Lessons learned from SXSW

Recently at an American Advertising Federation Houston luncheon, Hugh Forrest, the interactive director of the ever-popular SXSW (South-by-South West) festival held each year in Austin, Texas, summed up lessons learned from the experience. While Hugh may be looking at these teachings from a SXSW perspective, they’re not exclusive to the festival.

They’re very applicable to life.

1.) If you try to innovate, you will inevitably fail.

2.) Failure breeds success.

3.) Turn weakness into strength.

4.) Patience. Patience. Patience.

Innovative thinking, let alone innovation, scares the heck out of people. It evokes change, and we all know what that means; the status quo is under attack. Attacking the various challenges inherent in putting on a wildly popular festival every year is risky business. You have to adapt, though. You have to appease, as best you can, your customers’ desires and needs.

If you’re lucky, innovation will lead to failure. Then, failure leads to success. Strange thinking, isn’t it.

Of course, we all need to learn from our failures, our mistakes. That’s the only way to realize some success.

In business, as in life, unpopular decisions are made.  They’re made for, hopefully, the good of the whole rather than the one.

Along the way, you discover different aspects of what makes you and your organization tick. There will always be areas (weaknesses) that need to be improved until you become quite good at them (strengths) or at least good enough to be acceptable.

Because of its popularity, SXSW has out grown Austin. You can still get tickets to go, but getting a hotel room is just about forgettable. Weakness. So, the event’s organizers are considering introducing a virtual element: Experiencing the festival from anywhere you happen to be. Strength.

You don’t have to be great at everything. Life doesn’t work that way. You must constantly improve, though, or else you’ll stagnate.

And in doing all of this, you gotta have patience, sometimes in rather large quantities.

As with any company or organization that tries to innovate, SXSW is continually learning . . . and growing . . . and failing . . . and succeeding . . . and learning . . . and, well, you get the drift.

Not a bad cycle to be in really.

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