At the Gartner CIO Conference
04 Apr 2014

Two weeks ago we travelled to London to take part in Gartner’s annual CIO conference. For the first time this year they ran an innovation showcase, which featured 6 different startups including Love & Robots.

The panel we participated in was led by Gartner research director Ed Gabrys, entitled Innovation and how to foster it. The discussion was centred around how CIOs of large global companies could learn from startups and how they operate. Gabrys began the talk with his thoughts on the problems these companies face today:

“Many IT organizations have been placed into a strategic innovation deep sleep. The past decade has forced CIOs to focus on standardizing, consolidating, outsourcing, securing and cost containment. Their duties have been mostly limited to the back office IT systems of the firm. The new era of digital business (Nexus of forces, SMART Technologies) is rapidly and fundamentally changing the value proposition for technology in the enterprise and has firmly positioned digital as a necessary means for businesses to succeed. Innovation can be used to rapidly improve business capabilities, but substantial innovation is difficult to accomplish, particularly in large organizations operating at scale.  Startups only succeed by knowing their customer, working with the right staff, a deep understanding of the industry, lean and flexible (agile) operations, and focus. Our esteemed panelists will discuss and answer questions on how their companies innovate and foster innovation.”

The panel discussion began with the meaning of innovation. There were a number of ideas put forward: “the application of invention” was one suggestion, and later we discussed the idea that innovation need not be solely technological, but it can be focussed on innovating the business model. We discussed how Love & Robots has turned the manufacturing pipeline business model around. Traditionally, products are designed, mass-manufactured, distributed, and then sold.  The downsides or risks associated with the pipe business include creating a product nobody wants, potentially large unwanted stock, storage of stock and complex supply chains. Instead of this pipe business model, we at Love & Robots use a platform business model.  We have a two-way platform where both designers and customers can come to create, improve, personalize and influence the products we make.  At Love & Robots, products are designed with input from customers, we manufacture one single item which we bring to market, and then individual products are only manufactured on-demand.

In addition to our own talk, we were also able to attend some very interesting lectures at the conference. Brian Burke, Research Vice President at Gartner and author of Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to do Extraordinary Things, spoke about what gamification is and, perhaps more importantly, what it is not. There is a common misconception that gamification is “making work fun” or that it’s about “points and badges”, but ultimately, Burke says gamification is about motivating and inspiring people.  He gave some examples of gamification in practice including Quirky in New York.

We also had the chance to catch a talk by the British data-journalist David McCandless, who showed off some fascinating infographics from his book Information is Beautiful.  He showed some fascinating graphs on how the analysis of data can be both illuminating and aesthetically-pleasing.  You can see one of his talks here:

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