Umberto Basso, AKQA Italy
Umberto Basso has been working in the realm of the digital and web since the mid 1990s. He cofounded several agencies and startups, including the incubator H-Art in 2005. In 2011, he moved to AKQA where he is now Managing Director of AKQA Italy.
I’ve been working on digital, Internet, and dot.com stuff since the mid 90s. I co-founded my first agency in 1998. We were all about defining the very first online user experiences for large corporations like telcos, banks, and insurances — the very first approach to designing online applications, customer journeys, portals, those kind of things. In those years, technology was the most predominant thing we were looking at, whereas now technology is mostly under the hood, and customer experience comes first.
Innovation to me is about creativity and intuition at the same time. All innovation starts as creative ideas, but not all creative ideas will become innovative ideas. Ideas are innovative only after we can prove we can add value to them. Intuition is how we connect these values with the proof of added value to create insight.
On technology today
We have moved from an era where technology was the end. Now technology is the means to an end. Technology can be considered the catalyst for innovation. It adds speed to a reaction that is already happening. Ten years ago, technology was more like a B to B ingredient. Now it’s more like a B to C ingredient that will have a B to B impact. So, we are use a smartphone in a way that anticipates the way we might interact with a business in the near future, because we as consumers already have that.
On the pace of innovation
Businesses are being disrupted in a way that is unexpected. The role of intuition is to connect the different points of observation of this disruption at an unprecedented speed. We are always trying to anticipate the next evolution of self-driving cars. This is going to disrupt some businesses outside of the automotive industry, insurance, for example. Now, you’re a frequent business traveler, spending nights in motels 200 kilometers from home. Will you do this in the future? Or will your car drive you safely home while you relax and watch a movie late at night? If this happens, what is the future for the motel business? Something happening in the automotive industry is going to disrupt something not obviously related to the way we drive.
To introduce disruption and really innovate, we can’t rely on machine learning alone. We need intuition — maybe not human by default — to enhance the insights derived from constant data analysis. We will add our value, do the right job at the right time with our capabilities, maybe more supported by insights than what happened in the past. We will be able to prove faster that intuition has meaning, and, as a result, the lifecycle of product development is going to get faster and faster and faster.