Innovation – disruptive technology and the Dragon’s!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be able to MC at a Citi Dragon’s Den in a beautiful location, Riddel Hall in Belfast. There were a number of guests there, including the dragon’s themselves who represented Citi, Microsoft and Dell.

I had been prepping for this since I was asked to do this last week and wanted to make sure the opening was strong, set the scene for the day and applicable to the students. I read through a number of books in the evenings, focusing on how applicable it would be to students coming up with new innovative problems that we have now, or will have in the future.

And so I found the below quote, after much searching, and I think it was perfect as an opening to this great day:

“I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent….”

Thomas Edison.

Hearing these students pitch for 5 minutes on ideas they had, and then answering questions from the Dragon’s for 10 minutes – it struck me how bright our future is with these young people trying to make it better.

I think the big thing that stood out to me was how creative and innovative people can be when they think about problems now or in the future and ask themselves “How could I / we make this better?”

The pitches they had were awesome and show how technology has enabled these young people to think differently about what’s possible in their lives. It lowers the barrier to entry to even consider hosting an application on a cloud server in Delaware or having AI API’s available to them to consider having the application learn typical commands and schedule them for the user rather than having to remember every week.

One of the hosts, mentioned how he had heard of a person who had their Alexa beside the TV, and hearing one of the pleading adverts on the TV, Alexa automatically ordered whatever product this was and it was delivered the next day. This is the power of technology. And these students were using this power to help our futures.

One of the other things that stood out to me was some of the questions that the Dragon’s asked the students. One of the questions that I’ll make sure to be aware of is “What have you learned, what are you assuming is true, and what do you not know?”

It was a question that wasn’t picked up on as much by the students who were in ‘pitch’ mode but one that stood out to me afterwards. If we’re not reflecting on the lessons as we go through any experience, challenging the assumptions we have and seeking to identify the knowledge gaps we have – then I think we’ve missed out on an amazing learning experience.

Another question was to consider “What is the problem you’re trying to solve for?” in a user focused way. When you tell a user story – how is this person currently experiencing this situation, and how does your service / product change this – then you get very clear on what you have to do to make it better. Rather than imagining a problem they could have, in the perfect conditions, you solve for what is actually the need. A nice switch in thinking but one that I’ll keep in mind and consider when thinking about problems.

It’s incredible being able to learn from these events – once you focus on the opportunity they present you with – so keep on being curious, keep on asking “Why?” and keep on learning!

“Success is not final, failure not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

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