Humans are taking it back! And 2 other trends I got out of #sxsw2018

This was my third time into SxSw (interactive) – or South By (as locals tend to call it). As always, I came looking for new trends, tech and insights….and oh boy did South By deliver on the last one. 23 sessions later I have some insights to share!

People who followed my Instagram stories (@flatworldbusiness – Tom Fleerackers) already got a sneak peak on what I was up to, BUT I made a small aftermovie of my instagramstories – a sort of sneak peak into this SxSw-world!

Out of each session I deducted one actionable insight! You can find these at the bottom of this post.
If I look at overal trends for the next year a few things arised over all my SxSw Experiences!

First the (re)new(ed) attention for the human side of the business both on customer side but especialy on the business side. We’ve got to the stage were we came aware that we – humans – are still around.

The last few years was all about tech making our lives better without thinking about the human side effects (both labourwize and experiencewize). Yes technology made our life a lot easier, and yes new technology like VR and AI will give humans completely new experiences, but where do wit the human in that proces. If you find the human side and you an elevate that than you will win the next few years! (You might want to read more about the human side of business my digital expert model!)

The second thing I got out of South By was that regarding Virtual Reality, we can create some amazing stuff, have us experience complete new things (even outside our body – yes you read that correct!), but that we’re still not there yet into making this mainstream! We miss a burning platform (and probably a dominant player that can get it out of the gaming and film industry)…but we’ll get there! Daniel McDuff, researcher at Microsoft, showed some cool things microsoft is working on regarding experience of one anothers physiological context…a little bit scary but very cool!

And third but not least, forget AI, forget VR…it’s quantum computing that will realy change the game! Well to be honest, it will be quantum computing that will make true AI and machine learning possible. Explaining quantum computing is hard (I experienced first hand), but know that things are realy kicking-off (with IBM and Goovle taking huge steps as we speak)….how this wil change our way of experiencing tech is still a bit hard to predict. Only know that quantum computing is far more powerfull than computing as we now it! To be continued.

What sessions did I attend?
What was my key take away or actionable insight?

#1 – I’ve got No screens: internet screenless future
We’re evolving from head down to chin up.

#2 – A conversational future:making technology adapt to us
Our conversational interface will be data informed.

#3 – What followers want: how social evolves in 2018
Social lets people have multiple persona’s (feed vs story)

#4 – A venture capital outlook on industry 4.0 tech
With automation realy taking of we have got to fix the skills gap (through education)

#5 – 7 non obvious trends
Look for intersections! There is opportunity!

#6 – 2018 Fjord trends
Although digital is the norm(al), physical is re-emerging.

#7 – How to speak to generation Z?
GenZ settles a debate in 60s thanks to Google! (GenZ = Google)

#8 – Beyond ads – when ad become entertainment
Engager-tainment shouldn’t be called content!

#9 – How to tab into consumers brain?
Technology distracts you from being a flow state.

#10 – Love the problem not your solution
Jobs don’t change. Solutions do!

#11 – A robot won’t take your job: a human will
Technology created more jobs in the past 144 years than it has taken away.

#12 – How brands grow in the AI era?
Move from an internet strategy to an AI strategy, and don’t just focus on your product, focus on your customer.

#13 – A new leadershipmodel for the digital age
In a world filled with (to much) data, focus on what you don’t need to know.

#14 – The lean digital revolution: speed at scale
Be humble. Fail fast and make the life of your customer easier.

#15 – Transformation is not digital, it’s constant
Digital transformation is not the end game. You need to think beyond the digital transformation.

#16 – Reaching for truth
Don’t just tell your story,live it!

#17 – The final computer interface:the human brain
A brain interface does not discrimate! Everybody has a brain.

#18 – The endless possibilitues of quantum computing
Quantum computing, not AI, is the space race of this generatio

#19 – How does VR truly become mainstream technology?
In the long-run aconsumer will not know what VR is, it will just become media.

#20 – Augmented minds: VR that pushes perceptual limits
The brain only cares about the content, not the source.

#21 – Chatbots & robots give rise to the “human” brand
The more complex the action the better the assisted experience can be.

#22 – Goodbey mad men, hello new gen
“We are for profit for shure, but also for purpose!” – Brandless

#23 – A conversation with Kim Deal & Steve Albini
“If it ain’t featured, fuck it!” – Kim Deal

Posted in Flat Author

You can seduice us Vero, but that doesn’t mean we will quit Facebook!

Last few weeks the new social network app Vero was the new number one social in the app-stores!

An app with only your friends, no commercials, no hassling newsfeeds or company stories, no monthly fees….just you and your friends, everything we always wanted from our social network. And when celebrities take a peek and make a profile their fans will follow.


There’s onky one big but…you never get a chance for a second impression, and that’s where it all goes wrong for Vero. Due to its success developers can’t keep up, deleting your account seems impossible (but is not, just a bit hard)and the app crashes all of the time, or doesn’t work as it should be. Not to mention the owner Ayman Hariri, who’s past is a bit shaky!

The big rise will result in a big fall, and we’ll all return to business as usual; lurk around Facebook.

Although we all seem to dislike Facebook most off us tune in daily on the app. Just to check of they didn’t miss anything, because Facebook is your social network, social agenda, social memory….we all like it when Facebook reminds us of a birthday, we all like it when Facebook puts on a (long last) memory picture from this day a few years ago. It turns a small smile on our face!

Yes, we hate the advertising, sponsored posts, the timeline algorithm and the invasion of our privacy. On the other side we also like the convenience of Facebook: telling is what we want to know, reminding us what we forget and being our never-ending trip down memory lane!

So of you’re thinking on beating Facebook…think on how you can beat their convenience. Yes an app that works would go a long way (but know that’s not the only thing you need to do). Think how you can put a smile on people’s face and have them shares their stories, their passion(s).

Who’s next to challenge Facebook?

Posted in Flat Author

Creating operational excellence in the digital expert model (DEM).

With the digital expert model I want to help companies and organisations to create true digital value. The methodology focusses on 2 axes of value creation, and helps you communicate your (new) value.

One the Extreme Customer Centricity axe I focus on the human side of your Value Proposition and on your operational excellence. In a digital world operational excellence is the minimum offer your customer expects. Although you might think that this is a race to the bottom to implement any digital technology, I see it as a key differentiator from your competitor. Focus on that technology that helps you create a true digital value proposition. It’s always about why and how instead of what!

Why do you want to use this technology?
How does this technology add value for my customer?

This might seem hard at first, since most of your competitors (just) follow the digital crowd. I hope that a few basic questions help you!

How is your customer in control of your value proposition?

Today’s customer wants to be in control of his actions or better the customer is put in control of his actions.
A good example is banking. We switched from a counter based business model with a lot of physical touch points, to a (mobile) application based model where you can do most of your banking. Besides the fact that this is cost efficient is enables the customer to bank whenever and where-ever he wants.
This example shows that technology helps to put people in control.
It’s still a work in progress. We moved from online banking (bank anytime, but at home) to a mobile empowered model (bank anytime, anywhere – as long as you have a connection). And now we see that banks enable people to take up even more complex banking products (like loans or insurance) by themselves. No more waiting lines, no more hassle with banking hours, the customer is in control.


How can you enable customer control in your value proposition which helps your customer overcome possible pains they experience in experiencing your value proposition?
As a positive side effect it will be cost efficient for the company, but his can never be a driver for digital tools!

How does your value proposition simplify the life of your customer?

Your operational excellence should be that excellent that is simplifies your customer’s life. How can you achieve a simplification of your customers life – or better said: How can you make life easier?
Off course the mobile banking makes your customer’s life easier regarding how and when he’s banking, but most customers have a fear of making mistakes especially when transferring money or paying bills. To simplify that Belgian KBC-bank uses the camera on the mobile device to scan the pay slip and fill-out all the necessary field. All you need to do is check  and press the pay-button. Truly a way to simplify the customer’s life.

Answering these questions, and looking for opportunities for (digital) operational excellence is the easiest part. The next step is developing and implementation as your customer will only give you one chance to do it right!
Don’t implement any digital technology which you’re not shure off that it will deliver upon its value proposition! Also in digital you only get one chance to make a first impression.

In support of the search for operational excellence the digital expert model provides a second axe: technology as a facilitator. We look for opportunities in data, user interface and intelligence augmented to support your operational excellence and your customer experience.

Further reading:
Steven Van Belleghem (2017) Customers the day after tomorrow


Posted in Flat Author

The human side of the Digital Expert Model (DEM)

With the digital expert model I want to help companies and organisations to create true digital value. The methodology focusses on 2 axes of value creation, and helps you communicate your (new) value.

In this first part I focus on the human side of the value proposition. Most companies only focus on the digital side….where can we implement new (digital) technologies (as soon as possible). Yes, this is important for your company to keep track of new digital technologies, but don’t forget the human side. If you only focus on the digital evolution, you’ll become part of fighter markets with the big players (like Amazon, Alibaba and even Walmart to that extend). Do you want to take a chance in this market? I don’t think so….

When digital becomes human!

Steven van Belleghem (2015) When digital becomes human

Try to look for opportunities where humans can truly add value and where you can make a difference as a company (over Zalando, or Amazon). Since most companies focus on the digital side, this where you have opportunity!
Know that people love people!

58% of customers still prefer to deal with a human to get a quick answer to a question and when service issues arise, 73% prefer human interaction to a “digitized voice and blinking cursor”
-Teresa Allen-

This might seem hard at first but, a few basic questions might help.

How does/can a human add value?
If a human can’t add value, don’t do it! A machine will probably be more efficiënt in adding this value.
Rethink the human side of your value, and look for a way to add empathy and/or passion to your value proposition. For now those are key differentiators for humans over digital technologies.

How does/can your VP surprise your customer?
Due to our passion and empathic nature we are able to surprise other humans. Surprise is hard to program when it is not data driven.
Look for ways in which you can surprise your customer BUT don’t let the surprise be data based. Digital technologies are way better (and faster) in datamining then any human is.

How do you make your VP personal?
Making it personal is all that count. Your customer want to have the most personal experience ever. He wants to be treated as personal and unique as possible. Data will be able to support you with this, but a human touch can add value here.

The example of “De Hallen” – Hotel in Amsterdam shows that it is possible to add human value. My colleague was truly amazed with this small hand written note when she checked in to her hotel room last fall.  Hotel “De Hallen” adressed her in person and personal! A small but effective surprise…
Personal Touch

Further reading
Steven Van Belleghem (2015) When Digital Becomes Human

Posted in Flat Author

A Digital Expert Model (DEM) to help companies create (digital) value

It’s been a while now that digital became of influence for our society and its organisations. But still I notice a lot of companies that struggle with digital….mainly because of there lack of focus on what realy matters, value….digital value.

Based on the Steven Van Belleghem‘s latest books I created a digital expert model to support a digital transition in value creation. Main insight is that you can focus on 2 axes to create value:  one where technology is your facilitator, one where you focus on true customer centricity.

To be extreme customer centric you focus on both the human side of your value propostion and the (best) operational excellence you can achieve. On the human side we try to harvest the added value of humans. (Where do humans make a difference over machine…knowing that machines don’t need a break, always smile, and have a great product knowledge).
With operational excellence the focus is on 3 subsets where digital technology nowadays can make a difference in your value creation (data, user interface & intelligence augmented).
In my next posts I will focus on each value creation differentiator (VCD).

My second insight is that you don’t need to focus on all (both digital and human) differentiators, and if you focus on one value creation differentiator , focus on that one for the right reason! To create added (customer) value!
That’s why I added a scoring mechanism to the model. This way you can score yourserlf (or let others score you) on each value creation differentiator. This should help you gain insight on each value created differentiator.

Once you’ve focused, and you have an adapted customer value proposition where extreme customer centricity is key and you use technology as a facilitator, you can start to focus on the story!
You can have created the best value for your customer, but nowadays you need to get your story out to be(come) succesful. Therefore the second part of the digital expert model, looks at how you could get your message accross

First step here is to explain the context in which your customer experiences your value. This helps you understand the channels your customer potentialy uses, which support your story and campaign.
In my next post I will also focus on the different channels, strories and campains.

Again the same principle helps…don’t focus on the channels, focus on what realy matters: the context where your customer experiences your value.



Further reading:
Steven Van Belleghem (2015) When digital becomes human
Steven Van Belleghem (2017) The customer the day after tomorrow

Posted in Flat Author

The INevitable – Impact of technology

Whether we like it or not, the impact of technology on our life is inevitable. We have shaped digital technology this way that this techology is now shaping our life!

In this presentation, my focus is mainly on the following elements:

  • the impact of technology on the way we behave;
  • the impact of technology on our brain and attention span;
  • how technology is becoming more cognitive (and smart);
    the more we use technology, the smarter it gets!
  • The internet of experience; Virtuality becomes the new normal

Posted in Flat Author

5 days – 25 sessions – 1 party – over 100 pictures! This was #SxSw Interactive 2016

South by (as locals call it) is by far the biggest and best showcase of what the interactive future holds.  Although I came prepared (check my post from a week ago), I was still struggling with the seize of SxSw. The amount of quality that is an offer makes it hard as a single participant to make the best out of it.
I choose not to take specific tracks, but cherrypick out of topics that are of interest to me: VR/AR, entrepreneurship, behaviour(ial design), digital …. As you see a wide range of interest fields!

My strategy paid of partially, I only a wasn’t allowed in once because I was to late to cue (optimistic travel time between venues, you know…uhu!), and I got in on all of my chosen session. Out of 23 only 2 failed to meet my expectations, the others were all positively experienced. This means I got al least on take-away out of it (yes, I have low standards, but if you combine 23 take-aways you have dynamite!).
More than previous editions I focussed also on the additional entertainment from sponsors, brands, …. which popped-up at the venues or in town.  Most of the time this was quite rewarding (with free goodies, drinks and foor!), so that’s a keeper!  Sometimes it was hard to get in, and the cues had astonishing wait-times. So again picking the right moment was crucial…I really cued only once to get into the Google Viber Experience (party), which was worth the wait….and got me connected with some really nice local Austinites (as locals call themselves).
Being by myself was sometimes advantageous but I mist a sparring parting at diner to discus what we saw, and with 2 (or more) you can off-course cover more ground….but hey we’re on a budget (aren’t we all?)

Did I mention parties? Read more ›

Posted in Flat Author

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 840 other followers

Flat World Poll
  • 496,607 hits
%d bloggers like this: