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Idealog Year in Review: Sarah Pearce

In the latest edition of our series asking some of Aotearoa's best-known businesspeople and visionaries to take a step back and offer their insights on how the past year has gone and how the future might unfold, we chat with business coach, author, and professional speaker Sarah Pearce.

Favourite innovation that isn’t yours?

The airplane. I am addicted to travel. Every time I visit a new place, I learn something new. I agree with Mark Twain when he said: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts." Even those who don't hold those views, can learn so much by getting out of their comfort zone and experiencing life alongside another culture.

Favourite innovation that is yours?

A fresh strawberry dipped in sour cream and then brown sugar. Sounds gross but trust me, it tastes amazing.

Most interesting launch/innovation/trend/thing of the year?

Higher sophistication in conversational interfaces. We've moved past Siri and with Amazon debuting the Echo this year, humans can do so much with simple voice commands. Not too many years ago, this was science fiction - the real stuff out of Bond movies - and now it's reality, a striking example of tech crossing over into something that’s borderline magic. The ability to use your voice to engage with a piece of technology is exciting and still very novel for most people. I think in the coming years, it will revolutionize how many things are done.

Lamest launch/innovation/trend/thing of the year?

I’d consider the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 the biggest tech blunder of the year. It really does represent the perfect storm of a failed product: injured customers, airline bans, and a return rate of 90 percent . I feel for Samsung because It doesn’t get much worse than that.

Most promising New Zealand company/companies?

New Zealand companies that are taking note from corporations like Google and Facebook in their office/brand culture and environment are most promising because happy employees make successful employees, and successful employees make a successful business. Companies like Trade Me (who has a massive indoor slide, standing desks, and craft beer sessions at the end of each week) indicate a strong employee-first culture which is an excellent indicator of a promising future. This, coupled with their relentless drive for innovation in the digital space, makes them one of the ones to watch.

Heroes?

Malala Yousafzai. In the face of unimaginable adversity, a woman with such fierce bravery and passion for equal education, especially at such a young age, will forever be a hero in my eyes. Even in today’s tech-driven world where all the answers to life’s questions are essentially at one’s fingertips, it’s easy to forget that many women in the world don’t have even the most basic education available to them. And even when they do, there are still massive inequalities such as wage gaps and glass ceilings. There's still a lot of work to do in the equal rights arena.

Villains?

Gordon Gecko, or his real-life counterpart Rajat Gupta. They are both the very embodiment of greed and excess in a time when many people are having to live in conditions that require frugality.

Best stoush?

Real Housewives of Auckland. Last 15 minutes of the final episode (Hooray).

Your own biggest success?

This year I finished writing my second book and developed an online training course that is designed to follow my first book: Online Reputation: Your Most Valuable Asset in a Digital Age. The course teaches people how to be social media savvy, how to grow their business and brand, and how to protect their privacy and identity in an increasingly connected world. It's been really engaging and fun. The social media landscape is always changing though so as a speaker on the subject too it keeps me on my toes - forever updating my keynote presentation.

What’s the biggest mistake innovators/businesses will make in 2017?

Clinging to the past: last year, last month, or even last week. Things are changing so rapidly that movers and shakers need to constantly find comfort in doing just that: moving and shaking. Reluctance to adapt to changing times leads to stagnant work environments, disillusioned clients, and a business that becomes a dinosaur.

We have this tendency to try and predict things within a historical context rather than a contemporary one, and then claim that the unexpected outcome was inevitable after the fact. The one thing that is constant in life is change. We must always be learning and adjusting or we risk becoming irrelevant. 

What do you expect to see in the next five years?

A push in sustainable energy technology and the "greening" of many of our favourite gadgets. People are sick of plugging in. It just feels like an extension of old technology, such as the land-line. With everything from parking meters to Tesla’s new roof tiles boasting the perks of solar (as well as research into wind, algae and even geothermal energy) I think it’s only a matter of time before we see developments such as the grid-less cell phone.

What will be dead in the next five years?

Terrestrial TV and all the advertisements that go with it. The millennial generation is a powerful consumer base and wherever possible they avoid traditional advertising platforms such as those found on the old style of TV. A rapidly declining audience is a real problem, not to mention the cost associated with this kind of advertising; there are simply cheaper and better alternatives on the market.  As marketers become more savvy to the sheer buying power of this segment, budgets for traditional ads (and subsequently the shows they run during) will eventually dwindle and die.

What should be invented and/or un-invented?

Tablets for toddlers. They need time to learn about the world through tangible means and to develop critical interactive skills. Young children already have so much to absorb and learn about in the tactile world; throwing in the fast-paced, brightly-lit world of virtual games and screens can side-track them from the important stuff like colouring, building, and getting sand in their eyes. These activities are interactive and encourage problem-solving skills and general cognitive development. Tablets and other gadgets that offer screen time are typically passive activities with little brain activity.

Favourite book/TV show/podcast/album/website/magazine/story/performance enhancing drug of the year?

One movie I really enjoyed lately was Arrival. I expected it to be just another typical Hollywood blockbuster but it turned out to be thought-provoking, beautifully paced and I thought that the story cleverly explored the idea of what it’s like to be human.

One piece of tech you’d have on a desert island?

A solar powered e-reader with an unlimited amount of books.

Will the robots become sentient and kill us all? (asking for a friend)

Yes. Prepare the bunker.

As you’re enjoying the great outdoors this summer, The Kiwibank Conservation Dogs will be out there too, hard at work, giving our nature a future.