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Engineering Serendipity in Las Vegas


Paddy Cosgrove and his team claim to organise the best tech conferences on the planet.  I attended the Web Summit event in Dublin last year and was impressed.

Paddy Cosgrove had a vision for a conference in the US, which he talked about on their website: “Collision is our vision for a new type of tech conference for America: A meeting place for people who are both building the companies of tomorrow and managing the companies of today.”

Coming from a scientific background and having designed the algorithms around our intelligent content promotion in Interact, the blog that Paddy wrote on engineering serendipity really resonated.

In the case of Web Summit and Collision, they designed algorithms that take into account who you are and who you might benefit from being on a pub crawl with or in a meeting with, and base their agenda on the needs of who is attending not on the desires of the conference organisers.

Interact’s intelligent algorithms do this for hundreds of enterprise companies around the world.  We help users of intranets to uncover people, expertise, answers and solutions through similar engineered serendipity.  It is what makes Interact unique and successful and I love it when people disrupt very traditional sectors like conferences to do something special.

And after day one I can say it works extremely well.

Collision Conference

So what did I learn that can help Interact’s customers? What will help Interact continue to be the best in class in social intranet software?

A few clear points came from the day:

  • Cloud is growing faster than ever. In fact Research 451 state that 34% of enterprises will have more than 60% of applications on a cloud platform by the end of 2015.  The shift from CIO to line of business as chief purchaser of these technologies has been much talked about over the last few years, but CIOs are now realizing that they can be heroes by cutting costs with SaaS apps like Interact. Cheaper than traditional on-premise software doesn’t mean inferior quality – in fact it is the exact opposite.
  • Enterprise software should be like consumer software.  Employees should love to use the software in your organization.  New Relic CEO, Lew Cirne summed it up perfectly: “life is too short for crap software”.  At Interact we think like Lew and love making software that our customers love to use.
  • Your employees want to use the software that they work with all the time – not just at their desk.  Mobile is critical for user adoption.

Interact was founded on two principles: to enable employees to engage with one another more effectively and to improve productivity, both of which have a direct impact on the bottom line of any company.  There were many great talks but two morning session gave some innovative ideas and food for thought around how businesses can significantly change the way they work to become more effective.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has moved his company to a self-organizing structure with no managers.  He likened it to New York’s food supply that operates in a similar way and self regulates based on need. Social self-governance on an intranet would, in my view, pave the way for this in other companies as more and more CEOs move from a traditional pyramid based structure to the flat management structure that was first pioneered in Europe. We are seeing more and more Interact customers using our software to support this change.

The most poignant talk of the day was given by Treehouse CEO Ryan Carson entitled ‘The Four Day Week (and why you’ll be working it soon)’.  At Treehouse everyone works a four day week and gets paid market rates for five days.  Seemed unrealistic in today’s work environment at first but two things that he said spoke volumes. On average most working people have 2,000 weekends left and a four day week gives you 50% more time to spend with your loved ones – and no money can buy that. Important food for thought and something that everybody should consider. Maybe not a four day week, but flexibility to spend more down time and have more time with family. Treehouse said they were more innovative and efficient, and retention of employees was class leading in a highly competitive tech industry. Who doesn’t want increased employee engagement and efficiency?  Maybe my original two principles can come true for organisations by using technology like Interact and help people spend more down time with their families.

Interestingly I posted about the four day week at Treehouse on my Facebook account – it was amazing how many likes I got (mostly from the Interact Guys!). Watch this space!

I can’t remember such an exciting time in Interact’s history.  The combination of amazing social intranet software, employees that are embracing collaborative working, and innovative companies that are moving to the cloud is set to unlock significant efficiency and savings in all companies.


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