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The Future Festival Highlights Better, Faster Ideas

Photo-worthy food trends, game-changing technology and disruptive ideas: It was all part of last week’s Trend Hunter Future Festival in Toronto.

The three-day (September 27-29) conference of all things progressive attracted some 500 innovators from around the world – from London, U.K. to Korea. With a headquarters at King West’s Hyatt Regency, the conference included workshops, interactive excursions throughout the city, one-on-one meetings and assessments, innovation and trend keynotes, a tech-filled party and no shortage of great new ideas.

The conference opened with a motivational keynote from Trend Hunter CEO and New York Times bestselling author, Jeremy Gutsche, where the message was loud and clear: We need to be better and faster in order to make a difference. This means being better at adapting to change and faster at finding new, better ideas. An energetic and engaging Gutsche told the crowd – which included magic-makers from many professions, from tech and healthcare to beauty – that 40 per cent of today’s Fortune 500 companies will not be around in the next decade. Why? The answer is simple. “Companies are not structured to adapt – they are too linear,” says Gutsche. “Many are terrible at forecasting three to five years out.”

To demonstrate the impact of unlikely connections and opportunities, Gutsche highlighted the story of Robert Lang, a physicist who left his job at NASA to pursue his love and talent for origami art full-time. Gutsche described how Lang’s paper-folding calculations and designs have now been incorporated into everything from spacecraft, to airbags and human heart stents (“He literally saves lives with origami,” said Gutsche).

“Almost all innovation happens by making connections between fields that nobody else realizes,” said Gutsche. “It’s about overlooked opportunities.” The key to success – in addition to hard work and dedication – is finding your own overlooked opportunities. “Your competitors are lazier than you think,” said Gutsche, stressing that there are opportunities everywhere. Gutsche highlighted the three neurological “farmer traps” that prevent people from realizing their potential – being protective, complacent and repetitive – and three instincts that must be fostered in order to achieve success. These “hunter instincts” include being insatiable, curious and willing to destroy.

Offering an interactive experience of networking, trend research and exploring the best of Toronto, the Future Festival asked participants to choose from over 30 innovative Trend Safaris. These experiences spanned a variety of themes, from food, drink and retail, to tech and wellness. They included things like “Yoga with a Brain Reader,” “Laser-Engraving Bakeries,” “3D-Printed Selfie Studios,” “Sour Beer Tastings,” “Culture-Focused Barber Shops,” “Gamified Team-Building” and “Indoor Water Sport Workouts,” plus many more. The purpose of these experiences was to offer context for the content presented at Future Festival.

Helping the networking cause, the first day of the festival ended with the Future Party, held at the Hyatt Regency. Adding more than flowing drinks, passed appetizers and stimulating conversation, the party was full of tech and talking points (naturally). Party perks included edible cutlery, a tech-toy-filled robot petting zoo, virtual reality, the latest drone technology and futuristic gadgets. Things that caught our eye included the Sharkbanz shark-repellent wristband, the Bartesian Keurig-style cocktail machine, and the Fireside Audiobox, which sets your music on fire with dancing flames.

Offering both a photo-op and an inevitable discussion was the enclosed VEEMO sharable electric bicycle by Velo Metro, which resembles more of a toy car than a bicycle, offering for safe and sustainable travel (no driver’s licence required).

The remainder of the festival discussed and dissected everything from the future of retail, to the future of the workplace (in everything from employee engagement and brand building to jobs most likely to be replaced by robots). It dug deep into the patterns and trends seen in Generation Z (a youth generation that “refuses to be categorized” but is connected by “matched principles”), Millennials (85 per cent of whom don’t feel financially secure) and Boomers (who are two times more likely to start a business than millennials are). The Future Festival workshops asked questions like “What factors may lead your company to fall apart (and what may lead you to utopia?),” “How can you reword your conversations to stop limiting the potential of others?” and “What tactics, symbols or workshops could you implement to make change happen?”

Toronto marks the Future Festival’s sixth and final stop of the year. More cities have been added for 2018, with a one-day Trend and Innovation conference kicking off the year in Orlando in January.

If you missed the conference, you can stay on top of the latest trends at Trend Hunter and learn more about Gutsche’s insight in his book “Better and Faster.”

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