Innovation: Changing People’s Stories

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Innovation in technology is driven by people & community

(5 minute, 5 slide presentation for Vibewire’s FastBREAK event around Innovation & Connectivity and to answer the question: are you alone?)

Innovation is not about technology. It’s about people. It’s about their stories.  Challenge yourself to think about it that way.

People’s stories are unique; which can make us feel alone and misunderstood.

My story was always: Hi, my name is Jye Smith, I was adopted from Colombia and I have no idea who my parents were or why I was adopted.

I’ve spent my life trying to connect people – bring them together around what they’re passionate about.  Music, concerts, social media, community management, crossfit, scuba diving, soccer, photography – whatever I’ve done I’ve always tried to bring people together.  I only really realised that it was all related to me being a part from my family this year.

People are doing better than me – the One Laptop Per Child project is a great example of how technology enables us to bring people together.  But it’s the people behind it, and the people it is for, the community, that really drives innovation.

I love technology because it has the power to bring people together.  And it brought me closer to knowing my entire family. I used forums to connect with other adopted kids, I used Google to hunt down more information, but biggest step? The Colombian Yellow Pages going online.

So I’m launching a site this year called Adopted From Colombia – to reach out, support and give the individuals a community that they can find. So other adopted individuals, know they are not alone. (If you’re interested to know more, leave your contact details in the comments).

My story is now: Hi my name is Jye Smith, adopted from Colombia, and I know who my family is. I’ve lived in the house I could have grown up in.

Without this, I might have never been able to take the photo below.  A photo of me feeding the youngest addition to my Colombian family.  Valentina.  She’s a beautiful baby girl. And this shot was taken this year, my second return to Colombia, to spend time with my birth family.

My story has changed. Innovative technology allowed me to do this.

Jye Smith & Valentina

Jye Smith is currently Senior Vice President, Head of Strategy & Operations, Asia Pacific at Weber Shandwick. Ranked in B&Ts 30 Under 30, Jye a regular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who specialises in digital and social media strategist.

There are 17 comments for this article
  1. Kimberley at 12:20 pm

    It’s amazing how often the ‘people/social’ part of technology and online tools is overlooked as the driving force behind social media and change in communication today. It’s the basic human desire to connect that drives us to use these tools and seek connection and human interaction. And, from one adopted bub to another, best wishes with your new venture and giving your perhaps currently disconnected Adopted From Colombia community a sense of belonging.

  2. Jye Author at 1:35 pm

    Thanks very much, K. As always your insights are appreciated and cherished. x

  3. Nicola at 3:38 pm

    Very nice point. I am reading ‘Loneliness – human nature and the need for social connection’ atm. Talks very much about our need for belonging and how technology has given us so much more ability to do that. Was actually a thought I was planning to blog about this kind of topic myself. Very good :)

  4. Jye Author at 3:42 pm

    Thanks very much, Nicola :) Appreciate your kind words.

  5. Mark Mapstone at 11:51 pm

    Hey Jye,

    This post really resonated with me as soon as I hit the line ‘whatever I’ve done I’ve always tried to bring people together’.

    Your list of interests, collectively lead you (and us) to a conclusion of yourself – how you operate and a way of placing yourself in this world with an identity statement: ‘bringing people together’.

    After finishing reading the blog post, this statement and observation of how you live your life may have changed (you didn’t make that clear), but assuming it hasn’t, I’m guessing it will be with you always in future in whatever you do.

    I have also noticed a collective conclusion in my own hobbies, leading to a way that I operate and see myself fitting in this world – however my identity statement is slightly longer. It being:

    “learn as much as I can, at whatever cost, give it away for free, and ask for nothing in return”

    I don’t literally give everything away for free, as I have to earn a living too, but the statement illustrates my degree of commitment I offer others to share and distribute the things I learn freely. It also illustrates that I am a natural teacher, who cares about educating others (often indirectly) for their benefit.

    Sooo, thanks for this post. I realise that my reply isn’t exactly ‘on-topic’ with your personal subject matter, but that’s the best thing about communication, we alI free to interpret the world around us as we see fit :)

    All the best – Mark

  6. Gavin Heaton at 6:05 pm

    Great story, great presentation and fantastic initiative, Jye. it’s great to see you pushing your own, and our, limits.

  7. Jye Author at 7:05 pm

    I’m glad to hear it resonated with you, Mark. Appreciate it.

    Yeah it hasn’t changed the things I want to do — has definitely given me a tonne of perspective on what’s important.

    I’m a big believer in learning: although, I’ve paid some terrible prices for the sake of learning. So that’s what I’d be mindful of: if you’re like me, it’s not always about learning stuff the hard way.

    Teachers are valuable. and i think your comment was very valuable – thanks for taking the time to do so.

  8. Jye Author at 7:06 pm


    It’s because of people like you I do any of this – you’ve been an amazing mentor and inspiration. Thanks mate. And thanks for coming!

  9. Tim Noonan at 10:38 am

    Hey Jye,

    great post and its always so lovely to hear a story told from the heart, rather than just from the head.

    When I was 18 in my last year of highschool people would ask what I planned as a career – and I’d say “I don’t really know yet, but I know it won’t have anything to do with computers or technology, my mind just doesn’t understand that kind of stuff…”

    Blessedly I was wrong, and the universe was distracted and didn’t hear that particular afirmation… and I’ve had a 25 year career working with technology, so it is more intuitive and comfortable for people to engage with, so they can get the information and do the things that are important to them.

    Technology gives so many of us additional opportunities to tell our stories, and also offers us opportunities to shift our perspective (lense) to retell our stories from fresher, more positive, forgiving and empowering perspectives.

    Did you record your presentation?


  10. Jye Author at 11:02 am


    Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post. But I could never thank you enough for taking the time to share your own story.

    I think you’re a real inspiration and an exceptionally talented human being.

    They did, my delivery was poor, the sheer adrenalin running through my body was uncanny. I’ll be sure to link you to a copy when they publish it.


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  12. Bluebleu01 at 9:26 am

    “Thechnology has the power to bring people together”, this is awesome. Thanks!!

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  14. James Sowden at 7:42 pm

    Jye that was beautiful. I look forward to following your story as it unravels further.

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  16. Lucy James at 10:07 am

    A beautiful story Jye, and a great initiative. Obviously I’m reading this some time after you first published… What’s the progress?

    It doesn’t really compare to your story, but rather resonates.. I recently connected with some very long lost cousins, on Facebook. I was surprised that social media could have such an effect on my personal life, it made my very happy :)

    Thanks for re-posting this on Twitter I’m sorry I missed it the first time.

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