SXSW 2017 – The New Digital Work Economy Needs More Real Brains

Life is full of choices. Where should I live? Should I get married? Which campaign do I choose for the client pitch? How many people should I hire or fire? Behavioural scientists discovered that everybody more or less makes 20,000 decisions every day. It reflects who we are, what we believe and how we behave.

But imagine if machines took all of this away? We will no doubt lose our identity. Now, we’re not saying that all decisions in the future could and should be made by machines! Artificial Intelligence already solves lots of problems and challenges now, and will probably solve even more in the future. And that’s brilliant, and is going to lead us to a whole new era. Every organisation must invest in future knowledge and new ways of working.

But in the long run it only pays off if, at the same time, they don’t stop developing the people that have to implement these new technologies. As our colleague Alexander Turtschan, Head of Media Insights & Innovation at Plan.Net outlines it so precisely: “My key takeaway from this year’s SXSW is that we now have fully entered the post-platform era of digitisation. AI, robotics and machine learning will transform every aspect of our lives, from the workplace to the home. While the technological side is moving rapidly, we are lagging far behind on the social aspects of this revolution, from legal frameworks to moral implications.“

SXSW in other words is sharing, exploring and inspiring every human centred aspect. There’s been a lot of press and interviews on the outcome of SXSW 2017, as well as a lot of sentiment over whether it is a good or bad event to attend.

From our experience this is not a black or white event. SXSW is what you make of it – hence everyone has a different SXSW experience. It’s such a large event, that covers a multitude of different topics. Within the official SXSW program and all around Austin at other branded open sessions, RSVP sessions and even hidden events – everyone rides the SXSW-wave.

For Nicolas Roemer, Head of Business Development International at Serviceplan, it is the strongest digital event in the US; in regards to mixing technology with socio-political and cultural ideological topics, probably the strongest event in the world. “As Virginia Rometty (President & CEO, IBM) put it, one doesn’t have one mentor, one learns and grows from everyone that inspires you. This can be across all kinds of areas. The people I meet at SXSW excite me and help develop and structure my approach every time I attend SXSW.”

He continues: “As I am heavily involved in building out Serviceplan North America’s presence this year, SXSW has been vital to see how other US agencies and brands sell themselves successfully at such events. Agencies and brands definitely promote themselves differently in the US. One can also tell that the high-risk tolerance level of brands for new technology has significantly grown. Brands are employing and enabling work forces e.g. Innovation Disruptors at HP to experiment with new technologies: Be it blockchain, experimenting with the different AI API’s, VR/AR etc. Especially in the AI field we will see a lot of change, even for the advertising industry with IBM Watson banner solutions, for example.”

So most people that attend SXSW Interactive already have a very strong background in digital, UX, technology, out-of-the-box-thinking…you name it. They have all heard of Watson, Nio and Drones before. Besides networking and experiencing the newest trends, what makes the SXSW experience so valuable? One of my observations this year was that many organisations are focusing on the workplace environment. For example, Fjord’s 2017 Trends report examines not only trends that will impact consumers, but also those set to impact design, business, organisation, culture and society in the next 12-18 months. IDEO spoke about innovation talents and how to keep innovators feeling creative, fulfilled, and committed as they grow in their careers. And Piera Gelardi, Founder of Refinery29, passionately spoke about ‘Courageous Creativity’ and how you sustain a childlike wonder and exuberant creativity as you grow a multi-million dollar, global business.

Moreover Meredith Haberfeld expressed her thoughts on employee engagement in relation to the economic advantage of a company: “From startups to mega-corporations, companies are wasting billions of dollars in the quest for employee engagement. But the only starting point for a fulfilled, optimally productive workplace is getting real about your CEO’s human intelligence. Leaders need basic human skills that aren’t taught in business school. Without them, engagement efforts are an embarrassingly shiny façade failing to mask underlying issues.”

Technology, work environment, tools and culture will massively shape the future of work experience and company success. These conditions will impact how adaptable organisations will be to change and upcoming trends. The human experience cannot be taken away by technology. Certainly people also have to adapt to the speed of technology. Learn how to fail and push creativity and innovation to the limit. Because, as Simon Steiner, Senior Consultant & Planner at Mediaplus described it, “In the digital age speed trumps perfection.”

This is the reason Serviceplan sent experts from the media, digital research, cultural strategy, and business development teams to distribute this knowledge across the group and into our 25 offices worldwide. Following on from the amazing networking opportunities from SXSW – as we did in 2016 with our educational VR-sessions – we will be hosting educational sessions for our clients and colleagues, on trends and topics we were able to take home from Austin.

While talking to IBM Watson in Austin I found out on ibmpersonalitee.com that with my skillset I should be a Mentor. The Mentor is an “old soul”, relying on their past experiences to provide insight on what is coming next. They can answer all sorts of different questions with surprising accuracy, and have a healthy attitude about life. “Well, Watson – I don’t know about this! But thanks for the compliment anyway. ;-)” Lucky me that in the end I can decide weather I will make the Watson artificial intelligence my reality or not.

Howdy and see you next year in Austin!

 

This article was published on lbbonline.com.

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