Blog: What I learned at Microsoft Envision

on April 13, 2016

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Last week, I joined thousand of business leaders, entrepreneurs, and industry experts at the inaugural Microsoft Envision conference in New Orleans.

Envision was fascinating for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that new technologies are continually emerging and changing the business landscape. As such, as I often am wont to say, if you want to succeed in business today, you have to let your inner geek out. It is simply not enough anymore just to be a great businessperson; you also need to stay up-to-date with your technology.

That’s where Envision comes in. The conference was designed to help businesspeople get cutting-edge insights into the state of business and technology today so that they can make smart, informed decisions.

There were so many valuable sessions and interesting speakers that it would be impossible to encapsulate them here. Instead, let me share some of my highlights from the three-day extravaganza.

1. Leaders lead: Envision was bookmarked by two captivating keynotes, and one heckuva astronaut:

  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella kicked things off by sharing his vision for how Microsoft is reinventing productivity. What was unmistakable was how passionate he is about having his company boldly lead.
  • Nadella then interviewed astronaut Scott Kelly, who just returned from the longest stay ever in the International Space Station. Kelly shared his view that it was technology and teamwork that enabled mankind to build the “most complicated vehicle ever designed.”
  • The conference ended with an inspiring keynote by Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics. From the special Olympians themselves to the dedicated volunteers who help them, Shriver’s keynote was punctuated by stories of people who are committed to making a difference, in their own lives and that of others.

And in fact, that is what these three leaders all had in common: A passion to make a difference.

2. Workplaces are changing almost as rapidly as work: The rapidly changing nature of work was front and center at Envision. Between mobility, 3D devices, new apps, on-demand cloud services, and much more, the way people work is evolving rapidly.

The challenge for many employers is being able to keep up with these changes because work has become not someplace you go but something you do. One interesting breakout I attended had designers sharing ideas for how they are creating workspaces today. From “deskless” offices to increased power supplies to having whiteboard paint on all walls, the offices of the future are going to be interesting, different, fun, productive, and innovative.

3. Innovation is alive and well: Among the cool products on display:

  • Microsoft Continuum: Continuum allows you to hook up your smartphone to a computer and run it like a computer.
  • Wearable tech: The Internet of Things really is upon us. For example, on display were products by Sensoria, an active wear manufacturer that embeds into its clothing sensors that sync to a smartphone app.
  • Windows 10: Windows 10 does lots of amazing things, but my favorite this time was how Virgin Atlantic is using it to create IDA, its Immersive Digital Adventure, an app that shows potential customers just how amazing business class travel on Virgin can be.

4. Everyone wants to understand Millennials: By far, the most crowded breakout session I attended was a panel discussion of four Millennials wherein they shared what they do, how they buy, and how they make decisions. Bottom line: They don’t like authority, crave autonomy, are dialed-in, and don’t like being sold to.

Envision allowed us all to envision the future and as such, I strongly recommend that you check it out next year, starting February 27 in Los Angeles.