Top takeaways from Fast Company’s Innovation Festival

We came, we saw and we learned a whole lot of cool stuff at this year’s Fast Company Innovation Festival. Here are just a few of the top themes we took away from the week-long celebration that we hope will spark some big ideas all year round.

Authenticity was the clear buzzword of the Festival–from legacy brands and disruptors to world-class creative leaders, the resounding word was to look inward and find who you are and what you represent and to honor it. Ask yourself, is this move authentic to who we are, or is it just checking boxes on what we think we should do?

Trust and collaboration were other recurring themes that stayed with us. These ideas apply to so many circumstances in our work and personal lives–whether it be a creative collaboration or an business  partnership. Find the right partner who shares your values and is willing to take that leap with you. Only great things can happen from that.

(Photo: Samir Abady for Fast Company)

We all know this; it’s a no-brainer, right? Wrong! We need to look beyond our core audiences and listen to the needs of those second in line, particularly Gen Z and Gen Next. Start planning how to reach them well in advance–because their day will come! Daniella Vitale, of Barney’s New York, attributes current retail woes to the industry’s failure to consider the values and behavior of millennials and address the shifting tide sooner. “Our fans are our biggest promotional asset, and with more data opportunities available to us than ever before, there’s really no excuse to not give them what they need.”

Customers are now looking to brands over politicians to drive social change. What does this mean for the Entertainment industry and, more specifically, for Broadway? We’re in a unique position where we have direct contact with our consumer, so laying a stake in the ground for causes that matter to us has more of a chance of being mobilized than we think.

We’ve heard it all before, but Pharrell drove it home best by crediting equal measures of risk and trust in getting him to where he is today. He warned us about the dangers of cruising in the comfort zone. “You’ve really gotta pinch yourself and be self-aware. You might be in a comfortable slumber without even knowing.”

Finally, it always comes back to the experience. We know it, you know it, and it was reinforced literally across the board at the festival. “Real life emotion can never be replicated and creating memorable, shareable moments are real moments that will be treasured” – in our industry where the very product we sell is an experience this gives us pause to celebrate but also a reminder that every interaction we orchestrate with our consumer must be an experience to remember as well, so they keep coming back time and time again.