In the company of giants at Avanade’s 2019 !nnovate Summit

  • Posted on June 27, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Innovate Summit in Milan

A 12-hour flight, three days in Milan, 200 colleagues from around the world, two days packed with keynotes and learning sessions (yes, keynotes. Boring right?).

Aircraft doors opened, and in the first breath of air in Milan, I imagined the flavors of a crispy, cheesy pizza. My heart swelled from being in the global fashion capital – places I know from magazines and Instagram influencers.

After a train ride into the city, I walked into the hotel and was immediately electrified by all the Avanade orange. It was on the walls, in the drinks … and of course, it was in the sunset.

Our all-star leadership team and Italian hosts were infectious socialites! One person at a time, they transformed from colleagues into friends. By the end of the night, there was a WhatsApp group to plan dinners and drinks (you know it’s real friendship when there is a WhatsApp group involved).

By 6 p.m., it was time for the opening keynote. Remember what I said about keynotes being boring? Well, expect the unexpected: !nnovate Summit had one of the best opening keynotes ever, full of fluid images, an energetic soundtrack and our Chief Technology Innovation Officer Matt Joe entering the stage with the attitude of a rock star! As an ardent fan of music and creative festivals, I’ve watched my fair share of Swedish House Mafia, Armin, Avicii, and I know what makes a good treat for the eyes and ears.

Did I mention that I was in Milan as one of Avanade’s Innovation Ambassadors? Since I didn’t know what an “innovation ambassador” does, I Googled it and found some boring stereotypical corporate jargon ... I sighed, but the stereotypes were wrong again! Avanade re-defined the role of “innovation ambassador” too; we are people who represent our regions, get to determine our company’s views, motives and intentions and then bring all of this back to our local teams. That’s a lot of power!

We are tasked with deciding the future of our company – it was not ideated in a board room and trickled down to us; we actually determine it. This generated a realization of ownership: Avanade’s future is not decided only by a few people in leadership teams; it is decided by me, by you, by us.

The next couple of days were mind-blowing on many levels. We met with the brilliant Rana El-Kaliouby CEO & co-founder of Affectiva, Young Global Leader at World Economic Forum, Fortune 40 under 40 (she has more titles than Khaleesi). I was an instant fan! Her company is teaching machines how to feel and understand human emotions. Watch her on YouTube! You will love her company’s ambition!

Of course, we had our own Avanade geniuses in attendance. People like Jason Revill, who has built an interesting visualization of Microsoft cyber security initiatives for 18 years, or our team from Spain, which is using voice bots to improve customer service and facial recognition to improve experience patients in hospitals. It is both prestigious and humbling to be in the company of such brilliant minds. These people are giants in our industry!

There was also a strong focus on social consciousness as one of our global innovation contest finalist teams from Canada brought to our attention a fact provided by the World Health Organization: As many as 21 kids die every two minutes due to infectious diseases like diarrhea and malaria. These diseases are preventable. Let that sink in. Twenty-one kids die because of preventable diseases every two minutes. Two minutes? The time taken to read this blog post. What a tragedy. The team proposed and demoed a potential solution to this heartbreaking figure, and I am so thankful that we are working on projects to keep mothers and kids healthy and save lives.

Before !nnovate, “innovation” felt like a buzz word used by every corporation, but by the end of the event, I realized that to us, “innovation” is a critical part of who we are. Innovation is not only just about the big things which make it into the news cycle, but about the things we do at Avanade every day from reducing queues by enabling faster payments through facial recognition in ASEAN to fridges with automatic price change algorithms preventing food wastage in Milan. Innovation is inscribed in our spirit.

And I realized Innovation does not stop after !nnovate 2019. We are surrounded by brilliant minds. We see further because we are sitting on the shoulders of giants like Pam Maynard, Adam Warby, Matt Joe and Omer Khan. We are future ready, we are charged, we will keep innovating with passion and purpose.

Omer Khan

Great perspective and enjoyable read! Awesome to have you and rest of the Innovation Ambassadors bring this event to life! 

June 29, 2019

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