Why I mostly don’t go to innovation conferences anymore

I am very often questioned on why –my work being helping deliver innovation to markets– I don’t care for most innovation conferences.

I don’t either care so much for technology roadshows, prospective think tanks, and other events where the future is explained to the rest of us, while we frantically retweet catchy slogans of software eating the world. And for sure, I feel bad for European startups and tech giants feeling they have to attend the CES Las Vegas as the eye of the storm of it all. This is why, explained in the most perfect way:

The future is a weather front with a dozen systems working on it, and no weather forecaster in their right mind is going to tell you they can predict exactly where lightning will strike. That’s not realistic. Spotting the probable direction of the storm is. That’s what we need to be in the business of doing. And doing it without turning into American television weather news, which is an industry that needs to sell advertising, and therefore tries to obtain the maximum number of eyeballs by turning a bit of traveling rain into Storm Watch, with its own logo and choppers in the air, or naming some snow and enacting 24-hour coverage of the storm to end all storms, which never is. Those are circus acts. – Warren ELLIS

Cunning Plans by Warren Ellis
Cunning Plans regroup some key Warren Ellis’ lectures on the nature of the future. They were given in recent years at events in London, New York, Los Angeles and Berlin.

It’s been a few years now that I skipped most of the conferences I was regularly attending. For many years I was sincerely in love with LIFT in Geneva for its unpredictability and non-linear approach. Then I got probably a bit bored (and wasn’t really understanding the new format anyway).

I aim to go back to a few conferences this year. Maybe as a speaker if I get invited, or as an attendee to really get the best of the conference. Being based in Amsterdam now, I’ try to focus a bit more on Northern Europe, but Tokyo or Seoul are always interesting.

Anyway, if you feel that I’m missing out on a fantastic innovation event where communicants are not flocking to sell spam to executives lost in translation… I might just be listening to you.

Author: Philippe

After obtaining a PhD in biotechnologies, and working in a medical diagnostic startup, Philippe Méda has managed teams and companies in the medical and pharmaceutical industries for over fifteen years. Following an MBA in 2007 Philippe founded Merkapt, a consulting agency in charge of co-piloting innovation for startups and large multinationals, in Europe, and Asia. Since then he has been training 200 to 300 startups a year, consulted for dozens of multinationals on rupture innovation or corporate incubation, and was directly involved in more than 150 startups building their market fit and scaling up their business. Philippe also teaches innovation and business model design in key MBA programs in Paris and Shanghai and is now living in Amsterdam.

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