Navigating SXSW Conference: Tips from a CIO

Navigating SXSW Conference: Tips from a CIO 

South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual conference dedicated to “helping creative people achieve their goals.” It’s a celebration of music, tech, education, film, and culture – all under one roof.

And contrary to what you may think, it’s not just for artists or marketers. Or entrepreneurs. Or even futures in the workforce, for that matter.

As a CIO, I’ve attended many SXSWs, and never regretted it. 

In fact, every year, the conference stimulates innovation and creativity from the vibrant discussions that cut across disciplines and fields.

From unexpected discoveries to amazing networking opportunities, here’s a look at what I experienced at this year’s SXSW.

An SXSW Overview

Here are just a few of the foundational topics that were brought up during SXSW and that we’re continuing to discuss:

  • We talked about potential futures and the immediate, intermediate, and distant changes that technology will inevitably bring about.
  • Pages and pages of insights were generated from ideas that are plausible in the short term, projects that can be implemented in the medium term, and long-term market shifts that will be around for future generations.
  • Topics such as innovation, interactivity, trends, behavior, music, and consumption gave way to stimulating discussions and thought-provoking questions that will test the ingenuity of today’s professionals.
  • The future of work was a hot topic, and by using it as a compass, we were able to identify the perennial concerns that plague discussions among top executives.
  • We’ve never had so many resources available to us, but are there any tried-and-true methods for making the most of them? What benefits one business can benefit others as well, so how can we share information?

Generational Changes

Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, and Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani, both spoke at the event about a few critical topics: the changing role of organizations; Y generational attitudes toward work; and the blurring of personal and professional spheres. 

The speakers shared examples of how the market is beginning to reflect the needs of the professionals of the future, such as offering adaptable working hours, providing the option to work from home, creating more immersive offices, building internal actions designed to engage and promote interaction between teams, and incorporating recognition.

Most interestingly, there is a growing trend: the strengthening of communities. Born in the city where the organizations are located to the bonds in the work groups. As a result of this growth, new communities are forming, which creates a sense of belonging for people.

Harnessing the Power of Technology

In order to aid businesses in this transition, it’s important to view technology as something that can be shaped and used to our advantage. 

There is always some form of artificial intelligence nearby. For instance, Ian Bearcraft, founder and chief futurist of Signal and Cipher, articulated the topic with a level of expertise that transcended the super-commented ChatGPT. 

Bearcraft creates experiences for future generations using tomorrow’s technologies and offers an analogy between the industrial revolution’s mechanization of individual skills and the current need to digitize these skills in order to leverage artificial intelligence. 

Another crucial declaration motivated by Ian Bearcraft’s arguments: technology and innovation must extend beyond the realm of information technology and digital transformation. 

All sectors have a stake in maximizing output via technological means and in the ongoing search for better practices. The tools are getting easier to find, so the key going forward is learning how to use them effectively. 

Ready to Experience SXSW?

This recap covers just a portion of the intelligent and thought-provoking topics discussed at SXSW during presentations, workshops, and networking events. SXSW helps lay the groundwork for the future of work we hope our children will enjoy in the years to come. 

I hope this recap compels you to reserve your spot at next year’s events.