Things are always exciting at RKS, even more so lately. With clients around the globe, we never know who will reach out to us next, but you have to pause when the person on the other end of the phone says they are calling from the US State Department. I happened to be attending a design conference when the phone rang. I had just connected with some old friends, so naturally I thought it might be a prank. Thankfully I played along because it really was a legitimate call.
To my surprise, I had been selected to represent our nation at the “Forum Agenda Bahia 2018”, which is a largest business summit on emerging technologies in Brazil. I was asked to provide the keynote address on ‘Humanizing Technology in the 4.0 Economy. I would have to provide my future perspective on emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, generative design, additive manufacturing, machine learning, automation and robotics.
I graciously accepted the challenge and immediately started sharing ideas with the forum organizers. In no time, my original keynote commitment would blossom into many more meaningful opportunities across Brazil. We added several locations, Psycho-Aesthetics workshops on design thinking, panel discussions, even a talk show appearance.
It all hit home when I first walked out on stage to face a sea of business leaders and technologists, eager to hear a designer’s point of view on how we can help disruptive technologies find their cultural fits. To summarize, I talked about how we use our Psycho-Aesthetics process to balance product functionality with emotion. The successful adoption of emerging technologies is largely determined by how these disruptive technology experiences make us feel. Once we understand those moments of truth, creativity can be applied to break old habits and form new user patterns. Then we can develop products and services that have a higher purpose, which is key to creating new revenue streams. This is critically important for large corporations who typically have a ‘planning mentality’ as it relates to product development. When experts predict that 96% of jobs in America will be affected by automation alone, my ‘searcher mentality’ really kicked in. So I deployed the research process that’s inherent in our design-thinking process to structure the content.
My keynote, presentations, workshops and site visits generated positive feedback and front-page news in Sao Paulo, a city of 12 million people. Five other articles (all published in Portuguese) chronicled my presentations and my visits to numerous technology outposts – all of which are as technologically sophisticated as any that I’ve seen, globally. I also met with forward-thinking Brazilian scientists, product developers, designers, engineers, business leaders, educators, makers, students and government officials. All events were filled to capacity and were teaming with great questions and positive energy. It was hard to say goodbye to my new friends, but we’re already chatting about how RKS can support future growth in Brazil. I’d like to thank all who were involved, especially my hosts from the State Department, their wonderful support staff and team of translators who flawlessly managed a very memorable experience.