The returns are coming in from #SXSW15 (South by Southwest 2015) – the annual gathering of creatives, techies, brainies, groupies, suits, hippies, and puppies (see inset). And that’s just for starters. As a very present gathering of very future oriented thinkers, SXSW does not disappoint in affirming that we live in an ‘all swim’ age of ideas.
From music and film to software and social science there is something for everyone.Even for those who never land in Austin, TX where the nine-day cross between Woodstock and the Worlds Fair takes place. The conference exists not just physically but virtually as well. While the lager may not be as free flowing online, the learning and inspiration is every bit as legit.
I can say that with great authority. I’ve never been. I attend online.
SXSW is a microcosm of how entrepreneurs succeed. First there are ideas that seem more like noise to most onlookers. Then there are early products with only a few listeners and early adopters. Eventually there are mainstream products that meets broader acceptance and acclaim.
SXSW 2015 offers three powerful reminders of what makes simple ideas prosper. They are important leadership lessons for entrepreneurs.
Creativity and Technology Must Fuse Together
A lasting inspiration of SXSW is the melding of the creative with the technological.It’s where the artist has met the inventor and they hookup to inspire products and services that transform our lives. From Uber and the way we get from here to there to the vending of management ideas from a Malcolm Gladwell, the spoils are going to those who embrace both the divergent possibilities of art with the convergent necessities of business.
Ideas Need Community
Ideas cannot survive in isolation. The refinements and validations from community are what turn ideas into value which benefits others.
It’s community that extracts ideas from the lonely confines of our minds and places them into the crucible of conversations, scrutiny, testing and defense. Ideas must be exposed to other ideas outside of their conceptual boundaries. It does not weaken them but builds their muscles and ability to manifest their value to others.
Leadership Requires Filtering Without Squelching
This for me is the biggest challenge of most conferences or events I’ve ever attended. So many things are noisy – from the promotions to the crowds. They may energize some, but they distract others. However it has taught me that we must learn how to filter new ideas without squelching the fundamental movements behind them.
For those who are in the business of dreaming and creating (the musicians, programmers, designers), I would encourage you to not worry about being noisy, just focus on playing the notes – be it an instrument or a style sheet. Do your thing.Practice it. Over time your noise turns into music.
For those who from the dreams and creations seek to build a business (entrepreneurs, investors, managers), I would encourage you to understand the heart and motivations behind the creations. It’s when we write something off arbitrarily as a trend or fad without understanding the influences behind it that we stubbornly miss opportunities.
More than just a conference, #SXSW15 reminds us that before our lives were performed they were first imagined. Everything was a new idea at one point, sounding like nothing but noise to most early observers. Yet those that walked them into our lives did so because they appreciated the fusion of creativity and technology, they knew that ideas do best in community, and that true leadership filters without squelching.
Not bad for what started out as just a music festival.