From ubiquitous technologies to data privacy to multi-platform convenience, Europeans are on the verge of redefining how consumers and brands interact

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming more and more accepted not only in our personal lives but for business as well. It seems like each day we are exposed to a different AI application and with it a new experience. AI is the enabler within a digital world that is changing the customer journey offering a smoother path toward purchase, an instantaneous set of data to strengthen knowledge, and a more seamless way of living life.

Here in Europe, there is a growing AI industry spread across a number of countries.  This solid infrastructure represents the next generation of business putting European companies at the forefront of this new technology and with it the challenge of navigating new pressures – both political and societal. Today, UK has the strongest AI ecosystem followed by German, France and Spain.

So where does this leave us from a communications and marketing standpoint?

First and foremost, the coming age of AI provides an early blueprint for how companies can convey their business mission, purpose, and efficacy. It begins with an analysis of the organisation’s influencer network. Meaning those constituents who are interested in your products and services, policies and beliefs, and who are shaping your story and carrying your messages. This ecosystem allows you to determine the vagaries of opinion across countries, boundaries, and regions.

Among the areas where AI is finding a home throughout Europe include: call centres, wearables, fitness, health and wellness, home security, HR recruiting, note-taking, banking, virtual assistants, payments, conferencing, search, lighting, energy management, warehousing, customer service, video games, robotics, etc. The benefits of AI revolve around a richer, more seamless customer experience tying people more closely to the brand in large and small ways such as product customisation, ordering ease, addressing issues promptly, faster turnaround, and more choice.

The promise of AI is the result of a digital world where technology places control in the hands of the marketplace.

With that in mind, savvy organizations are incorporating new elements into marketing and communications programming to move their business and mindset to the future including gaining knowledge, input, and acceptance of AI.  Among the areas being addressed:

1. Bridging the Present With the Future

Rethinking the overall corporate narrative to paint a picture of what the future can look like

2. Discovering New areas that Improve Customer Experience

Identifying customer service connections where AI provides a high-quality experience

3. Balancing any Arguments That Might Impede Progress 

Providing well thought-out points of view (POV) supporting a more digital experience for customers and employees

4. Engaging in Real-Time Discussion and Debate to Build Confidence and Trust 

Creating interactive tools and apps to generate discussions and debate that leads to stronger policies and clearer decision-making  

One of the most important issues regarding AI, as well as all digital intelligence, has to do with security and privacy.  In April 2016, the European Parliament approved the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect in May 2018. The measure is meant to protect an individual’s personal data and information and therefore privacy. As AI becomes prominent security and privacy will rise in importance providing fertile ground for organizations to declare a competitive advantage if their policies protect consumers and employees.

The future in many respects is already here as AI is changing expectations in the marketplace and the workplace. For European brands, who acknowledge this technological revolution, Top of the Document a proactive communications and marketing effort focused on education, efficacy, and dialogue will not only accelerate these changes on macro level but will position them in a much stronger place for growth.

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Technology continues to move business forward. Businesses tend to adopt new technologies when they provide tangible productivity or efficiency gains. Many times, businesses adopt new technology to stay ahead of their competitors. But that adoption can take years, or even decades for companies to implement. Blockchain is one of those early-stage technologies with massive potential to impact commerce.

I bet that’s what Crowd Companies CEO Jeremiah Owyang thought when he wrote this blog post in late 2016 seeking input for a report on blockchain technology. A few months later, he and co-author Jaimy Szymanski published a report. Their report discusses practical applications of the technology across 10 different industries. Additionally, the report also details six roadblocks to adoption that businesses must overcome.

At this point, even though the technology has been around since 2009, many don’t have a clear understanding of blockchain beyond a cursory familiarity with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Those of you looking for a deeper understanding of Bitcoin can check out Motherboard’s primer which includes many articles on the topic.

Blockchain technology is the public ledger that makes it all work. It can also facilitate all kinds of transactions. Jeremiah and Jaimy define blockchain this way: “At its simplest level, the term ‘blockchain’ is used to describe an immutable ledger that exists online, usually fully transparent that stores data in ‘blocks’ once it is approved by the network to meet the standards of the chain.”

The report also calls out smart contracts as a key component in moving adoption forward. Smart contracts define the rules and penalties of an agreement, just like traditional contracts, but with one key difference—smart contracts automatically enforce these obligations.

Smart contracts open up blockchain to the legal industry and  the nine others highlighted in the report. Two industries that stood out to me: 1) Energy – As more households adopt solar energy to power their households, they sometime generate excess energy. Blockchain makes decentralized energy transfer possible via micro-transactions between the seller and purchaser and 2) Travel and Hospitality – Blockchain could enable a “single passenger ID” that could replace multiple documents needed for travel—ticket confirmations, IDs, passports, loyalty cards, etc.

In terms of the six barriers discussed in the report, slow verification speed is probably the biggest current barrier to adoption. How slow? Currently, blockchain verification can take up to 15 minutes to verify a single transaction, vs. the 39 transactions per second that a global financial services company processes, according to their EVP of Operations and CTO. Since the verification process is compute-intensive, it will get faster over time as technology improves. Jeremiah expects companies to deal with this shortcoming in the short term by “utilizing private, commissioned chains.” Longer-term progress will rely on collaboration between businesses and government. And speaking of government, regulations and policies around the technology will be slow to materialize.

In terms of business adoption, blockchain technology reminds me of where social media stood about 10 years ago. Lots of folks saw potential for corporate use, but it took a lot of trial and error before more companies adopted it. I think the technology adoption lifecycle applies here. As more businesses start to see pilot successes and efficiency gains, more companies will join in.

The report covers several good uses cases. One other that wasn’t part of the report: British artist Imogene Heap is experimenting with blockchain as an alternative to iTunes and streaming services. Money that comes from purchases of her new song through blockchain goes directly to producers, writers, musicians and engineers who produced it.

What are your thoughts? Are their industries or business use cases where you see blockchain technology being adopted more quickly over the next three to five years?

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Hard to believe, but it’s already that time of year again. The 2018 SXSW PanelPicker goes live today. You have between now and July 21st to submit ideas for consideration. This year, the SXSW folks expect to receive over 5,000 submissions. That kind of competition means brands and individuals need to stand out from the crowd. But how best to do that?

Hugh Forrest, SXSW’s Chief Programming Officer, provides several clues:

  1. Review the sessions and topics resonated in 2017: Unfortunately, there’s not an easy way to filter videos from the SXSW YouTube channel since so many of the older videos have more views overall, but Hugh posted 10 great SXSW 2017 videos volume 1, volume 2 and volume 3 to help. Same goes for SXSW on SoundCloud. Hugh posted 10 top SXSW 2017 podcasts volume 1 and volume 2 to help there as well.
  2. Go Deep: Hugh makes it clear that topic depth matters more than width or breadth. That’s way the SXSW team prefers solo spots over panel sessions.
  3. Focus on the Future: Throughout its history, SXSW focuses on what’s next. But discussing current trends isn’t enough. Hugh’s timeline? Think 3 – 5 years out.
  4. Hugh’s also been pretty blunt about what not to do part 1 and what not to do part 2.

Note in the two what not to do posts, Hugh’s pretty clear that diversity matters. Diversity issues—both in terms of gender and ethnicity—will continue to be an important topic. Furthering that discussion in a meaningful way will be a priority in 2018.

One last thing you can do to improve your chances: attend one of the remaining SXSW Meet Ups. The SXSW team runs  local events in a handful of cities (the Brooklyn Meet Up happens tonight). It’s a place to ask SXSW staffers about the process or other specific questions.

I attended the Austin Meet Up on June 14. That’s where I got to ask for more detail about the selection process overall. Here’s what they told me: they put a lot of stock into original ideas, and reiterated the focus on future-oriented topics that look 3 – 5 years out. They notice if it’s someone (or a brand) that’s spoken before. In those cases, it’s important that the idea explores a new angle or represents a big validation or major progress against earlier ideas. They also look for engagement spikes in the PanelPicker (lots of votes, comments, etc.), so that does influence what they consider as well.

It’s a good reminder that the PanelPicker process is not the only thing that counts. Public votes that come from the PanelPicker count for 30%. Feedback from the SXSW Advisory Board, a group of industry experts from around the world, counts for 40%; lastly, votes from SXSW staff members count for the remaining 30% as they look to strike a balance between new and veteran speakers. See the SXSW PanelPicker About page for more details.

Visit or click on the image below. All the best to those of you who will be working on submissions over the next few weeks!

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About a year ago, Uber and Lyft abruptly left Austin after disagreements with the city’s requirement for fingerprinting drivers. Things changed when House Bill 100 was signed into law on May 17.

Fast forward to May 29, when both Uber and Lyft returned their services to Austin. Their respective marketing machines are making it clear they’re back. I’ve seen signs around the city, received emails like this one below from Lyft offering credits to use the service over the next few days. And I’ve seen lots of Uber ads in Facebook throughout this time as well.

Lyft returning to Austin offer

So, what effect has their return had on local ride-sharing companies that have been filling the void for the last year? They’ve all taken big hits. Fare has already made it official announcing they are leaving Austin earlier this week.

Fasten CEO Kiril Evdakov is still bullish on his company’s prospects: “We’re thinking about growth thresholds, not about decline thresholds.”

What got me thinking about all this was the Here and Now interview of RideAustin COO Marisa Goldenberg. the non-profit company grew from about 300 rides a day to over 20,000 during the SXSW peak. According to Marisa, RideAustin saw a 55% drop in business in the first full week of Uber and Lyft’s  return. She also blamed seasonality—the first few weeks of June tend to be lower ride volumes overall. RideAustin hopes to make it through the summer months to get back to a threshold of 20,000 rides per week. That’s the target the company needs to hit to sustain their nonprofit business.

Click on the image below to get to the story where you can hear the interview with Marisa.

Here and Now - RideAustin interview with Marisa Goldenberg

Personally, I’m pulling for RideAustin. What are your thoughts? Have you returned to using or driving for Uber and Lyft now that they’re back, or will you rely on other options?

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I am fortunate to meet with corporate leaders who aspire to innovate within their companies nearly every day of the week. Every now and then, you realize you are seeing something truly special occurring. Nestle is providing us with one of those examples.

Before I describe more on Nestle, here is the problem we all have that they are addressing. In our digital world, we realize a few common things worldwide.

We do not have enough digital talent to hire. Period. We are a generation away from having enough talent to fill the needs of today’s global company.

Our training systems are often centered on single moments, e.g. a one-time course. It’s not enough to shape new habits that are meaningful and long-lasting.

It’s not about building a super team at the center. It’s about indoctrinating an entire company in how to innovate in ways that evolve current business models.

Quite simply, in an era of major change driven by technology, the effective use of data and new digital models and tools, the old way of doing things isn’t going to work.

We now fast forward to Nestle. Six years, ago, Pete Blackshaw joined to become the global head of digital and social media. Pete, who is a marketing visionary and quite accomplished himself (P&G, Nielsen, Press Secretary, Author, Founder and more), realized early on that his ability to influence and empower leaders in the Nestle organization was more powerful than any single plan or action he could personally take. It’s a self-awareness that I’d like to see in more leaders.

So, he set a new course in the corporate world by setting up the Nestle Digital Acceleration Team (DAT) in 2012.  Pete and his team built a training program designed to serve managers from around the world who either have high competence or potential in digital or ecommerce.  A maximum of 18 people are invited for a period of eight months to move to headquarters in Switzerland and learn via sit-down sessions with global subject matter experts and via hands on work on digital projects that create value for Nestle.  The team works in a state-of-the-art Consumer Engagement Center, which includes a multi-media content studio.

Nestle is now hosting their eighth DAT wave with more than 100 participants from more than 50 countries involved thus far.

So why does this matter for Fortune 1000 leaders?  Here is why:

Talent – when innovation is involved, you must identify, train and create the new leaders inside your company.  This is true in any new wave of innovation.

Habits – improving innovation at a scalable level requires us to practice, make mistakes, learn and acquire a new rhythm, new knowledge and, ultimately, new habits. It’s like learning golf. You can’t take a course once a year and play well. You must practice and often get lessons.

Osmosis – too much training is in isolation or small groups of people who then don’t stick together. Nestle’s teams are in the same room for eight months, so the team is teaching itself what it is learning and the cross-training is a benefit that is almost indescribable in its power.

Local/Global – when the focus is on making individual countries and divisions strong, headquarters wins. When headquarters ramps up on what is next, but doesn’t truly train with the same intensity on a local level, it’s like a body builder who works on one arm, but not the other. After a while, it doesn’t work.

Daily Learning – DAT is known for a continual flow of idea sharing from external sources to the internal community, a continual flow of ideas via chatter and more. Learning is daily. Minds are open.

Community – the DAT alumni are now the new teachers in their countries or divisions. The impact of how Nestle innovates will only improve with time. Innovation is now scaling….everywhere.

The next critical item to evaluate is what “scaling” really means, since it can be tricky with innovation concepts. Here are two that Nestle is pioneering.

  • Reverse Mentoring – the DAT team members are reverse mentoring top executives on digital topics. They are  bringing different employee generations closer together and empowering emerging and established leaders.
  • Local “Virality” of  the DAT concept — there are already 25 local DATs in the markets to accelerate Digital agendas at the market or local level. Many of those DAT structures were developed by previous DAT alumni.  As an example, Ana Caldeira was part of the 5th wave of the DAT, then she went back to her home market – Portugal – to set up a local DAT before she received an opportunity to come back to Vevey (HQ) to manage DAT8.

Reverse mentoring and extension of the DAT concept in local markets are two of the best indicators that digital innovation is scaling in a manner that will impact Nestle’s team for the long-term.

On its surface, it seems deceptively simple.  All great models are simple.  Everything Steve Jobs did is quite logical, simple and almost frustrating when you realize others could have done it, but didn’t.

And that is for a few reasons, which is my last point.

As a leader in your organization, ask yourself a few simple questions:

Are we training the next generation of our leaders in our top countries worldwide right now?

Are we scaling innovation via our models and training or are we exporting ideas and hoping our network will do what we recommend?

Are we finding ways to teach our teams every day?

How many of our leaders move to HQ to learn so they can make our organization stronger when they return to their home?

If we are super honest with ourselves, are we just doing the type of training we used to do 10 or 20 years ago?

Digital innovation will require much more of us as leaders in the years ahead.  The evolution of our business models will accelerate, not stabilize.    Our workforces will be shaped by what we choose to do.

What can we learn from Nestle’s DAT?

Here are some great links by the way to learn more about DAT.

An AdAge article and farewell videos from DAT5, DAT6 and DAT7 teams.

Thank you to the Nestle team and Pete for the opportunity to look in, share my own insights and learn from the best example of scaling innovation in our industry.

Best, Bob


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SXSW is a unique time in Austin, TX. Since 1987 this annual festival has scaled in both size and the array of industries represented. Whether you are invested in music, film, comedy, healthcare or tech, SX provides a space for innovation, disruption and networking that is largely unmatched. Here at W2O Group we take part in the festivities in our own way, and hosting a few stellar events of our own!

However, SXSW can be a double-edged sword. With access to so many amazing speakers and talent, deciding which panels to attend can be difficult. Luckily our Tech team waded through the plethora of panels and curated a group of tech-focused events meant to inspire application of new or old innovation to better reach your audiences. From NASA’s next telescope to the state of the internet, we’ve got you covered.

(Event summaries provided by

March 10, 2017

W2O Group’s 7th Annual PreCommerce Summit


The PreCommerce Summit is one of our signature events (one track/one day) and is free to the 350 invite-only attendees. The event consists of a series of brief keynotes, 10-minute TED-like talks mixed with select 20-minute fireside chats and by industry leaders. The focus is on business innovation and spans the health, tech and consumer industries.

How Tech is Shaping the Future of Entertainment


Pete Cashmore, Founder and CEO of Mashable, will sit down with leaders in the entertainment and technology space to discuss how television and film are working hand in hand with Silicon Valley to not only reach consumers in the new ways they’re watching videos, but adjusting their creative process based on new advances in audience data. The talk will cover a wide range of formats, from short-form and distributed channels to featured films to uncover where the future of television resides.

Imgur’s Fight to Keep the Social Internet Authentic


Imgur’s brother-sister leadership team are at an inflection point. In just a few years, Imgur skyrocketed to millions of users and became one of the most-trafficked sites in the world. Now, Imgur is on a mission to democratize the social internet. In this session with Inc., hear how Imgur became the top social and entertainment destination by breaking people outside of their feeds and friends’ lists, and into a world of authentic, serendipitous content and community.

Live Q&A at SXSW: #AskGaryVee with Gary Vaynerchuk


You may have seen Gary Vaynerchuk’s keynotes or watched his day-in-the-life videos showing this business leader and true hustler in action. Now, get ready to go even more in-depth with @GaryVee in this SXSW edition of #AskGaryVee. In this talk, you’ll get to ask SXSW legend and master of business-building, marketing, social media, entrepreneurship and life-hacking anything and everything you’ve ever wanted to know. Expect no-holds-barred answers.

Tech’s Lessons for Healthcare


For all of the technological challenges and bureaucratic hurdles, the most important healthcare puzzles are among the most basic: how do you get people to follow their prescriptions, show up to doctor’s appointments, or modify their homes so they can live safely in the place they want to be. This panel will explore how inventive collaborations with Transportation Networking Companies (TNCs), Short Term Rental (STR) entities and others in the sharing economy can improve health outcomes.

March 11, 2017

Apprenticeships and Solving the IT Skills Gap


There are nearly one million open tech jobs in the US today. This gap will increase significantly in the coming years, as older workers retire and the expansion of cloud, cybersecurity, and big data devices require more people to create, manage and monitor technology. Sen. Orrin Hatch introduced the EARNS Act to expand apprenticeship in the U.S. Apprenticeship pairs on-the-job training with classroom instruction, and it’s one of the best ways to prepare workers to participate in the workforce, and to train loyal, skilled employees so businesses compete in today’s economy.

W2O Group’s 3rd Annual Movers & Shapers


Movers & Shapers is our newest event and takes us back to our early roots of the PreCommerce Summit. With only 150 people in attendance, this event also leverages the 10-minute TED-like talk format with a few select fire side chats.

B2A Marketing: Selling to the New AI Consumer


Increasingly the power of making decisions is being delegated to algorithms and “bots”. From self-driving cars to robo-traders, people are more-and-more comfortable allowing software to make critical day-to-day decisions. As comparison shopping tools, automated personal shoppers, and shopping bots mature purchase consumer purchasing decision-making power rapidly being ceded to algorithms, requiring that we completely reframe the marketing industry. To put it another way, the AI robot overlords are coming, and they have credit cards. This panel will discuss the potential implications and methods of a B2A marketing and the industries most likely to see an impact.

Dawn of the Labs: The Next Gen of Tech Innovation


To keep up with today’s rapidly evolving digital economy, organizations have introduced “labs” programs, where an elite team of engineers has the freedom to think outside the box and test new solutions without the pressures of delivering immediate results or adhering to rigid roadmaps. On this panel, leaders of some of today’s most compelling labs programs will discuss why they’re breaking the rules and conventions of the past in order to build the products of the future. They’ll answer questions on why this is essential in the age of new technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality, and how these programs help identify and tackle new challenges.

Ready Or Not, The Bots Have Risen!


Advances in contextual search, and the rise of bots and digital assistants, are changing the way consumers search for and discover information. Executives from Yahoo, Facebook, Assist and Pandorabots, will discuss how this new interaction model will be the future of how we find the information we want and need from the brands we love, whether it’s from a bot or not

Payments Gone Viral: The Rise of Social Commerce


Augmented reality. Hashtag payments. Messenger bots. The payments space is fundamentally changing: cash and checks gave way to credit and debit cards, which are now being replaced by apps. In an era where social proof reigns supreme, how is social media shaping the future of commerce?

Extreme Medicine: Quality Care Anywhere


How would you treat a kidney stone on the way to Mars? What if a climber developed an excruciating headache on Everest? How would you know whether a serious respiratory infection is viral or require antibiotics in a field clinic in Malawi? Providing quality healthcare in extreme environments presents challenges and opportunities. Medical technologies must be portable, minimally invasive, and easy to use and maintain. Devices must be robust and require only low power and consumables. Meds need to be very stable and safe for a long time. Healthcare solutions meeting these high standards have commercial advantages in driving revolutionary care for more traditional settings. By setting the bar high, we are driving border-less innovation in medicine, and creating new business opportunities.

W2O Group’s 8th Annual GeekaCue


This eight-year long tradition started with 50 employees and clients out at local BBQ legend, The Salt Lick and has evolved into a 700-person party. This year’s event will be at the historic Scoot Inn and will feature Terry Black’s BBQ and two amazing bands . Oh, there will also be plenty of liquid refreshments and our mainstay photo booth.

March 12, 2017

The Future of Research: Capability or Culture


Every medicine today was made available because people took part in clinical trials. Participation and awareness remains low, yet the future of our health depends on new medical advancements. Is it technology and data that will pull us up, or must we rely more heavily on culture change – and not just of scientists, but the general public as well?

Hot to Bot: Chatbots & the Conversational Economy


Customers spend 90% of their time on mobile devices and rapidly migrating from apps to messenger platforms. In this Conversational Economy, communication and commerce will happen via Chatbot, disrupting the way customers interact with brands. This session will discuss the next battleground — the rise of the Chatbot — and how traditionally transactional brands are using A.I. and machine learning to transform the way they interact with customers, impacting their lives in a personalized, relevant way. Join the speakers as they demonstrate specific Chatbots transforming the way major brands across Retail, Telecommunications and Utilities engage with customers and, most importantly, make them feel like they matter.

Measuring Media: Big Dreams, Big Data


Human behavior is the soul of every big data algorithm. This typically includes observable behaviors (tweets, posts, reviews) and anticipated behaviors (intentions, product recommendations, suggested friends and articles). What is the value of the data hidden in our dreams? This panel explores the differential merit of two sources of data – conscious and non-conscious, unified by the same data currency: language. What can we tell about people based on the language they use- their interests and influences in each context? Are dreams a marketer’s next frontier?

Non-Obvious: Trends of the Future


Join trend curator Rohit Bhargava as he shares ALL NEW research from the latest edition of his best selling book Non-Obvious. How can a holographic Holocaust survivor offer a glimpse into a career of the future? How do self-repairing airplane wings predict the next trillion dollar industry? Learn the answers to these questions and how to use the power of non-obvious thinking to grow your business.

A City’s Pathway to Inclusion


Learn from mayors of large technology hubs on how they are working to forge new paths towards inclusive economies that support thriving tech & innovation ecosystems in a way that creates equitable opportunities for underserved populations. Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser will discuss the release of the District’s first “Pathways to Inclusion Report”, providing a roadmap to create an inclusive ecosystem where the tech and innovation economy can grow.

Is Government Disrupting Disruption?


Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are a few of many companies whose business models have been challenged by government regulation of late, and it’s shaking up daily lives (notably so here in SXSW’s hometown of Austin, which Uber and Lyft left in May). Car insurance comparison marketplace The Zebra made its mark by disrupting a highly regulated industry despite complex state governing processes. Speakers will discuss how they’ve worked both with and against government regulation in achieving successful disruption (particularly in marketplaces such as travel, ticketing, and now insurance), and what some of the biggest hurdles have been and will continue to be.

March 13, 2017

Data & Insights on Powering a Connected Workforce


There’s no denying the power of an informed workforce. Using exclusive data and insights recently pulled from thousands of employees using the Dynamic Signal platform, Jim Larrison, co-founder of Dynamic Signal, will share how companies can drive productivity using social and mobile communication platforms. Keeping employees connected and informed is a major pain point for many organizations. Gallup research shows that disengaged employees cost companies billions every year in lost productivity. But when knowledgeable employees are rallied behind a common narrative, they drive productivity and revenue. Join us to learn how best-in-class brands keep their workforce connected and informed.

Embrace Digital Disruption to Reinvent Healthcare


While healthcare has lagged behind other industries in adopting new, disruptive technologies, consumer expectations have continued to shift. We live in a world where convenience trumps all, and most services are available at the push of a button. Why can’t healthcare be the same? This panel will discuss how patients will access healthcare in the future as the traditional care delivery system is augmented by digital innovations and how Baylor Scott & White Health has embraced these innovations by collaborating with entrepreneurs and startups to redesign traditional care models and simplify complex problems.

Zero Day Software Vulnerabilities: Deal With It


Software of any complexity always ships with bugs. Given our reliance on a staggeringly complex web of data and services, how do we, and how should we, deal with these security vulnerabilities when they are discovered? What are the social, legal, and ethical norms around discovering and disclosing software vulnerabilities? This session is a guided tour through the semi-secret, often misunderstood world of vulnerability research and development and how it affects your life and business.

Best Behavior: Prompting Preferred Patterns


 “Nudge theory is about hacking human nature using subtle, context-driven interventions. We all sometimes buy into the shampoo commercial dream that our products can make us into better people, but what if that were true? Thanks to IoT, we’re designing products that make and break our habits. We applied nudge theory to our healthcare wearable, Under Currents, to solve billions of dollars’ worth of medical errors and save lives. When common sense fails, common sensors help us be the best version of ourselves.”

GAFA: The Relentless Rise of the Tech Giants


 This session explores the rise of the big four tech companies – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. How will their relentless monopolization of so many industries affect competitors and consumers? Will the death of competition see reduced choice and rising prices? Should you be concerned for your privacy as you give up more and more data to a handful of companies? Will your view of the world narrow as fewer and fewer gatekeepers control the flow of content? From fake news to Alexa, come along to discover how GAFA influence every aspect of your lives.

Ray and Amy Kurzweil on Collaboration and the Future


Ray Kurzweil, best-selling author, recipient of The National Medal of Technology, and a director of engineering at Google, in conversation with his daughter Amy Kurzweil, New Yorker cartoonist and author of the critically-acclaimed graphic memoir, Flying Couch (NY Times: Best of 2016). The two will discuss their creative work, inspirations, and collaborations across disciplines, while speculating about the future of storytelling, the arts and technology

#Laugh: Creating Art Among the Stars


World renowned artist Eyal Gever and Made In Space, Inc. founder & Chief Technology Officer, Jason Dunn discuss the inspiration and challenges of Gever’s vision to create humanity’s first sculpture in space. With Gever’s keen artistic sense, and Made In Space’s expertise in space based manufacturing, the two have come together to deliver something to the world that everyone can relate to: #Laugh

Movement Tracks: Where Biotech and Music Converge


This dynamic panel will provide examples of music’s power as a core catalyst to restore, maintain and enhance health by highlighting music biotechnologies developed to improve and recover the ability to walk for children with cerebral palsy and adults with Parkinson’s disease. Panelist will inform and discuss new possibilities to improve patient outcomes through the integration of music technologies, smart sensors and data analytics to improve both the scale and impact of global healthcare solutions initiatives to transform people’s lives.

March 14, 2017

Making the Leap from Dev Ops to No Ops


Companies are navigating a global, online marketplace and the challenge they face is not “whether to become digital.” Instead, the focus is how to continually and efficiently transform a business for today’s digital marketplace—the key to being Agile. Many companies have already embraced DevOps in the enterprise, with organizations streamlining their process for pushing code out of test/development environments and into production. One of the benefits has been greater capacity for continuous delivery. The pivotal move is toward NoOps, defined by Forrester as “the goal of completely automating the deployment, monitoring & management of applications and the infrastructure on which they run.

Reimagining Death, A Design Challenge & Movement


Dr. BJ Miller’s call to “let death take us, not lack of imagination” reflects a growing hunger to reimagine the personal experience of the end of life. Our final chapter, long the domain of family and spirituality has become shrouded in taboo and medical process. A growing movement to reimagine dying has emerged and was strengthened by the global conversation and collaborative innovation of OpenIDEO’s End of Life Challenge. This panel of diverse co-conspirators – an IDEO visionary, a health system innovation officer, a palliative care physician-agitator, and a health policy guru – discusses how seeing death as a design challenge is giving life to patient-centered movement for better endings.

Beyond B-8: When Robots Start Acting Human


Deep learning, a new wave of artificial intelligence research, is enabling technology to achieve the unimaginable. What happens when robots can learn, adapt and make intelligent decisions? This technology, enabled by the cloud and highly sophisticated robots, has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing, change our approach to rescue missions, more effectively administer medications and make self-driving cars a reality. And we’re creating the infrastructure to make it happen now. In this panel, organizations that are researching and implementing this technology will discuss the impact, risks and massive shift deep learning will bring to every industry and every day.

New Eyes on Our Home System: NASA’s Next Telescope


NASA’s upcoming infrared-optimized James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) offers scientists unique capabilities to measure changing conditions on planets, comets, and asteroids – and measure the atmospheres of extrasolar planets for key markers (ozone, carbon dioxide, and many others). The panel will discuss the discovery space for infrared space telescopes like JWST in Solar System and exoplanet science.

Psychopaths in Silicon Valley: A Guide


There are uncanny parallels in the description of a glorified tech exec or online troll and the clinical definition of a psychopath, and the latter can cause massive damage to an organization or community. How do you know if you’re working with/for a psychopath? How do you manage him/her? This panel features a clinician, social scientist, and venture capitalist, each with a different intimacy with psychopaths. Learn how to identify and deal with a psychopath, whether a colleague, troll or date from hell.

March 15, 2017

The State of the Open Internet In the Age of Trump


History shows us how closed systems destroy innovation and tax entrepreneurs to death. In our fight to protect the open internet, we all have something to lose. Join me to discuss how this battle could shift with the unknowns of the Trump administration.

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When we see science in its raw state, it is mind boggling and inspiring.

The researchers who dedicate their lives to science make our world a better place. Whether they are creating new medicines or devices or they are figuring out the fundamental laws of nature, they are advancing our ability to navigate and prosper on this spherical mass (technically an oblate spheroid) we call home.

This week, I had the opportunity to visit the team at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, based in Geneva. CERN is home to physicists and engineers who are helping us understand the structure of the universe.  For those of you who know me, you know that I did not visit to discuss the latest particle accelerator and I did not add value on the fundamental laws of nature. Rather, I shared insights into how CERN can reach the next generation of scientists around the world and discussed how their work can more effectively educate and inspire the current world we live in via effective use of digital media techniques.

We all know the intellectual power of CERN in our daily lives. The most prominent example for digital leaders is the worldwide web. As CERN states on their website, “(Tim) Berners-Lee had defined the Web’s basic concepts, the URL, http and html, and he had written the first browser and server software” by Christmas, 1990. was the address of the world’s first website and web server.  And the first web page address was

You may also have heard of the Large Hadron Collider, launched Sept 10, 2008, which beams protons around a 27 kilometer area to understand what gives matter its mass and to identify what the invisible 96% of the universe is made of and much more. Wow! I can barely find the big dipper on most nights.

CERN is filled with knowledge that can lead to new ideas throughout our world. CERN serves as an inspiration for young people to focus on scientific research as a career. CERN  also reminds all of us to remain humble in our views of what our world is all about, knowing that we will be learning the rest of our lives about where we live in the universe.

From my perspective, scientific researchers at CERN represent the “quiet role models” of our world.  They don’t make movies, do anything flashy or even want you to know who they are to any great degree. Their body of work is what we need to know about. The key is how to share their knowledge and struggles and authentic lives and insights with the world in a way that furthers science.  That is really the only goal.

How will the next generation of scientists decide to make this commitment?

Can we inspire a much wider group of young women to enter the field of science and start to even out the gender gap in science and technology?

How and why will our governments decide to invest more in innovation?

What can we all learn by listening and reading the work of CERN’s researchers, even if we are not scientific people ourselves?

This is why I was asked to speak to the CERN team.  They are amazing and they do a very professional job of telling their story. But just like in science, whatever the status quo is is simply not enough.

The new models…the disruptive models…the new the case of digital, the new algorithms….they unlock how to more effectively tell the CERN story….and a more effective story is simply good for science and our world.

It was an honor to speak at CERN in the conference room named for Georges Charpak, a Nobel Prize winner (1992) in physics for his invention and development of particle detectors, in particular the multiwire proportional chamber.

I know the closest I will ever get to a Nobel prize is visiting Oslo as a tourist. But like you, we can all see “noble efforts”, which is why we can all do our part to help scientists, researchers and technologists share their insights to make our world a better place.

Thank you to everyone at CERN for your pursuit to understand the unknown.

Best, Bob

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We are witnessing a new style of media with the ascendancy of President Trump.  The simple way to describe his style of media is to say that he chooses to speak direct to the world via Twitter.  That’s true, but it sells short what is actually happening.

President Trump and his team understand the value of driving a narrative to shape our behaviors, whether it is pro or con.  Inherent in this approach is the ability to reach us emotionally, distract us and motivate us to action, depending on the circumstances.   As a result, it is not just that we have the first president who is using direct media.  We have the first president who will shape our thinking on a daily basis, as he pursues short, mid and long-term objectives.

What we know about ourselves, as individuals, and for communities and groups, overall, is that when our emotions are triggered, we are often thinking of what is short-term … in fact, only what is short-term.   This side-effect of thinking emotionally allows us to be distracted or misdirected by the way a story is told.  It’s a bit like a magician who gets us to concentrate on the wrong thing as they get ready to unveil a card.  You can do this now by going direct to the world via social media in ways never possible before via journalists.

And this is why we are building a new algorithm that provides a four-dimensional view of what is really going on.  Our data science team is using a combo of algorithmic and machine learning knowledge to create an approach that centers on key variables, such as how to analyze Trump’s following (his own, his appointees and his wider team), all members of Congress and key staffers, the media and other important audiences.  We compare this against normative data sets.  In the case of twitter, we’re talking about normative panels that are 1 million people or more and other normative data sets that give us a great insight into what is truly resonating.

The result is an approach that allows us to see what is a distraction vs. what is the Trump team is interested in truly pursuing vs. what is resonating with key target audiences.  As an example, we may now see that key target audiences deeply care about a topic President Trump is discussing, but it is not being pushed or discussed by the majority of his team.  Or his team is clearly pushing a certain message … we can see that federal and state officials are also interested in it, yet the general public is not.   There are many variations that can show us when a topic is truly gaining traction with the people who can either support or stop the momentum of an idea.  In other cases, we’ll be able to see quite quickly what is falling with a thud … not by examining the mainstream media … but by understanding what voters and those with influence to create or support legislation think.   Tracking the right people, knowing exactly who really drives influence and understanding how support is evolving, either way, will become increasingly obvious over time.

Inherent in this model is also a deep understanding of subconscious behavior.  Just looking at what everyone says or retweets is interesting, but insights become powerful when we look at the meaning of silence for certain groups or apathy and withdrawal from a topic.  It is equally important to look at the intensity of protagonism or antagonism to understand what is true passion that may move the needle and what is really just slacktivism or people kind of going through the motions.  Subconscious behavior and looking into psychological changes are keys in the algorithms we now build.

It’s interesting that new models like this will certainly include mainstream media, but they are not at all dependent on them to draw conclusions that will accurately inform companies of what reality is forming for their reputation or brand.  In fact, in many cases in the political arena, they are actually a false positive.  Whether it was this past election or BREXIT or other recent campaigns, this is borne out over and over again.

We’ll be sharing some of our initial work at the Holmes Report’s IN2 Summit in Chicago on Feb 16th.   And for our clients, we’ll be ready to ensure that every tweet or new idea is met with a system to judge its real impact, now or in the future, as it relates to their actual business objectives.

Best, Bob

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They’re the questions on everyone’s mind. What is the fate of the Affordable Care Act? If “repeal and replace” becomes reality, what exactly does that replacement look like? And for those at the intersection of healthcare and technology, how will these policy changes that impact digital health investments in 2017 and beyond?

At the 35th J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, W2O Group hosted its 3rd Annual Digital Health VIP Luncheon to find out the answers to these questions and more. W2O’s digital health practice leader, Rob Cronin, teed up the discussion, reminding the audience just how much communications – from media to influencers – still matters in driving policy decisions and broader health IT discussions. “The election taught us a lot, or reminded us a lot, about communications,” he said, where data is at the core and influence is its own form of currency.

But when it comes to how the new administration will influence healthcare policy, while there will no doubt be significant changes, “I think value-based payments will stay,” said Jodi Daniel, partner at Crowell & Moring, formerly with CMS. Daniel spoke to the importance of population health management, noting that “anything that helps population health management will be very much aligned with the policy in Washington.”

Also emphasizing the importance of value, Sean Hogan, general manager of IBM Healthcare & Life Sciences, spoke to the needs of the consumer. Regardless of what shakes out at the policy level, “we need to help consumers make better health decisions,” said Hogan, who also pointed out that achieving success in a value-based environment “calls for tools that can help people deal with the enormous amount of information thrust upon them.”

Enormous amount of information is right. As of 2011, more than 150 exabytes — or 150 billion gigabytes — of healthcare data existed in the U.S alone. That river of information is only going to flow faster as industry interoperability (slowly, but surely) continues to progress.

For IBM Watson Health, this has meant doubling down on the application of cognitive, natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), and now blockchain, to improve care, control costs and advance health globally. On January 11, IBM Watson Health and the FDA announced a new partnership focused on using blockchain to enable the secure, efficient and scalable exchange of health data.

And to advance health globally, the industry needs to have a better understanding of both specific populations and the individuals within them. In fact, Lisa Suennen, healthcare’s Venture Valkyrie and senior managing director of health investments at GE Ventures, isn’t sold on the term population health. “What you’re really doing is personalized healthcare within a population,” Suennen said, reminding attendees that “one program doesn’t fit all. One program fits one in 57.”

The idea that care must targeted at the individual level is not a new concept in the industry. It is also one of the chief reasons that healthcare technology companies are starting to “look an awful lot like healthcare service providers,” pointed out Matthew Holt, panel moderator and Health 2.0’s godfather. Why? “That’s where the money is,” noted Suennen.

It’s also where the savings are – and the ability to guide consumers on the path to better health using a blended tech/services approach. Rajeev Singh, CEO of Accolade, Inc., has seen the impact that this can have on both consumers’ health and their level of engagement. The company’s on-demand healthcare concierge service is transforming how consumers engage with their care, with human compassion playing as big of a role as science and technology. Singh said that eighty percent of Accolade’s employer customers are already implementing some form of value-based payment structure.

“Services are where the solutions are,” said Singh, stressing that “you can’t have a real solution without a component of services in your story.” Singh also feels a shift in mindset needs to occur at the investor level before we see more significant movement. However, he does not believe that pending policy will stifle innovation or oust value-based frameworks – “undoing the private sector’s desire to move in one direction seems to go against the Republican ideology,” he said. Accolade’s latest $70 million series E round in 2016 brings total funding to $160 million.

One reason for the relatively early phase of investor interest in the space, said Livongo’s chief executive officer, Glen Tullman, is that “Silicon Valley tech has typically not understood how to navigate healthcare. Now, there’s a healthier level of respect.” Livongo is working to change the face of diabetes care management by using technology and health coaching to help diabetes patients better manage their chronic condition.

Given that chronic disease — diabetes included — is set to have a global impact of $47 trillion come 2030, the need to have both solutions and services dedicated to improving care and decreasing costs has never been more urgent. Tullman also believes the industry will see massive disruption in the way that technology companies, healthcare providers and healthcare purchasers – employers included – contract and integrate with one another.

Daniel said that we’ll continue to see new players in the healthcare space, but cautioned that the “technology is only as good as the improvement the services allow.” Her 15 years spent with HHS gave her a front row seat to healthcare technology’s growth. Her experience tells her that those tools that help reduce cost, increase transparency of cost and quality data and help consumers make smarter choices will take priority for VC dollars.

Speaking of those coveted VC dollars, as we are amidst one of the biggest shifts that healthcare has seen to date, what types of companies and services will reign supreme moving forward? Moreover, is now a good time for healthcare technology investments overall?

“Under any scenario, the focus on cost will continue,” said Hogan, noting that innovators and investors alike are going to focus on growing offerings that provide a better service at a better price. Singh agreed, saying that these types of technologies are where “there is money to be made and that’s what investors will follow,” regardless of what happens at the policy level.

Suennen was quick to point out that provider insolvency is going to be one of the main reasons that technologies designed for value will continue to see traction. “Value-based companies are making progress because hospitals still need to improve their efficiency,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if they buy in to (value-based care) or not – they’re going to have to.”

Please see here for the full panel replay, and be sure to follow both @W2OGroup and this year’s stellar group of panelists to stay in the know on all things #JPM17 and digital health.

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