Far from following the Texas phrase “all hat, no cattle”, SXSW proved itself yet again to be more than a tech conference; it delivered opportunity and inspiration in spades. In fact, the outcome was so good that I came away with five very clear trends that brands can apply to their business right now.
Part four of this series focuses on the industry’s reaction to the notorious ‘bro culture’ attached to the ‘work hard, play hard, fail hard’ ethos. This has noticeably changed this year with far more of a pastoral approach to business.
Michael Nieling’s candid talk about Benicio, the monkey on his shoulder that causes panic, doubt and anxiety, was fascinating. He talked about how Benicio drives him (and it appeared many in the room) to over practice, over work and over prepare. For Michael, this meant he ended up having a nervous breakdown and having to re-think his life. The solution? look after yourself, control your own life and, above all, have empathy in order to be comfortable in your own skin.
Adopt a maker mentality
The maker culture has long been a track at SXSW. However, it seems that this has now moved from a focus on new product development (NPD) and into a means by which employees can be more fulfilled. Companies are increasingly creating spaces for making in the workplace – from Airbnb’s Common Studio to Nike’s Blue Ribbon, and IBM’s 400 square foot Lab, where staff enjoy screen-printing, foil stamping and even sewing.
This method can clearly be productive for brands in terms of NPD, but the effect on staff shouldn’t be underestimated. People are looking for a different kind of experience in the workspace and adopting a maker mentality can not only help people unlock and explore new skills, but also provide a more creative cross functional working environment that can ultimately lead to a better workplace. It’s time for every brand to start thinking about how they can create their own experimental workspaces.
Be a force for good
Every year the festival votes for meme of the year, and this year it was won by ‘Prankster Joe Biden’. It was a very different Joe Biden that stood on stage and talked movingly about the recent death of his son to cancer. He has recently established the Cancer Moonshot Task Force to foster research and facilitate access to treatment and detection to "eliminate cancer as we know it." his message to SXSW was simple – use your talents to fight cancer.
Ideas are the lifeblood of SXSW, but as we all know, ideas can come from anywhere; this was perhaps best demonstrated by YouTube star and now CNN employee Casey Neistat. Casey inspired everyone by talking about his Tarzan method – the method which led to creativity and being original that lead to his now famous Make It Count video for Nike.
The Tarzan method comprises knowing where you want to get to without necessarily knowing how you are going to get there. This may involve taking a series of different paths and dealing with whatever is in front of you, but you are constantly moving towards your ultimately goal. This encourages open mindedness and forces you to realise that the direct route isn’t always the perfect or correct route. Grab the vine that is in front of you even though it may not be a linear process.
Remember your people skills
Technology and the industry is moving at such a pace that the people part is sometimes forgotten in the race to ‘the next big thing’. As we all know, people are your greatest asset. This starts with your employees, but also extends to your loyal customers. It doesn’t matter how many resources you have, a business without loyal people leaves your cup empty, so make sure to keep your work force happy and indulge your old clients as much as you would your new business. These people are your ambassadors – use them wisely.
Andrew Roberts is managing partner at Gravity Thinking.