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A whisper of Revolution

The thing about a revolution is that the really good ones are over before anyone knows that they happened. Nip in and decapitate the state and take control while they are all sleeping in their beds.

So this week I was fortunate enough to tog out for Ireland, not for my childhood heroes, Jack’s Army or even the Irish First XV, but I was flying the flag for Ireland Inc at the invitation of the kind folk from Enterprise Ireland, Central Europe. Down there in the Cauldron of Commerce that was Innovation Week in the Czech Republic for 2019.

Geoff Allen, on stage at Innovation week, Czech Republic

The flight over was half full of young coders and programmers on furlough from the Facebooks, Googles and Salesforces, escaping the Xanadu of software that is now our capital, Dublin. As they all scuttled away into the Prague night, our chariot awaited us at the airport. I boarded with my better half to wind and twist to our boutique retreat downtown in the City of One Hundred Spires.

There’s a wonderful energy around Prague. Art drapes all of the architecture; a legacy from hundreds of years of artists, architects, crafts and trades. No detail overlooked in plaster of ironwork. Lavish sculptures adorns every gateway and all across the legendary Charles Bridge – even the graffiti has a certain panache.

I love graffiti – it takes me back to my childhood. Political statements boldly standing against authority, the words of prophets written on subway, factory or any wall for that matter. Romans go Home! Burn Pot, not People. Money! We never really liked it! And a personal favourite…Kilroy was here!

Prague Graffiti

For me, graffiti is the signature of the outsider. The undervalued in contemporary society, they move about in the night – not scared, just couldn’t be bothered with the hassles of the mainstreamers, who are bustling along to regular employment and ‘normal’ lifestyles, mortgages and car payments. These folk are merely not motivated by the banal. Ignored by the world that lets them go by unnoticed. Unbeknownst even to themselves these outsider’s stock is growing – unbroken spirits which Artificial Intelligence (AI) will never clone. For me they are the talent of the future.

Monday morning again! I waited in the downtown lobby of the aforementioned retreat. Across the empty lobby – there waiting in a chair, my eyes met…. Was it Don Quixote to my Sancho Panza? ‘Hey! I know that guy? He looks familiar’ I thought. And with the customary nod that is so familiar to all of us paddies who have graced some foreign shore… I threw him a nod.

It’s half a nod, the rest is a wink. I have given and received them across bars, walking down the boulevards of Buenos Aires, in a partisan’s underground bar in Kiev and when Michael Flatley asked me to move over as he wanted to sit beside the Irish Captain Steve Staunton on a hot night long ago in Seoul for a consolation on missing penalties. Countless times on the New York subway and even as far away as Alice Springs. It’s a bonding thing between two Irish males, casual as you like, both parties letting each other know ‘Hey! Maurice, if by any chance World War 3 breaks out, they will have the two of us to contend with!’

But the mystery was shortlived; Patrick was the opening batsman for Ireland on the panel today. Jethro as always bringing up the rear guard. Sure we met at the Irish Times Innovation Awards last November and the truth be told that was what brought us here to this cosmopolitan event. Quick to the chariot to negotiate cross town traffic.

Geoff at the Innovation Week 2019

Innovation Week for the Czech Republic kicked off in the wonderful Karlin Centre. Innovation is all about revolution. Abstract thinking all outside the box, forging invention and where else but in this shrine to revolution, the city of Prague. A hot bed of dissent and visionaries!  

The event was run with true Bohemian efficiency, badged up and in the door, seated up at the top table in no time. After the initial introductions we were treated to the American ambassador proclaiming just how much of a businessman he was, far more-so than his political prowess…really! But the real talking point at dinner later on, was the life-sized cardboard cutout of you-know-who at the American Embassy stand… I kid you not!! Unbelievably crass.

Business cards and introductions were thrown across the speaker’s table where the glitterati of EU Innovation had assembled.  They hail from all over. Finland, Holland, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark and even a contingent from Israel with a few locals to balance things out. The token English men who turned out to be residing in Prague for over a decade, a nice guy who was hosting the panel on the Circular Economy that was news to me! A Dane who headed up innovation for none less than LEGO (my favourite!) The Swedish lady whose knowledge on the Circular Economy was enlightening. And from the Israeli, a guy had the coolest bit of technology, JedAI for smartphones! Check it out.

So it was the tech behemoth Microsoft that was hosting our Panel Number 3. Fortunately with a lot more savvy than the political representatives of the United States, but I felt sorry for Patrick to have to follow such a beautiful set of crafter’s slides. Visual poetry all laid out on a 12 meter LED. But make no mistake, Patrick came out of the traps running and delivered a wonderful presentation. Not his first rodeo by any means. His groundbreaking company Addhive is turning the world of 3D printing upside down. Rolling out their technology across the factory floors of Ireland Inc. Laser building a revolution to anchor the medical device business here in Ireland for the coming century.

Patrick of Addhive

But I have to say it’s great buzz standing up there getting to rant on about one’s notions with everybody looking so attentive. For me what seems apparent having spent thirty years now in the business, is we are now experiencing what is the fourth computer revolution. First came the PC Putcsh when the personal computer arrived with its GUI (graphic user interface) which brought simplicity to our desktops. Then came the Internet when all of the computers got connected together. Truth be told, the third revolution kind of eluded me, but few can doubt the impact that mobile computing and GSM rained on society. Right about now, the 4th revolution is upon us. Next week I will elaborate on this…

the Main Stage at Innovation Week