Monday, April 2, 2018

7 Non-obvious Trends at SxSW 2018

Each year, I leave SxSW with several titles to add to my "want to read" list. This year, "Non-obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict the Future" tops that list.

Rohit Bhargava packed his hour with enough information for two sessions. He began by talking about his work as a trend spotter. Sounds like a fun gig if you can get it. As he explains his process, you realize that trend spotting also looks like an amazing amount of work.

He thinks of trend spotting as curation. He curates other people's ideas, but he also insists that we should all find ways to curate our own ideas and thinking.

The result of all this curation is Rohit's annual series on non-obvious trends. During his session he highlighted seven trends: manipulated outrage, ungendered, human mode, light-speed learning, enlightened consumption, disruptive distribution, and lovable imperfection.

I'm, of course, looking for ways the Library can capitalize on these.

"Human mode" seems an easy and logical fit for us. As automation increases, desire grows for personal, authentic experiences. People want advice, service and interaction with real-live human beings. That's us! The Library has always excelled at personalize service with a personal touch, so maybe the real question is how can we do a better job of selling that aspect.

Want to see more? Rohit was nice enough to post his SxSW slides on slideshare.
Rohit Bhargava

Monday, March 26, 2018

Elmo's World: Updating a classic property

You might be wondering why a 40 year-old communication manager who works primarily with college students would go to a session about Elmo. First, I love PBS. I unabashedly love PBS. And, I will always add anything PBS-related to my SxSW schedule. They never disappoint. Second, this year I was really focusing on Gen Z research, and I hoped I pick up a few worthwhile tidbits of generational research.

While I can't say that I got a ton of concrete take aways relevant to my work at OSU at this talk, I can say it was super interesting. Members of the Sesame Street Workshop team talked about the research, creative process and testing that went into updated the children's program, "Elmo's World."

I don't think "Sesame Street" gets the credit it deserves for innovation, but it's a legacy they try to maintain. The research and testing that went into developing this series was really interesting. The team was able to screen the show at various pre-schools. As the children watched (or didn't watch) the show they tracked things like how long the children looked at the screen, when they looked away, and if they engaged with the content (i.e. answering questions, talking to the characters, dancing along). The team used this information to identify which segments were most successful and how long segments should be.

The group also talk about the creative process and how the various units worked together to successfully combine curriculum, animation, puppetry, gaming, and live action. The aspect I found most interest was the media mixing. The original Sesame Street was groundbreaking in its combination of live action and puppetry. Critic thought it would be confusing to mix the universes, but turns out kids don't care. Elmo's World updates this concept, mixing animation and puppetry in a similar fashion.

The team readily admits that adults will find some of the program pretty annoying, but kids love it. They have the research to prove it.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

SxSW, I'm Back

After taking a year off from my annual SxSW trek, I decided to give the festival another shot. This year, I brought Nina, my trusty producer along with me, and we hit the road! This was my sixth SxSW and Nina's first.

In my typical Sx-fashion, I'll be sprinkling in some posts about my favorite sessions over the next few months. Until then, I want to share a few of the themes I picked up on this year. This is one of my favorite parts of SxSW, and I feel like you really have to be there going to sessions to have this experience. Some themes are obvious (like VR/AR having its very own track in the programming), other themes are more of reoccurring ideas that resonated with me personally.

Theme 1: Disruptions that will impact the future of information literacy
There was no one session that addressed this, but I was surprised how many different sessions left me thinking about the future of libraries and role in information literacy education. Here are a few of my take aways.

  • We don't have an information overload, we have a noise overload. We aren't just teaching people how to find the best information anymore. In a post-truth world, we need to teach people how to filter out the trash. We can't even begin to talk about the "best" information, until we get people to care about accuracy.  
  • Which is difficult because Gen Z doesn't care about source. They care about validation. I hear faculty and librarians lament the fact that "kids these days" can't tell the difference between ads and real content. That's not the problem. They can tell the difference, they just don't care. 
  • The under-rated fear of AI is over trust. As virtual assistants and other AIs become more ubiquitous and we grow more dependent on them how does this impact the way we teach information literacy? GPS comes with a warning to not drive your car into a lake if it tells you to. What could a trusted AI get you to do?
Theme 2: The now and future of media consumption
I think this will always be a key theme for me at SxSW. But the things I learn surprise me every year.
  • Video is still king... for now. 
  • We're all about VR/AR, but the future is still unclear. Platforms are still developing. Access is still a big issue. The laws are fuzzy and just  starting to look at the space. There is a dark side and the ethics of the space are also still evolving. 
  • Audio. Who knew? I feel like several years ago many were looking down on audio as a bit quaint. Thanks to AI, audio is back in a big way and it poised to become a major part of our future media offerings. While we have a big leap in knowledge and equipment needed to really enter the VR/AR/AI world, we are ready to create high-quality and engaging audio now. Thinking creatively about audio could help us bridge the gap between where we are and AI and VR. 

Watch for upcoming posts on these related sessions:

  • Seven Nonobvious Trends
  • Mo Reality, Mo Problems? AR/VR and the Law
  • Brave New World: The Future of Theater and Tech
  • Elmo's World: Updating a Classic Property for a New Generation

Theme 3: Biohacking
This theme really surprised me. The schedule had several sessions specifically about biohacking. While I didn't attend those, biohacking still crept into the sessions I attended, and it was really interesting. Daniel Pink's session on timing was quite possibly my favorite of the week. More on that later.

Watch for upcoming posts on these related sessions:

  • Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing
  • Active Meditation to Shift Your S*** and Increase Your EQ

Theme 4: Gen Z
I've been very interested in Gen Z research ever since I attended a really bad session about the new youth generation last summer. I've had a difficult time finding much solid research on the topic, so at SxSW I attended every session I could on Z. There are a bunch of people who are positioning themselves as experts, but they are just making stuff up. One of the absolute worst SxSW sessions I have ever seen was on Gen Z (and it was actually an encore session). Fortunately, there are people doing real research. They will readily admit that it is evolving because Z is still so young, but trends are emerging.

Watch for an upcoming post on the related session: How Gen Z will Change the Workplace

Theme 5: Innovation is the buzzword
It might seem obvious to list innovation as a SxSW theme, but this year seemed to tackle the subject with more intention than previous years. Nina and I are offering our co-workers a share session on our SxSW experience, and we opted to focus solely on the innovation sessions. There is so much to say on these, it will need to wait for future posts.

Watch for upcoming posts on these related sessions:

  • Culture Shock: How Company Policy Hinders Innovation
  • Innovating the Future with Culture Track
  • How NASA and LEGO Embrace Open Innovation
  • Three Innovation Superpowers
  • Leading for a Culture of Innovation and Creativity

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Balancing Besties and Business

Run Time: 1-3 hours (depending on customization)
Description: Determining where to draw the line on friendship with those you manage – or those who manage you – seems more complicated than ever. Conventional wisdom says we should avoid building friendships across reporting lines, but today’s current leadership practices embrace connection and openness. In real life, the actual line between our personal and professional lives is very thin. This session will help you examine the benefits and challenges of friendship in the workplace. We will discuss common stumbling blocks like social media posts, as well how you can coach others to create healthy boundaries in your organization. It will encourage you to redefine what workplace friendship should look like for you, and how to set and maintain those lines going forward.

Recommended Readings: Balancing Besties & Business Pinterst board

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Think Outside the Text Box

Run Time: 2 hour
Description: Libraries have been thinking about the evolution of communication and our role in the changing media landscape for decades. But often we cling to traditional styles in our own communications. We use writing as a default mechanism for relaying information. Our signs, our emails, our handouts, our website are still often solely text. How and when could we find other ways to communicate?
Recommended Readings: Think Outside the Text Box Pinterst board

Monday, May 30, 2016

Rise of the Social Employee with Sarah Pedersen

Presenter: Sarah Pedersen, Director of Customer Success for the Americas, Hearsay Social

I was interested in this talk because for years I've been hoping to tap into the ambassador potential of my organization's employees. I honestly think there are a lot of employees who are passionate about our organization, would love to be ambassadors in any way they can, but they don't quite make the connection in the social media space. 

Social listening is great and certainly gives us useful information, but how to do I get my coworkers to understand the power and influence they have and encourage them (and teach them how) to leverage that on our behalf?

Here are a few of my key take-aways from Pedersen's talk:

In your company you have:
  • Brand Advocates-they are out there talking about you already
  • Social Listeners-how do we let them share their knowledge internally
  • Detractors-how you listen/deal with these employees is important
  • Opt-Outs- we can't force people to have social media, that's ok, they do other important jobs.
This idea really clicked with me. I can totally see this at play in our organization. I think I had internalized this to a point, but how can we take this frame and make it a more formalized part of both our internal and external communications?

Pedersen also talked about the History of Social Media using the premise that social actually began with the launch of the postage service. Long before the technology, we had a longing to connect with others and this is the root of all social media. 

See all my SxSW recaps on the tag SxSW.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Expanding Your Mentor Network

Run Time: 1 hour
Description: Mentors provide inspiration, motivation and development. They can play a key role at any point in your career, but how do you find one in the first place? And, where do you turn when you begin to “out-grow” the mentors you found early in your career? In this session, we’ll discuss different styles of mentors and show you how to go beyond the traditional mentor-protégé relationship to expand your mentor network.

Recommended Readings: Expanding Your Mentor Network Pinterst board