This past week I had the pleasure of attending WP Engine’s Summit: The Digital Breakthrough Conference. I learned what it will take for our businesses and ourselves to breakthrough digital today and into the future. Here’s some of my key takeaways that I think you may enjoy
Breaking through today
‘How will we relate to machines?’ said Nicholas Thompson, Wired’s Editor -in-Chief, in his keynote called “The Wired Future: Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Privacy, Web Tech, and More.” Nicholas took us through the journey our lives with technology from birth, through college and education to adulthood and finally death. Throughout each stage there is new technology transforming who we are as humans – our relationships with each other and with machines. There is new technology around gene editing that could create a world with no need for men to have babies, can you imagine? Or what about kids having less sex because today because they’re sitting at home on Instagram.
He discussed politics and the days where it was bringing forth democracy but in a world of AI, cyberattacks and biases, are we really democratizing the world or creating more separatism? Thompson also noted the ripple effects of technology innovations. For instance, self driving cars, ridesharing and electric cars aren’t just changing transportation. These innovations change entire cities from the infrastructure to the kinds of retail spaces needed to the time we get back from driving.
His speech was thought provoking and at times scary. Breaking through today means we all must understand the gravity our digital revolution and the opportunities and challenges it brings.
Monica Cravotta, WP Engine’s VP of Product Marketing and Dr. Chris Brauer talked about AI, speed, security, and trust. Monica noted that consumers expect sites to protect their data and keep pace with the speed of their life. There is a heavy cost to businesses that are not putting data protection and security front and center of their innovations with an average cost of cyber crime in 2018 at $13.1M.
Dr. Chris Brauer, the Director of Innovation at Goldsmiths, University of London, talked about “AI And The Path Towards A More Human Web” featuring a new study he conducted with WP Engine. In their research, there were three core values of the elements of AI powered digital experiences: personalization, data exchange and meaning. To breakthrough today:
- Put people at the center of your AI strategy – engineers must understand how HUMANS work, not all the fancy techniques
- Provide real utility – leverage the strengths of AI while letting humans do what they do best
- Start with the problem – what business challenge can be solved with AI? Start small
- Give consumers information first, then emotional interaction – it was has to be informative and meaningful for best results
A big lesson is that AI is only as accurate as the data it is given. There are deep routed biases in humans, both conscious and unconscious, and we must be incredibly detailed and open minded with our AI technology. Human brains must always be at the center.
Breaking through the future
One of my favorite sessions was a Gen Z panel moderated by WP Engine’s CMO, Mary Ellen Dugan, called “Talkin ‘bout my Generation”. I have to say that I’ve had my own biases towards Gen Z – social media fanatics, glued to phones and selfies, but I was proved incredibly wrong. These young professionals were authentic, aware, empathetic, and hopeful. Some key learnings about Gen Z:
- 55% of Gen Z can’t last more than 5 hours without Internet
- 84% trust a company more if they use actual customers in their ads
- 72% worry that their online actions, including social media posts and past purchases will affect job offers
- 64% will probably start a business, compared to 56% of Millennials, 47% of Gen X, and 28% of Boomers
- Instagram is their primary social platform above all else – sorry Facebook – they use that more for college apps and events
Gen Z dislikes brands that ‘try to be cool’ and tell us ‘to put your money where your mouth is’. They are looking to influencers and real people to show them a product or service because they trust them and don’t want the bullsh*t. When I ran social media, I thought a re-share of our brand post was the best form of engagement, but Gen Z doesn’t share brands’ content as much. They’re worried about their reputation and only associate themselves with people, brands and causes that best represent who they are and their best interest.
So listen up marketers, with this crew, you can’t fake it. Your brand must deliver on what it promises, always. You must be fast, personalized, and authentic to win them over.
Your personal breakthrough
Whether you’re a football star or a digital innovator, breakthrough moments are key to our success. Eight-time Pro Bowler, Emmit Smith is ubiquitous in NFL record books with the most rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and 100+ yard rushing performances in history. So how did he win three Super Bowls when he was called “too small and slow for the pro game”? A few key takeaways:
- Embrace the opportunity to change – he wanted to be a quarterback but trusted his coach’s recommendation to think differently
- Avoid stagnation and be open to new possibilities – he took a chance on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and won the show despite having zero dancing experience
- Have humility, always, and be humble – it’s better to highlight the team and focus on the journey than having success
- Surround yourself with amazing people because nobody can be successful alone
- Your dreams are the reality and you need to earn the rest – it takes commitment, hard work and grit to achieve a dream and even when you get there, the work has just started.
What do you think? How are you going to breakthrough this year?
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