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The Future Fast: Where does innovation begin?

In the latest episode of his Future Fast YouTube channel and podcast, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK previews the SAS Global Forum. Read the key points here.

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Where does innovation begin?

In the past one night have said it’s all about problem solving. It’s all about finding new ways of doing things better or of doing things that couldn’t be done before.

But a new perspective emerged in the last few weeks. In May 2021, SAS, the global pioneers of big data and data analytics, came up with a new brand slogan, “Curiosity forever”. That in itself was an interesting approach to data analytics, but it was the words of the founder and CEO, Dr Jim Goodnight, that really encapsulated what this means. He said that, when harnessed to technology, curiosity can change the world.

That got me thinking, and also looking into the upcoming SAS Global Forum, which is taking place over two weeks across the world, and in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, on 25 and 26 May 2021.

Before talking about the SAS Global Forum itself, I’d like to quote the chief information officer of the organization, Jay Upchurch, who says that from the moment Covid-19 hit, the company’s IT organization has relied on curiosity – that strong desire to explore, learn, and to fuel the urgent changes required. More than 14,000 employees, he says, counted on the IT organisation to make sure they could continue working in a reliable virtual environment, and it’s that curiosity that allowed them to propel the digital transformation plans.

Now I haven’t heard of curiosity being the driver for digital transformation, and that’s what makes the SAS Global Forum so different to every other event that focuses on digital transformation, and what the new organisation requires.

The SAS Global Forum is going to provide insights for the digital translation of numerous sectors, including banking, government, manufacturing, energy, healthcare, life sciences and insurance. And of course, where the consumer enters the picture, retail and telecommunications.

I suspect my favourite session is going to be in the telecommunications track on 26 May, which will have a session on “Being a chief data officer in a highly competitive market”. The subtitle of that talk is “Technology, math, and philosophy”. I’m looking forward to seeing how those come together, but that also brings us full circle to the idea of curiosity driving innovation.

On that note, I’d like to come back to Jim Goodnight. I had the privilege of interviewing him back in 2014 and in 2017 during SAS Global Forums, and he provided fascinating insights into the nature of data analytics and artificial intelligence. He made the point, at the time, that artificial intelligence requires “If” statements. If you’re a certain age, you’re allowed to buy a beer, for example, so a machine can decide whether you should be allowed to buy a beer. Now, that “If” statement from 2017 evolves into the “What If” statement in 2021. There’s so much data out there that you have to make sense of, it’s not enough to simply ask “If” questions. You have to ask “What if” questions. What data matters? What will you do with the data?

And curiosity is going to provide a roadmap to all of those “Ifs” and “What ifs”.

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