I have never been to Bucharest before so when I arrived yesterday I had little idea of what to expect. On the way from the airport to the hotel I noticed a range of building types. I appreciate architecture wherever I go but this time, the stark contrasts where something that really stood out. To the left, some buildings were clearly built in the Communist era, looking grey, old and tired. To the right, the Museum of History and Geology beautifully and ornately decorated in a style that looked much more artistic (Frrench?) with graffiti scrawled at their feet.

What I was seeing was history and politics play out over time on this hot drive from the airport to the hotel; a history that young Romanians have heard about from elders like someone recalling a nightmare they’ve had. Sounds scary, but hey, that’s not today.
The keynote speech this Monday morning discussed these points head-on. Michael Koch, Chairman and CEO of the Kalon Global Group delivered a wake-up call.

Keynote speaker: Michael Koch

The keynote this morning is just what was needed for a Monday morning after traveling all day on Sunday. Michael Koch gave a really passionate speech about how Romania can (and is already becoming) the Silicon Valley of Europe. But I don’t mean passionate, like he had something to say and he said it – I mean passionate like he’s so into what he’s doing and believes so much in DOING rather than talking, that he openly admitted “I’d rather be with my team working right now than talking up here.”

Koch told us that in Romania alone, HP, IBM, P&G, Mars, PepsiCo (he mentioned lots more big brands) have thousands of employees in this region, and those numbers are set to grow. He spoke of the new generation of Romanians who see the world with fresh eyes; they were brought up with iPads and the internet, they know about this thing called Communism but didn’t grow up with it. Koch’s call to action is asking ustoinvestin Romania as he believes in this area and is staking his career in this area and he hasn’tbeen let down since.

In a speech that sounded a bit like “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”, Koch was creating a call to arms asking us: how many of us truly help the next generation? (Koch added that his company created a hackathon with under 10 year olds to teach them how to code) How many of us actually have space to THINK in order to breathe, imagine and invent? He asked the audience “how many of you will challenge your workplace to ask for that time you need to think?”. “Imagine”, he asked, “if you had one day a week not just to innovate based on what your companies do already, but to innovate the next steps?”

What was really great as a listener was that he made me feel that no matter what I’m doing, I can always do more (but in an empowered kind of way, not making the audience feel inferior!) Koch made me ask myself, have I truly innovated? Invented? I’d like to think I can answer yes to this one. Am I giving back to my community? My industry? Again, I think its safe to say yes there too (I do lots of voluntary work with students and research organizations locally and abroad). Am I constantly trying to improve what I’ve already done? Yes. But is there more I can do? YES. There is ALWAYS more to do. Something to think about!

Yves Goupil, SABMiller, Switzerland

Yves of SABMiller gave a practical talk on the differences between subconscious and conscious data collection methods. I love that although he was talking about implicit testing, he didn’t mention Behavioural Economics once (a breath of fresh air, wasn’t even needed).

He and his team wanted to understand if people noticed the ‘drink aware’ text on their advertisements and so when asking people outright if they noticed these warnings, the data changed drastically from people who responded to ‘the same question’ but collected through implicit testing i.e. measuring their reaction times and recall.

So far, an interesting opening to the day and I look forward to the rest of the talks. I’m also looking forward to hosting my Games for Research playshop this afternoon after lunch as it will be the biggest playshop I’ve ever conducted!

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