‘Disruptive’ Keynote at CEDIA Expo 2019: Adios Tech-Talking Futurists

Just when we swore off the “D” word, here comes CEDIA 2019 keynoter Luke Williams hailing “disruptive thinking” and how it “has the power to transform your business ….”

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‘Disruptive’ Keynote at CEDIA Expo 2019: Adios Tech-Talking Futurists

NYU professor of marketing and entrepreneurship Luke Williams is keynoting CEDIA Expo 2019 with a discussion on disruptive business practices.

I have no choice but to use the dreaded “D” word here because CEDIA Expo 2019 will feature a keynote address on “Disruptive Thinking” presented by “Innovator, Inventor, Disrupter” Luke Williams.

CEDIA (the organization) is shaking it up in 2019 with an opening keynote that eschews big data for big thinking. It’s the first time in a long time the association has plucked the opening act from academia and “business innovation” rather than home technology and futurism.

The “author and globally recognized authority on innovation leadership” will veer from a long string of tech-centric keynoters (details below) who have in the past dished on content delivery (2018), Internet of Things (2017), data-driven homes (2016), smart-home trends (2015), Sony (2014), Nest (2013) and “ten billion trillion stars” (2012).

Williams is a professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at NYU’s Stern School of Business, and executive director of the university’s W.R. Berkley Innovation Lab. Before those gigs he got his product-development chops at Frog Design, the famed product-strategy and -design firm where he now serves as Fellow, Global Innovation.

And through it all, he’s written an “international bestseller” (Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business), invented 30-odd products, and lectured in 21 countries as a “dynamic and sought-after keynote speaker.”

Williams apparently “reveals a way of thinking that has the power to transform your business and stay ahead of the game.”

Transformation and disruption in one tidy package!

What Luke Williams Says

For sure, Luke Williams speaks my language.

Disruptive innovation is not just about following a process,” he writes. “It represents a mindset—a rebellious instinct to discard old business clichés and remake the market landscape. An eagerness to deliberately target situations where the competition is complacent and the customer has been consistently overlooked or under-served.”

In his speeches and writings, Williams argues that true innovation is stymied in established companies because the “next big thing” is typically built around current assets, so really how big (or disruptive) can it be?

“The biggest barrier that I see [with] organizations trying to innovate is they're always trying to innovate around their existing asset base,” Williams says in one keynote address. “Traditional entrepreneurs — the innovators, the disruptive — are the outsiders that don't have those same set of assets. They're free of course to see something from a new perspective.”

We are taught in CEDIA business classes to base next year’s potential – and the next five years’ worth – on historical performance. Of course we’re taught that. What else is there?

In fact, there is more there, there. Or at least there can be, if we consider the “possibilities” along with the pro formas.

But surely the “possibilities” hold no real value to a company, right? Wrong. Why else do acquiring companies and investors pay obscene premiums for financially dire businesses or weird new products? They are banking on the possibilities of something they’ve never seen before, presented by ambitious and self-confident (cocky) entrepreneurs who believe they can pull it off.

Related JJ Blog: We Need Disruptive Business Practices, Not Disruptive Technology

Business schools across the world teach students how to review the old numbers and “extrapolate that to try and get us into what's going to be successful in the future sales forecast,” the business-school professor explains. “Customer segmentation, financial modeling …it's all based off data of the past.”

Williams laments there’s “far too much emphasis in today's organizations on getting better at prediction … and far too little emphasis on deliberate provocation.”

He advises audiences to take your existing business ingredients – the same ones responsible for your predictable and acceptable growth, and the same ones available to most of your competitors – and find “a way to arrange them or rearrange them in a way that makes them more valuable.”

The opening keynote will be held Wed., Sept. 11, 5:30pm – 6:30pm, the evening before the CEDIA Expo showfloor opens.

Follow CE Pro's coverage of CEDIA Expo 2019

CEDIA Expo Opening Keynotes: A Brief History

2019 – COMING UP: Luke Williams, NYU professor of entrepreneurship (on disruptive thinking)

2018 – John Penney, 20th Century Fox EVP of consumer development and strategic partnerships (on the future of content delivery) 

2017 – Dave Evans, Stringify founder (on Internet of intelligent things)

2016 – Shelly Palmer, Writer and consultant (on pervasive data)

2015 – Michael Rogers, “Futurist” and NYT columnist (on Metcalf's Law and technology trends)

2014 – Mike Fasulo, Sony president and COO (on Sony, mostly)

2013 – Tony Fadell, Nest founder and CEO (on Nest, mostly)

2012 – Dr. Michio Kaku – Author and physicist (on Moore's Law and future technologies)

Disrupt, by Luke Williams – Excerpt

Disruptive change is essential, and sometimes the only way to save what was once the “right model at the time” is to destroy (or at least rethink) it. Nothing is too sacred to be reconsidered. No one way of doing things is beyond improvement. (How long did we put our luggage on top of a cart with wheels before it took someone to think of putting wheels directly under our suitcase?)

Yes, new ideas involve effort, complication, and risk—there’s always something easier, simpler, and more certain to pay off than innovation. Yet every organization has squandered ideas—not through ignorance of their value, but because it was easier to avoid committing to a new way of operating. In the same sense, every organization underestimates the potential for finding new opportunities—we constantly fail to appreciate the many undiscovered opportunities that are out there.

The greater the uncertainty, the more ideas a business needs. And the more ideas you have, the surer you must be of the questions you’re asking—or not asking. Organizations must constantly ask themselves disruptive questions and then decide whether to reorganize around their answers. 

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
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Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson

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