Only three hours at Strata+Hadoop World, and I already feel much smarter. These are three lessons I took away from this morning’s star talks, all relevant to Sentiance. As we are not afraid to work on both incremental improvements and Big Ideas, and we are a Digital David, aspiring greatness through a great team – and data, of course.
Lesson #1: Technology alone has no value. People Matter.
Actually, Rick Farnell (Think Big) said “Hadoop alone has no value.” In a new take on ‘technology is not the product’, he expanded this to the entire technology scene, pointing out that it is the people that matter, and that the value is in the solution. His advice?
“Describe to your kids what you do, and then build solutions to do that better.”
We should spend less time worrying about efficiency and more time about the use cases. It is all about building solutions.
Lesson #2: We need both Davids & Goliaths.
There’s three possible futures. One where tech platforms take over all industries: Palo Alto to rule the world. A second one, where the Digital Davids disruptive solutions slay Goliath, only to create new giants. And then there’s a third, where David and Goliath dance together: the Digital Davids create the business models, and the Goliaths provide platforms and reach. They bring in the scale.
As Julie Meier (Ariadne Capital) put it: “Entrepreneurs are like cars. They need a highway.”
For scenario three to happen, we need to keep in mind that over history, capital has always followed ideas, and innovation is about economy – not technology. And the existing Goliaths – national post services, large banks, retail giants, .. – should help start-ups go to market. That way they do not all have to turn to Palo Alto.
Lesson 3: Help people take risks. Big ideas are better.
Last but not least, Tim Hartford (The Financial Times) told us to stop creating an environment where incredibly smart people are trying to impress each other at incredibly high speed – as this merely leads to incremental small improvements.
Although these can still mean a big gain – a small improvement for a 1,000,000 audience is significant still – we need more Big Ideas. Ideas that are more high-risk, but can also lead to real change.
Which brings us back to lesson #1. As people are important, they need to be given the space and time to think big. They need to be given the opportunity to take a risk. As Farnell said, less time spend on tiny, incremental efficiency gains on existing solutions, and more energy towards new solutions.
Have a Head of Marginal Gains, but make everybody a Supporter of Big Ideas.
A great start to Day 1 of what promises to be a great conference. You can follow tomorrow’s keynotes live on the Strata+Hadoop website, and if you’re attending, I will be speaking for Sentiance on TrustUX: Balancing Privacy & Personalisation on Thursday afternoon.