Timo Veikkola is an Anthropologist; he studies people into culture. As many Anthropologists these days he holds a strategic position inside a global corporation. As Senior Future Specialist at Nokia Desing, he looks at society to comprehend how there are going to be shifts in behavior and culture that can inspire their design team.
Timo is a future teller.
I was interested about an Anthropologist speaker at the PSFK Conference. First, because this is the second time in less than an year that someone from that field comes to speak at a planning/marketing/advertising conference; last year, Bob Deutsch from Brain Sell, was one of the most applauded speakers at the AAAA meeting in Miami, he talked about treating people as people rather than as consumers. Timo talked about that as well, but also about that as a crucial part of his work at Nokia, or better saying: about how to envision the future through trends, observation and – an expression that I liked a lot – informed intuition.
He didn’t show a range of new things. Everything he presented us has been right in front of our eyes for years: diversity, proximity, intimacy, values, attitudes, social media, third world cultures, emerging economies… What Timo did was showing how these facts and figures can shape the future. “I believe that trends don’t come from agencies, they don’t come from companies. They do come from people.” According to him, trends are the manifestation of values and attitudes, of people’s behavior and reaction to what is happening in the world. Therefore, innovation, be it a product innovation or a different way to communicate it, has to be based on a good observation and informed intuition of what is going on in the present. Informed intuition is a combination of different stuff and experiences like: education, the media scenario, places you go – that built on different studies like ethnographies and cultural analysis to give you a wide perception of the present. It is a combination of all these elements, for there’s not one element that does not influence the other.
In order to envision the future it is fundamental to have good observation of the present. One can expect to see changes manifesting two or three years after it happened. For instance, ethics, green and sustainability have been talked about over the last few years, but only now we are seeing it going into the main stream.
Timo’s trend team is composed of a diversity of people from Brazil to India, from Chile to China - everyone sitting in the same room. It is a way to cultivate the atmosphere in the office, an atmosphere of global and cultural diversity. A good observer of the present wants to be close to people, is keen to get involved and has to seek stimulation through real experience whether by hanging out in areas where you get the best extracts of that culture, or taking pictures from: billboards, landscapes, buildings, places, and the stage of society – they all have elements that tell a lot about a particular society.
Through observation of people in their natural condition, a great cultural tradition in Brazil can reveal peculiarities of that society. The concept of “Roda de Samba” (Circle of Samba) which consists of a group of people sitting together, playing music to each other and getting inspired, can be transferred to something to be used in a modern context, as a more natural way of communication. For insance, it is about music, adding on to that music, communication in a close network.
Timo’s work is to put together these pieces of information in order to create a new scenario. What kind of innovations can be possible? How is everything going to combine in the future?
Here are some of his expectations for the near future:
OPTIMISM: as a reflection of a period of disasters - tsunamis, floods, wars, terrorism, global warming. This scenario and the way we’ll live though this affects how people are and their attitudes towards the future. We can see it pushing this whole idea about ethics, morality, and consciousness into the press.
EMERGING ECONOMIES: “We will also see important shifts Brazil, China and India influencing in the next few years. Whether it is going to be home grown or whether they will take integrations from the west. This will be very key.”
SMARTER CONSUMERS: we are moving from materialism to a more knowledge and smarter consumer who will be looking for simpler, very convenient, authentic, genuine experiences.
HOLISTIC EXPERIENC: combination of new ways of social media: Facebook, You Tube, Flickr, Twitter. Social media will be a driving force in the next few years, but there are still some questions to be answered: what will be the new combination? How it will change?
Innovation, whether it is marketing or branding, is all about people. A combination of different elements in people’s lives, in the values, in the attitude… Ultimately, it is a matter of understanding the most primary things about human nature - its constant need for proximity, intimacy, connectivity and socialization. Which are not trends but characteristics that have been part of humans since the first man walked on this earth.
PS: pictures will be added later. The internet connection is simply terrible, and it's taking ages to to load the picture. Sorry about that!