Where Is It Going?

It is really hard to not have high expectations when you find out that James Cameron of Avatar fame is going to be on a panel moderated by CNN's Soledad O'Brien that will also featured the ever entertaining wisdom of Charles Barkley.  But that happened. Last week I attended the NBA All-Star Technology Summit at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel.  It was a star studded morning that saw panels and conversations ranging from the the future of broadband connections in the inner cities to the pending doom of the NFL in one generation.  The content and caliber of the conversations from the stage truly did exceeded my already high expectations.

Across all of the incredible panelists and high level conversations, the unspoken theme of the day was that of innovation.  A theme that resonated strongly with me and produced four full pages of notes and brainstorms.  The quote that no one said, but was running through my head the whole morning, is one recently shared with me by my good friend Dan Patterson.  Walter Gretzky, Wayne's father, is credited with telling his son to "skate where the puck's going, not where it's been." The innovation and the big ideas from yesterday were all about where it is going based on the best information available in the right now.

But the most important caveat to the idea of skating or innovation to where it is going was also the ability to adjust as you go.  I spoke with James Cameron after his panel and that was something he shared with me.  He and his team started investing in the ground breaking technology that made Avatar possible 5 years before the movie was filmed.  He said they didn't know if there would even be enough theaters that had 3D screens for their distribution to work.  But they went for it any way.  And, when that blockbuster was all said and done, 80% of their revenues came from the 3D experiences they innovated towards.

"You have to know what people are going to want before they do.  And if you get there just before they do and you're the only one who did, you will reap the special rewards that only a true innovating visionary can."