Ecosystem Thinkers, BRACE Yourself!

Brace Yourself!
Beginning with the end in mind, let me put this insight into context for you. BRACE Yourself, in the lead role of Ecosystem Thinking’s Change Agent Mantra is hiding an acronym which I will share with you in this post, where the last letter E stands for Empathy. I contend it is the single most important value for us to align our mutual interest upon in order to maximize our society’s productivity, prosperity and well being – for as many people as possible, while still enabling capitalism. A more conscious capitalism to be sure, but an economic basis for which those who innovate, who build, who create more value, who work harder, will enjoy rewards greater than those who don’t.

Someone told me recently that I had empathy in spades and that this was one of the first things she noticed about me. In that I do consider myself an empath, I may be more attuned to this societal need then most, and I admit such a bias – but that bias is based on evidence, the evidence of how it has served me and how I have benefited and seen others benefit through efforts like Social Media Club.

Switching gears here a little, most of us have an understanding of the concept that we get/create what we focus on. I.E., our mind sets about creating a vision of something we want to do or accomplish and then we make plans, decisions and actions to make that manifest. It’s actually quite magical, but more on the alchemy later. In Ecosystem Thinking we focus on helping all of the stakeholders, especially employees who we want to BRACE themselves, to be successful in achieving their objectives on their journey. We care about them and want to help them.

For now, I’m raising this point relative to my deeply held belief that starting from a place of empathy for others drastically changes the outcomes in both the short and the long term. As a mariner will tell you, change the course just a small amount in the beginning of a journey, and it will put you 100’s of miles away from your original destination. When you start with empathy, you get surprisingly different results, and not in a good way, in a GREAT way.

Starting this piece thinking about this it occurred to me to start with my focus on being in your shoes as the listener, instead of the storyteller. I hit upon these somewhat familiar questions that will be guiding me going forward in this writing:

  • Who is it for, who is it about?
  • WIIFM? (What’s In it For Me?)
  • What the heck is he really trying to say? What’s his main point simplified?
  • Why does this matter?
  • How does it help me?
  • What does it help me accomplish?
  • What should I do about it?
  • What else do I need to know?

So I wanted to establish a connection to my deeper purpose here in a more relatable way, before actually diving into BRACE Yourself as a key mindset to embrace. BRACE yourself arose out of some advisory work I am doing with a new company focused on Resilience, and my realization that when looking at transformation and innovation, this key trait was essential, but so were others. Eventually we hit on these key character traits required of our people to be successful in our modern economy, and more so with Ecosystem Thinking.

BRACE Yourself

  • Boldness
  • Resilience
  • Adaptability
  • Curiosity
  • Empathy

Boldness

As I seek a way to express the vast collection of character traits I’m seeking to encompass here I find myself starting with one of my favorite reasons WHY this is important.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” Goethe

But from there, it’s a simple collection of words and concepts in no particular order of importance that reflects what I am trying to convey here is essential to cultivate in your people.

  • Creativity
  • Courage
  • Risk management (taking, not avoiding)
  • Degree of confidence
  • Willingness
  • Outspokenness
  • Inspirational
  • Passionate

At the end of the day, it’s about leaning in, standing up to fears, managing through uncertainty and embracing what can be. It’s about a new perspective one is willing to bring that is perhaps unexpected by those who would prefer to hang back and not watch from the sidelines rather than risk it all on the field.

Resilience

The ability to bounce back in the face of failure, defeat, acts of god or simple disappointment has long been known as a key trait in successful entrepreneurs. One of the most prominent things that comes to mind here though is Batman.

Thomas Wayne in Batman Begins, “Why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”

This one is deeply personal for me on many levels. I’ve been through some tough depressions over the years, mostly resulting from my failures to accomplish a world changing dream or business pursuit – like, you know, fixing what’s fundamentally broken with businesses all over the world. Little things like that.

Turns out, resilience as a trait in employees, particularly those charged with innovation is of paramount importance as my friend Jon reminds me with his new company RallyBright. To truly innovate, we must embrace failure. We must embrace the test and learn mindset. We must set difficult to reach goals and firmly expect to reach them, and yet be flexible and bounce back when the reality doesn’t meet our expectations. In that instance we must turn failure into learning.

This gets more interesting, once you dig deeper, especially into the discussion of the difference between grit and resilience. Lots more to discuss here, but we can dive in more later.

Adaptibility

Part of resilience is learning and doing something new. A never ending process of constant improvement (if you are a TQM or Tony Robbins nerd like I used to be this rings deep for you perhaps). But it is also about a willingness to dynamically change your approach to each situation. To not be so fixed in our expectations that we are unable to seize victory from victory let alone victory from defeat.

Yes, adaptable is also represented by all the current work around AGILE, in development, marketing and all operations, to be flexible in the accomplishment of our objectives. This is where we get into understanding the purpose, function and execution realities of commanders intent, where skill meets uncertainty on the way to success through improvisation and real time problem solving.

Some people just require certainty in order to be calm, more so in order to be able to focus. They have a more fixed view on why things are and are resistant to change. Meanwhile, the one thing we have seen to be true over and over again is that change is certain, and the pace of it is certainly speeding up, not slowing down.

Curiosity

I think you probably know by now why curiosity is important given what you have read above, but I want to turn it up a notch to get this underway. I would rather not use this word, but it is general enough to encompass my broad intent while still forming a great acronym that fits the big picture. I prefer to refer to this the way I learned it from John Hagel while working with him at Deloitte – to seek those who have a “Questing Disposition”.

Curiosity is close enough, but this idea of having a natural disposition to go on a quest, to be a questing type of person – willing and desirous of going on an adventure, to the ends of the earth if need be, in order to find an answer, a solution, a reference point, a new opportunity or whatever is required to accomplish a given objective. Now this is one you haven’t been properly including in your hiring criteria enough and you need to start doing today.

Curiosity works because we don’t want people who accepts things as they are, we want someone who wants to understand why something is the way it is, how it might be better, how it used to be and what others things it should be. They ask questions. And asking questions is one of the greatest powers in the world. If you want a better outcome or solution, ask a better question. Bringing this mindset and character trait into your organization is increasingly a necessity.

Once again, I am brought back to one of my most favorite quotes in the world. The one with which I resonate the most

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

I am an unreasonable man. I believe that things could be better, so why aren’t they better? Because we don’t believe in being able to change it -but we change everyday, in ways small and large. So let’s make some progress, let’s move Ecosystem Thinking forward together.

Empathy

Well, it looks like we are nearing the end, so we can get back to the beginning again. Empathy is key to design thinking. It is a prerequisite of customer centricity, and the centerpiece of what I have called Radical Customer Centricity. It is just as paramount when moving from customer centricity to stakeholder centricity in Ecosystem Thinking. In short, we need to care above everyone – not necessarily more then we care for ourselves, but a lot. A lot more then most business leaders do today.

Recently there was a great article making the rounds. “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.” In a world where sociopaths and narcissists get ahead while nice guys (and girls) get stepped on, empathy is marginalized a great deal. It’s up to us to put this back at the center of our society, as a key value that we all embrace and celebrate.

For Ecosystem Thinking, as you may have guessed, this belief that “If you are better off, I am better off” is a fundamental principle that drives the theory to success. If it is absent from your market, your industry, your ecosystem, it won’t work. Look to the empathy that is at the heart of the work of Google’s Launchpad Accelerator I wrote about last week. None of that would happen if the leaders didn’t understand how powerful empathy and concern are to their mutual success.

Looking more closely at empathy, you see it’s direct correlation to love. Perhaps this is why I fell in love with Lovemarks so quickly after meeting Kevin at Fast Company’s Real Time conference. Or the deep connection to Tim Sanders stemming from his work on “Love is the Killer App“, a modern take on some of the same principles Dale Carnegie surfaced in “How to Win Friends and Influence People“. Today we might adjust that to How to Win Win Win by Helping People (h/t Rob La Gesse from his social media strategy work at Rackspace).

While many may be thinking about the pain of love perhaps due to a recent life event, remember it is not something to be judged in its absence, but rather in its experience. Who among us can’t describe the feeling of being in love as remarkable, joyous, lifting or some other positive emotional energy. Indeed, the radical version of empathy is love.

In Conclusion

If you can go there with your organization and your people, Ecosystem Thinking will create exponentially more value then merely getting to entry level empathy. This is however, only a matter of where are you on the journey, is it already underway with your organization, or are still looking to light the fire and chart your course?

While this journey has been long for me, going back before I even learned about the triple bottom line, much of the BRACE Yourself mindset has its origins in the work we did to evangelize social media back in 2007, like in this presentation I did on Social Media Principles.

Be Human.

Be Aware.

Be Honest.

Be Respectful.

Be a Participant.

Be Open.

Be Courageous.

Still true today as we look at what’s next. But now once again, I am getting ahead of myself though. I haven’t even answered all of the empathetic questions I was seeking to answer in the beginning, but I hope most of that is readily apparent in the prose. Still, some of this needs to be saved till next week. If you read my earlier post Introducing Ecosystem Thinking, you are probably already wondering what is after BRACE Yourself. What does HELP Others, and EACH Moment Matters mean? Turn in next weekend to find out…

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Introducing Ecosystem Thinking

 Ecosystem Thinking = Systems Design + Design Thinking + Holistic Strategy
It seems everywhere I go, everyone is talking about the importance, value and nature of the ecosystem.  It’s especially poignant as I am once again in the middle of one of the most active technology ecosystems in the world, working as a mentor again this week in Google’s Launchpad Accelerator program. In fact, the broader purpose of the program is to cultivate a startup ecosystem globally that engages all key stakeholders in this important sector of the economy.

While I won’t be getting too deep into the Google Launchpad case study today, it is relevant as I sit here in the midst of it, how perfectly it epitomizes what I have been talking about for a very long time. In the room around me right now are many representative stakeholders of the startup ecosystem. Several early stage and growth stage startups, numerous mentors like myself donating there time to help others, Google employees who run the program, Google employees who are here to contribute their domain expertise, a couple of VC partners, several academics and several AI experts.

There are a few foundational aspects to Ecosystem Thinking in my view, but none more paramount then the concept of convening participants for cultivating mutual benefit. The fact that Google does this without any strings attached to the startups, mentors and others beyond that important lesson from philosophers Bill & Ted, “Be Excellent to Each Other”, is literally the icing on the cake.

It is a strategy that many traditional business leaders would consider folly. But this level of openness, of good will and positive intent is the magic that  magnifies the value. No one needs to be here. Even the Googlers are here by choice. Everyone is getting what they need and contributing what they have. We are in it together.

This is another foundational tenet that will be harder for old school companies to support, despite its necessity. The program is designed for the interactions/relationships between participants to provide reciprocity for everyone. As Rachel Happe of Community Roundtable often reminds me, the most important ROI of a community is for people to feel as if they got more out then they put in.

Of course, this is what we learned from bringing Social Media Club to the world. It was also key to my work at Deloitte Digital in the development of the Engagement Curve. A realization that the proverbial lever for creating value and finding market success was the depth and breath of REAL Relationships the company formed with key stakeholders while serving the market. REAL being an acronym for Reciprocal Empathetic Authentic and Long lasting. This is indeed what I feel uniquely here as a part of this Google Launchpad ecosystem, and part of the inspiration for finally writing this today. That sense of belonging, the feeling of being in the right place, with the right people and being valued by the people here as much as I value them. My hope in writing this book on Ecosystem Thinking is to convince hundreds of world leaders from Global 2000 C-Suites to embrace this mindset, but I know that reading about it is no substitute for feeling what I am experiencing right now.

OK, so that is a practical introduction to what I mean by Ecosystem Thinking and some key aspects of it, but what is the key theory? what does it mean?

The Heart of Ecosystem Thinking

Ecosystem Thinking is based on the hypothesis that leaders who optimize their organization’s strategy and operations around the co-creation of shared value will be the biggest winners in their respective markets. This requires leaders to transcend their short term thinking for a more balanced approach to long and short term, with an expanded understanding of who the key stakeholders are. It’s no longer just the investors and shareholders, companies today need to serve the market, not just the stock market. So we accomplish our goals by thinking differently, a mix of systems design, design thinking and holistic strategy, supported by a natural sciences approach to growth and vitality.

Tactically speaking, we have a lot more to share on this, but first and foremost, the work supporting Ecosystem Thinking as I have come to regard it is based on applying experience design and journey mapping to all stakeholder relationships, not merely customers. This means employees, partners, local community leaders, families of employees, alumni and countless others. In our complex world, the only way to engender and earn the trust of so many people simultaneously is to do this intentionally, to come from a position of openness and empathy. A strong ecosystem won’t happen accidentally as it is not human nature to deal with the complexity that this entails.

You see, another foundational belief of ecosystem thinking is that everything matters. So in a world where we strive for simplicity, we often run from this level of complexity, but it is what is required to succesfully compete in today’s world. There are not many people who can contextualize such a wide set of data and disciplines thoroughly to strategically understand and lead an ecosystem, but this is indeed the sort of person that is needed in a role of Ecosystem Architect. I believe they share many character/personality traits in common with community managers, such as genuine concern and the sort of expert relationship management of connecting the right people, and proverbial dots. They also, like myself, typically will have an inter-disciplinary background and as a result, are likely to have a ‘non-traditional’ resume. But I am getting ahead of myself here, so lets wrap this up for now instead.

So What?

In today’s connected society, marked by a near real time market and increasingly higher customer expectations, getting things right is the price of admission in many markets. While we need to understand the sharing economy, the gig economy, the collaborative economy and the virtual economy and how all these evolving aspects of our broader socioeconomic framework impacts our organization, I believe it is the inter-connectedness of all people, information and resources that is truly paramount.

This is why I believe that Ecosystem Thinking will be essential for all organizations, or at least for those companies who are or aspire to be market leaders at scale. In order to enjoy the trust and support of a large market, adopting an ecosystem mindset, and cultivating as many REAL Relationships as possible is a necessity. This is across all aspects of the business – from talent recruitment, to supply chain management, to investments and of course to customer engagement.

To lead an organization that leads a given market is to lead an ecosystem. So studying how this is done well and constantly working to improve is the ultimate key to success. It is also, as we will discuss in the book and over the months ahead, how we reduce costs, increase quality and optimize profitability over the long term.

Are you ready to join this journey? Are you ready to lead an ecosystem?

BRACE Yourself.

HELP Others.

EACH Moment Matters.

This is the mantra of Ecosystem Architects and the change agents who will lead this emerging set of strategies and tactics. Are you ready? Let’s get to work.

Side Note: I’ve been working on this for so long but have been waiting to write and share this introduction till I managed to mold the thoughts into a more linear narrative. After receiving some great validation this week talking to other mentors here at the Google Launchpad AI/Machine Learning event in NYC, I realized I just need to write and refne it all later.

I’ve done a lot of work on this from my early startups to building the platform for the Palm Economy to building a global community of industry professionals. I’ve done a lot of thinking. I’ve spoken to hundreds of experts and practitioners. I was even reminded by my former counselor and mentor Matt Law that Deloitte has a partner focused on Ecosystems now – their report on Ecosystems is here. What’s written above isn’t the full story, it’s not complete, it’s not neat and it’s not ready for prime time. It is ready for constructive criticism, your insights, and your stories.

So this is the official beginning of the book which I’ve been developing across my whole life. To help more people see the world of business, and society more broadly, through the holistic lens with which I have been blessed/cursed. To share models, strategies and tactics that will provide valuable sense making. And ultimately, as the book is currently framed, to provide global business leaders with an understanding of the new mindsets, methods and measures required for optimizing business results in the modern economy.

Thank you for joining us on this journey.

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The 5 V’s of Software Product Management Prioritization

The Five V's of Software Product Management PrioritizationI spent this past week with some incredible entrepreneurs as part of the Google Launchpad Accelerator program in Singapore to support the graduation of their Asian participants in class 3. It was an extension of the mentoring we provided them back in February in San Francisco, primarily to assist in their OKR Recalibration for the next quarter. Seeing the progress of these great startups, and meeting several new ones who are being incubated in the Singapore startup ecosystem was an incredibly energizing and educational experience which I will be talking about further in the weeks ahead.
During our mentoring session with a local startup not in the program, an expert agile development coach, Muthu Rajamani took lead in coaching them on a more structured and efficient approach for their design and development processes. As is often the case in maturing startups, we invariably hit upon the difficult challenge of prioritizing feature development, so I began looking for my article on my personal approach to software development prioritization.

From my own personal experience as a product manager founder building several products with no coding skills and minimal cash, this was a challenge with which I am all too familiar. While building Alynd I developed a fairly straightforward method to determine how to prioritize a development road map. Turns out, I never actually wrote the article, so I am doing that here to share with everyone. I wasn’t so sure that it would be useful to anyone else, but Muthu told me he liked it, so I promised to finally publish this.

In a resource strapped startup, whether in early stages or inside the proverbial tornado, making choices such as this is a weekly if not daily occurrence. There is so much to do, and never enough time to do it all as quickly as we would like. Of course, choosing which stories within a broader epic is often easily accomplished as a matter of understanding the dependencies and holding to the course laid out in the road map of what has been promised to customers, investors and other stakeholders. But when choosing between two stories or epics that are seemingly of equal importance, flipping a coin is not a good option. While you could look at potential revenue impact or estimated value I felt that a more holistic strategy would be best.

This is how I came to develop the 5 V’s of Software Product Management Prioritization. I hope you find it helpful.

Vision: Is the particular feature or module a core component of the vision itself? Does it advance the big idea at the heart of the product itself?

Valuable: Is it something that is of value to the company itself? Does it reduce friction in the product in some way or provide a differentiated experience from competing products in the market? Will it be valued by a large or small number of users?

Validated: Has it been validated through user requests or feedback? Is it something you know that your users actually want?

Viable: Is the effort required something that is viable? I.E., is it something that we have the knowledge and ability to do or is it an entirely new, untested technology or concept? Can we actually do this in a relatively short period of time or are there many unknowns relative to the technical feasibility of the code?

Visible: Is it something that the users (and investors) will be able to see in the application and recognize it’s value? Where they will take notice of what you have actually accomplished? While decreasing page load times and decreasing CPU loads is certainly valuable and often necessary, is it enough of an improvement to make a noticeable difference?

The few occasions I used this method building Alynd, I mostly was able to take a binary approach to making the decision where it was clear that one choice met all 5 criteria and the other choice did not. That said, there will often be two or more stories competing for attention that meet all these criteria and need to be further differentiated. In such cases I believe a simple scoring of each criteria for each story on a scale of 1-5 would be useful, while also considering viability more closely together with associated effort estimates.

In thinking further about this over the last few days, I hit upon one other criteria which might be considered, not part of my original approach, but the more deeply I have gotten into OKR’s over the past couple of years, the more this makes sense. It is in regards to the ultimate manner in which we can determine if we made the right choice.

Verifiable: Will it be possible to know whether or not this choice was indeed valuable to the company and to the users? How will be know if it is or isn’t? What’s the measure of success and what qualifies as a successful effort?

Clearly there is a lot more underlying this prioritization process, and it needs a wider effort of experimentation and iteration to refine further. I hope to explore this with you in the comments or in direct conversations. So what do you think? Does this make sense? Can you apply this to a current prioritization challenge and share the results with us? I would love to know if this works for you as well as I imagine it should.

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The Perfect Hawaii Vacation – Island Living in Kauai

Rainbow over Ka'napali Coast, KauaiSitting here now in the colder parts of winter, I was thinking back fondly to my trip to Kauai for some recharge and writing time after a business trip to Honolulu. It’s no secret that I love Kauai as an authentic Hawaiian experience, but I also love it for how it feels. A wonderful couple we met at the famous Tahiti Nui one evening provided a remarkable insight on this feeling – that “you can’t tell if you are in the air or in the water, it’s the same temperature as your skin.” That might not be true in the hotter summer months, but what is true is that evidence of what Deepak Chopra calls the bliss particle is all around you, from the moment you get off the plane.

The two times we’ve been to Kauai, we opted for staying on the North Shore, both due to the single lane road that takes you far from the airport and because the only real ‘chain’ business there is the local Foodland. Our first visit we stayed at the St. Regis using all of my SPG points to escape and recharge. This time, we were fortunate to meet Jacalyn at the HomeAway Summit in Seattle and learned about her family’s BeachinKaui property – we fell in love with this gorgeous property in Waihina immediately. You can see for yourself why in the 360/VR photos of the property below (though they are not well lit with my Theta 360 VR Camera).

Everything with the house thankfully was perfect. We had one issue which was resolved super quickly and graciously, handled like the true professionals they are. The house has a solid kitchen with a great lanai for breakfast almost every day, usually after a walk on the beach to catch the sunrise or the tail end of it (as we slept in).  Apparently the producers of the “I Love Lucy Show” built the house back in the day, and of course, “Lucy & Desi Slept Here”. The bed’s were comfortable, the bathroom was very well done and well stocked. They even had a detached ‘kids’ room that had multiple beds to host up to 10 or more. And outback, there was a smaller unit for couples retreats that could be rented with, or separately from the main house to host an extended family group.

Take a look around the house yourself:

#Kauai #vr #homeaway #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


View from the front Lanai of the backside of Waimea Canyon

#Kauai #vr #homeaway #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


Living / Dining Room / Kitchen

#Kauai #vr #homeaway #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


Master Bedroom

#Kauai #vr #homeaway #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


Master Bath

#Kauai #vr #homeaway #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


2nd Bedroom

#Kauai #vr #homeaway #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


Backyard Lanai (looking at other unit on property)

#Kauai #vr #homeaway #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


Breakfast Lanai

#Kauai #vr #homeaway #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


Covered Outdoor Lanai (downtstairs) with grill

#Kauai #vr #homeaway #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


Outdoor Shower

One of the best parts of doing a vacation rental instead of a hotel is eating healthier and more inexpensively, which we did throughout while still having great meals around the island.  Of course another great thing is being able to do our laundry, which I needed to do after traveling for more then 2 weeks straight. But the best part of staying in a VR like this one, was the sense of what it would be like to actually live there, and the sense of peace and calm I got from staying at this wonderful house eclipsed my expectations.

While we ate dinners out and stepped out for a Mai Tai on a few evenings, I really enjoyed making dinner and staying in one night, barbecuing some type of white fish we had never even eaten before. Starting with some maguro sashimi and seaweed salad we bought along with the fish from The Dolphin in Hanalei. We also managed to get some local purple potatoes and great wine from the Foodland. It was just an awesome vacation, with some work each day writing and several trips to the beach to worship the sun a bit across sunrise, rain storms and sunset.

This time we did get a trip to the south shore when we went on an amazing helicopter ride with Mauna Loa Helicopters where we got to fly with the doors off (and, um, didn’t have the same weight restrictions). First time doing this in Hawaii, and what a great tour of the island. Afterwards we went by Spouting Horn blowhole before Sunset where the explosion in the chicken population was a bit more fascinating then the blowhole itself at this particular time of day.  We also went shopping at the stalls, where we found a great hand carved wooden plaque of a surfboard with the islands laid out across it. Then over to a quick Happy Hour mai tai at Merriman’s Fish House and then dinner in the amazing little town of Koloa at La Spezia, a fantastic Italian restaurant.

This was perhaps one of the best Hawaiian vacations we have ever had. So much more left to explore though. Thankfully, staying somewhere like BeachinKaui really makes it feel like we are living not just visiting the beautiful island of Kauai.

Sunset on West Side of Kauai

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Depression is Normal, But The Stigma Shouldn’t Be

I’ve made no secret of my depression, or my ADD, or my imposter syndrome, or my fight with my inner critic and the self doubt that I face regularly. I share and am open about it for one simple reason – it’s a part of the human condition that need not be stigmatized. That we can no longer afford to stigmatize. That we all must learn to overcome, whether for our own good, or for our family, friends, or coworkers.

Depression hurts, everyone. But it is a normal part of the human condition.

While we should all learn to understand and accept it, depression shouldn’t be normalized as persistent as it is soul crushing. It causes unnecessary harm to everyone who suffers through it, and those who surround them. I know firsthand what it has done to myself, my wife, my startups, and indeed the world over the years. So much personal and social value has been lost and so many opportunities have been missed, while I have been mired in that fog of darkness. In that cold, dark, lonely, fear filled nighttime of the soul.

When we have the knowledge, the science, and now the awareness to improve the lives of so many as well as the richness of society as a whole, why don’t we do better? Why don’t we solve the mental health crisis once and for all, for everyone, individually and collectively?

The first ‘why’ is the stigma, which is why I’ve been open about it for so long. I had conversation with ADHD Coach Pete Quily at Northern Voice in 2007, and his insights and encouragement showed me the need and helped me connect it as one small but mighty aspect of  my life purpose — to heal, unify and orchestrate a #betterworld. In whatever way, small or large that I can.

While fighting my own depression and other personal demons I have… ugh, what a terrible word. Our “demons.” How we exaggerate them and eviscerate our own godliness. Language is so important but even I misuse it frequently, even when sharing deep life long learnings that are part of every one of my days.

These aren’t demons. They’re not even challenges. They are things that happened, or often things that didn’t happen. Things for which I associated negative emotion and through the experience of which I made incorrect assumptions based on that negative feeling and mindset. You see, we each get to choose what events, words, deeds and misdeeds MEAN to us. This is at the core of Buddhism – mindfulness, presence, prayer (setting intention as well as manifesting through the “power” of your God) and most especially, psychology and psychiatry in treating depression.

This is where the Serenity Prayer really hits a home run as a global, cross religious truism:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

What a powerful sentiment. Amazing truly. In many ways, it is reminiscent of a core set of operating system instructions for our interactions with each other and ourselves. Just as with the golden rule:

Do unto other’s as you would have them do unto you.

Regardless of your beliefs or religion or culture, participants in a civil, harmonious society know these sorts of statements to be true.  Maybe we should transcend the boundaries of the concept of civil society and strive for a “harmonious society?” Might that be possible, that we could strive for something even greater than civilization? Given what we have attained so far, it might not be such a bad idea to strive for an even higher model of interaction for society.

The point here is depression is normal. We need to be able to talk about it, and empathize with those going through it. We need to improve how we facilitate people discovering their own solutions. We need improve the distribution and acceptance of all evidence based solutions that produce real results. IMHO, we need to urgently work together to get beyond this tremendously costly societal challenge whether we want to sustain civilization or transcend it in the creation of a Harmonious Society.

If the internet has been declared a fundamental human right by the UN, access to knowledge and all forms of healthcare, especially mental health care in all its approached, should also be foundational rights for all humanity. Literally, this is for the good of society. This is for your best interests as well as mine. It’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up. In today’s interconnected, interdependent society, if everyone is better off, I am better off, not lesser for it.

But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself, so let’s start simple. We all must accept and appreciate that depression is a normal part of the human condition.

If you care about someone or something, or if you want to create something – art, a startup, a movement, a family, anything really, you will face struggles. You will be challenged. You will need to overcome adversity. You will have to learn from others and figure things out on your own.

You will lose. You will make mistakes. You will have people say mean things to you. You will face acts of God. You will be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bad people may do bad things to you. You will feel mad about it. You will feel sad about it. You will undoubtedly face a moment where it will be easier to escape or wallow in the darkness then to face it, then bouncing back – learning more and taking the next action you need to take in setting your mind, and the world right in the face of it.

The thing is, as I’ve found, you not only get to choose what it means to you, you get to choose what to do about it.

With love, knowledge, care, and the support of friends, family and society, I see a day where no one need dwell in depression excessively. Where depression is normal, but suffering alone in it is not. Indeed there are lessons that come from depression too as you may have found in some of my thoughts in this post today. So it will still arise and persist, it just needn’t persist for long. For all these reasons and so many others, this is why I have found so much personal freedom and liberation and power in “The Four Agreements“.

Be impeccable with your word
Don’t make assumptions
Don’t take things personally
Always do your best
 — Paraphrasing Don Miguel Ruiz

We’ve got a long way to go towards a fully harmonious society. Maybe 50, maybe 100 years, or maybe never. Or maybe something really bad happens and our leaders, and our society as a whole, wake up and start taking right actions and following the principles of the eightfold path and the teachings of their own gods. Maybe then, we can all be better off in a #betterworld.

But let’s start simple, let’s accept that depression is a normal part of the human condition, but stigmatizing it isn’t and should not be any longer. More so, let us all commit to do whatever we can to help more people find a path through it so they can get the most of life for themselves and for the betterment of each and every one of us.

Let's lift each other up, out of depression and into a better society.

 — Please comment and share this post if anything here strikes a chord for you. If this post is interesting to you, you might be interested in my work on The Noble Pursuit, or on what we have started to do with Rysing Tyde. —

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The State of Social Media. (A Conversation in Austin)

iweozs30yz1rcfmw7jk2_400x400When we started to advance Social Media as an industry or field of practice back in 2006, I had the highest hopes for our future. I saw social media as an opportunity to not only bring people together, but to bring people from different backgrounds together. Just as Howard Rgeingold had explained in his book Virtual Community, but instead of being in the fringes, it would be at the core of society. I also saw social media as the force for organizational transformation, bringing transparency and openness to companies and governments alike with societal change forcing a new wave of change management.

Unfortunately, as Shel Israel explained to me many many moons ago, we tend to overestimate change in the short term and underestimate it over the long term.

As social media has evolved, SMC is also facing change. While many cities have found a way to persist, others have become a bit more quiet. Perhaps remaining as a strong online community as Austin has done without a lot of in person events, or just folding altogether. This is actually normal and healthy. Change is a constant and is required for any community in order to remain relevant and valuable to its members.

The question becomes what do we need? What do we want? What are we willing to do to have it?

While I’m not seeking to get involved in the organizational structure discussion, I am interested in getting more engaged with the community here in Austin now that I will be down here regularly over the months ahead. So I want to talk to some other folks who care about what’s going on in social media today – to share experiences, insights and yes, miseries too. While social is now pervasive as a medium, it’s less then optimal as a profession.

In recent weeks I’ve spoken to way too many people who are struggling, who are undervalued by management and who still don’t have an easy+valid way of proving their ROI. So while social is amazing in so many ways, it’s not yet widely honored for its true potential which means it’s not getting the investment it deserves which means it’s not getting honored for its value… Ugh.

So this isn’t going to be a pity party. Not in the least. It is going to be whatever we want to make it together as a round table conversation with whoever shows up. I’ll start with deeper remarks on the subject to kick things off, talking about the why’s and whatnots as I see it, then open up for questions and ongoing group conversation.

So what is the State of Social Media from your perspective? Share in the comments and if you are in Austin, come join us next Tuesday at 630pm at the Ants Eye View offices in North Austin.

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Calling on Karma: Please Help Me Find a New Job

Chris HeuerAs I’ve long said, “Karma works, it just doesn’t pay on demand.” So while I am reluctant to make any demands, I am not averse to asking for you to help me find a great team, inside a great company doing epic work. A role where I can be who I am, contribute all I have and be a catalyst for exponential value creation.

So what do I want to do?

Given my inter-disciplinary background and cross-industry experience, trying to answer this question is the biggest reason I have waited until now to post this request for your help. After making the decision that I was unable to continue personally funding development on Will Someone and Alynd shortly after SxSW, I’ve been doing a lot of market research and soul searching. I’ve been reviewing where the market is headed and how that intersects with my skills, but I haven’t been able to nail it down to one particular job or even one industry. I’d even be open to moving, though that will involve a longer conversation given our strong ties here in Silicon Valley and love for my home of San Francisco.

At the moment, I’m most excited about augmented reality/vr and its potential impact on collaboration, as well as advancing how it is used in social interactions. It’s also why I am advising Spiritual VR (another combination of several of my interests and talents).  But I’m equally excited about the advancements in cognitive computing, AI and more natural user interfaces. In fact, I have a few visions for products in my head that keep popping up, such as an Augmented Reality collaboration experience that integrates shared white boards, voice based AI assistance and dynamically generated action lists. (If you want to hear more, I’d be happy to share it).

What I know with certainty is that I want to join a strong team where I can hang my hat for a while instead of just passing through on assignment. I could be a team leader or a team player. I could join an existing team or help stand up a new one. I’d be open to a funded early startup, but most likely will end up at a more mature high growth organization, maybe running an innovation lab for someone in the valley? The right opportunity is most likely in the technology sector, is a strategic role and will leverage my public speaking/evangelism talents as I continue to endeavour to advance the field, help organizations transform and invent the future.

I would love to take on the role of Customer Experience Architect, which I spoke about extensively in my IBM sponsored BLAB series CXDNow this past fall and in this talk “Experience Design and Your Customer’s Journey“. There just aren’t that many job openings for such a position/role that I’ve seen. Experience Design is more common now thankfully, but I am looking at it in a much more strategic way – perhaps for a broader portfolio of products. In that I have managed several software products to launch as well as numerous digital marketing projects, it seems that product marketing may be the best focus for me but I am not limited to this direction by any means. If you know me, you know I can do pretty much anything.

Over the past 20 years I have developed quite a body of work around what I’ve called holistic business strategy. This truly defines my brand, but is not widely understood as it is more then a 30,000 foot view of the business, it is a 30,000 light year view of a company and its position in the broader market, and society, it serves. Within this space, I’ve developed personalized marketing frameworks, software and programs, particularly around engagement strategy. More recently, I’ve expanded on this with the recognition that it is a whole new school of thought I am developing – something which I now call “Ecosystem Thinking” and have previously discussed as a key aspect of “The Adaptive Economy“. It’s a combination of design thinking, systems thinking and platform strategy benefitting from network effects. This leads to some interesting senior level opportunities working with software platforms seeking to build a stronger developer and customer community.

Please Help Me Start Some Conversations

I am already talking to a few great companies about some interesting roles that fit my background very well. What I really need to do now though is start increasing the volume of conversations I am having about joining a new team. If you think you might know of the right opportunity for me (and for them), please do make the introduction. Whether it’s product marketing, social media, social business, augmented reality, innovation, developer programs or digital transformation, I’m likely interested.

In the mean time, I am still doing consulting through AdHocnium right now, if you do just need some short term assistance while I am in the midst of this search, and I still have room for one more startup to advise.

One more thing… (an acquihire?)

Part of the reason this has been so long in the making is that I know I was on the right path with Alynd and am now even learning to code so I can build one of the next components in my broader vision for the future of work. It’s hard for me to quit something so important, but financial reality is what it is. To this end, I’m also open to an acquihire with the right company so that I might contribute my time as well as all the intellectual property we’ve developed over the past three years. Given the current lack of interested in acquihire’s, this seems less likely, but I am putting it out there in case any of my Alynd/Will Someone competitors might be interested in making a compelling offer… I wrote about my perspective on this last week in my blog post “Microsoft + Linkedin: A Linkedin Killer’s View“.

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Microsoft + Linkedin: A Linkedin Killer Builder’s View

Linkedin + Microsoft OpportunityThere is a lot of talk since yesterday about the Microsoft acquisition of Linkedin, about how it makes sense, about how it doesn’t and about many of the obvious opportunities for merging their products and customer bases. I have a different take which I’d like to share with you.

Until recently, I was building what several leading analysts, academics and corporate executives called a “Linkedin Killer”. Ultimately, it may one day still be just that, or perhaps it is a view of the bigger picture of what might come from the $26 Billion acquisition.

While my company building efforts with Alynd and then Will Someone were not a success, I did, once again, identify a need, add fuel to a trend and build forward looking products that are exemplars from the future of work. While the stories and marketing position you read on those web sites may not make it obvious that my goal was to kill Linkedin, I assure you the bigger story of how it all could work together, while ambitious, was just that. After endeavoring tirelessly for three years, I am now in the process of closing the company and seeking a team where I might contribute my experience and perhaps even the IP I’ve been developing.

How Could We Kill Linkedin?

First, the evolution of the market is already killing it slowly as many others have reported. Resumes are becoming an artifact of our past. In the world where people use their time and talents for multiple types of work/gigs every day, each valued differently, what value is a prior job title that is given out differently at different organizations with different meanings? It’s only really a proxy as it is, an imperfect one at that by every measure.

So reputation is now replacing resumes, particularly given the opportunity to create verifiable digital audit trails of our actual work with others. We can now easily embed a reputations building function using blockchain like technology into the existing systems we use. This is why I created Alynd originally, to not only improve how we collaborate with each other in a more agile manner, but also to capture data I would not otherwise be able to get out of other systems that would reflect a true measure of someone’s capability, integrity and reliability.

I believe this is where Microsoft has a real opportunity as they now have both sides of that puzzle, and while Windows Live ID from Microsoft is being used, there is no reputational or other identity component to it outside of work teams and XBox Live (IMHO, pls correct me if I am wrong here).

The Bigger Microsoft Opportunity

Since you are a high performance worker, a great collaborator and a person of integrity who kicks as at their job, imagine the following scenario.  Through Outlook or Office 365, MS has date time stamped record of your emails, your document edits, your calendar appointments and more. It knows who you are really connected to, who you go to for answering difficult questions and who you actually work with regularly. It also now has Artificial Intelligence that can infer an awful lot about things like how often you deliver your work on time, provided needed expertise to a colleague, covered for a coworker who dropped the ball and even what expertise you have published among other insights.

So what if, since you were a person of high integrity, you opted into a program which would show your high character and professional capabilities on your professional MS Linkedin profile?  What if your profile had an indicator that showed you delivered 95% of your work on time or early? Or you only rescheduled 10% of your meetings? Or you were the go to person for everyone in your organization with an email marketing question?

What if you were, as an independent contractor, or as someone looking for a new job, able to offer your time/talent through a global market place to other amazing people who were doing really great projects? Would that be interesting to you? A digital labor market of only the best people, of only the people who have the highest integrity, the greatest talents and as you might guess, get the highest rates as a result.

All of that and more is possible. That is what I have been working towards with Alynd first, then Will Someone and now as a personal project where I am learning to code with IBM Bluemix, for a simpler version of the reputation platform Relyable.

Of course, whether or not the market would accept it and use it is the key question. Still, there are hundreds of variants of this concept that could be simplified and made to work on the way towards this bigger vision, all of which could be beneficial to all participants in the 3 sided marketplaces out there like UpWork and Fiverr. But each one of them is a strategy that would serve to co-create greater value and turn Linkedin into the premiere default business talent directory for the gig economy. Something it does not do now, but which Jeff Weiner recently spoke about as part of their 3 prong approach to the future. (Can’t find the link to that speech, do you have it?)

Specifically, what sort of features might this entail?

I should first point out that any social network could build a team to pursue this opportunity as persistent digital identity is the core necessity. So this is a concept I had thought of taking to Jack Dorsey at Twitter as much as bringing it to Google and Facebook. But a Llinkedinin/Microsoft collaboration makes it so much easier to execute on at scale given the assets they have and positions they hold in the market.

Some of the core features I expect to see would be:

  • An aggregated labor market where people are able to offer their services, integrated with a calendar and supported by AI to fill in any openings to maximize your income potential
  • A single login for multiple email accounts into multiple systems with a multi faceted reputational identity
  • An aggregated evidence based reputation system using all the data from your collaboration systems/email, simple contracts and performance feedback
  • A “simple contract” built on blockchain to enable gig based payments on demand when work is completed/delivered and reviewed.An artificially intelligent assistant prioritizing, scheduling and alerting you (Cortana ++)
  • An organized view of all your published media as well as other media appearances as related to your talents and marketable skills built dynamically
  • Learning paths to guide engaged talent to their best possible selves (already have most of this, but with the new data can find out what other experts used to learn and grow as the basis for dynamically improving over time)
  • Micro mentorship opportunities to help connect and guide others in your profession towards professional growth (from groups to guilds)
  • An integrated folksonomy across apps to ease organization and retrieval from different contexts
  • So much more I won’t share today but will be glad to talk about soon…

What now? What next?

I for one am very interested in seeing what comes next, but for now I expect they have a lot of cultural integration and politicking to figure out. So we may not see anything big for a while, but I expect to see some interesting things quickly given how Linkedin re-architected their platform a few years ago. I hope so at least as this is a chance to fulfill the vision I have been chasing for years… to build out the next generation socioeconomic infrastructure for a more efficient, higher integrity labor market. One in which there will be drastic decreases in wasted efforts and never before seen improvements to the efficiency of shared value creation. If it works as I see it, there will be huge increases in health and happiness too as we move to drive out the worst aspects of working together today.

If they don’t do this, it would be a real shame. Or perhaps you see it as an opportunity, in which case, please reach out to me to talk personally about the other ways we might be able to manifest this and my broader vision. While I am looking for my next opportunity due to the financial reality I face today, I remain excited about this vision and know it will eventually come to be, so it might as well be us building it.

What do you think about these ideas for Linkedin + Microsoft? Too far fetched? Would you opt in?

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Welcome to the Adaptive Economy

#Reorg Everything: My Talentnet Keynote

Reorg EverythingWhat is the Adaptive Economy? Why do we need to #Reorg? What should be our focus? Here’s the premise as I outlined in my keynote at Talentnet

The pace of change isn’t just fast, it’s accelerating. So many things are changing that we can no longer look at a single facet as we did at the dawn of digital and then networked computing. It’s not just the gig economy, the collaborative economy, the on demand economy or the green economy in isolation, it’s all of that and more, requiring a more holistic approach. As Darwin taught us long ago, in this fast changing world, it’s the quickest to adapt that survives.

Fundamentally we must first accept that the market is no longer a battlefield. It’s an ecosystem. Leading and winning in an economy that is oriented around creating the greatest amount of shared value is very different from one in which you are seeking to capture the most amount of profit for the organization and its shareholders. This is why I propose we need to #Reorg everything and serve the market.

How do we do it? By adopting new mindsets, methods and measures, most especially in my view of embracing some form of self management. This requires you to focus on creating alignment across the ecosystem, developing greater agility and creating a culture of accountability. We must also become more proactive and predictive.

The enemy we face today in organization’s, besides fear of change itself, is three fold – budgets, bonuses and bozos. In the real time transparent world in which we live, we need to go beyond the sort of budgeting which requires us to accurately predict future market dynamics.Being more agile enables you to adapt to the market’s needs more easily. With a culture of accountability, you will increase trust such that you will also empower more people to make spending decisions across the organization. This has been proven out and more thoroughly developed through Morningstar and several other participants of the Beyond Budgeting Round Table.

For those with the courage to move towards more of an ecosystem based strategy and operating model, there is a massive opportunity to lead the market and seize the lion’s share of the profits to be had. The more trusted a company becomes, the lower the cost of sales, the higher the likelihood of becoming the employer of choice and the higher the switching costs for partners and customers alike.

So much more to come on this in the weeks/months ahead. I’ve been running towards this future through my software company and it’s latest product Will Someone, a community collaboration tool. I’m furthering that development while going more public with the insights I’ve developed to help build a better future for all, by design.

You can hear more about the Adaptive Economy in this audio + slide deck from my keynote presentation, #Reorg Everything. I presented this for the first time on Friday March 11, 2016 in Austin TX as the keynote for the Talentnet conference in the offices of HomeAway.

We are building on this even further now, taking the work that went into this keynote and starting to write a book on the Adaptive Economy. If you are interested in contributing, have questions or want to talk about it more, please let me know in the comments.

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Winning The Future: A #Badgeless SxSW 2016 Recap

Winning the Future
While I have often gone to Austin for SxSW over the past 9 years to speak about the future with thought leaders from around the world, speaking on the future was literally my purpose this year. While I was #Badgeless again, I was also speaking at two different unofficial events, the W2O Pre-Commerce Summit and Talentnet. While I was ‘working’ constantly from when I arrived on Wednesday through Friday evening, I was still able to get a great sense of the festival itself, how it’s changed and what it’s future looks like — more on that later, or skip down if you are looking for my perspective on SxSW itself.

The Future of… 

I’m finally getting comfortable with being called a futurist instead of giggling at the titular comedy of the role. I’ve definitely put my 10,000+ hours into inventing the future over the course of my life, maybe even 100,000+ hours. Even back in High School I tried to get my manager at Wendy’s to add onion rings to the menu after I cooked some up using ingredients we had on hand.

I could have simply focused on writing and speaking about the future, but I have just as often taken a run at manifesting my visions as a serial entrepreneur and now a social entrepreneur. While I have been early to market often, every single concept has later proven itself valid – from local content networks, to conversational intelligence, to human powered search, to customer experience design, to content marketing, to information appliances, to reinventing comments and more recently to reimagining work.

At the W2O Group’s Pre Commerce Summit, I participated in a panel, literally titled “The future of…”  My role was to focus on organizations and society, which is what I’ve been researching for the last several years. While a few of my comments were apparently controversial, such as my prediction that 50MM jobs will be gone forever within 5 years due to automation, AI and robotics, many were inspiring. When asked what I suggested the audience due to prepare for the future, I took the conversation into a very human direction – to love, self love specifically. You really need to listen/watch…

Facilitated by Mike Edelhart, I was joined by Julie Borlaug of the Borlaug Institute and Kush Parikh, CEO of PayByPhone. I was really blown away by all the great work Julie is doing to end hunger around the world, and more impressed by her practical yet forward thinking approach to this important work. If we were to see more people like her working towards social good, I think most of our problems would be solved by now.

You can view video of the panel here at the 1 hr 28 minute 30 second mark. From the feedback it was one of the better panels of the day.

A full recap of the pre-commerce Summit was posted by my good friend Lionel Menchaca.

#Reorg Everything: My Talentnet Keynote

Reorg EverythingWhat is the Adaptive Economy? Why do we need to #Reorg? What should be our focus? Here’s the premise…

The pace of change isn’t just fast, it’s accelerating. So many things are changing that we can no longer look at a single facet as we did at the dawn of digital and then networked computing. It’s not just the gig economy, the collaborative economy, the on demand economy or the green economy in isolation, it’s all of that and more, requiring a more holistic approach. As Darwin taught us long ago, in this fast changing world, it’s the quickest to adapt that survives.

Fundamentally we must first accept that the market is no longer a battlefield. It’s an ecosystem. Leading and winning in an economy that is oriented around creating the greatest amount of shared value is very different from one in which you are seeking to capture the most amount of profit for the organization and its shareholders. This is why I propose we need to #Reorg everything and serve the market.

How do we do it? By adopting new mindsets, methods and measures, most especially in my view of embracing some form of self management. This requires you to focus on creating alignment across the ecosystem, developing greater agility and creating a culture of accountability. We must also become more proactive and predictive.

The enemy we face today in organization’s, besides fear of change itself, is three fold – budgets, bonuses and bozos. In the real time transparent world in which we live, we need to go beyond the sort of budgeting which requires us to accurately predict future market dynamics.Being more agile enables you to adapt to the market’s needs more easily. With a culture of accountability, you will increase trust such that you will also empower more people to make spending decisions across the organization. This has been proven out and more thoroughly developed through Morningstar and several other participants of the Beyond Budgeting Round Table.

For those with the courage to move towards more of an ecosystem based strategy and operating model, there is a massive opportunity to lead the market and seize the lion’s share of the profits to be had. The more trusted a company becomes, the lower the cost of sales, the higher the likelihood of becoming the employer of choice and the higher the switching costs for partners and customers alike.

So much more to come on this in the weeks/months ahead. I’ve been running towards this future through my software company and it’s latest product Will Someone, a community collaboration tool. I’m furthering that development while going more public with the insights I’ve developed to help build a better future for all, by design.

You can hear more about the Adaptive Economy in this audio + slide deck from my keynote presentation, #Reorg Everything. I presented this for the first time on Friday March 11, 2016 in Austin TX as the keynote for the Talentnet conference in the offices of HomeAway.

We are building on this even further now, taking the work that went into this keynote and starting to write a book on the Adaptive Economy. If you are interested in contributing, have questions or want to talk about it more, please let me know in the comments.

Unofficial SxSW: #Badgeless #FTW

Wherever you went, Obama and Trump were the topics of the day.  Which I’ve been trying to avoid recently. From talking to Lord Chadlington at the W2O Pre Commerce Summit, I discovered that most voters seem to break for the winning candidate in the final 48 hours. So I realized I want to invest my time this election cycle in getting out the vote. All of this talk between here and now is important, but to make the maximum impact, I am changing my focus and I hope you join me.

There were many conversations like this that mattered deeply. Talking with Kyle Ellicot about Wearable IoT World and their new efforts in Asia while hanging out at one of the best venues of SxSW hosted by Heather Meeker Haas and her team at Zendesk; hearing more about the plans for Techfugees from Mike Butcher; getting judged as unworthy for my super casual weekend in Austin style (t-shirt/shorts) twice; hearing more about Anne Greenberg’s ideas in VR; learning about some of the Digital Transformation work my former Deloitte Digital colleagues are doing; pitching a new idea to solve some big problems; and so many more amazing people and projects that can’t all be reflected here.

The big story out of SxSW as you have heard elsewhere is VR everywhere. From Robert Scoble announcing he’s leaving Rackspace to be an EIR at Upload VR to VR experiences seemingly in every major brand activation. One of my favorite unofficial events of this year was the New York Times VR Event programming, where I was able to pick up their Google Cardboard viewers and finally experience journalism in VR. It was truly life changing. In watching their story on the refugee crisis, and standing in the middle of a UN food drop, I felt the future. The amount of empathy you can create by immersing someone virtually into someone else’s shoes is massive.

In fact, when I returned home, I shared that refugee food drop with my Mother in law who was visiting, who was equally blown away. Trouble being, she isn[t going to put the cardboard together and get in a swivel chair to make the most of the 360 degrees, so it’s still a bit too much friction for current fidelity. When Kristie tried it out, she got nauseous…

As I explained often at SxSW, despite these current challenges, I see a huge future for Augmented Reality, beyond the entertainment and experiential potential of Virtual Reality. To get all buzzy, I believe there is a huge opportunity in crafting contextualized collaboration in Augmented Reality with cognitive assistance. Or in other words, Immersive Collaboration. What does it mean? That’s a vision of the future for another day…

SxSW: The Festival & It’s Future

Obviously, having the Obama’s speak at SxSW this year was a big win for the organizers. Even still, people were talking about whether it jumped the shark or not. I think it’s constantly changing and as long as it attracts great people, which it will continue to do for the foreseeable future, it will continue to thrive.

Just prior to SxSW 2016 I spoke about this to a report reporter for this article for AdWeek. While she reflected my quote accurately, it was missing some context. I had also told her that like any event or place or time, your experience is dependent on what you make of it, who you spend time with and what you choose to focus on. What makes it worth while for me is that hundreds of friends and other visionary leaders from around the world fly into Austin for the conference or to be there #Badgeless like me. Unfortunately, until the SxSW leadership makes the conference content more accessible, I am choosing to go #Badgeless and enjoy the city of Austin fully.

What could SxSW do to earn my conference registration fee? Maybe they’d get it with reserved session seating (IMax does it here in SF and most/all theaters in London do it). Maybe they could just sell less tickets and/or shrink the diameter of the geography upon which their venues are spread. I go for the diversity of topics being covered (and the music, the BBQ and again, the people!).

This year I noticed that many of the parties and other events were not as crowded and the lines weren’t as long. I have to attribute this to a density of brand activations, both official and unofficial. There was just so much going on at every time slot you couldn’t possibly get to all of it. I tried a couple of times and was generally unsuccessful each time I tried.

This is where Scott Beale’s early advice to me about getting the most from SxSW still rings true. “Wherever you are be there. Make the most of it. You could be anywhere else, but you are where you are until you are ready to go somewhere else.”

There was also a noticeable changing of the guard, with a whole new generation of SxSW participants on the scene and many of my peers now staying home – some with ‘real jobs’ and some with new babies. I made a few new friends, and deepened some existing relationships. More importantly, I was able to get some validation on my work and now have a few new projects and prospects moving forward.

Conclusion

It seems one of the most surprising things people found with my vision of the future is how human centric it is. Many were taken aback when the key advice I gave to the W2O Group event was to practice more self love, to not tolerate bozos and to fully embrace diversity.  As I discussed the coming destruction of millions of jobs, people were really taken aback when I suggested that the job of the future might just be that of “Citizen”.

It’s clear from the state of the Presidential race here in the U.S. that we are at a major inflection point in history, with the soul of our country and indeed of the world on the whole at stake. It’s one of the reasons I was personally getting so agitated on Facebook and becoming such an ardent supporter of Bernie Sanders, but even he doesn’t fully grasp how we can support the rise of conscious capitalism and move us to a more prosperous future for all people.

I should point out here that I don’t have all the answers either, I do know we have the means if we have the will. I do know that we can let go of what has been to embrace what can be. I am also an ardent believer in finding that whatever we dream we can achieve, so therefore asking the question is it realistic will always result in the answer yes, in time.

Many thought I was pessimistic and peddling doom and gloom when I talked about the fundamental changing nature of work and looming job destruction. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am at my heart and in practice an optimist. I believe our future is quite bright, but I also am able to see the curve in the road ahead and want to make sure we prepare for it. Because of the Internet it is a distinct possibility that we will solve many of our collective social challenges.  But also because of the internet, we face some stiff competition. Particularly from entrenched interests and the powerful few who manipulate the system for personal benefit unfettered by a broader concern for their fellow man.

I know deep down in my soul that change happens in an instant despite the glacial pace at which we observe it. Humans can literally do anything we want to do, so why not make the world work as it could for the benefit of all instead of just a few? I know that I am best off when others around me are better off. I know that working together we can make a #BetterWorld intentionally, by design.

The first challenge is one of belief. The second is one of communicating the vision. The third is activating enough people to support new behaviors and beliefs. This is what I have been working on for all my life, but particularly over the last 3 years, first with Alynd and more recently with Will Someone. This is why we are beginning to build out the Rysing Tyde as a community organization to lift all people to their greatest potential in this Adaptive Economy, in this world where work is based on gigs instead of traditional employment.

Winning the future isn’t going to be easy, but as a species, humanity can not only survive, it can truly thrive if we only find our way past our conditioning and socialization to see what can be instead of staying focused on what is. The road ahead is going to be bumpy for most of us, but for those with the courage to make the big shift today, there is a tremendous opportunity at hand.

Chris Heuer is a futurist, a serial entrepreneur and a community organizer. He consults with startups and large organizations that want to behave like startups on strategy, marketing and product development. If you’d like Chris to help your organization navigate its journey into the future, contact him today.

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