By Shantanu Talukdar, Innovation Partner – Europe at Tata Consultancy Services
Coming up with incredible ideas is one thing. But turning those ideas into a tangible innovation and then launching a start-up is a totally different ball game altogether.
The inspirational series of TED talks have become a global phenomenon, spawning multiple events around the world. The aim is to share ideas worth spreading. Now, TEDx Awards are rewarding the people who are turning those ideas into a business reality.
This is the first year of Tata Consultancy Services’ (TCS) partnership with TEDxAmsterdam, which enables TCS to take two seats on the jury and hear from 35 start-ups pitching their innovative products.
We hope to be able to assist some of those start-ups by introducing them to our extensive network of clients, either through facilitating one-to-one meetings or through Innovation Forums.
But the start-ups also have many valuable lessons to teach us. I had the privilege of being one of the judges at the awards, and here are five key things I learnt along the way.
1. Think independently
Changing the mindset of an individual or an organization is an ongoing challenge. Embracing independent thinking is one way to do this and make sure your firm stands out from the crowd.
Terra Nova is a new board game which allows people to view things from somebody else’s perspective and was one of the finalists at the awards. You could be cast as a refugee in round one of the game, but you might then be a policymaker in a country receiving refugees in the next round, for example.
The idea is to help young people develop the softer skills that are so coveted in the workplace, encouraging them to empathize with a wide range of people.
Any tools that help us to approach problems in a different way or think more independently is immensely valuable to anyone of any age.
2. Be disruptive
Businesses need to constantly reinvent themselves and challenge the status quo. For large organizations, that may well involve stepping outside of the core business and working within a separate innovation unit, continually looking for ways to disrupt the conventional way of doing things.
MiniBrew is one of this year’s finalists with big plans to disrupt the beer market. They have created a machine that brews and then dispenses beer in the privacy of your own home, a little like a coffee machine.
Having beer on tap would eliminate 90% of the supply chain in the beer industry, including bottles and cans. It can also be customized, so that the beer produced is to the drinker’s taste.
Big brewers beware!
3. Act sustainably
Many of this year’s finalists engaged with themes relating to sustainability, the need to protect the environment and minimize waste in particular. Among those, is Physee Technologies, which applies a SmartSkin to the outside of buildings to soak up and redistribute energy and power.
This is one idea which TCS is looking forward to sharing with some of its clients in the construction sector and perhaps in the future it may even be considered for its own office buildings.
The overall winner of the award – according to an audience vote – was the Bubble Barrier, a machine that creates a flow of bubbles and stops plastic pollution flowing into the sea, while letting fish swim freely through.
The commitment of these start-ups to tackle some of the most pressing environmental needs is an inspirational example for us all.
4. Embrace ecosystems
In this era of globalization, organizations also need to go beyond their existing boundaries and help marginalized people. In particular, people who are in danger of being left behind by advancing technologies.
One start-up doing just this is 100 Weeks, which connects donors directly with women in Africa through an app on their mobile phone. We are hoping to present their ideas to some of our financial services clients, so that the good work can continue.
5. Follow your passion
Finally, I was incredibly struck by the passion and emotions that all these entrepreneurs had invested in their ideas. Many of them were motivated by the social impact they hope to have, financial gain not being primary objective.
If we can bring that level of passion and commitment into our own work – irrespective of what it is – we can ensure that innovation contributes to a better society for everyone.