Thursday, March 18, 2010

The SXSW keynote that went south (or not)

I was one of the few people who actually liked the SXSW keynote interview of Twitter CEO Evan Williams by Umair Haque. I watched it in an overflow room so I missed the mass exodus that occurred in the main keynote room. My thinking that the talk was pretty decent apparently was so rare that my #upvote earned a retweet:
TPapi: Voice of dissent RT @k1v1n: Keynote was interesting. Umair asked good questions. Excellent takeaways. Good mantra. #upvote #keynote #sxsw
Needless to say, there were a ton of conversations about the talk after the fact. People were so negative that I started to seriously wonder if we'd heard the same talk. Sure, the interview wasn't filled with earth-shattering new stuff, but it did provide a glimpse into the thinking of a person that helped to create and run one of social media's biggest hits. This is not something you get to hear everyday, and if you listened, really listened... there was plenty of substance. Umair and Evan talked about some very important concepts. The list is pretty much those things that organizations need to be doing to survive in this new networked landscape. Maybe everyone knew these things already. I doubt it. I have been living in this social media space as long as just about anyone, and I know I still have lots to learn. I'm guessing that those who walked might still have a fair bit to learn as well.

So where did the talk go wrong? Got me. Maybe people wanted to hear more about Twitter and less about what makes its founder tick. Not me. I'll choose insight into what drives a person any day. I want to know about the creator behind the product. I have very little interest in the product itself.

The talk did drag at times, but it never really lost me. There were plenty of nuggets of wisdom to be had. Umair summarizes the talk here: Twitter, SXSW, and Building a 21st Century Business. That's a very substantive list of takeaways. Learning requires listening. Too bad that many in the SXSW audience missed that lesson.


Peg Boyles said...

Geez, I love it! The tidbit about "organizing for experimentation" alone would have made the hour for me:

"Why don't you guys have a business model?" That was the essence of my first question — and the response was about experimentation. Though many organizations want to experiment, they can't — because they're not built to. Ev gave a blow-by-blow description of how Twitter organizes for experimentation, by creating modular teams that rapidly iterate to solve tough problems. That's what 21st century organizations look like: networks, not pyramids."

Goes so well with the emergent idea of the disutility of "expert" predictive models and long-range strategic planning in the face of Black Swan reality.

The Twitter way inserts a dose of moral evolution and emphasizes self-organizing collaboration, while promising the joy of play.

Kevin Gamble said...

Thank you for your comments Peg. Agree completely. They talked about things that mattered- we need a lot more of those kinds of talks.


Peg Boyles said...

And a lot more action!