Innovation through Curiosity & Persistence: A Fireside Chat with Sami Viitamäki

Innovation through Curiosity & Persistence: A Fireside Chat with Sami Viitamäki

On March 7, Axioned CEO Libby Swan sat down with Sami Viitamäki, Managing Director at Sullivan, as part of the Business & Technology of Greater New York’s (BTGNY) “Fireside Chat” series.

During the discussion, Sami spoke about his history as a Finnish marketer-turned-strategist and how his journey from Finland to New York shaped his perspective on innovation in today’s digital marketing space.

Stay Curious!

In Sami’s view, a natural tendency towards curiosity and persistence are required traits for anyone to succeed in today’s workplace. He explained that if you’re naturally curious about something — especially if it’s a subject that you’re interested in making into a career or trade — it’s probably worth pursuing.

“There are a lot of things that I’ve found,” Sami said, “that have no value whatsoever that week or that month, sometimes even that year. But then, suddenly, there’s an opportunity that opens up and because you’ve gone far (researched) and because you know your trade very, very well, suddenly that opportunity opens up for you because you have that somewhere in your head.”

To summarize, opportunity is more inclined to come knocking on the door of the naturally curious. An eagerness and relentless passion for self-learning and self-improvement can be game-changing for both an individual and their team.

Creating Meaningful Experiences

Sami points out that marketers should be careful not to use “technology for technology’s sake”. In other words, a willingness to innovate should ideally be focused on creating meaningful experiences for fellow human beings.

“What’s the key to creating more immersive and personal experiences for customers? A lot of new technology, and plenty of human empathy”, said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Speaking in Las Vegas at Adobe Summit 2019.

Utilizing technology in marketing comes with a never-ending learning curve. The digital landscape is always changing and it’s changing at a faster pace than it ever has before. Some of the challenges modern marketing companies are having fun (!) with include:

  • How do we utilize augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) in our marketing efforts?
  • Which one should we use first, and why?
  • How do we protect consumer privacy?
  • How do GDPR laws impact this project?
  • Who can help us answer all these questions?!

Staying creative and innovative with technology still boils down to connecting with clients and consumers around the most basic human emotions. And innovation and marketing, Sami believes, are the only two things that create value for a company because “you have to innovate to expand your value potential and you have to market to get people to do the value exchange with you.”

To Sami, experimentation is important, but engaging with technology is as much about doing something with purpose as it is about moving product or driving brand influence.

Sami deep in conversation!

Innovation: It Starts with You

In Sami’s view, innovative ideas arise as a result of personal development and self-actualization. As Sami mentioned, this is not to be confused with “making your hobby your day job”.

“I think there’s the culture where there’s a lot of influencers telling us, ‘Make your hobby your day job’,” he explained. “And it works for some people, but for most people, it might be really bad advice.”

Sami recommended finding a vocation that helps you develop skills which are applicable in a broad setting and developing those skills into valuable, personal assets. That way, when the right opportunity comes along, you can use those skills as a launch pad to pursue your passion.

From a personal development and self-actualization perspective, again, Sami’s advice is curiosity and persistence. Just as success is a process that must first be defined at a personal level, innovation starts within a foundation of individual growth.

Utilizing technology in an efficient and effective manner can accelerate this process, but the drive for innovation — for real, earnest change—starts with the individual.

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