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Innovation Lions: Risk is the Mother of Innovation

As my Young Marketer colleagues would agree, attending Cannes for the first time is an awe-inspiring and even overwhelming experience. There is nowhere else in the world that you will find yourself surrounded with greater, more influential creative minds than at Cannes. The Festival is so special because here you not only learn from these creative geniuses through lectures and workshops but also, if you are lucky enough, can engage in conversation with them over a drink or a World Cup football game as the Canadian Young Marketers quickly found out! Yes, these Canadians found themselves in the presence of Jim Stengel, the former GMO of P&G, the author of Grow and the current CEO of the Jim Stengel Company. We spoke to him about the CPG industry, his book and of course how excited we were to be able to attend the festival as Young Marketers. Oh, we also took an Ellen DeGeneres-like selfie with him and made it onto his Twitter page. No big deal.

In addition to meeting Jim (yes, we are all on a first name basis now), we have heard talks from industry heavyweights like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, Nikesh Arora, CBO of Google, and Omar Johnson, the EVP of Beats by Dre, you know that headphone company that was just bought by Apple for $3 billion!

Going to lectures has quickly become my favourite part of Cannes. I love listening to each speaker’s take on the current state of the creative industry, where they believe it’s headed and how we must adapt in order to remain relevant. Although I have heard countless talks at this point on various different topics, I have pulled one common insight from each: taking a healthy amount of risk is critical for a truly innovative idea. One of my favourite phrases this week came from Tim Webber, Creative Director of Framestore, who created the technology and effects that made the award-winning movie, Gravity, possible. He said, ‘risk is the mother of innovation’ and urged us to not constrain our thinking when tackling big issues.  I believe this is such a strong message as many of us, myself included, can tend to be blinded by the obstacles that lay ahead instead of focusing on the opportunity for true creativity and ingenuity that the  problem provides.

This brings me to the Innovation Lions. I spent time going through each of the submissions in this category and what I found was that each truly thought outside the box and took risk when coming up with their idea. Some stop at ‘it can’t be done’ while others start there, and these Cannes Lion candidates definitely started at impossible. Here are a few of my most favourite:

  • Drinkable Book – Water is Life: 3.4M people die each year of water-related diseases and many are not aware that their water sources are not safe. How could Water for Life drive awareness of this very serious problem? The Drinkable Book! The Drinkable Book is a tool that teaches safe water habits and is printed on technologically advanced filter paper capable of killing 99.9% of water-borne disease including cholera, E. coli, and typhoid. These filter papers cost only pennies to produce and are extremely sustainable. With each book giving a person 4 years of clean water, Water is Life has completely revolutionized water sanitation.
  • Power Sleep – Samsung: Everyone has been touched by cancer in some way shape or form and cases are expected to surge by 70% in the next 20 years. Scientists hard at work to come up with a cure depend on protein similarity calculations for research which requires a vast amount of computing power which many labs cannot afford. This is why Samsung created Power Sleep, an app that allows people to donate unused processing power from their smartphones while they sleep. Globally this app has already resulted in 1 million megabytes to help find the cure for cancer!
  • Breathable Billboard – UTEC: Peru’s construction industry is booming as the country is in development. However, this is leading to very high levels of pollution putting the country’s health at risk. As a solution, UTEC, an engineering school in Peru, created the first ever billboard that purifies the air at the same rate as 1200 trees absorbing all pollutants and producing clean air at the same time! This idea shows that technology, engineering and some great (and unconstrained!) creative minds can make positive change happen.
  • I encourage you to look these projects up online to learn more. Each is a great example of truly innovative and inspiring ideas at play!

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