Wednesday, 17 March 2010


So as I reach the end of SXSW 2010 what's my takeaways from five days?

#1 Staying Authentic: whatever technological developments, whatever trends, new platforms or tools come along, (of course) success is about keeping it real. I was reminded of this many times in the last few days, not least by @garyvee in his keynote/ Q&Afest.

#2 You Don't Have To Grow It Big: I've been evangelising this for a while, that you don't have to build a business big to be a success; you don't have to scale up your people or your reach the whole time, you can grow in other ways. So I loved @jasonfried's message from 'Rework' that instead of building it big, why not focus on building a business that is sustainable, profitable and comfortable. Yep yep.

#3 Reaching out to others: I put 'collaboration' as one of my themes for 2010 and a session here reminded me of the benefits of reaching out to the crowd. @jeffrey and @scottbelsky ran a session on crowdsourcing showing how businesses/ brands can tap into consumer insight and the intellectual capital of the crowd. We're used to outsourcing so much in business today, going out to the crowd is a great resource.

#4 Unplanning our businesses: Of course, my own theme for SXSW was 'Unplanning' your business but it was great to hear this from other speakers, not just @jasonfried but also @Ev who reminded us that 'whatever you assume when you start out (in business), you're wrong'. I'm not anti-planning, just evangelising that passion and vision are more powerful/valuable than a business plan (check out my Unplan blog).

#5 It's all about results: another drum I've been banging is that we need to rethink' work'; that 'work is a mindset, not a place you go'. So I loved the session on ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) led by @alevit that talked about the cultural change from workers being rewarded for 'just showing up' to instead getting rewarded for results. It creates some opportunities - and challenges - for freelancers and independent consultants to cease being paid by the day, but being paid by the outcome of what they do. That doesn't mean we need to get obsessed with data and analytics to look at ROI, but it's a much more realistic way of looking at productivity.

#6 Business doesn't have to be dull. These are tough times for business and we're having to work harder than ever. But as many speakers reminded us, we should not be total workaholics and we need to learn to 'switch off'. And from all the sessions, parties and connections SXSW reminds me that business can be fun. One SXSW moment sticks in my head; it was the evening I was lucky  (thanks for the invite @espreedevora )to be on Tony Hsieh's 'Delivering Happiness' bus, going around Austin - hip-hop playing, an on-board bar, a woman making balloons, and the senior management of Zappos and their friends having fun. No suits or traditional networking in sight.

#7 Rethink 'Business'. I think it's time we rethink what 'business' is. Someone - I think @jeffrey - said 'business is the mechanism for taking an idea from concept to delivery' and that's a good one. To some, SXSW interactive is about geeks, or technology, or creativity; to me - it's just about business. Not the business of Wall St, The City, your local Chamber Of Commerce or Business Link,not about suits, powerpoint presentations and business plans but THE BUSINESS OF YOU & ME. Doing it your way, your style and you don't need to give a damn about 'the rules' (whatever they are). I got a tweet today that my Unplan idea is 'dangerous rubbish' but I'm seeking to disrupt the assumptions of the status quo and show people you can be successful by doing it your own way. It's like what Tim Ferriss wrote to me in his book when I met him on a rooftop in Austin: 'here's to experimenting often and exploring the uncommon'.

No comments: