What Keeps the Most Innovative Trade Show Ticking after 50 Years?

by Gary Shapiro

Remember life before time shifting–when you had to sit down at your TV to watch Seinfeld at 9 PM on Wednesdays or you’d miss it? Innovations such as the DVR, camcorder and HDTV have radically changed our lives.  And each of these technological wonders is among the estimated 700,000 new products that have launched at CES®–the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies–during its 50-year history.

New products and technologies such as these have transformed our lives, increasing access to information, connecting us in new ways and helping us stay healthy and more productive. So after 50 years as the global stage for innovation, how does the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)TM, owner and producer of CES, keep the show interesting?

We start with a simple but powerful mantra: Innovate or Die! This is a key theme throughout CTA’s second book Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses. In Ninja Innovation, I lay out how the world’s best, most innovative businesses are risk-takers and aren’t afraid to fail. In fact, some of the world’s greatest successes are born after many failures. Recognizing failure as a critical learning tool is unique to our country and has contributed to our standing in the world as a beacon for innovation.

We never settle for the status quo. Over the past 50 years, as the definition of technology has expanded, so too has CES adapted to engage and create new industries and markets covering everything from wireless and automotive to content and health care. The show simultaneously reflects and drives the magic, energy and promise of consumer tech, while bringing together leaders from a broad array of industries to survey and interact. Success requires hard work and the willingness to adapt and grow. While change can sometimes be uncomfortable and disruptive, it is essential to fostering innovation.

And we don’t just do things differently each year–we do them better. CES is the largest annual event in the Americas, featuring 76 percent of Fortune 100 companies–from IBM and Amazon to Intel and Microsoft. To attract such a high-level audience, we work constantly to make CES a unique event, and also a better event year-over-year.

Face-to-face events such as CES are crucial to our members and to the industry. As the show’s owner and producer, CTA connects more than 170,000 attendees from 150 countries to Las Vegas each January. Our mission is to make sure their time on the ground is valuable. We accomplish that with a deep commitment to innovation and advancement, and a firm belief that technology is changing our lives for the better.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™. His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro

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