Stream USA 2016 — The future of truth and work

By: Rob Norman, GroupM | @robnorman

#WPPstream came to the USA for the first time last week. Innovators, founders, tech titans, members of the military, commentators, Pulitzer winners, spoken word poets, artists and electric tuba players gathered for three days. This, just a week after the US population was united as never before — by equal shock and surprise on both sides of the political divide.

If there was a world cloud from Stream the bold face stand-outs would be WHY? HOW? FAKE and TRUTH characterizing an event at which people having moved past the result of the election focused on the shared imperatives of the pursuit of truth and inclusiveness.

Perhaps the dominant theme was the responsibility of the leading platforms; Facebook, Twitter and the rest to balance their role as a safe harbor for expression on the one hand with a responsibility to help limit the spread of fake news and harm to individuals and groups on the other. (Facebook came under significant, if unrelated pressure, to respond to its recent measurement revelations).

Discussions at WPP Stream USA 2016

Many Stream discussions had a noticeable focus around the future of work and the role of technology and diversity in that future. Technology solves many of the world’s problems while creating many others but the optimists view seemed to prevail. Technology facilitates opportunity in ways that people can’t always grasp (often because it’s obvious to no one) and that new forms of activity, demand and employment are always the consequence of sea changes in technology. It was also agreed that inclusiveness does not take care of itself and that it’s a corporate imperative to accelerate hiring and advancement across gender, race and orientation.

The biggest doubt remains about the agility of government, business and educational institutions to create a skills and behavioral revolution that matches the need and opportunity and to recognize that the need to evolve underlying practices has moved from once in a lifetime to many times in a generation.

The Big Boards at WPP Stream USA 2016

That’s why #WPPstream exists. Gather together the change makers, allow them to interact and create a considered caucus of influence that can agitate for shared benefit across the economic, social and political spectrum.

We can only hope.