Technology

Leading futurist Steve Sammartino talks agents, tech, and lego

With the Travellers Choice Annual Shareholders Conference only two months away, we decided to have a chat with one of their fab keynote speakers to get the juicy deets.

And find out what possessed him to build a life-sized hot-rod that runs on air using nothing but 500,000 LEGO bricks and a whole lot of will power.

That’s right, folks, we spoke with Australia’s leading futurist – and LEGO legend – Steve Sammartino!

Sammartino Steve_Lego Hot Rod_2018

Travel Weekly: The Travellers Choice conference theme is ‘The Power of Connection’. What does that mean to you?

Steve Sammartino: The power of connection means to me that ‘no one gets a better internet’ – we have the same tool and power is now distributed.

But it also means that we shouldn’t forget that connection is human/physical not something which exists on a screen – the screen should only be the organiser of the physical reality we all desire – to meet face-to-face and connect.

TW: What in your opinion are some of the key emerging technologies that all travel agents should be aware of?

SS: Ambient technology – that is, talking to computers instead of typing/and using screens.

We are moving very quickly to an internet we literally speak to. It’s worth experimenting with tools like Google Home and Alexa/Siri to get used to the future now…

TW: You have a lot of experience advising businesses on technology strategy, how do you think the travel industry compares when it comes to adapting to technological change?

SS: Like most industries, it’s tough when change happens so quick…

But I believe the travel industry has come a very long way, especially with interacting with customers/sharing information and becoming curators rather than just sellers.

TW: What are some of the mistakes you’ve seen small businesses make when it comes to technology?

SS: The same mistake I see again and again is small business either fully resisting technology, or trying to totally change their entire business.

The art is more about doing lots of small experiments (with new tech) to find out what works with customers, move up the learning curve, and then scale up those… By taking this approach you can maintain existing revenue while you transition into newer business models.

TW: Let’s talk Lego. How did you go about designing your famous Lego car and how did you maintain your determination and focus while putting together 500,000 Lego bricks?

SS: It’s funny because so many times I thought ‘this will never work what the heck am I doing’.

But I reckon the reason I finished is because I had 40 people who invested small amounts of money in the project and I didn’t want to let them down – my reputation was on the line.

There’s something really powerful about have a ‘team’ who need you to deliver – when we are doing something on our own it is much easier to just throw it all in.

TW: What were some of the road bumps you encountered?

SS: The biggest problem was when we shipped it from the build location to the ‘driving location’, it basically fell apart in transit (obvious – though we did try and pack it tight) and we have to build it all over again…

TW: Your next project is to build a house in rural Australia using a 3D printer. What made you want to undergo this project and what do you want to learn from it?

SS: I’ve always found doing extreme things brings me up the learning curve and I need to do something like this to get me excited again. I really want to understand the future of home/work spaces and the work from anywhere revolution – so I wanted to build a house that represents the future – what better way than to 3D print it.

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