DT strategists, Alex Wood and Jack Deacon, report back with nine key insights from the most thought provoking sessions at the recent Pause Fest, held across Melbourne.

1. Ambiguity

We spend a considerable amount of time in boardrooms convincing people that we know everything and we have the solution to solve the unsolvable. But in an era where brands are brave enough to test and learn, photographer Oli Sansom said sometimes it’s best to simply accept you don’t know. Confronting, isn’t it? But there’s method to the madness. Frank Zappa has talked about how the ‘let’s just put it out there’ approach to records in the 60s had a profound impact on creative culture.

2. Technology innovation without humanitarian evolution = dystopia

Creative director Monika Bielskyte cautioned the Pause crowd on creating without consideration: “Too often we’re willing to let our imagination run away with us without considering the human impact of tech advancement.” Are we building ourselves out of jobs? And if you think you’re safe in a creative industry, think again.

3. Technology is not always about breakthroughs, but unintended consequences

Linked to Bielskyte’s warning above, designer Alysha Naples puts ‘breakthroughs’ in context and reminded us of consequence. The motor car results in traffic jams, the internet results in cyber warfare, for example. It’s not the cost of innovation; it’s a risk that can be mitigated, but is often ignored in the excitement of the new. You can’t help but think about the mixed excitement and trepidation around autonomous car development. Aside: I made a bet with someone we’d reach 50% autonomous drivers in Australia by 2025…

4. Creativity is a muscle and exercising it is the key to creative fitness

Typographer Dominique Falla shared this simple truth. Think about it like running a marathon: you need to plan, train, think about, almost obsess over it. When it’s over, you’re exhausted, much like a pitch. Then you build up to the next event. I couldn’t then help but think of apps that help train our creativity, like Transplant (hat tip again to Oli Sansom).

5. The more experienced I am, the worse I get

When we step into a new conversation, we need to learn to forget title, status and experience. If you’ve seen ‘The Last Samurai’, there’s a great scene where Tom Cruise encounters ‘too many mind’ – becoming distracted by everything around and inside him, he continuously fails. A powerful metaphor for a quiet, open mind to succeed, it holds truth when we face challenges from clients and colleagues. Hierarchy is real, but we don’t have to submit to it. Instead, we must find the courage and a mindset that allows us to approach a challenge with a ‘beginner mind’, curious and hungry to find new ways to achieve things.

6. Don’t freak out about Big Data

“People often freak out about Big Data, believing they need to capture millions of data points from day one. You don’t. The goal might be many data points, but you only need to start with a couple of the RIGHT data points, and you can expand from there,” experience designer Niklas Zillinger told the audience. This is the most common error made by brands and agencies when solving a problem. They leap into a deep lake of data and try and make sense of it all, often fabricating patterns for the sake of ’sense-making’ that feels right. Go to the source. Go to the one person or interaction you want to understand and build out from there. It will save you millions.

7. AI, bots, humans and the future of conversational experiences

In my favourite talk of the festival, Nik Zillinger said something we need to remember when solving problems for clients: leave the big players to do the heavy lifting, understand what they’re working towards and plan for how you can use it when it’s live. Too often we start from scratch, not building on work that’s already been done or happening. Look around before you begin and think about what you can add to global initiatives. Your CMO will thank you for it. When it comes to AI and bots, there is so much in development already in partnership with Google, Microsoft, Facebook, so look at their natural language processing ambitions and ideate from there.

8. Life in the info-sphere

In a panel discussion, we were faced with a stark comment from a security expert: “If it’s available online, someone’s watching it”. But who’s governing it? Right now, no one it would seem. Last year Australia actually failed a cyber security test which raised questions and lead to a realisation later in the year that we are ‘woefully unprepared’. Australian government moderation of activity is currently minimal (well behind the rest of the world) and raises serious concerns around personal information and data sharing. Begs the question – what are you comfortable with sharing?

9. Using smart devices to solve challenges

In a late panel discussion on day one, there was an interesting discussion on smart devices. Developing countries are already seeing strong adoption of smart home elements, to solve challenges that have been largely overcome in the developed world. Sensors are improving personal and home security, while smart power sharing is helping neighbours share energy where supplies are unreliable. In the Western world, we might be excited by knowing the nutrient level in our soil, but in developing countries, low cost sensors could be used to protect citizens by notifying local authorities of militia behaviour in war torn areas.

Lots to think about, right? So pour that pale ale, stroke the beard and shoot me your thoughts @alexwood15.

Alex Wood will be debating ‘What makes good strategy?’ at ‘Beers with Planners’ in Melbourne on Thursday March 2, presented by the Account Planning Group. Book your ticket here.