Building emotional connections & human resilience: Q&A with Mirjana Spasojevic

I was thrilled to sit down with Mirjana Spasojevic, head of the Immersive Experiences Lab at HP, to chat about building emotional connections and human resilience. She recently spoke at RISE 2017 about the work HP Labs has been doing to better understand people and their practices in order to craft the best experiences with future technologies.

Here’s a snapshot of our conversation about the Immersive Experiences Lab’s quest to understand and fulfill the promise of valuable, delightful experiences through data-driven, user-centric solutions.

How does HP’s mission and outlook on Megatrends play a role in the Immersive Experiences Lab?
HP’s mission to “engineer experiences that amaze” plays a vital role in how we innovate in the Lab. We want to create technologies that makes our customers’ lives better. We do that by studying how people work and live – their motivations, their emotions – and then we consider how technology might change their practices in the future. We are constantly prototyping, experimenting, and iterating based on our learnings because we want to help drive positive change in people’s lives through the solutions and experiences we create.

We also make big bets based on Megatrends – Rapid Urbanization, Changing Demographics, Hyper Globalization, and Accelerated Innovation. With these Megatrends as a backdrop, we as researchers craft experiences that anticipate how the world will be in three to seven years.

What projects has the Immersive Experiences Lab worked on that exemplify this?
Recently we created Project Jetty. This concept started in a brainstorming session, and our team’s goal was to help people feel connected without actually being connected. In our study, we placed an “art object” – a 3D-printed, realistic representation of a subject’s house – in the home of an older adult and another 3D-printed house in their children’s homes. Each printed house glowed when its owner was home, and it sat in a photo frame with holographic, real-time weather displayed around it.

Before the study, all of our study participants indicated they didn’t stay in touch with others as often as they’d like, and felt dissatisfied with their current methods for keeping in touch. After the study, we heard comments like, “I feel happy and warm inside because in some strange way I feel I am able to see them through this device.”

This is when we saw an exciting shift in how these people experienced the concept away from technology and toward the fulfillment of emotional needs.

I find the shift from technology to emotion fascinating. Can you tell me more about that goal?
Of course. With Jetty we aren’t necessarily looking to develop a new HP product. Instead, we wanted to extend our understanding of how technology can help us live better and feel more resilient in our lives.

We’ll use the learnings from Project Jetty in a wide variety of future projects. We believe the future of computing is people-centric. Wearables, smart materials, and technology in general should always strive to support human resilience and authentic experiences.

This people-centric approach is at the heart of everything we do in the Immersive Experiences Lab.

Learn more about the work Mirjana and her team are working on here.

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How to Spark an Innovation Mindset

Technology is changing at lightning speed. When I was in college, a single computer took up an entire room.  Yes, am dating myself a little here…. Now, we hold computing devices in the palms of our hands. In fact, we have more computing power in our pockets than all of NASA had when they put the first man on the moon in 1969.

We now live in a world increasingly surrounded by self-driving cars that may someday be self-flying cars, of pervasive artificial intelligence, and where India can put a spacecraft around Mars for less than what Hollywood spent making the movie Gravity.

Innovation is significantly shaping our world. And it’s the number #1 topic I’m most frequently asked about. Whether it’s at the HP offices, at speaking engagements, or when I attend conferences, people want to know how they can tap into their own inner innovator, and spark innovation at their offices. I wanted to share a few of those questions and the answers I give in hopes of sparking more innovation at your office.

Why is innovation important to a company and employees’ personal development?
Innovation is about adapting to change.  It’s the difference between leading change and being led by it, so it is critical for any company that wants to do the disrupting and not be the disrupted.

Adapting is the difference between leading change and being led by it.

Innovation is equally important for personal development. Innovation at a company doesn’t happen magically; a company can only be truly innovative if they have employees who are innovative. Adopting an innovative mindset also makes life a lot more interesting and fun when you think of every problem that comes at you as an opportunity to learn and grow.

What makes someone an innovator?
Innovation is an attitude. As an innovator you need to believe you can change the world, that if you keep working on a problem you will eventually find a solution, and that anything is possible.  Innovators have a passion to make things happen. They relentlessly take action.

How can I inspire my team to take action?
I tell my team: be curious. Observe, ask questions, have an open mind, and suspend judgement. Be bold. Be passionate about what you’re doing. Most importantly, have fun. I often say that boredom is not a corporate objective, and when you enjoy what you do, you will be better at it.

What are the most common misconceptions when it comes to innovation?
I’ve come across several misconceptions. The first is that it requires a large team and a lot of resources to change the world. While endless resources and a large team can make parts of innovation easier, it doesn’t take an army to do big things. Disruption can occur with small, special forces with drive and dedication. The willingness of smaller teams to be agile and adaptable can lead to success.

Another misconception is when you are starting something new, you need to know what you’re doing ahead of time. In reality, you just need to have the right mindset, and you’ll find your way. Trust in yourself, and learn along the way. Don’t get stuck at the starting line because things will inevitably change anyway. It’s better to get started, enjoy the journey and adapt to the changing world around you.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

How do you deal with failure?
You shouldn’t just prepare for failure, you should welcome it and actively seek it out because failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. I truly believe you can’t have success without failure. As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Sometimes it takes “failing” 10,000 times to find the right path forward. When you start something new, think of all the reasons that something won’t work. Then, order them by the highest risk of failure, and go about testing the riskiest assumptions first. If things aren’t meant to be, aim to fail fast.

How can employees practice an innovation mindset?
Start with small things. Have lunch every week with someone outside of your team. Talk to them about what they do and how they do it. Innovation is about leveraging diversity, and the more you know about more things, the better you will be able to innovate.

Write down your ideas. Sometimes the simple act of writing things down can bring your ideas to life. You never know when that list will come in handy.

Be mindful of the language you use. The words we use influence our thoughts and mindset. Get in the habit of reinforcing an innovative mindset through the words you use or the way you respond to questions. Instead of “why?”, ask “why not?” Instead of saying “no, but…”, say “yes, if…”.

Once you become comfortable with those, move on to larger mindset shifts.

Question your assumptions about everything. Many times, the “right” way to do things can be altered and improved, it just takes someone to question the underlying assumptions. Ask yourself, how can this be improved? How can we make it better?

Be persistent. Don’t give up when things get tough. Instead, keep your eye on the prize and work your way toward it one step at a time. Test, learn, iterate, move forward, rinse, and repeat. Through that process, make it a personal goal to learn one new thing every day.

Don’t play the blame game. If something goes wrong, look for solutions and learn from everyone’s mistakes. The past is already behind you, so you might as well leave it there. Simply stay in the “here and now” and do whatever you can to create the future you’re aiming for.

Help others build on their ideas. It’s not your job to tell others why their ideas are bad or won’t work. Help them grow their ideas and make them work as if they were your own.

The future hasn’t happened yet, you get to create it.

Lastly and most importantly, believe in yourself and what you’re doing. As a child, we all believe we could do anything or be anything. Sometimes as adults, we forget that. We listen to people tell us why we can’t do something or why something isn’t a good idea. Don’t listen to them. Recapture that child-like belief in yourself. The future hasn’t happened yet, you get to create it.

What are your tips for sparking an innovation mindset? I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.

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Is your business Megatrends ready?

Over the next 15 years, we will experience more change than in all human history to date. The pace and magnitude at which change is occurring is staggering.

Did you know we now have more computing power in our pocket than all of NASA had in 1969 when they put the first man on the moon?

Or how about the fact that artificial intelligence spent 42 hours solving the 100-year-old mystery of how flatworms regenerate body parts?

With the accelerated pace of change comes the equally accelerated rate of innovation. I believe this accelerated innovation and the Megatrends driving it will have a sustained, transformative impact on the world in the years ahead — on businesses, societies, economies, cultures and our personal lives.

So how do we as engineers, marketers, designers, innovators, and executives stay ahead of that change and help chart our own course?

Ask yourself: Is your business Megatrends ready? Answer these five questions to find out.


1.
What products could you develop to support megacity infrastructure, an aging population, or hyper global trade?

By 2030, there will be 8.5 billion people walking the earth, and 97% of that population growth will be in emerging economies. And as people move to cities, our cities will get larger, and we’ll have more of them, including megacities in places many of us have never heard of today.

It will change how we buy and consume products and services, propelling the sharing economy and convenience-based services. Businesses must design products that meet the needs of the megacity infrastructure, an aging population or hyper global trade.

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The Most Underrated Leadership Quality

Communicate clearly. Be a mentor. Lead by example. Learn from previous mistakes, Celebrate your team’s achievements. These are all frequently shared leadership tips. And while they’re all things leaders need to do to be successful, I believe there’s one overlooked, underrated quality – emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately recognize your own and others’ emotions, and it’s a key component of effective leadership. An emotionally-intelligent leader has the complete trust of his or her team, listens to their ideas, and always makes informed decisions. Today, I’m sharing why it’s an underrated skill and tips you can utilize as a leader:

It helps you build a successful and happy team.
Emotionally intelligent leaders have unique listening skills that allow them to understand more than just the words that are spoken. When you acknowledge emotions behind their words, your team members will feel that they are being heard. This can help you develop team members that are happier and more productive in their work, and more likely to stay in their positions.

Emotional intelligence has been measured as contributing 75-80% of the elements for success.

Emotionally-intelligent leaders are also empathetic. The ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes provides leaders the ability to give constructive feedback and develop their team members.

There’s no place for erratic emotions.
Good, self-aware leaders understand how their communication affects the team. If they respond effectively and use their self-awareness to make decisions, they increase trust with their team instead of acting off fleeting emotions. Think about it. Who are you more likely to work for? A leader who shouts at their team when they’re under stress, or a leader who stays in control and can assess the situation? Staying calm in a tense situation is a mark of an emotionally-intelligent, successful leader.

TalentSmart reports that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.

You can create more meaningful relationships.
You can’t make significant connections with your team members (or people in your personal life) without effective verbal and non-verbal communication. In fact, lack of communication is often the basis for issues between people. When leaders effectively communicate the company’s vision and the team members’ part in that vision, it creates a productive and enjoyable workplace.

The bottom line? Developing your emotional intelligence is a sound strategy to furthering your leadership skills. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you are.”

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My Favorite Technology Talks at TED 2017 … So Far

TED2017: a dancing robot, taking lessons from the past, and looking to the future. TED2017 has been full of thought-provoking and ground-breaking talks. Here are a few of my favorite technology-focused talks so far:

“The future, today” Anab Jain
In the opening night, Anab Jian, Founding Director of Superflux, captured the audience with her perspective and tangible experiments focused on the future. She pointed out that while it can feel like innovation is happening too quickly, we must stay focused on our impact on the future. Jain does this by taking in the signals and trends around her to build objects – flying advertisements, an apartment to survive a drastic decrease in natural resources, and more – that allow us to experience the future.   This talk hit close to home for me, as future enthusiast, and correlates nicely to the Megatrends work we’ve been doing at HP.

“Conquering your fears, the stoic way” Tim Ferriss
“If your goals aren’t specific, you can’t achieve them.” Author, podcast host, and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss shared his inspiring story and enlightened the audience with tips to capitalize on opportunities, manage fears, and fully envision the future. He credits stoicism to his success and recommends achieving similar success by writing down worries about your next move, whether it be starting a business, taking time off, or launching your next product. Once you have those concerns on paper, Ferriss says it’s vital to document how they can be prevented, how you can repair damage if they come true, and most importantly, consider the cost of inaction.

“A vision of robots that might replace you” Marc Raibert
Marc Raibert, founder of Boston Dynamics, is responsible for arguably the most innovative robots today. In his talk, he showcased robots like BigDog, a cheetah-like robot, AlphaDog, a massive robot that can trek through snow, and Spot, a robot that uses its hands to handle packages.

I was most impressed by SpotMini. The robot can move sideways, run in place, and hop from side to side. Raibert demonstrated how SpotMini creates a dynamic map of the world around it, while delivering a drink to Raibert on his command.

Raibert’s talk inspired me to think even more about the future of human and robot collaborations. Innovative robots like the ones highlighted in this talk will allow us to automate the mundane and present endless collaboration opportunities. If we design and program robotics to work with us, there is no problem we can’t solve.

Other TED attendees, cinema experiencers, people who’ve been following along on Twitter, what TED talk has impacted you the most so far? Which TED talk are you looking forward to? I’d love to hear your comments below.

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5 Tips to Think Like a Futurist

The art of being a futurist is a necessary skill in today’s world. Thinking like a futurist shouldn’t be reserved for a select group of people, rather a basic skill set that anyone can learn. I believe in democratizing the skills of a futurist. The more people that can see down the path, the better off we’ll be. The ongoing problems the world is facing, like poverty and climate change, cannot be solved with short-term thinking. If we want to move forward and create the future we want, we must adopt long-term, futuristic thinking.

At HP, the CTO Office team and I work to define new market segments, products, and business models that will help shape HP’s future growth. We focus on industry-shifting trends like Internet of Things, 3D transformation, immersive experiences, AI, advanced robotics, and hypermobility, to determine HP’s long-term innovation and technology vision.  See below for a few things I’ve learned along the way for learning how to read signals, see trends, test your assumptions, and become a futurist:

Stay up to date on trends. Socio-economic, demographic, and technological forces are impacting our future. At HP, we call these Megatrends.  Megatrends allow us to directionally predict where the world is heading, and identify opportunities for HP and our customers.

Fueled by accelerating technology advancements, our rapidly changing world finds us more connected and reliant on digital technologies, altering how we live, work, and socialize with one another. It’s important to monitor both global, and technology trends to stay ahead of all this change, to innovate, adapt, reinvent and engineer experiences for a future that promises to look very different from today.

Personally, I stay on top of trends by reading the latest technology news, speaking with customers and industry pundits, paying attention to university and academic research areas, monitoring venture investing trends and start-up activity. I also draw from my personal experiences, media coverage, and public data sources.

Don’t forget, it’s important to keep an open mind when researching trends. Open yourself to considering all kinds of possible scenarios and interpretations.

Visualize. Once you identify emerging trends, the next step is powering up your imagination.  Allow yourself to time-travel (at least in your mind for now) to a future date.  Keeping in mind your research, imagine what the world might look like, what a daily routine would be in different parts of the world, what experiences our future-selves might encounter.

Now work back and think about how we arrived there.  Ask questions about timing, what trends spearheaded those experiences, market conditions, business models and technologies.  Now think about how your company, your team and you personally played a role in arriving at this future state.

For example, if you consider self-driving cars, it’s obvious that the technology will affect our future, but in what capacity? Think about these core questions: How will current markets and industries be impacted?  What new opportunities will arise? What role will you or your company play in that future?

Looking at short and long-term time intervals, identify what technology advancements, business models and new solutions have the potential for the greatest impact.

As more people work to become futurists, it’s important to concentrate on the trends in a systematic, diligent way.

Put it through the business sniff test.  Good business acumen is an important asset in the futurist’s tool kit.  Having a strategy and methodology for testing your scenarios and hypotheses are critical.

At HP, we start with a pivotal choice point of deciding whether a new technology should be merely observed, is an incremental innovation—new feature or function, value-add to an existing product, or possible accessory—or a disruptive innovation, such as a new product or service.

Each idea then goes through a rigorous business lens to understand strategic intent—opportunity, purpose, value—business rationale and actionable outcomes.

Have boring conversations, too. It’s easy to fantasize how technology will improve our lives in the future, but it’s just as important to have tactile conversations as well. . While it’s not necessary to have a formal method for making predictions about the future, you should have a strategy. As more people work to become futurists, it’s important to concentrate on the trends in a systematic, diligent way. . Here are a few questions to spark your next “boring” conversation:

  • What is your current strategy to predict the future?
  • How well is that plan being executed?
  • Where are place you can improve your results?
  • What resources do you have available to try something different?

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Adopt a growth mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, your qualities are carved in stone. If you lack a skill, you will continue to lack it. However, when you adopt a growth mindset, you can grow and change through persistence and experience. With a fixed mindset, you can be easily overwhelmed with the future’s uncertainty, but the future belongs to those who can adopt a growth mindset.

At HP, we believe a growth mindset and open innovation are a perfect match. Open innovation allows you to bring the outside in, and the inside out. The “outside in” aspect occurs when external ideas and innovation are brought into the company. On the other hand, “inside out” refers to ideas and technologies within your company that can be incorporated into others’ innovation processes.

We’re living open innovation with HP Tech Ventures. Powering the next generation of technology innovation, we’re partnering with the start-up community to share innovation “outside in” and “inside out”. Our teams focus on global, early stage investments in industry shifting trends—Hypermobility, Internet of All Things, 3D transformation, immersive experiences, advanced robotics, and artificial intelligence.

It’s for that exact community that we designed our first immersive computing platform: Sprout. It started in HP Labs, where we tried to imagine a better experience for makers. Sprout integrates five devices into one: a projector, keyboard, scanner, touch canvas, and a 3D camera.

Learn from failure. Don’t confuse failure with bad work. If your team is doing good work, innovating, and still failing, they’re still learning. It’s essential that leaders and organizations encourage and embrace failure. At HP, we say, “If you must fail, fail fast, and allow your employees to do the same.” When everyone knows they can fail, they can truly innovate.

In today’s world, we tend to feel like we don’t have control over the future, but that isn’t the case. With strategic, long-term thinking, action, and an open mind, we can improve lives, and create new businesses, markets, industries and experiences.

I’ll leave you with with one of my favorite quotes. “See first, think later, then test. But always see first. Otherwise, you will only see what you were expecting.” -Douglas Adams

A good futurist is always learning, and I’d love to hear your tips and thoughts about becoming a futurist in the comments section below.

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