed in Iraq? He was able to talk about current events but in a very personal and emotional way. We could see the humanity which far too often is not communicated in the newspapers.
Photo Credit: Cognizant