There is a low murmur sweeping in to the auditorium from outside. There are people moving in and out – greeting each other, chattering, delivering coffee (yes, true, and more on that below). On stage, author and digital transformation leader, Jesper Lowgren, is stepping through the “new thinking and new doing” required by businesses to deal with the challenges of digital disruption. All around me, I can see people taking notes, nodding, whispering to each other.
“This is great,” I think to myself, “Jesper is going to make my job easier”. I’m speaking next, sharing the “Seven Unbelievable Rules for Survival” in the age of disruption – and I’ve been focusing on the positive aspects of disruption in my recent talks. It makes opportunity more tangible. Realistic. And “disruption” can often feel too loaded and combative for an audience.
This year’s DiG Festival focuses exclusively on “digital disruption”. It’s a theme that almost every business is facing but few have plans for. In almost every client interaction I have had in the last 24 months, we touch on disruption and innovation, but always find a lack of preparation or willingness to tackle the challenge beyond the technology. But the challenge is profound.
Macquarie Bank research evaluated the potential impact of disruption to the Australian payments system at $27 billion a year. And while this has spurred an interest in “fintech” startups and innovation labs within parts of the financial sector, there remains plenty of wheel spinning. Not only is there more to do in financial services – many other sectors are still just covering the bare basics of digital strategy and execution. The retail, healthcare, pharmaceutical and mining/energy sectors – Australia’s engines for economic growth – are notorious digital laggards.
But digital disruption is not all about technology. It’s also about culture. Opportunity. Diversity. It’s about shared value and a vision for the future. And it’s about education.
And this is where the DiG Festival outstrips the performance of almost every other conference.
Over the next two days, we are treated to a feast of international and Australian speakers, workshops, announcements and networking opportunities.
Is DiG Australia’s SXSW?
Originally envisioned as Australia’s answer to SXSW, DiG is punching above its weight, attracting world-class speakers on business essential topics:
- Women in Tech advocate, Ruthe Farmer, head of strategy development and partnerships at the National Center for Women and Information Technology in the US, is blazing a trail that we are just embarking upon. She has spoken at the White House, advised the United Nations and has a formidable list of achievements
- Rebecca Caroe lays bare the hard truths of working with millennials and what it takes to challenge and grow the next generation of leaders. Her talk was jaw droppingly insightful as well as entertaining – and saw her swamped by questions in the breaks
- The University of Newcastle used the festival to announce its new Entrepreneurship and Innovation program scheduled to start in 2016
- The dynamic Eve Mayer flew solo off-the-cuff to step through the gory details of social media in a serious business context. Inspired by the University of Newcastle’s new program, she offered one lucky student an internship in her business in Texas. Now it was just a matter of sponsoring travel and accommodation. Within minutes, business leaders were jockeying for position.
- Trent Bagnall from Newcastle’s Slingshot startup accelerator launched into my favourite topic – corporate innovation, sharing the hard won stories of innovation mis-matches, middle management anti-bodies and the successes of their partnership with the NRMA JumpStart program
- Scott Yates from content crowd sourcing machine, Blogmutt, showed just how powerful crowd generated content can be when focused around your business goals and strategies
- Alison Michalk shared the process of “birthing a business and launching a baby” while building a global business without an office, but with a strong sense of culture and purpose.
And like any good conference, there was more. More great speakers. Fantastic ideas. Workshops were jam packed. And the open areas were abuzz with conversation. The whole vibe was one of collegiality and good will. Speakers and audience members easily mingled, drank coffee and exchanged cards. Speakers vowed to return. Business leaders left inspired.
But this conference should have been 10 times the size. The topics and insights delivered are hot for Australian business leaders right now. Luckily, the DiG Festival team are packaging up the conference content and will make it available online. Register your interest online. And next year, show up in person. You’ll be glad you did.