Last month, I attended the Fast Company Innovation Festival here in New York City. I was excited to attend talks, meet new people, and learn about different innovations that are (hopefully) changing our world for the better.
It started out with a talk on passion and purpose by Patagonia CEO, Ryan Gellert. But by noon, I and most of my fellow festival-goers were tired of hearing about the same topic over and over again: AI.
Innovation Festival? More like AI Festival
Don’t get me wrong, AI deserves a prominent place at an event centered around innovation. As an agency that’s been helping brands launch products and education on AI for more than a decade, it’s exciting to see the topic become a cultural marker. But watching speakers and moderators clutching at any excuse to enter the AI conversation left audiences bored, moderators apologizing, and speakers struggling to stand out.
It’s not surprising everyone was (and still is) talking about AI. We’re all eager to understand whether we’ll be looking back at this moment alongside worthless NFT artwork, or — more likely — as a world-changing technology alongside the internet, smartphones, and e-commerce. It’s a topic that’s dominating conferences, coverage, and online conversations for a reason.
But that makes the AI conversation a difficult one to enter if you want to stand out. And yet, there were some who really did. The difference soon became easy to spot: speakers who stood out had strong points of view on the subject. They were adding value, not noise.
How to add value to the conversation
The speakers that stood out weren’t unearthing new information or revealing state secrets about AI. They were simply adding their unique point of view, and that resonated with listeners. Take Wesley Eugene, Partner and Chief Information Officer at IDEO, for example. On a panel about humanizing the next wave of technology, Eugene wanted to know if bad humans could make good AI. He spoke about how technology has always been a mirror for both the best and worst of humanity and society. If we look back at the last 50 years, the evolution and advancements in technology have far outpaced those in society over the same period. If we want to develop great AI, Eugene argued, we may need to work on becoming better humans.
Another great point of view came from Prem Natarajan, Chief Scientist and Head of Enterprise AI at Capital One. Natarajan spoke about how the most exciting uses of AI will come about by simply designing with accessibility in mind from the start. He used the evolution of the sidewalk design as an example. Ramps at crosswalks, he explained, are used today for people with physical disabilities, strollers, skateboarders, and more. But curb cuts, as they’re referred to, only started to become the accepted design after World War II to accommodate the returning veterans. Natarajan argues that, like many designs, when diverse needs are considered, use cases that benefit everyone can emerge.
“ If we want to develop great AI, Eugene argued, we may need to work on becoming better humans.”
Neither one of these speakers introduced brand new concepts. Bias and diversity in AI are already trending conversations. But their perspectives on the subject and unique points of view gave audiences a different way to approach and engage with the topic, even if it was one they’d heard many times before.
How brands can use a point of view
Developing a strong point of view isn’t just powerful for starting new conversations in untapped areas. It can make voices, including brand voices, stand out — even in oversaturated subject areas.
Regardless of company size, brands need to develop a mission, purpose, and narrative. We’ve worked to create these for some of the biggest and smallest tech brands in the world. But one highly effective tool that’s too often overlooked by brands and agencies alike is developing a strong brand point of view (POV).
Your brand mission has no place in the communities and conversations your audiences participate in. Your POV, however, is more than welcome. A strong point of view gives audiences a reason to know, trust, and root for your brand. It also helps your voice stand out in a sea-of-same, and get the attention of people you want to reach.
Whether you’re developing your brand strategy, trying to get speaking opportunities or bylines for your executives, or you’re just wanting to jump on a new social media trend, start with a unique POV. If you’re going to join the conversation, having a strong POV is a great way to ensure you’re adding value, not noise.