On this episode of The Innovation Engine, David DeWolf and Jonathan Rivers join us to share an overview of all the news that was fit to print at this year’s Fortune Brainstorm Tech Conference in Aspen. We discuss what the prevailing wisdom was in Aspen when it comes to artificial intelligence, how the gig economy is driving a wave of acquisitions and the two-way street of innovation some of those acquisitions have opened up, and what you can expect from an upcoming book on what we at 3Pillar call “the Product Mindset.”
David DeWolf, the Founder and CEO of 3Pillar Global, lives at the intersection of business, technology, and leadership. After starting 3Pillar almost by accident at the age of 26, he has grown the company to nearly 1000 employees around the globe. 3Pillar has won numerous awards for rapid growth, including being recognized on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. for seven of the last eight years.
Jonathan Rivers is the CTO at 3Pillar. He leads our product and engineering teams, which include more than 750 software engineers, product consultants, product managers, quality assurance, and user experience professionals. Prior to joining 3Pillar, Jonathan was the interim CTO at Telegraph Media Group and served as its Director of Service Delivery and Operations. As Senior Director of Web Operations and Customer Support at PBS, Jonathan helped transform PBS into a digital leader.
You can tune in to the full episode below.
Key themes that permeated many of the talks and discussions at Brainstorm Tech that we touch on in the podcast include the following:
The Gig Economy showed up in force at the Brainstorm Tech Conference, with a who’s who of executives on stage talking about the gig economy and how it’s changing things. There was a specific focus on how the gig economy is affecting transportation and logistics, down to the last mile of delivery using bikes, scooters, and other personal vehicles.
“The gig economy is real and growing momentum,” David says. Traditional businesses are also making acquisitions in the gig economy, such as Ikea’s purchase of TaskRabbit, which shows how these innovative products and businesses are disrupting and being integrated into legacy businesses.
There is no real AI right now, according to Jonathan. What we’re calling AI is just machine learning or deep learning mixed with a couple of other different technologies. And the reason it’s not AI is it can’t reason. None of it has actually passed a Turing test yet. People talking about AI at the conference wanted to get off the hype bandwagon and talk very, very seriously about what machine learning and automation can do for business.
The power of data in the digital economy is figuring out how to monetize it in new ways through productization, through really commercializing that data and building products around it that allow you to leverage it for growth. So, how do you take that data and put it into the hands of your consumers?
The companies that are exploding, the ones that are really leveraging their data, are the ones that are giving it away (not necessarily for free, but sometimes that is the case). You’ve got to make it accessible. You have to let people interact with your data, find the insights, be able to leverage it for their value in order to monetize it to the greatest ability. You have to make that data approachable. Data is scary. We’re all overwhelmed with so much data, and it’s coming at us all of the time. So, you have to boil it and create great user experiences. You have to surface what is meaningful from the data if you truly want to drive value from your data.
“Tomorrow, if you want to be relevant, you better be autonomous as well,” David says. “You better be leveraging that data to provide value proactively, leveraging the technology with the data. And that’s truly what this digital disruption is all about.”
There are roughly 2500 companies in the cybersecurity space right now, with another 300 likely to join in the next year – and, arguably, they all have good ideas, they all have that special sauce that makes them special. But here’s the thing: if those products are not useful or easy to use, they’re not going to get implemented.
These products are incomplete. They are focused on one job and one job only. Companies are putting together a quick algorithm that solves one problem, throwing it out into a glutted market, and hoping for market share and adoption.
True success in that space is going to come from building products that are usable, useful, and desirable; things that will actually get used and protect companies and see market share, either for market dominance on their own or to actually get acquired in the marketplace.
Last but not least, we discuss an upcoming project that David and 3Pillar VP of Product Strategy & Design Jessica Hall have been working on for the last several months – a book on the Product Mindset. The core lesson is that it takes what we call the Product Mindset – really thinking about what makes software products fundamentally different from other types of software – to be successful in this digital economy and to truly innovate.
The Product Mindset is basically the thinking that you need in order to be successful and to lead digital transformation in your business. It’s really the story of 3Pillar, how we uncovered this mindset, and how it relates to the methodologies that are out there already. This is not yet another thing. We already have agile methodologies. We already have the lean startup. We already have the design thinking. Those are phenomenal tools, but they tend to be tools that are used by a certain constituency. So, agile development for engineers, design thinking for user experience professionals, the lean startup by product managers.
“What we have found is that executives and all of these teams need a common lens,” David says. “They need a common way of thinking in order to apply these tools and to use them. And so, that’s what we go into.”
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The header image from this post was taken by Stuart Isett of Fortune and is used under the creative commons license. The image can be found on the Fortune BrainstormTech Flickr page here.