Ready, set, pause: 11 ideas from creativity and innovation festival Pause Fest

Ready, set, pause: 11 ideas from creativity and innovation festival Pause Fest

Off the bat creatives, explorers and leaders at Pause Fest were challenged to think big about the future we want to build through our brands, ventures and products. A future we have a big hand in shaping. As someone who works in brand, purpose and possesses a keen interest in developing sustainable technology - it was a relief to hear recurring themes of responsibility, positivity and acknowledgement of the impact of business on society.

To ensure these wild ideas, bold questions and new ways of working can be embedded in my ways of working going forward, let's attempt to distill the big pause moments of each talk.

1. Don’t underestimate the power of crazy.Stephen Gates — Head of Design Transformation at InVision.

Pause Fest Stephen Gates InVision

Stephen spoke fervently about harnessing the power of creative, unique ways of thinking and working to stand out and create actual change. After working alongside some of the 'best teams' in the world, he noticed only a small handful are truly benefiting from implementing new design models and ways of working. Stephen believed light bulb moments are bullshit, and creativity is a lot of hard work. His call to the audience? Stop fetishising the beginning and the end and share the whole, messy creative process.

Start with a problem to be solved (and loved), not a solution to vet. Balance data (certainty) and creativity (possibility) evenly, projects can have trouble working when out of whack in either of those elements. Leaning heavily into the mindset that crazy is a choice, Stephen elicited a sense of excitement and kicked the room right up the ass with a call to stop justifying and accepting mediocracy in our work. Big stuff for 9.30am.

2. Everything is broken. Julie Trell —Australian Lead at SheEO. 

Julie introduced the concept of building new economic models to compliment the rise in female-led small business. SheEO is a re-designed ecosystem that connects 'activators' - people who want to lift others whilst being part of a network. Activators contribute capital to kick start small business and seed the development of indigenous female-led businesses. Activators vote on the initiatives they'd like the fund to back, democratising the selection process.

SheEO is bringing a new model of fundraising and giving to Australia. One that is both philanthropic, democratised yet access to capital. This talk was the first where the concept of a new economy peaked through, which was refreshing to see as a consistent theme throughout the festival.

3. Design rules for the wellbeing economy. Laura Ryan — Strategy Director from Mentally Friendly. 

My favourite 30 minutes of the day was hearing Laura talk about two ideas I'm extremely interested in. Setting the scene with Robert F. Kennedys progressive 1968 remarks on measuring GDP, Laura stepped us through the glaring gaps we create by measuring progress on financial measures alone. Financial measures is a reductionist way of reviewing our progress as a society. What we measure, drives what we design for. Already, we're seeing the impact of narrow measuring in the health of our society and environment.

Laura Ryan from Mentally Friendly

Laura Ryan from Mentally Friendly

Bringing the UN Sustainability goals into how we measure a country, or business success, is an apt measure to truly ascertain the sustainability and general success of our societies well being. As someone who builds and designs products for our society, Laura shared her design principles to ensure Mentally Friendly are focused on the holistic health of our society in all aspects, not just financial.

Laura Ryan Mentally Friendly
  • The necessity of being empathetic and entrepreneurial to ensure your product can both be human-centered and sustainable.

  • Balance product automation with human control to ensure we’re still building good behaviours. Laura used the example of a finance company automating payments. This creates a frictionless experience, but are the users having the same response to spending their money as handing over hard cash? To encourage good behaviour could we send an SMS to the customers to let them know they’ve just spent money to raise awareness of these automated and simple actions? Pairing ease with education ensures we're not designing financial systems that are contributing to a decline in financial literacy.

  • Find the human value in your work and measure it. Could we align the UN sustainable development goals to our business measures? How would you measure meaningful elements like psychological safety, trust, agency? This posed some interesting discussions with my team.

  • Continue to move forward even in times of uncertainty. It’s difficult to change how we measure our success as a country, company or product but the worse thing you can do is stand still. Start measuring, start designing for more than one outcome.

There’s a lot to unpack in the idea of designing companies and products for the new well being economy which contains more onus on the businesses to operate with a level of social good, and I’m totally behind it.

4. How to prepare humans for space travel. Dr Marissa Rosenberg —Senior Researcher of Neroscience at NASA. 

I adore hearing scientists speak because of their meticulous precision, passion and curiosity. Marissa is raising awareness of the physical impact Astronauts undertake when entering space, and re-entering earth. I knew space travel was physically taxing but I had never thought of that at scale. Marissa stepped us through the physical impacts of take off (severe motion sickness), orbit ('Space Stupids', eye pressure, muscle loss) and landing (fluid issues and inability to walk).

It became very apparent that our bodies evolved to our unique conditions and 1G atmosphere on Earth. Marissa shared the very clever ways she is preparing Astronauts for space travel to Mars. But even landing successfully on Mars is going to be an extreme challenge for the most specialised Astronauts in the world. Ordinary humans are not going to be able to live there any time soon. So yet another, subliminal call to look after the home we already have.

5. Victoria’s Cultural and creative institutions: Where to now? ACMI, Science Gallery and State Library. 

I attended this panel purely out of curiosity, as a museum and gallery fan and very appreciative for that choice. The curators, directors and state custodians on the panel spoke eloquently and passionately about protecting and preserving the fundamental parts of Victorian heritage and the advantage of a bricks and mortar existence in a world of online.

When asked if the digital sphere was affecting the attendance, the panel answered with an astounding no and explained how their spaces are some of the few physically connected social spaces in our communities. Each venue had a primary offering, from artefacts, art, curated collections or physical spaces but each institution had a higher order. ACMI believes in increasing media and digital literacy to sustain democracy. Science Gallery strives to blend Science and Art to inspire the new generation of STEM experts and The State Library to make knowledge available to all who seek it. I am incredibly proud to live in a state that supports these iconic and critical institutions. Go to galleries more.

6. Corporate innovation: F*ck ups and failures. Ex Australia Post GM, Ex MD Eventbrite, Ex GM of Village Roadshow. 

The title of this panel drew me in immediately, as implementing more innovation in my work and subsequently embrace the failures that come with riskier work is a current focus.

The panel of exes shared experiences with deficiencies in the culture of corporate innovation. Specifically, how to navigate those challenges when enticing large corporates with rooted traditions to employ innovation practises. Citing experience from working in innovation labs both inside and alongside corporates, hard topics were discussed such as setting up strong governance, asking hard questions (would anyone at this table actually... use this product?), leader selection depending on a projects stage and where the innovation function needs to sit to protect the teams. The key to getting approval to innovate: embody a pioneering spirit for your team.

Rachel, the Ex MD of Eventbrite (and now heading up the innovation lab at AWS) simply finished defining an innovators responsibility.

'Iterate on behalf of the customer, or invent on behalf of them'.

I will take that forward with me when pushing for testing new ideas.

7. Dissecting the greatest ads of all time: Dan Monheit — Hardhat Digital and Psychologist Dr Melissa Weinberg. 

What makes a good ad good? Self confessed 'Ad Man' Dan, and Psychologist Melissa walked us through three good ads, and what cognitive bias was leveraged to elicit the desired experience.

Kicking off with P&G's Thankyou Mom from a Winter Olympic sponsorship, we first experienced the emotional journey the ad took us on. The ad-team then dissected the availability bias used to create a connection on a personal level as the viewers interpreted the media in the ad and put themselves in the story.

Following a P&G tear fest, Melissa stepped us through the framing effect in action in TAC's brilliant new campaign, Towards Zero. By presenting a statistic (or piece of information) in two ways, the ad frames the 'acceptable' road toll but in context of each road death being someone's family. The framing effect can be used across many products, with Dan likening it to an aspirin ad (from a negative state to neutral) vs. a multivitamin ad (from a neutral state to a positive state).

Finally, some light relief when we dug into the iconic Mac vs PC ads, where we saw the peak end rule in full effect. The peak end rule is a heuristic where people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak (i.e., its most intense point) and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience. The Apple team re-created peak emotional moments of owning a Mac Book (the unboxing, the plug and play), or showcased the peak negative moments of being a PC owner (virus, set up).

In order to manipulate the peak end rule for the success of their Pause Fest talk, Dan and Marissa threw us one extra psychological heuristic which was the confirmation bias being used in the Mac vs PC ads. The confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms your preexisting beliefs or ideas. So by creating 66 versions of the ad, after the first few ads you felt like you were 'in on the joke' and were further convinced that you knew that Macs were better than PCs.

8. Digitally and ethically yours: the future of big data and privacy. Lisa Watts — CEO at The Conversation Media, Dr Niels Wouters — Digital Media Advisor, Science Gallery Melbourne and Martin Kemka, Founder and Analyst, Northraine. 

Do you prioritise convenience over privacy? Did you opt-out of My Health Records? Do we think accessing someones data to change behaviours is morally defensible? These questions began what was a conversation filled with uncertainty and compromise.

When assessing how our data is being used, we're fortunate to live in Australia where our government and laws breed a sense of comfort around digital privacy. But is our laissez faire approach too 'She'll be right'? Even in a room of data and security experts, the idea of trading of personal information for a function or convenience was discussed as a challenging trade-of.

Instances like Facebook's Cambridge Analytica has increased societies awareness around the way personal data can be used. But as a general society we still do not understand the full impact of emerging technology like AI or data as multiple layers. This hour bred more questions than it answered. Open source algorithms and algorithm regulation being what piqued my interest as we are now beginning to understand the fundamental ways algorithms change and distort how perceive our world.

9. Meet the Rockstars of the New Economy: Dumbo Feather, Andrea De Almeida, Director, B Lab Australia and NZ, John Elliot, Prev. TOMS MD and Founder of Sole Savers, Leigh Barnes, Chief Purpose Officer, Intrepid Group and Jamie Cook, Co-Founder, Stone & Wood Brewing. 

This was the first time the concept of the 'New Economy' had been wrapped up so succinctly and I'd found an official term for the type of businesses I adore. The last 5 years have seen brands measure and drive their impact as a major business goal, with terms such as 'Brand Purpose', 'Social Enterprise' and 'Brand for good' being thrown around.

As an aware conscious consumer, it's these businesses I look to to pave the way for Capitalism 2.0. The current model we operate isn't working to build a sustainable future. These brands are creating a new form of capitalism where not only is financial performance measured, but social good and impact. B Corps have taken off with a standardised, verified framework certifying businesses that operate consciously within their environments on a range of factors from environmental impact, to governance and workers rights.

It's these brands that are re-building the shattered trust of big business in society. That are holding themselves accountable for their impact on the society in which they operate. Consumers are being given voting rights daily using their dollar, opposed to a four-year government voting cycle. With the lack of progression on social issues in our traditional government structures, expect to see brands that employ a larger sense of purpose over traditional corporate measures thrive in the new economy they are creating.

Imagine an economy where it isn't socially acceptable to not offset your carbon? An economy where Patagonia donated a $10million tax cut to a Climate Change group because they were disgusted to even receive the Trump administrations 'irresponsible' tax cut.

That's the economy I'm striving to help build, and the businesses that'll take your customers in the coming years.

So… after hearing 11 ideas, an onslaught of fresh perspective, expert knowledge and fun thinking I’m sufficiently un-paused, looking to:

Choose crazy creativity and love the entire messy process, support new economic models built to lift others, measure more than the financial impact and consider our societies wellbeing in whatever I’m designing, care for our earth even more as I’m sure as hell never living on Mars, visit libraries and galleries more, invent on behalf of my customers, continue to learn about our human ways to make better content, use data more respectfully and for moral good whilst advocating for attention awareness and digital minimalism, and continue to champion brands with a purpose.


How to live with intention, and use your time well

How to live with intention, and use your time well

On saying the unspoken - why honesty is hard but important.

On saying the unspoken - why honesty is hard but important.