Why I’ll be Thinking Digital in 2016

We’re living through one of the fastest changing environments in human history. In our lifetimes, use of computers has moved from simulation – using new technology to model world events – through communication – from 1980s bulletin boards to seamless social platforms – and towards embodiment, as digital tools pervade our everyday life. As the great philosopher Ferris Bueller said thirty years ago, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Thinking Digital is one of those opportunities to stop and look around, to appreciate how far we have travelled, and how much is yet to come.

Finding your natural rhythms

Sometimes we get so focused on the digital world that we forget digital is a tool, not a sentence. The perception that digital changes our behaviour, either against our will or for the worse, is one of the roots of resistance to digital adoption. However, this year’s speakers showed us how digital is actually setting beneficial rhythms. Holly Goodier, BBCs audience pathfinder, demonstrated that the natural cadence of human activity is clearly evident in the engagement analytics of the BBC’s digital channels, cycling gently between work and play, mealtimes and sleep. Far from disrupting our lives with too many options for viewing TV output, digital allows people to adapt their consumption to their daily routines.

Creativity and inspiration

Performing music? Choreographing fireworks? Digital space invaders, anyone? From the child-friendly simplicity of Cambridge Musical Coder Sam Aaron’s Sonic Pi, to the spectacular installations of creative coder Seb Lee-Delisle, we saw digital on a grand scale. Tied to our desks / laptops / tablets day to day, it was refreshing to reflect on large scale creativity – and the sight of live coding on stage without a safety net was a lot of fun. There was also a serious challenge underlying the entertainment: if ten year-olds can program complex music on Sonic Pi as a school project, imagine where those digital natives will be when they start work, and how much fun it will be to manage them! It’s time to step up to the plate: if you think you can’t do it, you’re wrong, you just can’t do it YET. My challenge for this year is to enjoy Sonic Pi with the kids!

Humbling thoughts on innovation

We all want to have that spark of inspiration that leads to the Next Big Thing, but two very different speakers brought home the reality that the Next Big Thing will always be a product of necessity and hard work. At one end of the scale, Russell Davies and Ade Adewunmi of Government Digital Strategy reminded us that “Digital transformation is not about heroic interventions and brilliant ideas, it’s about teams, users, and iteration”. At the other, with a powerful presentation that took your breath away, Ken Banks, the ‘reluctant innovator’, led us through the challenges of the application of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in the developing world. The overriding message? Work hard towards your goal. If necessity changes the goal, you still have the hard work behind you to help achieve great things.

See you in 2016!

Thinking Digital offers a chance to step outside the daily grind and, well, THINK! It’s something that few events can pull off quite so elegantly. I’m booked and eager for 2016’s offering, and I’ll be putting into practice some of the key lessons this year. Thanks to Thinking Digital and Sage Business Experts for the opportunity in 2015!

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