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SXSW 2019: My key takeaways on technology and innovation

For busy executives, it can be tough to justify time away — but few travel opportunities promise the level of immersion and innovation as SXSW in Austin, Texas.

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We’ve just wrapped up our first Grant Thornton Insight Exchange pilot SXSW Innovation Immersion Experience, and I have to say: wow.

SXSW is an essential destination for global professionals hoping to experience the future of work, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and more.

We attended KITE's Corporate Innovation reception with Regional Managing Partners Dave Wedding and David Platt, featuring “The Successful Corporate Innovation Playbook,” and later learned more from KITE’s Mark Silva, P&G Ventures’ Lauren Thaman, Comcast NBCUniversal’s Sam Schwartz & AllianceBernstein’s Koley Corte on what senior executives can do to create a culture tuned to emerging trends AND effective risk management — while still getting results.

Shelly Palmer, Marie Gulin and Anda Gansca explored the opportunities and challenges with today’s global customer experiences and how data-driven solutions are moving the dial.

Shelly Palmer and Nichole Jordan Mark Cuban shared his wisdom on the future of smart speakers, entrepreneurship, and what happens when media, tech and entertainment collide. “In a tech literate room, people care about privacy. Otherwise people don’t care,” he said. “They want simplicity to make their lives easier.” He also went on to share some of his health tips, including having his blood tested every three months. We later visited the booth of diagnostic startup EverlyWell, which secured a $1 million deal on Shark Tank. Based on the line to test the product, I think many are trying out Mark’s advice to have your blood tested.

And at CTA’s Innovation Policy Day sessions, Grant Thornton’s Robert Shea made "The Case for Public Sector Open Data," alongside former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and representatives from IBM, Google, and Walmart talking about resilient cities and how to prepare their 21st century workforce.

We also had the pleasure of speaking with the new CEO of ITI, Jason Oxman, on the new developments in AI which can remove subjective bias from hiring processes to create a more diverse and productive workforce, even helping people get and maintain good credit.



We even took a virtual reality tour of the planet Mars and tested the new Bose Frames with Regional Managing Partners Sean Denham and Wally Gruenes. These new technologies will help us with experiential learning for our professionals and give our customers the opportunity to “test” new products and services in the comfort of their own homes.



From exclusive briefings and keynotes to connections with technology companies and emerging movers and shakers, this year’s expansive, inspirational experience was defined by the perspectives of its 75,000 registrants — all offering new insights on where our global marketplace is headed next.

As we catch up from a whirlwind week of opportunity, here are four important points to guide your 2019:

Technology is part of every aspect of our lives. We don't talk about a tech economy, or tech policy anymore — we talk about the economy and policy.

All companies are tech companies, and those that realize this have the advantage: The competitive differentiator for companies in all industries is their ability to use technology to turn data into action to create value. Check out my extended conversation with famed CES host and innovation expert, CTA CEO Gary Shapiro on the topic here:



Digital transformation requires commitment to routine innovation and continuous learning. It is not an event or a project with a beginning and end. Companies shouldn't wait for AI to reach perfection to try it. Find smaller opportunities to get started.

AI and Machine Learning are transforming the future workforce. Business leaders must responsibly consider the impact automation could have on jobs, but just because change is coming, doesn’t mean it’s all bad. Automation will create job opportunities while transforming existing ones.

Do you want to be a part of transformational change? You don’t have to wait for SXSW. The thought leaders at Grant Thornton can help guide you, and your growing workforce, into the tomorrow you want to see.

Interested in working with my team? Please contact me.