Contagion @ SXSW: Wellingtonian Paul Noble-Campbell on being a local in Austin, new tech and the three P’s of business

Contagion’s Tom Bates caught up with Wellington-born Paul Noble-Campbell, who, somewhat unusually around this time of year, identifies as a local of Austin, Texas, working as a partner and customer experience innovation consultant at Upstream (as an interesting aside, Noble-Cambell’s flag design appeared among the entries submitted for consideration).   

Tom Bates: Talk to me about your company and how you help your clients.
Paul Noble-Campbell: “Upstream is a people-centric innovation consultancy. We help public and private sector organisations identify opportunity areas, transform their value propositions, envision ideal customer experiences and facilitate continuous innovation.”
TB:What’s it like being an Austin local during SXSW? Intense?
PNC: “Yes – there is just so much going on at any one point that it is very hectic squeezing in as much as possible! It’s definitely a lot of fun to see the city transform with the influx of visitors for the interactive, film and music festivals. I really enjoy being immersed in so much inspiring content and the all corridor/happy-hour discussions with so many interesting people.”
TB: Based on your SXSW experience, what are your tips for the next big thing?
PNC: “To me, the significant thing about SXSW this year was there was less talk about the hot, new, sexy thing, but rather people were still talking about technology from previous years that they were still trying to figure out how to incorporate into their organisations. To give some examples of themes: I saw that many organisations see the potential of big data but they don’t know how to translate it into innovation that is meaningful for their customers. Many talked about the need to change healthcare and specific barriers that exist but are struggling to come up with solutions that would be adopted by the multitude of stakeholders in the healthcare eco-system. Wearables, the internet of things and 3D printing are all seen as potential growth areas, but many organisations have taken the approach of searching for a problem for a new technology rather than finding opportunities to create new value-propositions for new customers and then addressing with technology appropriate to the solution. This is encouraging because these sorts of challenges require a human-centric and systemic approach to innovation, which is exactly what we do.”

TB: What’s it like being a Kiwi doing big things in Austin and the US?
PNC: “It’s been exciting to see Austin continue to grow, even through the recession a few years back, and very rewarding to have participated in some of the growth initiatives through our work in the public sector, with the city, and with the Innovation Zone that is being created here. I’d love to help replicate that in New Zealand!”
TB: What are some of the success stories you’ve been part of so far?
PNC: I’ve been involved in many break-through products and services throughout my career but by far the most rewarding projects have been when I’ve been able to witness the real impact that they make to peoples’ lives. Recent work in diabetes management, rethinking the business model of cancer care to make it more patient-centric and initiatives with The Gates Foundation in Sub-Saharan Africa have been particularly memorable. Seeing people tear-up when they get a glimpse of solutions makes it all worthwhile!
TB: What’s the most exciting thing about working in the world we live in today?
PNC: I’ve always seen design as the agent to address society’s greatest needs, so it’s exciting to see more organisations embracing the role of design thinking to help them create greater impact. It’s also exciting to sense that more corporations are realising that success in business requires attention to all three P’s of the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.

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