The Next Web 2020: our impressions

By 9 October 2020Blog

The Next Web 2020: our impressions

On the 1st and 2nd of October 2020, all technology enthusiasts came together at one of the biggest international technology events. The Next Web takes place annually with the aim of inspiring visitors and bringing them into contact with each other. This was a special edition of course. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Next Web was forced to transform into a full-fledged digital event. They provided a combination of keynote content, interactive sessions and opportunities to network and do business. Of course, INFO took part in this event and we are happy to share our insights with you.

Control your attention

My fellow intern Marit and I started off with an interesting session on how we can control our attention and get ‘indistractable presented by Nir Eyal. We are constantly distracted by all the digital products around us. The moment we get distracted by these ‘external triggers’ and we allow ourselves to be distracted, we must ask ourselves; why?

People tend to blame external triggers, such as notifications, sounds and other people, for their distraction. However, most of the distraction comes from ‘internal triggers’. We lose control of our attention when we are vulnerable. For example, you feel lonely and go to Facebook to connect with your friends or you get bored and start gaming. It is okay to get distracted, as long as it was your goal.


“You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what its distracting you from”


Make time for traction

Now that we understand the problem, how can we control it? Well, Nir Eyal gave us some tips during his talk.

  • First of all, it is important to plan your days. “Schedule your days or someone else will”, according to Eyal. Do not look at the tasks that need to be completed, but at the time it takes you to complete the task. Your to-do list is endless, but your day is not.
  • Secondly, you need to spend less time communicating and more time concentrating. Take at least 1 hour per day to not be distracted, so you can focus on your task. An important tool Eyal recommends is the concentration crown. Indicate that you do not want to be distracted by wearing a hat or by putting up a simple note.
  • The next step is to prevent distraction with pacts. Make promises and pacts with yourself and others to avoid getting distracted.
  • And last but not least, use tech to block out tech. Hack back those external triggers by using ‘block out’ apps, such as the Forest App.


“Your to-do list is endless, but your day is not”



You’re not weird enough

So, now we have your attention, let’s talk about the next session. Our Innovation Director Iskander Smit was charmed by the powerful storytelling in this talk. According to Iskander this session was the main reason to pay for the TNW knowledge pass, and it did not disappoint.

This session about discovering why we are not weird enough, was presented by one of the world’s leading futurists: Ben Hammersley together with moderator Shola Kaye. According to Hammersley our thinking of the future is not weird enough. We are not investing in things that are weird while the future itself is weird. Some companies want nothing more than to go back to normal, but there is no normal anymore. During the corona crisis, the world changed so quickly that we should not stick to normal but rather think outside the box.

The title of this talk ‘you are not weird enough’ is referring to the perfect storm we are currently experiencing which makes every prediction with a longer time frame impossible. We cannot predict the near future and that makes us anxious. So, what to do? We do not need to be nostalgic about the future but think as it being much weirder. Surround yourself with as many ideas as you can, visit as many places as you can, meet people with diverse backgrounds to maximize the weirdness. “Try every day to be as weird as possible!” says Hammersley.


Facilitate a digital-first mindset

There is no change without change. A digital mindset is key to digital transformation. Unfortunately, many people are still scared about new technology. The session ‘Whats next for the “digital first” mindset?’ brought by a panel group focused on how to transform these people’s mindset into a digital-first one. How do we make them curious about the digital world instead of scared? The most important tips Design intern Marit got from this session are as follows:

  • Make technology fun. This way people can incorporate it into their lives and open their minds to it;
  • Make it kind, so people feel comfortable using it.


Redefining creativity for the digital consumer

Our product designer Romy uses her creativity to turn both business and user needs into valuable digital products for our clients. During this session she learned that product designers can do a lot by being creative with data.

This session by Jake Welsh was mainly about the fact that human-first creativity can easily be crafted by the use of data. They compare data with human aspects like; feelings, behaviors, habits, emotions, desires, ambitions, worries and values. By using these interesting insights we can easily anticipate on and keep ahead of consumer needs.

We’ll create user experiences that will be remembered by the ones that feel the connection with the product best.


“Data allows us to create creativity.”


Looking at brands, they are build based on different drivers; relationship driven or transactional. The difference between both drivers is huge and the results can be even more diverse. In the end it always depends on the user when looking at the question: Is this product going to work? Consumers always want more. Find out what it is and make it happen. Never stop advancing!


Next Web


Brand consistency in design workflows

Bart van de Wiele kicked his session off with stating his opinion about the evolution of technology in design workflows. He doesn’t think that technology has evolved in the way we, designers, work. According to him we have two groups of people; designers (focused on websites, apps, prototypes, etc.) and non-designers (focused on social media, presentations, pdfs etc.). The most important outcome of his research about these groups was that 74% of the designers spend more than 50% of their time on non-creative tasks like fixing typos or creating a pdf. Van de Wiele gave us a great solution for how we as designers can deal with non-designer tasks; the Creative Cloud Enterprise Collaboration Features from Adobe. This is a set of features and tools which makes it easy for non-designers to pick up tasks themselves without having to ask designers. The set includes tools for creating online videos, prototyping, product mock-ups or social media campaigns. He would like to inspire everybody to start using it.


The future of connected living

Devices are mainly made and designed on their own, but little attention is paid to how devices connect with each other. Some companies forget about other technologies, while the possibilities that exist can be combined to make our lives easier. During this session Andrew Garrihy (Global Chief Brand Officer) from Huawaii inspired our Design intern Marit on challenging the status quo.

Huawaii designed an app that allows you to connect all devices in your home, from your microwave to your washing machine. “If you give people a choice, they want to pay for an application if this app does not collect data from them”. According to Garrihy we have to ask ourselves whether technology serves us well enough. With the Internet of Things, there are fantastic possibilities to create an effortlessly connected device. For example, Huawaii offers the possibility to all sit in the same room during a video call, so that you can see each other.

Digital mindset


Overall impression of this year’s digital TNW edition

Although we gathered a bunch of inspiration and concrete tips during TNW 2020, I think we must conclude that this digital edition of The Next Web comes nowhere near the level inspiration and energy of the physical festival. Our Innovation Director Iskander is a regular visitor of The Next Web (TNW 2020 was his 13th edition). He learned that meeting like-minded people, the overall vibe and energy are the biggest assets of the conference. Also connected to the setup and location: this year we sadly had to miss out on the big Ferris wheel, the stand-up comedian and the festival vibe that comes with it. Finally, we all noticed one thing: it is so much easier to get distracted and plan other things around the event. This made it very hard to focus on the sessions.

That said, due to corona TNW did not really had a choice but to do it this way. The organization did a great job in programming inspiring and innovative speakers and it was an excellent opportunity for first-time visitors from all over the world to experience TNW from the comfort of their homes. Hopefully next year’s edition we will meet live in Amsterdam again!

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