A Week in NYC with Fast Company

One week a year, thousands of creators, leaders, and creative thinkers pack their bags and flock to the concrete jungle of NYC for Fast Company’s Annual Innovation Festival. Eager to learn, we set out for four days of sessions, panels and excursions that cover everything from design to tech and leadership to fashion.

Day 01: Havas, Buzzfeed, Brandless & Intel

At Havas we talked and practiced creative consciousness, which revealed itself to be a key theme throughout the week. Chief Creative Officer, Harry Bernstein, led us through mediation and encouraged us to all find ways to nurture our minds and body to better fuel creativity. One of the ways Havas does this is by partnering with co-ops to bring farmer markets into the office, a common practice among New York agencies.

“The biggest enemy is mediocrity.” — Harry Bernstein, CCO Havas NYC

At Buzzfeed we talked about diversity in our new age of video media. The talk included three hosts from three different media series on BuzzFeed News. One current theme for all three shows—Am to DM, Profile, and Follow This—was how they were able to use the immediacy of social media to create viewer inclusivity while airing.

Brandless talked about how being focused yield success. Brandless opened their first NYC pop-up store two days early to let us see into the world of online retail where everything costs just $3. From snacks to beauty to household items and cleaners, the brand found success in eliminating unnecessary costs of paying for shelf placement and has a program to provide meals to those in need with every online purchase you make.

At the Intel Party we closed out the day by playing new AR video games where you “were a DJ” and mirrored scratch sounds, heard The Roots perform, and sauntered around like New York socialites for a night.

Day 02: Hush, Frog, 72 and Sunny

At Hush we used data as inputs for creative output. Their recent client showed off their latest project opportunities that mainly involved creating dynamic environments based on non-private data, such as hand or head movement, speed, distance, voice, and gaze. By using these inputs, they are able to make unique experiences for people that are memorable and personable.

Frog discussed how rituals foster community. At Isobar, the creative team works hard to keep rituals in place — be it a morning stand-up with highs and lows or a question of the day. The moral of the session was that the more you recognize that the people you work with are human too, the more empathetic you’ll be.

At 72 and Sunny we used visual tools to give all voices time to share. Using poker chips, we partook in a brainstorm activity where we had to give up a chip everytime a new thought was shared or to counter someone else’s. This method kept everyone aware of who had spoken, but also made you really think before sharing.

Day 03: Tory Burch, West Elm

Tory Burch helped us learn how ambition is a leading driver in success. After Tory learned to have a voice and believe in her vision, the rest was history, she said. Her company’s current mission is to diversify their board of committee members and bring in more women. She also included that they are looking to make a huge shift to social consciousness.

At West Elm we picked up the discussion around conscious retail. This talk featured Patagonia, Fair Trade, and Vision Springs. They discussed how corporate giving can work when done right. “Projectitis,” a term used by Ella Gudwin of VisionSpring, was something that was plaguing the business community for a while. Companies wanted a quick in-and-out charitable act in order to check off the publicity social good check-box. Now that people are seeing through that, companies are now investing in smarter campaigns and true solutions to help give back to their communities.

“Acting with constraints leads to innovation.” — Vincent Stanley, Director of Philosophy at Patagonia

Day 04: Isobar NYC, Accenture/Fjord

At Isobar we visited friends, old and new. Having never been to the New York office, it seemed only appropriate to take a trip to visit the people I’ve slacked for years in person. The office was in the process of being packed up to move to the new Isobar office —which you should all go visit.

At Fjord we workshopped streamlining check-in flows. With other designers and thought leaders, it was helpful to brainstorm ideas, refine and then brainstorm some more. The brainstorm was inspired by the “Sea of Sameness” that plagues our industry.

After four days, fifteen sessions and workshops, and over thirty miles walked between the various offices and theaters, I left New York inspired, with a notebook full of takeaways and a camera roll filled with memories.