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João Pinho

“Wired” to Innovation and Sustainability

15 October 2018
Google, Amazon, Facebook, GE, Slack, Deliveroo, IDEO, and more (so many more)— some of the biggest players in the game got together in London last Tuesday to discuss the future of Retail, Energy, and Money in a different kind of conference curated by WIRED’s editorial team. Forever on board the Innovation Train, Sonae sent me to learn with the best, and here are the key takeaways that I brought from this event.

The Future Will Be Friction-Free And Human-Centered

"The only thing that moves faster than the speed of technology is the speed of our expectations”. It was with this idea that Martin Harbech, Group Director at Facebook, defined a clear goal for retail: getting closer to a zero-friction future. Following the idea that "the world will never be slower than it is right now” — launched earlier that morning by the author and GE’s former Vice Chair, Beth Comstock — Harbech exposed the current scenario of our expectations as consumers: We used to be completely comfortable with booking a cab within a period of 24 hours. Now, we’ll go completely nuts if we have to wait more than 5 minutes for an Uber ride.

Amazon Go, Instagram Purchase Stickers for Stories or Google Pay (brilliantly introduced by Florence Diss, Head of EMEA Commerce Partnerships at Google) are just a few examples of how the market is adapting to a world craving for a "Friction-Free” future and completely seamless customer experiences. This shift from product to purpose is all about understanding who our customers are and what do they want. The "Human-Centered” approach is a big part of IDEO’s trademark and Emilie Colker, IDEO’s executive director, portrayed the future of retail as the search for "authentic relationships”. So, the shared goal is to keep the conversation authentic. And "natural”. That’s how Werner Vogels, Chief Technology Officer at Amazon, described the next generation of computer interfaces (enters Alexa Voice Service). Vogels’ message was clear. Innovation is a key factor for any company’s long-term success. But to nurture this kind of culture in an organization one must be ready to look at it as an investment and be prepared to embrace the subsequent risks. One of the most difficult tasks, Vogels said, is to get rid of "gatekeepers”.

Goal: Sustainability

The task is to make the world a better place for everyone, and that means keeping it socially and environmentally sustainable. These questions can go from Ethical AI, to Circular Economy, to the Democratization of Technology and the world must be creative while addressing them. Here are two examples of the challenges being solved right now:

  • Kresse Wesling, Co-Founder and Director at Elvis & Kresse, showed how the company is nurturing both social and environmental sustainability by combining wastes — such as London’s decommissioned fire hose, parachute silk fabric, coffee and tea sacks, shoe boxes, etc. — with "highly skilled, traditional craftsmanship” to create luxurious fashion and homeware products. The cherry on top? 50% of profits from the fire-hose range are donated to the Fire Fighters Charity;
  • A person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Olio´s (winner of the Wired Smarter Startup Award) premise is very simple: if it’s edible, in good conditions, and you’re not going to eat it, post it on the app and one of your neighbors will collect it.

In conclusion, we are walking towards a sustainable and human centered world. All aboard?

João Pinho
Innovation Analyst at Sonae
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