Swiss Re's innovation manager Oliver Werneyer was a big hit at ITC 2015 – one of a series of real stars who made this a vintage year for the event and made me excited for the future of innovation in our industry.
I'll pick out two of the points which resonated with me. First, Oliver remarked how most managers are in post for three to five years, while the horizons on the really innovative ideas are more like ten to fifteen. I think we have real continuity problems when it comes to achieving significant change. We at least need to hold on to core teams in our innovation practices, even though we have to recognize creative people may want to move to different opportunities.
Second, Oliver mentioned how too many people today are happy to visualize the data they have available – but you need to decide what you want to achieve and then get the relevant data. This theme is a constant in the information business, and it needs to be reinforced regularly.
Elsewhere, conference speakers talked of the ability to exploit “exhaust data” generated by other organizations. No, that's not a reference to Volkswagen – it's the idea that data collected by another organization as part of their business process, but not directly needed by them, could be useful to you.
The temptation is to assume all the data you need can be sourced from someone else's exhaust. But these opportunities to spin data gold from some other company's are rare and they are not advertised – some smart person has to spot them.
Let's remember what scientists do. They decide what they want to know. They look to see if the data exists. If it doesn't, they figure out how to get the data. They don't just grab whatever data is kind of in the right area and then believe they've done their job.