Growth Hacking: Not Just for Marketers Anymore

We recently helped run an un-conference workshop at the IEEE's Electronic Design Automation Summit in Santa Clara, California. Working with a host of technical engineers, our goal was to engage in a rapid fire session that would identify and seek to resolve gaps, problems and challenges that inhibit the growth of the EDA market.  A lot of great insights and good ideas came out in this session -- and our visual notes are above.   This wasn't your typical engineering summit, and we didn't have time to get into the weeds on data and analytics -- it was creative and inspired -- and very well received.

As we approached the EDA Summit, we were challenged by how to label our activities.  As we batted around terms, I recommended calling it a "Growth Hacking" session for the EDA industry.   While the term has been worn thin in my professional circles, it's not a familiar one to most engineers. So, I took a moment to trace things back for the team.

Over the years, the term "Growth Hacking" has been thrown about by an array of geeklebrities and social media elite and members of the media.  The term "Growth Hacking" is attributed to Qualaroo founder and CEO, Sean Ellis, who used it in a 2010 presentation.  He defined a growth hacker as "someone whose true north is growth."  In 2012, Aaron Giin from Tech Crunch defined a growth hacker as someone with "a mindset of data, creativity and curiosity" among other things. Andrew Chen, who is hailed for making the term popular in 2012 defines a growth hacker as:
...a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?” and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph. On top of this, they layer the discipline of direct marketing, with its emphasis on quantitative measurement, scenario modeling via spreadsheets, and a lot of database queries. If a startup is pre-product/market fit, growth hackers can make sure virality is embedded at the core of a product. After product/market fit, they can help run up the score on what’s already working.
Yowzers!  That's a lot.  So in summary -- Growth Hackers use marketing and technology tactics and tools to focus on getting more customers - using testing, analytics and marketing tactics -- leveraging data and facts to optimize things and come up with ways to drive better results.  Okay. Makes sense.

Wikipedia puts it more simply:
Growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.
I have often wondered why people were trying to rebrand marketers as growth hackers.  Maybe it just sounds a bit cooler than "Marketer" does? It would be like marketing to take the job and rebrand it, after all.   Regardless, it seems to me that growth hacking should be a part of any marketer's job...  In fact, I'd assert that the call to hack growth should, at some level, apply to everyone's job.

In today's competitive economy,  a culture of growth hacking can benefit companies of all sizes.  We need people that are keenly interested in creating better products and services, operating smarter, faster and more responsively creating demand and increasing market share.  Most importantly, we need to embrace the idea that one of the best tactics for hacking growth is serving people in a consistently positive manner.

So while I think growth hacking is a great term -- calling it "a technique" -- or assigning it to marketing seems way too limited.  To me, a growth hacking a set of techniques.   And a growth hacker is marked by a certain type of mindset "whose true north is growth" -- and that can exist in a person regardless of their unique skills or competencies.  Hiring the right people, we can collaboratively to create a growth hacking culture in our organizations that keeps us hungry, nimble and responsive....

Here is how we defined the term for our industry engineers:

"Growth hacking" is a term marketing technique 
originally developed by technology startups.  Growth hacking techniques leverage individual and group skills, creativity,  social metrics big data, testing and analytics, to fuel rapid, iterative product development, expand reach and increase market share.

What do you think?  Does the redefinition work for you?

Live Path's work @SXSW

Over the past five years, Live Path has leveraged its connections to create over 30 remarkable sessions and events at the annual SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, and we're currently engaged in planning a new series for 2015.  Stay tuned for announcements on October 20th.

While some might view this as a disconnect from the work we normally do,  in actuality, these efforts are a strategic, natural extension of the work we do; helping our clients reach new audiences, tell more compelling stories, build brand awareness, affinity and better serve others. The experiences we create at SXSW tell compelling stories that inspire, challenge and engage participants, celebrate technology innovation (and innovators) and build strategic relationships for the clients we serve.

Our efforts at SXSW are not just about client work, however.  As a long-time member of the SXSW community, we have a personal mission to serve the SXSW community.  Through our efforts, we've connected SXSW participants with amazing causes, including FIRST®,  OpenStand and IEEE Women in Engineering.  In 2011, in the wake of the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami disaster, we also created our own SXSWCares / SXSW4Japan ten-day effort, which was featured in the documentary “The Digital Citizen” with Wikipedia and the #Occupy movement as seen below (SXSW4Japan is featured at13:00).  

On the client side, for four years, we have worked with IEEE, the largest global professional organization advancing technology for humanity, to curate and organize a number of IEEE speakers series at SXSW.  By design, these sessions frame the IEEE brand against a backdrop of "remarkable dialog" featuring renown leaders, and tell compelling stories of technology innovation across a variety of sectors that inspire and engage.

Past IEEE speakers have included world-changing innovators, artists, pioneers, makers, and inventors including Dean Kamen, Tim Berners- Lee, Adam Savage and the “Mythbusters” Crew, Dr. Leslie Saxon,  Heather Knight, Maywa Denki,  Intel's Brian David Johnson, design ethnographer, Kelly Goto,  Dr. Catherine Mohr,  Dr. Ken Goldberg, B.C. “Heavy” Biermann, and many others.

We started with three events in 2012.  Our 2014 series featured 18 sessions and events. We've proposed eight for 2015... and look forward to telling you more about this series.

In the mean time, while it would be impossible to highlight every session, here are a few video highlights of some of our keynote and featured speakers as well as several other sessions/events.

2014  IEEE Technology for Humanity Series  (18 events)

Adam Savage:  The Maker Age, Enlightened Views on Science and Art

Dean Kamen:  Inspiring and Equipping the Next Generation

P.W. Singer:  Cyberwar:  What Everyone Needs to Know

Dr. Leslie Saxon: Body Computing (Gen Connect Interview) 

James Williamson:  From Riffs to Bits (SXSW Music)

The Heavy Projects - Re+Public Interactive Mural at 6th and Jacinto

Good Disruption, Bad Disruption, Kiosks & Ziosks.

The other day, I had a simple dinner date with my six year old.  After a whirlwind trip through the mall, we were ravenous, and we stopped at the local Chili's.  I was looking forward to a little bonding with this marvelous little person... who seems to be growing before my eyes.  Unfortunately, everything changed the minute we sat down and noticed the ZIOSK on the table.

Ziosk builds itself as "the industry leader for tabletop menu, ordering, entertainment and payment with the largest deployed network in the U.S."  Ziosk boasts service to 1 Million customers.  While I'd seen it before and had recently used it at a burger joint in Carmel, I can't say I ever gave it a proper test-drive. You can find Ziosk at places like Chili's, Applebees  and other restaurants in over 1,000 locations in the USA.

Of course, as always, the CX/UX specialist in me is perpetually curious and normally something like this would have had me salivating.  My head was instantly full of questions with regard to how effective ZIOSK was for Chili's.   In parallel, Mommy in me wasn't so happy to find this digital intruder at our table.  Perhaps my exposure to all things digital seems to be turning me into a bit of luddite in my private time.  I really do try to tune out all screens when I'm at dinner or having drinks with friends and family... and instead just tune in to PEOPLE.

But there it was, front and center on our table. As I glanced at this interface, it brought me back to my pioneering days in eCommerce.

(Main Screen)

My first job just prior to graduating college in 1993 was working as a UX Specialist for a "virtual concierge" startup that developed localized, Mac-based kiosks that supported guests and visitors in local hotels. This was before the widespread use of IPTV/Interactive systems like Lodgenet (for whom I would later develop interfaces).  As a precursor to those services, our virtual concierge allowed users to check out of their rooms, find maps and directions to local addresses and attractions, print coupons, order food for delivery from local restaurants and even order flowers.

We had a quality idea and a quality product that was frankly, doomed from the start.  We were way ahead of our time.  It was an age before the world wide web went mainstream, an era where a 14.4 modem was considered fast, and a decade before Google Maps changed life as we know it.   In short, the company went bankrupt and never paid me. I managed to survive on Ramen noodles in a dark, basement apartment until I was hired, post-graduation, by 1-800-FLOWERS.  Ironically, I had recruited their participation in our Kiosk beta test, and they in turn, recruited me.

I would go on to build 16 interactive stores in two years for 1-800 FLOWERS.  I must say, building the interactive services division of 1-800-FLOWERS, was a terrific first job out of college -- and as a bonus, they actually paid me!  Our team of three built interactive shopping applications on every major proprietary online service, the first PDA platforms, an array of interactive television pilots, kiosk startup, CDi/CDRom shopping hybrids and we were the first transactional florist on the Internet.  The rest is history.  I grabbed my portfolio and found a screen shot of one of the proprietary apps we worked on "back in the day"

(800 Flowers on (???) LodgeNet - circa 1996)

Compare it with ZIOSK and Deja Vu!  How much -- and how little things have changed!

While this not by any means an exhaustive review, here's what I learned looking at the Ziosk in this one central coast location....

In short, the system offered the ability for users to:
  • Review promotional menu items - not the whole menu
  • Read USA Today and other updates
  • Pay .99 cents for unlimited access proprietary or licensed apps and games (added to the bill)
  • Review your bill
  • Swipe your card and pay
  • Take a customer satisfaction survey at the end of bill payment
The interface was really simple.  I was a little surprised that, despite the mass adoption of small screen,  the designs were remarkably similar to interface design I was doing in the late 1990's.  I took the time to drill through the menu. I also grilled our servers about the use of ZIOSK and found the feedback we received insightful.  Interestingly, I learned they don't fully deploy ZIOSK at Chili's because it has proven to be too disruptive.
  • You can look at featured menu items and even some nutritional information for some items on the menu, but the full menu is not available on ZIOSK.  
  • You cannot order meals using ZIOSK - not at Chili's, at least. This functionality (according to my server) left both customers and servers confused and resulted in total disruption at the restaurant.  (If I remember correctly, the server actually used the word "disaster"). According to the servers I spoke with, the Chili's menu and its modifiers may have been too complex for the ZIOSK platform, making ordering using the system unusable. 
  • You can order drink refills and "featured" deserts at Chili's using ZIOSK.  This seems to merely cue the server by triggering a light on the top of the screen - and I believe it also sends a message to the POS system so they can see what is needed from "the back" if necessary.  
  • You cannot use the ZIOSK to page your waiter if you need, say, some barbecue sauce.  You must do the traditional stalk from your seat, and wave madly.  (Missed opportunity)
  • The system offers limited news and doesn't allow web browsing or email checking. 
  • The games I reviewed were not social or multiplayer... so while one person plays, the other stares blankly - typically at a more full-featured cell phone with internet access.  
  • The unlimited games and entertainment are rather limited...  My son played a clear rip-off of Angry Birds -- without the birds.  Regardless, they kept him engaged enough to ignore me and his food for the 45 minutes we sat there.
Here are a few system screen shots: 

Main screen for games and entertainment

Checkout (my boy signed it!)

Exit Survey 

When I asked why it wasn't fully enabled our server(s) offered some really good feedback. 
  • Before they disabled ordering capabilities, the system made it highly confusing and frustrating to order food -- and that the resulting frustration relayed to wait staff and management resulting in rotten relationships, poor service and bad tips. 
  • The tool didn't map orders to place seating -- making the server figure it out on delivery, further creating ill-will with the table.  
Perhaps the most important feedback I received from three different servers is that, while at times the system could be helpful, in general,  ZIOSK disrupted and frustrated service and the relationship between the server and the table, turning diners into anti-social zombies.  Without question, I can attest to this, as the presence of the ZIOSK not only frustrated me, but effectively zombified my son the entire time we were there.  That dynamic would have been better if I could have played games *with* him, instead of being relegated to the position of observer.  :P

So many years ahead from my kiosk building years, it's interesting to see how far we've come -- and how far we have to go.  Today, we talk a lot about "disruptive" technology -- but we don't always talk about bad disruptive vs. good disruptive.  In many cases, there's a little of both going on... and getting from bad to good can be the hairy, messy part.  We tend to layer new technology on top of existing paradigms.  Sometimes that's probably necessary -- culture can't change nearly as quickly as technology can.  Indeed, while ZIOSK may be a blessing to many other businesses, it's clear Chili's is feeling the growing pains.

Meet us at SXSW - 17 events, 32 speakers and unlimited inspiration!

I know it's been a bit quiet here.  You see, our team has been heads down for months putting together another spectacular series for IEEE at SXSW. This year's IEEE Technology for Humanity Series features  17-events, 32 speakers and unlimited inspiration -- including a series keynote by executive producer and TV show co-host of the Discovery Channel’s Series Mythbusters, Adam Savage, as well as featured presentations by inventor and humanitarian Dean Kamen (so glad to have him back a second year); cybersecurity expert Dr. P.W. Singer (you'll want to hear his session!) USC body computing pioneer, Dr. Leslie Saxon (she's giving away $199 AliveCor devices that measure your electrocardiogram using your phone - if you'll just participate in her clinical trial);  and a host of leading technologists, including, but not limited to:
  • Anthony Levandowski, Project Lead, Google’s Self-Driving Car
  • Brian David Johnson, Futurist, Intel
  • Pablos Holman, Inventor, Intellectual Ventures
  • Kelly Goto, Design Ethnographer, gotomedia; Founding Member, UX Fellows Network
  • Robin Murphy, Director, Center for Robot-Assisted Search & Rescue (CRASAR),
  • James Williamson, Punk Pioneer & Technology Evangelist
  • Jessica Colaço, Director of Partnerships, Ushahidi iHub Nairobi, AfriGadget
The Technology for Humanity’ series showcases multiple innovation areas within IEEE members and participants are active, and features some of the world’s leading technologists in their respective fields. Series topics will explore the future of robotics, augmented reality, mHealth, Internet of things, wearable and embedded computing, privacy, security, user experience, music and the future of food. The full session and speaker lineup can be found at the IEEE “Technology for Humanity” series landing page.

Official SXSW Party and Meetup Events

We'll be doing two meetups and a super fun party (laser maze, robots, copter course and more).

Saturday, March 8th, 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the Driskill Hotel, Citadel Room
“Pay it Forward to Women in Biz and Tech” Meetup
  • Co-hosted by IEEE, Women Innovate Mobile, Dell and XO Group
  • Sponsored by AT&T (thank you!) 
  • Featuring notable and distinguished women in business and technology, including Elizabeth Gore, our speakers and my incredible pal, Nancy Duarte
  • The agenda will include structured and open networking activities, lunch and refreshments.
Sunday, March 9th, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the Driskill Hotel, Citadel Room
IEEE / FIRST® Meetup, sponsored by National Instruments
  • Back by popular demand, we're showcasing FIRST®, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, a non-profit founded by renown inventor and humanitarian, Dean Kamen, by hosting local FIRST® teams and competition robots of all sizes.
  • Attendees will have the opportunity to meet Dean Kamen and network with IEEE “Technology for Humanity” speakers and representatives.
Sunday March 9th, 8:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. at the Driskill Hotel, Mezzanine
IEEE “Technology for Humanity” party, sponsored by National Instruments and AT&T
  • Two Bit Circus will provide interactive games from their STEAM Carnival including: a laser maze, game tables, Hexacade, copter course, and magic mirrors.
  • FIRST® will showcase local teams and competition robots, with technology demonstrations by National Instruments at a robot bar.
  • An invitation only, VIP/media preview hour will be hosted from 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 pm (contact me if you're credentialed member of the press)
  • Visit external link to register.
Packing my bags now, and hope to see you in Austin! 

New Post for a New Year

Standing here at the dawn of the New Year, there have been a lot of changes at Live Path. We’ve seen our our work expand, which makes the project work super interesting and challenging to manage. We’re bringing in more resources to handle increasing workload.  We remain dedicated to supporting IEEE, one of one of our favorite clients that works globally to advance technology for humanity.

We’re also in the process of (finally) re-designing and re-launching this website.  Our rebuild has been on the back-burner for an embarrassingly long time  - placed there in the name of racking up wins for our clients.   It’s close to finished and we hope you like the results.  Stay tuned for more and be sure to give us your feedback. 

How I armed my kid to battle predatory brands, and what she taught me in return.

Surprise surprise - there's a social media firestorm brewing about Ambercrombie and Fitch again....

This embroilment is related to a comments made by CEO, Mike Jeffries in an interview, related to Abercrombie's targeting of the "cool set."  In Jeffries' terms, the brand is exclusive by design - targeted to the "cool" and "beautiful" kids -- and definitely not fat or ugly kids.

Do the research to dig out the quotes yourself, please... because frankly, this drama isn't the point of this post.  Despite Jeffries' diversity hypocrisy, snobbery and stupidity --- and even as a "fat chick" -- I don't really care.

Truth is -- Abercrombie thrives on this kind of attention -- This is not new.  This is their MO.  Google it. They've got media exposure in Huffpo, Forbes, and a ton of major media outlets in addition to social and blog posts.  I'm not even linking to it all.  Abercrombie doesn't care if you are ticked.  If they wanted you to like them, they would never have attempted to market thong underwear with suggestive sexual comments for 8 year olds.  Jeffries probably doesn't even care that people are ripping into his physical looks and calling him ugly and hideous in social media - and I daresay it's not just because that behavior is stupid, mean,  hypocritical and indefensible.

They don't care that you're mad because they believe attention is good for business. This whole move is focused on driving affinity for certain type of customer -- the "cool kids" -- and they are confident it will create a stronger desire in the "neglected fringes" to "fit in" via brand association.They laugh all the way to the bank! 

Abercrombie and Fitch doesn't care - about you as a person or a parent - or even about your kids.  They've also done their homework.   There's a pretty good chance that left to themselves, your kids  - cool or not, ugly or not, fat or not, are highly likely to continue wanting their overpriced goods.

This is precisely what motivated me to take action seven years ago with my step-daughter, Michelle - and I thought I'd share an updated article I placed on posterous about it.

How I armed my kid to battle a predatory brand - and what she taught me in return.

When my step daughter, Michelle was 15, she became frustrated because Dad didn’t want her to shop at Abercrombie and Fitch.  We discussed it in some depth and agreed it was important not to make her feel like her choices were being taken away from her unfairly - but to help her make good choices on her own.

So I took her on an Ambercrombie shopping trip.  I took the trip as a springboard for talking about the brand - the in-store experience, marketing, clothing, quality, sourcing, etc.  After all, this is part of what I do for a living and the store visit provided great fodder for discussion.  We walked into the cologne laden lounge-like setting.... There were the traditional shirtless, steamy model posters everywhere and rows of neatly folded garments.

Michelle's first comment was related to her surprise over the lack of variety in the homogenous stacks and racks of mass-produced clothing.   We watched as girls bopped in and out around us… looking very much the same…ponytails with headbands, tight layered t-shirts and perfect butt sweats with the Abercrombie moniker on the seat.  It was interesting to watch the clothes walk around the store… This was especially true for my daughter -- a kid who tried her hand at sewing her own clothes and making her own wallets out of duct tape (sheerly to be unique).  For her, the seeming lack of individuality was a turnoff.

Her next objection was over prices.  I had explained to her that she was welcome to spend her own money in the store, but that her dad and I would not spend any money there because of our objections to the company's sexual marketing to tweens and teens.  We made our way to the sale table, where the cheapest thing we found was a simple white tank top for $38 …  It was cute, but nothing special.  As our babysitting pro clutched on to her hard-earned dollars, she was simply offended by the prices.

This led into a chat about value.  We took a look at garment construction inspecting the material, stitching, threads on hemlines and embellishments.  We looked at construction, which was inconsistent and not noticeably better than Target or Old Navy. We talked about quality and workmanship.

Next, we looked at labels…. the ones that were labled were made in third world  - in places like Bangladesh.  It was sobering for her to consider the $56 tank-top on sale for $38 that she held likely cost less than a dollar to produce and was made by some of the poorest people on the planet… in a country that has been criticized for exploitation of workers and child labor.  (Of course, Abercrombie isn't alone in that business conduct - which is a sobering thought all around.)

Then we talked about the packaging. We talked about how the storefront made us feel... the in-store "exclusive club-like" experience ... we talked about the clothes and the power of wearing a brand on your body.  We talked about the pictures of the models and the marketing in the dressing rooms and the messages they conveyed.

We praised the praise-worthy -- we critically discussed the rest.  In truth, while I'd like to say I was objective -- I am sure I was not. I did try to issue self restraint.

Holding my tongue

I didn’t ask her to picture herself or HER child (regardless of age) in one one of these "cute" Abercrombie statement t-shirts:

For Girls:
  • Tie me up, don't tie me down
  • All bed, no breakfast
  • I always end up on top
  • Anyone you can do, I can do better
For Boys:
  • She Goes Both Ways
  • Ride the tip
  • Maybe Partying will Help
  • Volley My Balls Please
I didn’t point her to their quarterly “catalog” FILLED with sexual imagery and emaciated girls that might suggest to my daughter that her cute, blossoming figure was less than acceptable.  

I didn't tell her about the company's then web-based and explicit “Screen Test” area, where an anonymous login links users to explicit video of muscular guys and hauntingly thin girls romping around in full nudity, stripping for each other - with butts and boobs for miles and naked make out sessions that feature Guys with girls, girls kissing girls, some allusions to guy on guy action.  (Note: For copyright reasons I didn't post screen shots - but I guarantee many parents would have been shocked to see this stuff).

All of this, produced and made accessible by a brand that wanted to take her money and put its brand on her adorable backside.  No way.  My decision about Abercrombie was an easy one.  This wasn't about me.

What was harder was contending with this beautiful, blonde 15 year old, who was racing into adulthood and developing her own identity.  While I hoped she'd agree with her Dad and me, it was much more important to help her make decisions like this for herself.  What was more important was helping her recognize and deal with predatory brands.  So my mission was to get her to think — for herself — armed with some new facts, and guided by her own conscience.  I wanted her to be honest. After all, if we raised her right, she should be able to come to solid conclusions on her own.

Her conscience told her to leave — and she has never gone back.

Today, our daughter is 22.  She carries a new (and sometimes surprising) set of convictions about the way she eats, consumes and shops that is only partially rooted in this experience.   When she came back from a year and a half abroad doing mission/humanitarian work in New Zealand, India, Fiji and Samoa…she informed me she’d no longer accompany me to my favorite coffee house because they don’t unilaterally support Fair Trade.  She won’t drink soda because it’s making us all fatter (and we’re SO blessed to have free, clean water!) She won’t eat chocolate that isn’t “fair trade” stamped because she’s been studying human trafficking in the Ivory Coast.  She doesn’t want to be used as a billboard for any brand.  She shops from thrift stores first when she needs something because it's cheaper and more socially and environmentally responsible.  That's my girl.

What's cooler still is that she isn't a bummer to be around.  She lives her life non judgmentally and with a smile, positive attitude and outlook.  She inspires new convictions in me and others. I can see how Michelle’s convictions can quickly be considered and even embraced by a group.  Especially as she lives her values in an edifying way -- living them proudly and unapologetically and beautifully - in praise of higher living. I can imagine the cascading impact her life can have.

(And I can't take credit for her -- she has always been an incredible kid.)

I wish I'd had that quality at her age. I didn't have her courage.  I often feared that living in alignment with my true core values would be isolating. So, I compromised, a lot.  I didn't "get" comfortable in my own skin until much later in life.

Accepting the Truth comes with a price.

I didn’t mean to create an activist here - I was trying to be a decent parent by making a few points about something I know - which is customer experience and marketing.  I was just trying to be faithful with the insights I've been given.

The thing is, once you flutter your eyes a bit, what you see around you - and what lies behind the scenes can be a rude and somewhat overwhelming awakening.  Faced with the truth, we can choose to respond in a positive way or curl up in the fetal position of denial.

I'm glad she is making good choices.  I can't help but feel the conviction she embraces today will give her an early edge in life - leading into a truly influential and powerful way of living.  It's based on a simple principle:

Living our values gives us the power to destroy the market for reprehensible things … and create new markets for lovely things. 

This isn't about Abercrombie and Fitch.  I don't like the company but it isn't the enemy.  Our real enemies are our own apathy, denial and a lack of moral fiber.  If you care about Abercrombie, by all means do as your conscience dictates.  There are a million ways to voice your concern and fight back.  If you don’t care about Abercrombie - that’s totally fine.  Pick another platform!  Human Trafficking, Sustainable Agriculture, Global Warming....  The fields are ripe with opportunity.

Whatever you do - don’t just sit there.  As the truth builds and cascades around us - we must choose to respond.  We won’t always be right, or be perfect (I am so far off it’s not funny). We won't be able to take on every battle.  We will sometimes be unwitting hypocrites and we won't always win.  However, we can do our BEST, for ourselves, our kids and our future.

After all, if we don't take responsibly, we lose our right to complain. 

What do you think?

Organizing the Open Future Series at SXSW

It's not often I get to share what I do for my clients but fortunately, SXSW is one of those times when I get to be more promotional. Taking a break from the digital/experience/transformation strategy scene, I'm organizing another series (an experience in itself) at SXSW this year for IEEE in coordination with the W3C.

It's my third year doing cause-related work at SXSW and I must say it's addicting. In 2011, I was honored to be able to establish SXSW Cares/SXSW4Japan. with my buddy, Rob Wu of  Causevox. This grassroots effort helped us raise nearly $150k in online donations (and more via text) for the Red Cross Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami fund.  Best way to spend SXSWever

In 2012 I organized three event series for the IEEE with Dean Kamen and Japanese sensation, Maywa Denki.  Our events celebrating FIRST® and inspired attendees to invest in the next-generation of innovators to Build a Better World.  It was an unforgettable and rewarding experience.

In the midst of my exhaustion, I swore I wouldn't do this to myself again, but this year, we've gone even bigger.

The 2013 "IEEE andW3C Open Future Series" will be anchored by Web Inventor and W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee and IEEE-SA President Karen Bartleson.  Our series features a total of 17 world–changing technology makers and covers a spectrum of topics including the Open Web, Internet of Things, Social Robotics, Self Hacking, Copyright and Disruptive Technologies and Augmented Reality.

Check out our schedule here.

Of course, there must be a good cause.  This year, our events also seek to build awareness for OpenStand, a global community founded by IEEE, W3C, ISOC, IETF and IAB that is dedicated to promote the principles that have inspired the exponential technology expansion, innovation and economic growth of past decades. In an era where technology is advancing faster than we can understand its impacts … when critical discussions about privacy, security, human rights, borderless commerce are occurring — OpenStand encourages technology professionals to embrace the time-tested OpenStand Principles to develop global technologies for the benefit of humanity  -- using those principles as a guide in critical discussions to keep the future open. 

In short, I'm proud to be organizing the kind of events I would personally pay to see at SXSW. I'm honored to work with such great clients and a distinguished group of accomplished and incredibly smart folks -- the people who have brought us the Internet, Ethernet, Wireless and more life changing and world-changing, revolutionary technologies.

(Incidentally - I'm also quite humbled to be the mental midget in the room.)

Mostly, I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to help conceive and organize this series for IEEE. I'm looking forward to a terrific SXSW and hoping that our contributions will make the conference even better for our attendees.  Stoked about the dialog that will ensure, and that just weeks ago, Adobe and Cisco sponsoring two of our events, including our Open Developers Meetup and private reception with Tim Berners-Lee.

Before sign off to get some sleep -- I want to introduce you to BC "Heavy" Biermann, Founder of The   Heavy Projects and one of our esteemed Augmented Reality speakers.  Heavy's work with the Ad Council and reimagining public spaces is, well -- cool, cool stuff.   We're pretty honored that, to promote OpenStand and our Augmented Reality panel, the team created (in short order!) a "Virtual Takeover" AR Demo of the Driskill Hotel for us. Here's a brief video of the demo.

You Just hold up your camera on your mobile device and an interactive virtual layer appears before you. Tear down walls — watch it animate… while cars and people pass you by. It's pretty cool.  Check out the site for more amazing demos -- like murals that have their own virtual environments!

Goodnight for now, folks!






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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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