Why you need a slush fund and how to start budgeting for one
What's a slush fund, how can it help innovation and how do you start planning for one? Freestyle Innovation Director Tom Downing explores it all.
Article | by Julia Protesaru
The crowd started forming early, and the smell of coffee seemed to make everyone a bit chattier. Needless to say we were quite happy to take up the space right next to the main source of caffeine… Apart from being in what we think was the best spot in the exhibition hall, as sponsors, we would run our workshop, “Iteration vs Innovation vs Disruption” at the end of day 1. But we also had the job of getting through to 300+ delegates from the world of Manufacturing & Distribution before our fellow sponsors did, so we looked for a fun and creative solution to this problem.
Since we already felt a bit nostalgic given our workshop’s theme, what better way to do that, if not through 300 floppy disks scattered throughout the conference and one floppy-disk-powered bot, whose dialogue script was stuck in the 80s?
And so, Pixel was born.
The bot was technology powered, but it was in fact, run by humans. Sorry about that… But we did have our reasons.
We did not have enough time to build a fully-fledged bot ready for the conference. We didn’t know if it would be worth it. So we figured we could use B2B Online Europe as our testing ground for future similar activities. We needed people behind Pixel to make sure we’re keeping nimble, and still allow our team at the event do their jobs. So we took a Wizard of Oz sort of approach instead of building an entire solution which could have been a waste of time.
Having Freestylers behind the wheels allowed us to tweak the questions and Pixel’s responses, identify where the journey could be improved, make the changes, and keep in touch with the team on the ground who could pass on any feedback in real time.
Have you found one of our Floppy disks at @B2BOnlineEu? Make sure you bring it along to our stall to upgrade it! You'll find us in the exhibition hall...🤖 #b2bonlinebarcelona pic.twitter.com/tJQd8zwjHn— Freestyle Agency (@freestyleint) November 6, 2019
The delegates used their disks to launch Pixel’s chat app by inserting them into the floppy disk reader. Are you lucky enough to remember this satisfying feeling?
A rota around our studio, a well-designed script inclusive of error messages and a great Chatlio-Slack connection made all of this possible.
Turns out there is a giant urge to act human via chat when you’re pretending to be a bot. Sticking to the script when finding errors, having to pivot answers and holding yourself back from an empathetic answer are all extremely hard to do.
Yes, it might have been powered by humans, but Pixel still had a mission: to upgrade itself by learning new things. By talking with the delegates, it first learnt that people think innovation is extremely important (8.7/10). “Innovation is about new, or improvement for a product, service, or techniques” as well as “thinking of new ways to solve existing problems.” It also learnt that you have to “take small steps at a time in innovation”.
To ensure Pixel’s future iteration knows what subjects it needs to focus on at its next event, participants were about their favourite soundbites of the day and about their goals for 2020.
Here’s a sample of the things it has added to the list:
Apart from that, we even got to chat to fictional characters. Alice in Wonderland and Santa Claus both made appearances. We’re not so sure about their legitimacy, but Pixel is gullible by default.
Pixel did a great job of getting people to our exhibition area. It put smiles on people’s faces. We brought floppy disks back from the dead. We delivered a great workshop. We talked to a whole bunch of interesting people. And the studio had fun pretending to be a bot. All in all, a great outcome.