Inspiration from LIFT14

Ksenia Avetisova

At Fjord we set out to create breakthrough services that win over people’s hearts. We are always on top of trends in design, technology and beyond. How do we do it? By getting inspired and absorbing information and creativity from outside of our own industry, by sharing our experiences and exchanging knowledge with other professionals. This year we started early. A team from Fjord Helsinki were invited to Lift14 as special guests to hold a flagship workshop, brought to Lift attendees by Accenture. Before turning to the amazing workshop titled ‘You Are The Interface’, I would like to share some highlights from the Lift Conference itself.

The event

The Lift Conference is a part of larger infrastructure of Lift Events, that have run since 2006. It brings together the brightest minds from across various industries, educational institutions and the startup scene to explore business and social implications of technological innovation. Over the years, for many professionals, Lift has become a must-visit event to gain perspective on digital innovation and everything which is connected to it. A beautifully sketched visualisation of the conference was created by Helene Pouille – one slide summary per speech.

Lift logo as ideation platform.

Lift logo as ideation platform.

The venue

The conference is held in The International Conference Centre of Geneva (CiCG). It’s a massive structure from the 70s, which adds an interesting twist to the whole atmosphere of the event. It is a place where you easily get lost, and while wondering around you discover surprising things. It offers both common space for mingling around and more private spaces for tête-à-tête discussions. This year Accenture created a cosy resting area in the heart of the venue, offering the participants a place to chill and relax and yet be able to observe all the action around them.

The people

Lift14 saw a record number of participants, welcoming over 1100 people from 35 countries. A very positive surprise was the mix of the crowd. During the 3 days (and 2 evenings) I met an incredible amount of inspiring people; CEOs of large companies, angel investors, genius scientists, space explorers, hardcore coders, film-makers, startup founders, government workers, futurists and of course, all kinds of designers.

Fondue dinner - by Ksenia Avetisova

Fondue dinner is where innovation is born at LIFT.

Executive briefing

Our conference experience kicked off with an Accenture invitation-only breakfast which brought together around 50 guests, as well as conference speakers and organisers. The briefing was opened by Gib Bulloch, Executive Director at Accenture Development Partnerships. I was amazed to hear about a part of Accenture that employs an innovative not-for-profit business model to make the core skills and assets of Accenture accessible to the international development sector. Then the guests were greeted by Bracken Darrel, the CEO of Logitech, headquarters of which are located just a short drive away from Geneva in the city of Laussane. He spoke about his experience and aspirations of running “the mouse company” in the ever changing technological world. The short speech outlined by impeccable sense of humour delivered the main point – Logitech strives to be a smaller company that produces big products. Next, the CEO of Lift Sylvie Reinhard gave an executive overview of the conference tracks, highlighting the importance of each one. Estelle Metayer, Founder & President Competia, Board Member Ubisoft and Lift Editorial Advisor shared her thoughts on the best sessions to attend. And Hanna-Mari Parkkinen, Business Design Director of Fjord Helsinki closed the session by speaking about Fjord and presenting the workshop to the distinguished audience.

Hanna-Mari Parkkinen presenting Fjord at Accenture Executive Briefing - by Ksenia Avetisova

Hanna-Mari Parkkinen presenting Fjord at Accenture Executive Briefing.


There were total of eight sessions during the conference all held in a big conference hall which provided the convenience of front desks for laptops and devices and power outlets for charging, conference. The conference hall was pretty full for each session, and the diversity of speakers and topics made it easy and very tempting to attend all the sessions. The best thing was that the breaks between the sessions were very generous in time, so I didn’t feel rushed. Of course there was a choice to be made – listen to the speakers in the main hall, or participate in one of the workshops which ran in parallel, but I did manage to visit all the sessions I wanted and at the same time it feels like I had time to meet at least half the participants. I did run out of of business cards. So advice for future conferences – take at least two packs along! I found all the speeches very interesting, some speakers being truly brilliant in delivering their message. Most of the talks are available to watch on a lift livestream channel. Here is the selection of few that caught my attention, inspired and provided some take-away food for thought. An extremely interesting talk was delivered by Alexis Lloyd, Creative Director of the New York Times R&D Lab. She presented revised model of communication between the user and a computation system, highlighting the need for simplicity. The takeaway from Alexi’s talk was the three design principles that should underline any interactions:

1. Transparency – ability of the system to present to the user exactly what he needs to know.

2. Agency – feeling of control and active participation that the system gives to the user.

3. Virtuosity – user’s ability to use technology expressively and creatively.

Quite a bit topic of the whole conference was the sharing economies. An interesting interpretation of airbnb was HouseTrip, a service that allows people to rent a whole house instead of an apartment, or just a room. Another presentation spoke of an exciting concept of sharing meals with the strangers in their own homes – an emerging service called EatWith, which was presented by an excellent speaker Joel Serra. There are a lot of issues involved in getting such concept run in the modern society, but EatWith is steadily expanding its reach to more and more countries. Our colleagues in Spain can already enjoy the experience right now!

Bio-hacking was one of the most popular sessions. We heard a story of the first lab-grown “in vitro meat burger”, with a price tag of €250K. The focus of Mark Vries’ presentation was on how it was done, but also provided food for thought on the implications which it brings to society – cruelty free meat on our plates, wouldn’t that be wonderful? But would it taste the same? Amazing stuff with great potential, if marketed correctly. Biotechnology can be used in many different ways, including artistic. French artist Lia Giraud explores the relationship between biology and digital world. She presented her “growing pictures” project, which uses the light-sensitive organism algae. Lia has been exploring the process of creating images by exposing algae to light and witnessing the process of the image being formed as well as its process of disappearing.


There were some interesting demos presented at the exhibition, i didn’t have time to try them all, but i did get to experience few unforgettable things. First, I had a very philosophical discussion with the cutest robot ever, which was a part of the CERN’s project Robots in Residence. The other unique experience was offered by OuterBody Labs. With the help of VR glasses you had to navigate your way through the labyrinth, competing with another traveller. But no matter where you turned and how you walked you could only see yourself from the distance and from one and the same point. Challenging and hilarious “out of body” experience.

Space for tech demos. - by Ksenia Avetisova

LIFT tech demos – best playground ever.

The venture night

A very lively and interactive session took place during the second day of the conference – the startups pitch evening. The audience had a say in selecting a winner from the startups that made it to the final round.  The winner of the main prize was Qipp, with Visionarity and Cherry Checkout sharing second and third prizes. A special prize by Accenture was awarded to Goodwall. A guest presentation was by a winner of the SeedstarterWorld startup competition – korean real-time translation service Flitto, which is gaining momentum by providing nearly instant accurate crowd-sourced translation and rewarding their contributors.

Celebrating the forward-thinking at the startup pitch competition during the Venture Night. - by Ksenia Avetisova

Celebrating the forward-thinking at the Venture Night.

Fjord workshop

The main purpose of our visit was to present the Fjord way of working and Fjord’s Annual Trends 2014 through a creative workshop. All the places were filled up even before the conference kicked-off, even though the time of the workshop fell on the Friday morning. This turning up of the participants was very motivating – we saw some familiar faces, people we had already met during the conference. We must have managed to do a great job introducing Fjord and the workshop as some people changed their original plans to join our session. The funny thing was also that we got invited to our own workshop as well, by someone who was super excited about joining but didn’t realise that she was speaking to one of the workshop leaders.

Typographical quote from Ksenia's presentation. - by Geoffrey Dorne

Typographical quote from Ksenia’s presentation. – by Geoffrey Dorne

Out of all the Fjord Trends, we had chosen one especially mysterious to inspire some provocative thinking and solutions. The workshop was titled You Are The Interface, and it challenged the 6 teams to tackle the problem of creating a corporate learning experience in a world without screens. Each team had its own persona who represented a target audience of the solution. Each persona was about to switch roles in the organisation and lacked some experience or skills or knowledge to succeed in the next role. After intensive brainstorming and design work, teams came up with incredible concepts which were presented by mini act-outs. The dynamic of the workshop was noted as one of the best things, by the end participant and organisers seemed to be so fired up and having so much fun that it was definitely worth sacrificing an hour of sleep on that Friday morning. One bonus take-away from the workshop was a set of typographic quotes by Geoffrey Dorne, who picked up the essential statements from the session and turned them in to the pieces of unforgettable graphical artwork. And another one – was the buzz that we generated on twitter, topping the hash-tag chart for the whole day. Participants’ feedback on the workshop was very positive, underlining that the whole experience was fun, engaging, with great introduction and connecting techniques, inspiring the out-of-box thinking, dynamic and overall fantastic.

Teams brainstorming during the Fjord's You Are The Interface workshop. - by Ksenia Avetisova

Teams brainstorming during the Fjord’s You Are The Interface workshop.

Workshop outcomes 

Best illustration of successful outcomes of the workshop is a brief summary of the team presentations. First concept explored utilising the methods of information sharing and real-time awareness in order to prevent unwanted events. The concept presented the voice-controlled service ecosystem that is especially targeted to the employees who are overly passionate about their work and might overlook the signs of their health being in danger. The second team presented a high-demanded but yet a sci-fi like concept LearnMaster 2000, which made it possible to gain access to the cumulative knowledge of the world’s greatest minds just by taking a red pill. Another concept battled complexity of modern technology and lack of time by activating the full power of human brain. The MindCloud service allows to accelerate communication between colleagues and automate repetitive actions by connecting to the global network of thinkers while being awake or while sleeping. It is meant to make work much more efficient and easy, giving your body a chance to rest as much as needed. One more concept was build around cross-cultural communication. It presented a voice-controlled knowledge sharing device which gave insight on the work of colleagues. It allowed to identify the points of possible difficulties in order to correct them before they grew into major problems. Another team build their concept around the possibility of maximising the efficiency of commuting time by taking control of user’s body and leading him to correct meeting locations while allowing to concentrate on thinking about work rather than actively navigating. Last, and chosen to be the best, Pimp your brain concept aimed to solve the limitation of human possibilities to multitask by providing access to all the relevant information and data at any given moment of time in order to solve a problem at hand.

Typographical quote from workshop concepts presentation. - by Geoffrey Dorne

Typographical quote from workshop concepts presentation. – by Geoffrey Dorne

I started working on this short summary having in mind couple of things I wanted to share, but it turned out that there is just too much to tell about. It’s been an exciting journey and I’m looking forward to sharing this experience with other Fjordians in the years to come. Please get in touch with me if you are interested in joining us at lift15. And meanwhile, connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on twitter.

Chill-out area by Accenture, main partner of LIFT14.

Chill-out area by Accenture, main partner of LIFT14.

Ksenia Avetisova

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