Why Innovation Junkets to the Bay area are good for your business.

Innovation Junkets

I’ve spent five weeks this year in the United States learning and exploring Innovation. One week in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and four weeks in total in the Bay area. At this point, everyone smiles and says or thinks “Junket”.

Not so. I see this time as an investment in my career as an innovation professional and feel fortunate that the company I work for feels the same. Here’s why.

Week One and Two

Upon reflection, the first two weeks of the year helped set the tone and level of Outside-In thinking required to do this tricky work of driving Innovation inside a company. Week One was learning and seeing new technology and cleverness at CES. Week Two was meeting with the full ‘entrepreneurial stack’ has helped us execute at an accelerated pace.

We met with early stage co-working spaces like Startup House, moved on to Highway1, a hardware Accelerator, met with many startups at various stages and ended with Slack, a multi-billion dollar Unicorn company. We also spent a day at Stanford with Alberto Savoia learning his Google-derived Pretotyping method which completely changed my view on early stage ideation and rapid testing.

This visit set us up to drive bold, rapid, failure-based thinking and innovation.

Week Three, Four and Five.

I started these three weeks in September with the Singularity University Global Summit and ended with the Rocketspace Innovation Collective. I filled the middle diving deeper into all the buzzwords. People nod and look serious when you talk about AI, VR, AR, ML, Drones, chatbots, robots, autonomous vehicles, etc, but have a surface level understanding of what the terms mean or how they can be applied.

My innovation mission

  • Personal and Professional: Expose myself to global scale thinking from some of the brightest minds at Singularity University and Rocketspace.
  • Professional: Get a deeper understanding of how to apply these technologies to real-world problems and their level of maturity, knowing that the arc of production-ready technology from the US to Australia is around 18 to 24 months, with luck. Here’s the key technologies and trends I saw.

The impact

I recommend experiencing an organisation like Singularity University to understand how seriously people are thinking about the interplay between exponential technologies and how they can positively impact 1 Billion people — the stated purpose of each stream of technology they focus on. From deep learning to drones, space mining to creating movements it’s genuinely awe-inspiring, unlike everything trivial we share being ‘awesome’.

Meeting many, many startups applying their minds to AI, VR and autonomy made me realise how real this is. And how NOW this is. This stuff is happening right now, not only on twitter, facebook and TechCrunch. Get ready for massive change.

I spent a morning at TechCrunch Disrupt and blown away by the value created by the startups. Palm authentication to chatbots, with meeting Pepper the Robot being the highlight.

The Rocketspace Innovation Collective is a group of innovation professionals from around the world who get together twice a year to discuss future trends — think Hyperloop Crowdsourcing their team and AI Venture Capital with Permutation Ventures — and meet well-funded early stage startups that have customers and product. The startups ranged from mapping systems for AV’s to real-time satellite services. Stimulating and inspiring. It was a great opportunity to discuss enterprise-scale challenges with like minded professionals.

So what’s the business value?

The business gets a heightened awareness and early-warning system of major trends impacting us over the next 12 to 36 months, early access to some great technologies, and benefits from relationships that I’ve nurtured over many years. These relationships open doors and speed up knowledge transfer and all contribute to learning, Pretotyping rapidly, testing iteratively and, one day, a breakthrough product.


If you’re an innovation professional, invest the time to immerse yourself in the technology that is going to impact you and your business. As a company, spend the money and send your people to learn to drive exponential and accelerating innovation outcomes.


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