SXSW 2019 selected raw notes

SXSW 2019 Selected Raw Notes

Rohit Bhargava

More noise today

  • Harder to establish trust
  • Non-obvious thinking
  • Curated observation of the accelerated present

Haystack method

  • Curating your ideas
  • Think if ideas like frequent flyer miles
  • Use colored tabs to save interesting ideas in your books
  • Physically collecting media and organizing it

Retro trust

  • Look back to brands we used to know
  • Deliberate downgrading
  • Nostalgia
  • Collaborating with trusted brands or images

Muddled masculinity

  • Widespread confusion and angst
  • Fear of being labeled
  • “Today’s masculinity is stifling” The Atlantic
  • Encourage the non-conforming

Innovation Envy

  • FOMO Me-too fake innovation. Such as:
  • Ping-pong tables and open plan seating
  • Hackathons
  • Play offense with innovation
  • There ain’t no case study for innovation
  • “This is innovative but not risky”
  • The opposite of love is indifference

Artificial Influence

  • Large amounts of fakery
  • Virtual influencers
  • Don’t hide the artificial ingredients

Enterprise Empathy

  • A driver of innovation and revenue
  • Quiet hour
  • Slow checkout lane
  • Raised marks on shampoo and conditioner bottles
  • Holographic companions
  • “Made with empathy” as a strategy

Robot Renaissance

  • Builders and explorers
  • Humanoid
  • What are good robots?
  • How should we relate to them?
  • Embracing robots with curiosity and not concern

Back-story telling

  • Branded content is a waste of time
  • See Weber Grills - great content marketing
  • Guide, checklist, hand to dealer
  • They didn’t try to sell, they answered the right question
  • Hutzler 571 banana slicer - check out the reviews
  • It’s a competition
  • Find the meaning and you can tell the story

I am not a speed reader; I am a speed understander - Isaac Asimov

Trends are not a fire, but a spark.

Where do you start?

  • See SXSW card

No Hard Feelings: Emotions at Work

"No Hard Feelings" book Liz Fisslien, Mollie West Duffy @lisandmollie

There are no scripts for common interactions at work

The circle of office life "let's take this offline" "let's talk about it in the meeting"

Effectively harnessing emotion

  • Look for unwritten rules about how authentic to be within a formal setting
  • Emotions are inevitable - learn how to deal with them

Emotional culture

  • look for signs on the wall admonishing
  • photos of home life
  • signs of pride
  • Interview question: "Tell me a story about something that would only happen here"


  • Diversity is having a seat at the table
  • inclusion is having a voice
  • belonging is having that voice be heard

Micro actions for belonging

  • pronounce and spell names correctly
  • once a month, grab coffee or lunch with someone new
  • when someone joins a conversation, take a moment to bring them up to speed
  • if you notice someone get cut off mid sentence, take a moment to jump in and ask them to continue sharing their thoughts.

What can organizations do?

Transition moments. On-boarding.

  • begin on-boarding before start date
  • assign a culture buddy
  • conduct an "enterview" Have everyone who interviewed them write down - what they were impressed about, the key skills, what they most want to know about them. Put these on post-it notes on the new hire's desk
  • Have managers share ups and downs

Meetings and teams

  • appoint a meeting monitor (looking at participation, engagement)
  • who needed to be in the room
  • send out an agenda ahead of the meeting
  • host a bad ideas brainstorm (15 minutes)
  • try opt-in "pair calls" 1 hour to only talk about not work

Watch out for what you're sacrificing for your job Protecting your health and friendships - this helps your effectiveness You life must be sustainable "I'll be happy when I get _" - opposite is true being happy gets you rewarded

Avoiding burnout

  • see every experience as a learning opportunity
  • find the moments during the day that bring you join
  • try to shift your role to do more of those joyful things
  • freedom and autonomy bring happiness
  • finding your own way to effective solutions to business problems
  • as a manager - hold a weekly office hours for any conversations

Emotions in decision making

  • there's a science to listening to your gut
  • not all feelings are useful
  • your envy can reveal what you truly value

Ask question to determine others real intent Walk away when needed



Amazon, Google Redmond She was XO to Jeff Bezos

12 years at Google XO to Eric Schmidt

Do more with less. Balance. Where you spend your time and where your values are.

See Grit TED Talk by Angela Lee may be inverse to intelligence marathonning

This was a key to success for her. Taught her to value a learning mindset versus a performance mindset

"I heard you're really good under pressure"

Three steps you can take

Find your passion and purpose

Internal-facing passion

  • This is what gives a spring to your step
  • Changes sometimes

Externally-facing purpose

  • longer-term

Managing through change

  • monitor for frustration and burn out
  • you
  • your team
  • your support network

She made a spreadsheet Column A her tasks and responsibilities Column B was the things she really like to do Column C how to springboard from those to ideal future

Bring your teams along with you Communicate the what and the why

  • cycling analogy - when you know the finish line you can work harder

Your friend network

  • communicate your goals with them

Institutionalizing grit

  • how do you organize your team to do this
  • incentivize this
  • OKR (John Dorr book) (moon shots - aim high - you won't make all of them)
  • trust
  • authenticity, open discussion
  • safe to fail
  • hire people who aim higher
  • team aimed at the same star


  • Book: Art and Fear. Learning mind set did better.
  • avoid perfectionist paralysis.
  • put in the reps. wake up, kick ass, repeat.
  • dedicate time to analyze your failures (and your big successes)
  • Jeff would lock himself in a hotel room for a week with no stimulus and write in a notebook.
  • being comfortable with uncomfortable. she sold everything and moved to Spain.
  • Erik Schmidt: "when possible, say yes" Expand your circle of influence - add experts - and learn.


  • habits to be made
  • Pareto principle (apply this to your TODO list)
  • Eat that frog on the 20%
  • be thoughtful
  • changing your priorities may upset some people. focus on what is truly important and delegate or drop the rest.

Biggest contributor to happiness at work is a feeling of control. Time box your calendar. Take those 20% tasks and lock them into your calendar for a couple hours. Set a hard start and stop.

Delegate more. Focus on the biggest deliverable. Help your direct reports do this also.

Read "Time for Happiness" - HBR

Reward your employees with time if you can. There's nothing to celebrate in useless toil.

Productivity isn't a virtue. Creativity, Generosity.

Engineering a team for high growth

Panelists: Yahoo, StitchFix, Slack, WeWork

First, must build trust

How do you prepare for change?

  • must constantly adapt your role as needed
  • at the beginning of growth, hire generalists
  • as you scale, hire more specialists
  • find leaders with domain experience
  • expect difficulty
  • hire people that can handle that amount of change

If you're doing the same thing you did last year, you're not being successful

face to face travel is critical to building emotional trust and effective relationships - builds team capability.

remote-friendly culture - Dave Coupland talked about how to be a good remote engineer. Assume positive intent. Ask questions.

Maintaining culture as you scale

  • knowing your values
  • have relevant questions and interview for them
  • create reward systems for those values
  • evolve as you grow
  • reward, remind, incentivize
  • brainstorm: what are some of the behaviors that make us successful, what behaviors get you promoted here? Then see if these answers match your values.
  • values are the living practices of the leaders and what they uphold
  • what's your company OS? values, principles, leadership practices
  • stitchfix: bring, kind, oriented
  • engineering values: product-centric, bias for action, simple solution, quick ship.
  • Product interview for every engineer - collaborate with non-technical person to solve a business problem. finds strong communicators.
  • finding people who have built something from the ground up
  • passionate about solving workplace issues

Attracting and retaining talent

  • takes time - build interest by speaking at conferences
  • active blog presence to build tech brand
  • open to hire remote
  • "wework is a technology company"
  • have a compelling vision and mission
  • people join companies for mission (initially) brand is key
  • people join ultimately for people
  • how does your company become known for a certain type of technology?
  • you must be able to sell and evangelize that vision for the future
  • we fall in love with people (not companies)
  • expose applicants to a wide variety of folks

How do you sell employees on a longer-term vision (and with respect to it may not be fully defined or may be confidential)

  • how do you communicate in powerful way?
  • write a lot
  • find the motivations of the candidate and explain the overlap
  • your job as manager is painting the big picture
  • Share OKRs


  • what is the problem you're trying to solve?
  • awareness
  • socialization
  • what are the early warning signs of when something is not going to scale?

What are your top use cases for your 2020 vision? Building out a road map

Have a process defined where new people can make their first commit on the first day. First feature in first month. New architects take longer. Invest in the tools you need to do this.

think about culture add, instead of culture fit

Recruiting is a long game. Don't compromise your values.

Have a list of people that you regularly get coffee.

OKRs - you must be able to measure what you value. you can let the teams define how they measure.

Startups, Partnerships, Trends and Google

What offerings could help us with our Docs Platform?

Google, Anchor (podcasting, just bought by Spotify), Overtime (sports)

Most startups need a host

GFS - Google for Startups

Start on Android LJ Erwin

Google Sand Hill program After series A, through VC referral

  • treat partnerships like mature companies treat hiring.
  • what can you do or not do with a particular partner
  • will the users really come from a product integration?
  • time as most valuable product
  • partnering with other startups where incentives align
  • unsplash
  • look for companies thinking of making integration easy (APIs)
  • how adventurous are they? risk taking ability. be careful how much time you invest in large/low-risk tolerance companies.

watch out for prioritizing short-term growth don't give away/lend too much value to big partners - damages your leverage

Google is an AI-first company fintech (conference this week), health care, social impact verticals

stay relentlessly focused on your mission. achieving product-market fit and scale as rapidly as possible.

reap what you sow

DevOps 1B public sensormatic solutions CI&T GH

  • speed of delivery
  • CD
  • no waterfall planning
  • it's about principles, not tools
  • removing walls
  • aligning incentives
  • if you write code, you're on call
  • leveraging successful os methodology in your org
  • enterprise open source
  • speed with accuracy
  • most important metrics: measure it then leverage it. uptime, releases per day, sales, bad choice of metrics can tell you the wrong things, cycle time, regressions
  • continuous improvement, SRE, blameless postmortems, extract learnings, psychological safety, five whys to find root cause

What excites you about 2019?

  • chaos engineering (Netflix) building resilience
  • cloud is a race to the bottom
  • hybrid is the next phase
  • you must keep investing in tooling
  • let teams decide where to invest
  • increase reliability and decrease tech debt
  • and be able to make a business case for this
  • cost of risk

The Alchemy and Science of Metrics

Presenter from

how do you know if your ideas work? use big data. data is useless - it can only give you answers


  • incomplete
  • inflexible
  • inexplicable

creating a science of metrics quality and quantity define a holistic system manipulate the system to achieve your goal

engagement = clicks

searches page views monthly unique visitors page count DAU daily active users

turn data into information

there is one right metric for everyone: lifetime value total product benefit generated over all time this could take a lifetime to measure


  • sensitivity: how quickly you can influence and move a metric
  • correlation: frequency of agreement with lifetime value
  • plot sensitivity vs correlation

Pareto principle applied to efficiency - when you can't improve one thing without making something else work.

  • reward vs. risk
  • healthy vs. delicious

"efficient frontier" between sensitivity and correlation as relates to lifetime value.

map standard product funnel to metrics e.g. search tap apply interview offer

problem to work to output to input to work to output and so on

where to validate changes? at decision points favor outcomes when late in the funnel

(session is being recorded)

Building an In-House Design Powerhouse

Building an In-House Design Powerhouse Stephen Gates, Head of Design Transformation at InVision

creating change

  • avoid the thought trap. think beyond the project in front of you. not about being right (because then someone else is wrong)
  • don't rationalize mediocracy
  • align the source of truth for your work to data, research, and real consumers
  • start thinking about the words you use
  • take the light bulbs out of your deck inspiration vs creativity
  • invision design leadership forum
  • invision design exchange
  • a cover band never changed the world

You create change through a lot of little things that add up to something big.

"This might get me fired" Gregory Larkin.

The transformation will not be approved.

Teach, partner, lead the change to truly break through.

Product design in the age of AI

VP Product at Shutterstock

opportunity analysis opportunity compass capturing intent feedback must be validated against user experience and IA learn and release define, synthesize, prepare become a data enthusiast (hire a data scientist)

A New Space Age: Disrupting Investment & Innovation

What's next?

  • speed
  • time
  • relativity
  • black holes
  • holographic principle (each particle contains all universal information)
  • quantum behavior
  • consciousness has no definition of time

Cause and effect

  • breaking the relativity model
  • inter-dimensional travel
  • we don't know what we're looking for, if we don't have a common ancestor
  • the renaissance focus on transient qualities e.g. beauty
  • we are the transient ones
  • getting beyond transience to be able to travel through space and time
  • Newtonian physics then relativity (100 years)
  • must beat the odds / break the system to travel

The impossible is probable

  • Plato's allegory of the cave
  • we're at a tipping point in history
  • intergalactic travel in her lifetime
  • redefining what it means to be human
  • the definition of consciousness

Leadership and Decision Making for Business and Life

Dave Berke

84 days OCS then Flight school 9/11 then war We created a little America in the green zone Devlin report key terrain hearts and minds - pacification and stabilization tipping point

Lessons learned:

  • humility
  • ownership
  • team work

Leadership is the most important thing on the battlefield.

Book: Extreme Ownership

  • cover and move

    • team work
    • work together - no silos
    • enemy is outside the wire
    • if the team fails, everyone fails
    • relationships
  • simple

    • if you're people aren't doing what you want them to, it's your fault
    • simplify the mission: what is the goal
    • communication: simple, clear, concise
    • if people don't understand, they can't execute
  • prioritize and execute

    • detach from emotion
    • relax, look around, make a call
  • decentralized command

    • everyone leads
    • team must understand why
    • don't wait for orders - lead
    • work yourself out of a job

people at the lowest level at the bottom of the organizations can adapt and improvise if they understand the mission.

these things are simple but not easy

Extreme Ownership (book title)

  • attitude/mind set
  • no one to blame
  • own all problems
  • lead up and down the chain

Leadership is hard. Take ownership. Solve your own problems.


2590 Words

2019-04-05 00:00 +0000