I just got back from Austin, TX – the home of “weird” and some of the best new restaurants anywhere – oh and of course, SXSW, the largest annual interactive conference.  30,000 people came together for a week of conversation, music, independent film and overall excitement.  What makes SXSW so interesting is how it brings together these different mediums in one place and is an early predictor of what is new and innovative in technology and culture.  Last year’s focus on the environment, education and mobile were topical and subsequently resulted in independent SXSW conferences (Edu and Eco), but things have evolved considerably in just a year.  This will be the first in a series of posts reflecting my observations and learnings from the conference. Here are some of the more interesting topics that were discussed.

  • sxswcares-slide_0Data drives everything: Analytics and tracking technologies have evolved significantly allowing insight into every aspect of our use of everything (both digital and increasingly physical).
  • Privacy is at risk: Comments from Julian Assange and Edward Snowden (which were transmitted through 7 encryption servers) reinforced the need to protect citizen’s rights.
  • Wearables will be everywhere: People will want immediate access to personalized data to help them make informed decisions and drive behavior change (hopefully for the better).  Getting the design and user experience right will enable these products to increase adoption more quickly.
  • Embeddables are coming: Scary but true, you may have micro-chips implanted in your body in the future.  I can’t say that I’m very excited about this prospect, but there seems to be a science fiction inevitability around this.  During Gary Vaynerchuk’s talk, he noted how tied we are to our cell phones, and 30% of attendees surveyed indicated they would consider having a mobile device surgically implanted:)
  • Robotics will also run our world: As the “internet of things” evolves, sensors will track everything at our workplaces, in our homes and on our person.

And what are the implications of this brave new world that we’re entering?  Measurement can be used as both a carrot (positive incentive) or a stick (punishment) and will likely factor into business and pricing decisions. Well on the positive side, hopefully this new information will help businesses to become more astute in understanding and anticipating customer needs, so this creates opportunities for better user experiences. On the down side, monitoring can become punitive.  A future scenario could have your insurance company increasing healthcare premiums for overeating or other bad habits, so we better get those wearables to make sure we take 10,000 steps a day and take responsibility for our own health.

Other implications of this new reality:

  • New rules around technology and personal interactions (“netiquette” and “tech/life balance”):  We will need to learn when and how to disconnect from our devices in order to create more human connection, since it remains a world of personal interactions and the basic art of face-to-face conversation remains important (not just for reading body language).
  • Creativity will blossom at the intersection of science and art. Incredible new possibilities will become imaginable as technology connects with creativity.  IBM introduced a food truck, Cognitive Cooking, based on Watson, its supercomputer whose understanding of food science allowed it to create crazy new menus based both on the molecular properties of foods and favorite taste combinations.
  • New models based on sharing and positive psychology will emerge.  The desire to help others will create new opportunities in both business (as Jelly, a human-centered, social network-based search model shows) and social change (increased focus on doing good while making money).  Companies will become more creative in their marketing and advertising approaches to recognize and reward new and prospective customers in order to drive loyalty.

you-will-be-assimilated_Wow, a lot to absorb, but incredibly fascinating to learn about.  Hopefully we’ll have some time to fully appreciate the ramifications of these changes as it can sometimes take a few years for changes to really become fully incorporated into our culture….. but make no mistake, “You will be assimilated.”


If you would like some guidance and support during this incredible period of change, contact us to learn more about how we can help you or your organization adapt. We specialize in introducing innovation around new product launches, organizational design and performance coaching.