Tech Humanist Meets Las Vegas: Experience and Purpose at Adobe Summit

The Adobe Summit has been taking place in Las Vegas this week, and having attended as part of the Adobe Insiders influencers program, I’ve come away not only with a striking sleep deficit, but also with a wonderful sense of satisfaction that the world is adapting to share my beliefs that when it comes to digital transformation and being ready for the future, what matters most are purpose and experience.

As an experience strategist who advises leaders on digital transformation, it was encouraging to me that so many of the leaders on stage spoke to themes I’ve been advocating for quite some years now.

As I wrote in Tech Humanist,

The best way to know what tech to invest in is by thinking about your own organizational purpose and what emerging tech applications align with it and would amplify it to create a more meaningful experience for your customer.

It’s ALL About Experience

I hope to see the increased emphasis on Customer Experience Management driving digital transformation towards a more human-centric approach.

As I’ve Always Said: Analytics Are People

Since I’ve been making customer experiences for the past 25 years and may have been the one who actually coined the term “experience optimization,” I can say with clarity how experiences have changed: on the capabilities side, we have more data, more tailoring, and more targeting; on the customer expectation side, there is greater demand for personalization and immediacy, there is greater awareness of the need for privacy and transparency. Those twin sets of changes feel as if they oppose each other, but the forces pulling on each side are only pulling harder all the time. Marketers, technologists, and business leaders must reconcile their increasingly sophisticated capabilities to create highly dynamic, personalized experiences with decreasing trust in technology (and in technology companies) and a growing awareness (although not growing quickly enough) of the consequences of data overreaches and the implications of algorithmic bias.

At the heart of reconciling that disconnect is empathy with the human on the other side of the experience, and alignment between business objectives and human objectives.

AI Everywhere, AI in Everything

Nearly every presentation referenced the involvement of Adobe Sensei, the branded name given to the bundle of AI capabilities underlying many of Adobe’s products. A slide exploding the functions and tools that comprise Sensei included tools from smart tag suggestions on content to image curvature editing tools. It was a great visual reminder that when we talk about AI, we’re almost always talking about many disparate pieces of code, and the challenge is to make them useful in combinatorial context.

One of the ways to achieve that combinatorial context is to focus on the human experience, and how to make it more seamless, more useful, and more meaningful. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, hit this point in his remarks, as well.

Adapting the Culture and Human Skills Around Digital Transformation

The Human Experiences of the Future

Some of the more exciting moments this week in demonstrations of emerging capabilities had to do with augmented reality applications. As I’ve often said, I’ve only been scalp-tinglingly excited about two technologies: the Web, and #AR. The marketing and experience creation potential of Augmented Reality is vast and we’ve only scratched the surface of what it’s capable of.

Future experiences will bring deeper and more sophisticated awareness of nuance and context, and then we’ll be truly on the way to more meaningful experiences.

It all comes back to this: 
- Business, which drives technology forward, must operate from a clear purpose — an articulated sense of what problem the company solves in the world 
- Alignment between company objectives and human objectives must be the goal. 
- Experience must be the focus of digital transformation. The more meaningful, the better. 
- Data — human data — must be treated with the utmost respect.

With more companies apparently following this template, we may really have a chance to enjoy, as I propose in Tech Humanist, the best futures for the most people.

So here’s to the meaningful experiences of the future for all of us.


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Kate O’Neill, founder of KO Insights, is an author and speaker focused on making technology better for business and for humans. Her work explores digital transformation from a human-centric approach, as well as how data and technology are shaping the future of meaningful human experiences. Her latest books are Tech Humanist: How You Can Make Technology Better for Business and Better for Humans (2018) and Pixels and Place: Connecting Human Experience Across Digital and Physical Spaces (2016).