Insights from Fast Company Innovation Festival 2023
The Fast Company Innovation Festival is renowned for its unwavering commitment to groundbreaking ideas, providing a platform for pioneers actively reshaping the business landscape. Whipsaw has gleaned key insights and transformative themes from this year’s conference, where teams and individuals are inventing the future by reinventing business.
Several speakers, including Patagonia’s Ryan Gellert and Walgreens’ Tracey Brown, emphasized the importance of putting purpose at the center of business. Ryan Geller, the CEO of Patagonia, put it bluntly: “The purpose of Patagonia: we are in business to save our planet.” Other leaders focused on sustainability, community-driven healthcare, and creating a purposeful culture based on strong ethical values. For Tracey Brown, the key question is whether the consumer is at the center, not necessarily the latest technology if it doesn’t serve the consumer.
One of the key points that emerged was the importance of creating a positive workplace culture. Gretchen Carlson emphasized the need for companies to have a separate organization to adjudicate claims and to celebrate the people who solve problems or raise issues instead of silencing them. She also noted that even if a company only cares about its bottom line, it’s worth solving toxic workplace issues. Too often the wrong person ends up leaving an organization, which further entrenches the culture.
Many speakers highlighted the pivotal role of innovation and technology in driving business transformation. Topics such as generative AI, wearables, and image recognition for diagnosis took center stage. Notably, Don McGuire from Qualcomm raised an important question, “What are smart platforms doing for the consumer in the connected ecosystem so that technical influencers can share the why behind improved results?”
Simultaneously, the event shed light on the role of technology in healthcare. Brown and Samsung’s Ricky Choi emphasized the importance of putting the consumer at the center of healthcare and utilizing generative AI to inform patients about their care. Drew Panayiotou, Pfizer’s Global CMO, also discussed the importance of wearables and asynchronous care in improving access to healthcare. There is a compelling potential for generative AI, to inform patients around their care.
In a compelling forum, experts underscored the indispensable role of marketing and branding in creating a successful business. The discussions spanned a spectrum of crucial topics, diving into crafting a compelling brand voice, constructing a dynamic ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) ecosystem, and harnessing social media’s potential as a tool for customer engagement.
A standout moment in the event came from Ford and Wieden+Kennedy. Their counsel, “lean into the truth to stand out” presented the idea that brand truths and cultural truths are the bedrock of impactful advertising. This was a pivotal takeaway that emphasized the power of authenticity in creating a brand that connects with its audience and stands out in a competitive landscape.
“Being a leader means improving all the time.” - Hans Vestberg, Verizon
Speakers came together to discuss the essential role of leadership and organizational culture in driving businesses toward success. The sessions covered a wide range of crucial topics, including the practice of daily self-assessment, the creation of a purpose-driven culture, and the art of building a team committed to continuous improvement.
A highlight of the event emerged when Hans Vestberg, the Chairman and CEO of Verizon, shared a personal ritual of self-assessment that has spanned decades for him. His unwavering commitment to staying within the ‘sweet spot,’ is rooted in the belief that “being a leader means improving all the time.” Vestberg’s innate restlessness and unyielding dedication to self-improvement were inspiring.
An essential theme emerged as several speakers highlighted the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion in shaping today’s businesses. The discussion was focused on a wide range of topics, from the nuances of code-switching and masking to the significance of allyship.
“It’s not about looking good, it’s about being good.”- Farrah Harris, WorkingWell Daily
Farrah Harris, the visionary Founder and CEO of WorkingWell Daily, left an indelible mark with her rallying thoughts of “it’s not about looking good, it’s about being good” – a message that resonated profoundly with the audience, underlining the core principles of creating thriving enterprises.
At the heart of the event, a prevailing theme came from the significance of sustainability and social impact. The recipients of the Fast Company Innovation Festival awards shed some light on their innovative use of satellite data, ocean-bound plastic, lab-grown diamonds (Pandora), and the incorporation of recycled materials within their products.
Aaron Tartakovsky, Co-founder and CEO of Epic Cleantec, emphasized that sustainability is most readily embraced when it offers both cost-effectiveness and a positive impact on society. He underscored that it is possible to do both.
As we reflect on the experience at the Fast Company Innovation Festival, one resounding truth emerges: the convergence of purpose, innovation, marketing, leadership, and diversity serves as the foundation for driving business triumph. We take pride in our enduring partnerships with a wide array of partners, many of whom have graced the pages of Fast Company’s storied history. We look forward to reconvening at next year’s Festival, where we’ll continue to explore, learn, and celebrate the tapestry of business success.