Necessity Drives Innovation – What I Learned On Spark 2022

Necessity Drives Innovation – What I Learned On Spark 2022

Playing with flashing balls. Blowing bubbles. Eating way too much ice-cream.

I know that sounds like something children would do. But I promise you this year’s conference was mainly attended by adults: people with jobs, spouses, and kids.

Really, it’s the child within us that keeps us all dreaming for the best. No matter how bleak the present, the boy or girl within us will dream about something better. Something joyful. Something innovative. Necessity drives innovation, but so do dreams. And this year, the slogan for Spark was Fueled by Dreams. So it only makes sense we have almost childish fun! 

Not to mention our great speakers who made this conference all the more worthwhile, meaningful, and inspiring. 

Pete Blackshaw – Gamifying The Green 

necessity drives innovation

Climate change is the greatest problem humanity is now facing. Solving that problem is intimidating. But Sparkies are all about problem-solving! Hence the first speaker of the conference, Pete Blackshaw, talked about tackling this very issue. 

Blackshaw mentioned that the intersection between GAMING and GREEN has heretofore been untapped. And that’s such a shame! Because gamers don’t shy away from dealing with dilemmas, Blackshaw said. They don’t get intimidated by being blindsided or presented with a problem. Gamers spend hours on problem solving! (Sometimes to the bewilderment of the rest of us.)  

So why not use this potential? Why not encourage gamers to solve the greatest problem of today – the problem of climate change.

“Every kid across the planet is immersed – for better or worse – in gaming, from video games to fast growing eSports. In this capacity, they are far more comfortable with dilemmas — problems that cannot be solved, but which must be managed with creativity and agility — than we are.” – Pete Blackshaw

Not to be undone by anything, Blackshaw already had some green video game ideas to present! Come in titles like Waste Invaders, Footprint Fighters and Kill The Carbon: A Game with Consequence.

The analogy between games and green is greater than we realize, suggested Blackshaw. Be we a soldier in a shooter game or a climate change fighter, we have limited time and resources to solve a difficult problem in both cases.

“Never in the history of our planet did we need an Epic Win more than now”, concluded Blackshaw. 

A Word Wielding Knight – Sir Paul Collier

Next up, comes a knight. Now mind you, this knight isn’t a carbon-killing protagonist from a Blackshaw’s green video game. It’s an actual knight, Sir Paul Collier. And though Sir Paul brought no sword with him, he did prove himself to be just as capable of wielding words as his weapon of choice. 

Remember that famous video where people pass on a basketball and a gorilla just walks by, and you don’t notice? That video, avered Sir Paul, has much to tell about human nature.

And much of his talk centered on human nature and what it means for today’s leadership. Sir Paul had shared ideas with evolutionary biologists (among others). This knowledge sharing allowed him not only to keep up with the sciences, but to gain fresh ideas as well.

The three key lesson Sir Paul taught us are: 

  1. Be ready to spot business issues. Be alert to the unexpected, and expect to adapt. Be like a hunter-gatherer, always on the lookout for prey (or a predator).
  2. The fusion of knowledge. Generic knowledge and contextual knowledge go hand in hand. Experts do know something, but they need to have context to everything.
  3. “I don’t know how to do this” is an OK thing to admit. Delegate that task to someone in the team who does know. And then hoover it up!

Capitalism at its best is very good indeed, Sir Paul added. But capitalism based on the “greed is good” attitude? Not so much, says Sir Paul. Mostly because human nature doesn’t work that way.

Finally, the people who are in the best position to bring about the needed changes are IT innovators – a point much corroborated by all the Spark speakers.

Flying Balls And Blowing Bubbles 

Then follows a thirty-minute break. You drink some Cola, eat some ice-cream. You come back to the auditorium only to find a striped, wrapped paper on your seat. Whoever put it also told you that you mustn’t open it yet. 

But it’s so tempting! You touch around the object wrapped inside and try to guess what it is. One end of the object had something that looked like a small hole, and the other end was thinner than the rest. So I concluded it was a whistle. “Big brain moment”, my silly friend said. 

Then Victoria Taylor comes and makes one of the most engaging talks ever. Speaks about people wanting experiences and connection more than they ever did. We yearn for experiences, and to share those experiences with someone. Then, she finally tells us to open the wrapped papers.

It’s bubble blowers! And of course you know what we did next. (See the picture)

A great lecture from Dean Johnson followed. Johnson talked about the Metaverse, what it is, and what we can expect from it. “The Metaverse isn’t the decentralized utopia – it’s the Wild West”, Johnson said. 

“The Metaverse isn’t the decentralized utopia – it’s the Wild West.”

Yet the most memorable moment of his talk was when he threw two shining balls into the audience. Yet the balls didn’t fall. They glided through the room. To the relief of the audience, they also didn’t explode or anything. 

Necessity drive innovation

The audience tried to make the balls fly again, but they simply fell back into their laps. It was probably Dean Johnson, with his cool augmented suit who knew how to control those shining wonders.

Necessity Drives Innovation, Data Drives Decisions

Then Christopher S. Penn came up to conclude this amazing day. A data scientist, Penn spoke about AI, machine learning (ML) and how AI is changing marketing. Necessity drives innovation, data drives decisions, and Penn tells us how.

He laid out steps which business must take in order to adapt to the data-driven business world. These steps are:

  1. Data Foundation. Where is the data? Is it usable? How can we get it?
  2. Becoming Data Driven. What does the data say? Listen to it (even if it’s bad news).
  3. Gathering Insight. What does the data suggest we should do?
  4. Automation. Save time and energy by automating as much of the data science processes as you can.
  5. Data Science Capability. Enhance it, and make a strategy around it.
  6. Action Implementation. We know what to do. This is the step where we do it.
  7. AI-Integrated Company. The end goal. This when the data informs our decision making on a regular basis.
Necessity drives innovation, data drives decision

Penn’s talk, like all of the talks, was followed by an applause from an amazed audience.

The Closing

Be it resolving climate change, adapting to the ever-changing business world or finding ways to connect with customers, creativity is an ingredient you can’t go without. Necessity drives innovation, and every year at Spark we gather to be inspired and fueled by one other.

Spark is fueled by dreams, and it brings this inspiration back to the digital world.


Slobodan Koljević

A digital marketer and a statistician. Wears blue all the time. Gets lost in current marketing discussions and centuries-old books with equal intensity. His favorite book was published in 1611.

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