Interview with: Patrick Boltje, Rock in Rio

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Patrick Boltje: “Innovation isn’t just about technology. Innovation is anchored in people”

Innovation and creativity are keywords for Rock in Rio’s Patrick Boltje, who moved to Lisbon from Rio de Janeiro a year and a half ago and is already perfectly settled into what he calls a city of openness and opportunity.The magic happens at LACS Conde d’Óbidos, a riverfront hub filled with  entrepreneurs an thinkersthat for the last few days saw Rock in Rio Innovation Week welcoming hundreds of people interested in changing the world through empathy and technology, and Patrick Boltje was right at the centre of it all.

Following what we can imagine to have been a strenuous but very gratifying week, what’s your overall take on the event?

Overall, it’s very positive. We managed to attract 2050 people, including speakers and ticket-holders, at an average of 500 people a day. We received very positive feedback from all stakeholders and speakers. We even had Brazilian speakers saying that nothing had been left wanting in comparison to similar events in Brazil, where competition is fierce.

Any high points or low points? How has RiR Innovation Week handled all the different situations, in partnership with LACS?

The high point of the event was all the content we brought. We don’t work with celebrities, we work with people who are making projects, stories, ideas that are transformative and inspirational on a daily basis. The curatorship of this content is a major high point. Most conferences work in a more passive way; people sit down, listen to the speaker and go home. At Innovation Week we want to get speakers off the stage and interact with the audience demonstrating the methodologies they’re proposing.

Another important point is the connection aspect. We want people to connect and exchange. The LACS rooftop has been a fundamental feature in that sense, enabling people to do so.

Did any of the talks surprise you more than others?

Yes. We brought in a workshop format which Galp uses as a training tool. It’s called Samurai G, and it creates a metaphor on life based on Judo. The first thing we need to learn in life is how to fall down, and in Judo, the first thing you learn is how to fall correctly so you can get up quickly and continue your fight. It’s also about how to use the strengths of your opponents to your advantage. They brought in blind people, people with physical disabilities, and we learned that when someone has a technique, they don’t need to see or move to win. That was really interesting to watch.

“We don’t work with celebrities, we work with people who, in their day-to-day, are making projects, stories, ideas that are transformative and inspirational.”

Regarding innovation in the workplace, how can Portuguese companies create more innovative work environment?

Innovation Week is very much anchored in the RiR purpose: to build a better world for nicer, more empathetic and more confident people. So, what kind of outlook do we want to bring into innovation? It isn’t just about technology. Innovation is anchored in people. We need to be prepared for the ever-changing world. Innovation comes out of people accepting and wanting to change, embracing technology.

Any top trends to watch out for?

I think that digital inclusion is a big one. How can we learn about the tools that are creating new businesses ideas, new business models or new ways of working. We are going to have to keep reinventing ourselves – maybe we’re going to have three or four different career paths, or take new degrees, bringing new tools into our skill sets. People appreciate comfort zones, stability and 9-to-5 jobs, but this has to change.

How can it be done so that people don’t get left behind? How do we look at older generations or at people who don’t have access to internet?

This is going to be an even bigger question as time goes on, as life expectancy is increasing. It makes us very uncomfortable to think that we are no longer economically viable from the age of 65. Obviously, people can create value from that age onwards.

How can someone who’s 65 years old work to harness all the experience that they have accumulated in their lives as a tool? What kind of insights and perspectives can seniors use at work, in a world technology driven. There’s is a lot of untapped potential. I don’t know if it’s because of market dynamics, but we’re losing opportunities.

“LACS are a great partner. Their space is ideal to bring in the dynamics required for Innovation Week.”

How are you planning to continue this innovation strategy? Any future events you can give us a sneak peek into?

Well, we’re already preparing next year’s edition. We want to grow with LACS, and occupy a bigger area within the Santos district, maybe work with Museu do Oriente, the train station, and public spaces around LACS and the river.

RiR has set operations at LACS a while back now. How would you say this partnership has helped RiR reach its goals?

LACS are a great partner. Their space is ideal to bring in the dynamics required for Innovation Week. The mix of creative environments with different rooms allow us to create immersive experiences as well as open ones, such as concerts and networking sessions. It’s colorful, creative, and it inspires visitors to say: “ Wow”.

How has your personal experience of living in Lisbon been? What can you tell entrepreneurs thinking of relocating to Portugal?

I got here at a really special moment for Lisbon, a city that is embraces innovative projects and diversity, enriching its value to the world. Culturally, there are always things to do or to see. You can bump into new business ideas whilst having fun with your family. It’s a great environment for people who want to become entrepreneurs. I’d say to them, come to Lisbon, feel this openness, take advantage of it, because there’s this positive economic cycle where people’s mentalities are changing. The doors are open.

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