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Initially, I intended on giving you all a day-by-day account of the sessions from the 2011 South by Southwest Interactive Conference. After going through four and a half days of notes, I realized one common thread linked all the presentations to together: to do. Not wait. Not over analyze. Not ask for permission. Just do. Nike was on to something.
Many of the panelists and presenters started with just an idea. Contrary to popular belief, they didn’t have access to tremendous amounts of capital. Not all of them were trust-funded super geniuses that went to Harvard or MIT. In fact, many acted, looked, and spoke just like you and me. The key difference is that they were willing to take an idea, and do what it took to get there. When they got there, they hired and inspired those around themselves to continue to take it to the next level.
Before those who embarked on their idea spent any money, they took the time to create a fundamental vision of what they were going to do. They made sure to think through every dimension of the space they were planning to enter. They reached out to others for mentorship. They wanted to understand how, and in what context, the end user was going to take advantage of the product or service. They weren’t worried about the technology or the mechanics because those would come along later. They focused on how the product or service would reach the customer, and how it would improve the customer’s life. For some, it took years. For others, it was a eureka! moment.
When that vision was crystallized, there was no hesitation to begin development. Prototypes were developed, tested, measured, and scrapped until the kinks were worked out. Failures do happen to even the very best. In fact, quick failures were considered a blessing. The results could be meticulously dissected so that the successes would be repeated, and mistakes would not be repeated. As development continued, testing left the developers, went to family and friends, then focus groups, and then the general public. The testing never stopped. The products and services continued to evolve to better serve the needs of the end user.
As many watched their ideas come to fruition, they never lost sight of who they were. They didn’t conform to the culture common in their line of work. They didn’t water down their personality, their ideas, or even their language. They were honest with their partners, coworkers, in their presentations, and in their writings. They were honest with themselves. That honesty reflects in their company’s brand, and what they do.
This is just a small piece of what I’ve taken away from the conference. Sharing more thoughts is some of what I am going to do. Giving my clients what they deserve is what I am going to do. Being a more effective teammate is something I am going to do. Making time for those important to me is something I am going to do. I’m going to act on a plan, and continue to move forward.
What are you going to do? Are you going to laugh this off as some feel-good excrement, or are you going to think about it? Are you going to push aside your ideas? Are you going to play it safe? Are you going to ignore that feeling in your gut? Are you going to go through the motions? Are you going to quit? Are you going to take the easy route? Are you going to keep lying to yourself and those around you? Or, are you going to do more?