As a marketing analytics company devoted to helping clients understand people at as granular and useful a level as our data scientists can conjure, our team is always applying, bending, and engineering technology to make the work stronger and operate more efficiently.
That's why we love to connect with and learn from others in our space as well as other industries who are thinking innovatively and challenging the status quo.
This week we got such an opportunity when a couple of us attended the Women in Technology of Tennessee monthly meeting, held in April at the Tractor Supply corporate headquarters in Brentwood.
(Sidebar for our Nashville friends: If you haven't visited the HQ, do it. It's a shiny, modern, technology-infused building with a tractor in the middle of the lobby.)
The speaker this month was Rachael Babcock, Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Tennessee. Outside the technology sector, the role is a fairly new one, and it's not a stretch to see how the job could apply in the public arena as well. Cities from Denver to Philadelphia to Riverside, Calif., have all tried it out. Tennessee was one of the first in the nation to hire a CIO at the state level.
Though it does seem like more of a challenge.
If in business, the function of an innovation executive is to build new products, develop new revenue streams, disrupt service lines, product lines, workflow and workplace culture, and create the concepts that come next - imagine all of that, plus the politics, employee longevity and bureaucracy that would come with doing the same thing within government.
"Humans hate change," she noted. "It's just not part of our core nature."
Rachael talked through some of the more radical and culture-changing innovations we all know are on the horizon for the next decade - things like driverless vehicles, biological storage, DIY manufacturing, and the next generations of augmented reality and 3D printing.
"These things can be predicted," she said. "They ARE being predicted. This is the world we live in. But how they affect you and me... That is completely unpredictable."
We get it. We build predictive models for a living, and yes - what you choose to do with them? - that is entirely up to you.
"But there is good news in this," Rachael said. "We can't predict the future, so what we must do is live in the present."
Thanks, WiTT, for a great event! And to Rachael for a thought-provoking talk. We're looking forward to the next one.