CIW’12: Disruptive Innovation

The second Chicago Ideas Week session I was able to catch was a Megatalk titled, Disruptive Innovation: Reinventing Our World. It featured several speakers who’ve been involved in game-changing technologies or ideas.

Steve Case, who was a co-founder of AOL, mentioned that AOL’s principles were: content, conversation, community, connectivity. I found it interesting that all these years later, those same principles absolutely apply to our world and to word of mouth/social media marketing.

As quoted by Steve Case

He also talked about the sharing economy – how access and use are valued more than ownership for today’s generation. I think that’s a really important trend for any business to recognize. Just think about the music business, for example, and how most music consumers don’t necessarily care about owning the music – most are more than content streaming it.

Speaking of sharing, Kara Swisher from All Things D (who by the way is extremely entertaining and quite hilarious at times) commented on the fact that humans want to share, and that is resulting in massive amounts of conversation via technology. She also commented on the issues of privacy in today’s online world. When it comes down to security vs. convenience – which is more important to you?

One of the  speakers I was most interested in seeing was Aza Raskin, who I only recognized as the founder of Songza. I actually just heard about Songza about a week ago, but Aza mentioned this is actually a really old site of his that’s been around for a long time. I still think it’s a really good idea – basically curates a playlist for you based on time of day, genre and mood.

Anyways, other than his music venture, Aza was also creative lead at Mozilla Firefox, until he switched over to helping solve issues in the healthcare industry. Music business to web browsers to healthcare? Quite an eclectic mix of passions. But Aza was a really interesting speaker, and when he talked about his own quarter life crisis, after having already worked on all these amazing projects, I figured his might actually be deserving, as opposed to my own quarter life crisis.

Being described as a modern-day Renaissance Man, Aza encouraged us to go deep in one thing, broad in many others. That’s how you can make the non-obvious obvious. Through metaphors that you can apply when you have that frame of reference in one field, and can bring it to a completely different field.

As quoted by Aza

Dan Rosenweig is the founder of Chegg (combo of chicken + egg). One point Dan made that I thought was really interesting, and that I’ve noticed in a few recent news articles, is that the customer has changed. Companies who designed and marketed products to appeal to the middle man, are now becoming successful by instead focusing on the ultimate user. So for example, the patient instead of the doctor, the music listener instead of the label.

The last speaker was the creator of Makerbot, a 3D printer. I have to admit, even after listening to him speak for a good 15 minutes, I still didn’t understand what the contraption did. Funny enough, he mentioned how he’d take the machine on the subway in NYC, on the way to meetings, and when people asked what it was, he’d say, “a teleporter.” Then he’d say, “Just kidding, it’s a 3D printer.” And they’d have the same reaction. I can see why.

Anyways, it was a pretty cool machine, where you can basically program what you want made via computer, then the machine makes it. Like a manufacturing plant, I guess.

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