It’s my last day here at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. It’s been the wild ride it always is, including seeing old friends, hearing some great (and not so great) speakers, and networking in some of the strangest places.
Last year, it was the group texting trend that seemed to be the one everyone was discussing. The year before that, it was location-based social networks. This year, I’m having trouble identifying the ONE trend everyone seems to be discussing. (Although some would argue the next generation location-based connection apps are still big.)
Instead, there is a murmur of a few trends that will influence the way smart companies interact with customers, employ the smartest people and design experiences.
Access has been discussed a lot over the years, but now it seems to be a heftier subject. Think of the millions of people who don’t have the regular access we do to electricity, water and technology. Beyond that, how can all the smart people who make things like electronics and software make their products more accessible? Consider this as you design your experience. Access is about making the way we use the amazing tools we develop work without steep learning curves, obstacles for certain populations, or excessive maintenance.
This is another topic that has been knocked around for some time. Here’s the thing that stood out to me this year – decentralization only works when certain things ARE centralized. For example, centralize the core values of your company, centralize the concise social media rules, then let your folks loose. IF – and this is a big if – they know the core values, the rest will not only fall into place, but empower everyone in the process to deliver the extraordinary.
A culture of failure is ok. Failure is part of the process. The companies and technologies and products who survive are the ones who adapt by trying stuff out. If failure is consistently punished, the result will be stifled innovation. Lack of innovation kills companies, and now this is true more than ever. Innovation can only happen if a culture supports new ideas.
Half of the appeal of making the trek to Austin is the attraction of hanging out with people in real life. As we add new technologies, better ways to connect and eventually technologies that connect for us, we as people still need to interact with other people. The best innovations will enable that.
There is no question the world is changing at an incredible pace. The choice for those who care about designing and delivering amazing experiences is to choose to focus on the parts of the experience that will not change first. Focus on the people, the interactions, the empowerment.
Thanks for the hospitality, Austin. See you next year!