Posts from SXSW Interactive 2014 – day 3 & 4 1

So I ran into some bad luck with choice of sessions and I also ended up not getting in to a few others. But here’s a brief summary of what I did manage to see.

What: Work Hacking away from business as usual
Who: Ayelet Baron, Rawn Shah

I listened in to this talk only just briefly, I’m afraid. Ayelet and Rawn focus on the question “How do we convince people to do things differently around the world?” They even mentioned the actual phrase “the future of work”, so I felt quite at home there. They both struck me as people of my own heart. Sympathetic, human and passionate. They talked a bit about the “new” workforce and how the young have different expectations on life and work, and how they want to make a difference in the world and in their communities, and how organisations better figure out pretty quick how they can meet that need. They also mentioned how they think that “change management” will go away in the future, as we have to change all the time and be adaptive.

I would heartily agree. Change is already a core skill. Not only driving change, that’s one thing. But just being able to live and thrive in an environment where things move rapidly and can appear chaotic. This is a necessary mindset shift that causes friction during the change process, and we’ll have to be ready for it. When one part of your organisation creates an environment of safe to fail experiments, trial and error and serious play, and another part of your organisation is Tayloristic, a lot of wheels has to be greased, and a lot of understanding and empathy will be required.

Ayelet and Rawn also believes that silos will completely disappear in the future, that we will complete the transition to “100% project based work” and finally understand that the competition is outside the organisation, not inside. Wouldn’t that be nice. In relation to this, they offered a pretty interesting theory of why the old structures will crumble and fall. They posit that the millennials’ heavy need for frequent feedback is the catalyst. In the old hierarchies, it’s the manager who has to offer that feedback, and that can be rather exhausting. As feedback has to flow in that one direction in the old structures, says Ayelt and Rawn, that need will be de-centralized as that is the only way to scale. So we’ll see more peer-to-peer feedback in our networked systems, and less top down feedback in our silos. I thought that was an interesting theory, that young people’s need for feedback, is what will tear down the old structures.

Then I had to leave for another session. Which I didn’t get in to. Then I ended up at a bad session, which I shall not mention as this serves no one’s need. A bit irked I finally ended up on a 6:th street bar crawl with lots of live music. That was about as fun as it gets.

What: Things I’ve learned from leading (UX designers)
Who: Russ Unger

I also listened in to Russ Unger talk about a few lessons learned re: leadership. Russ has been thinking about this stuff for over a decade now, and he was kind enough to share his insights. There weren’t much new stuff in his talk for me, but it’s always great to get a reminder. Russ talked around these five important points:

1. Team Charter
2. Facilitation
3. Collaboration
4. Critique
5. Time is worth your time

The team charter is a result of agreeing on the “how” our work should work. I usually call this a P.O.D (point of departure) and I do it a bit more lightweight than Russ suggests. And of course, Russ talks about a permanent team here, and I use the P.O.D in the beginning of new “theme work” when we assemble our x-team.

I really like how Russ underlines facilitation as a core leadership skill (I see now how this post will reek of confirmation bias). Yet, I cannot enough stress the importance of facilitation skills in your organisation. It’s key.

Onwards, Collaboration. Now that’s a given, and the leader’s job is to create an environment where self organized collaboration can take place. It’s what we do. Russ’ points on Critique concerned what I would call feedback, and making sure that feedback takes place in a healthy and structured way is indeed a core leadership skill.
Russ suggested an interesting solution to this challenge. He has started experimenting with what he calls “critique buddies” which is really a formalized system for peer-to-peer feedback. Interestingly, the peer-to-peer feedback is exactly what Ayelet and Rawn from earlier believe will be the lucifer spark that sets the world on fire. Fingers crossed everyone!

Final wisdom from Russ:

There’s no manual for leaders. No one know’s exactly how do do this stuff, so keep winging it. But do it with confidence.

Sorry for just agreeing with Russ. Not very exiting to read. Today is a new day in Austin. And the sun is shining. Finally.


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One thought on “Posts from SXSW Interactive 2014 – day 3 & 4

  • Russ

    I’m not sorry you just agreed with me–it’s nice to hear that we’ve got some similar thinking!

    Thanks for making it to the session–and sticking it out!