Category Archives: Conferences

What I saw at CES

I was at CES 2015 last week. Here are some reflections, in no particular order:

1. The Internet of Things was Everywhere.

Internet of Everything

From the opening CES keynote to every 20 feet on the show floor, IoT was everywhere. But while there may be “infinite possibilities of IoT,” the question everyone will start asking in 2015 is, “but why?”

Samsung Infinite Possibilities of IoT

If IoT ecosystems become truly pervasive, analysts will become the most in-demand professionals out there.

2. Wearables, but why?

I was speaking to a 20-something professional about new products and he said, “Watches? I don’t get it. My generation is the one that stopped wearing them; we use our phones to tell the time. So why do all these companies think that everyone is suddenly going to buy smartwatches?”

WonderWoof

The variety of wearables businesses plays out like a Mad Lib. I saw wearables for fitness. The elderly. Kids. Babies. Dogs. Cats. You name it and if it moves, then there’s a business that wants to put a sensor on it to collect data.

3. Surf like nobody’s watching.

VR at Intel

But when you’re demoing VR on the CES floor, everyone is. Except at the Oculus booth, which had the longest lines that I saw at the show.

Oculus queue

4. Give me a break.

Walking around the show can get so tiring for some people that they just fall asleep in the middle of the day. Some booths facilitate this.

Taking a break

5. Mirror, mirror on the wall

Some solutions like virtual fitting tech sounds great in theory but the demos show that there’s still a long way to go.

Virtual Fitting Solution

On the other hand, other offerings that focus on a smaller, more specific application work very well.

Panasonic Beauty

6. The Connected Car

Audi TTS

There were more automotive manufacturers at the show than ever before, with a heavy focus on connectivity and automation.

BMW+Samsung

7. Physical to digital to physical

Martha Stewart MakerBot

The transition from the industrial to information age is entering a new phase, where we are digitizing our physical world.

8. 3D TV won’t die

Samsung 8K TV glassless 3D

I was surprised to see that every major manufacturer was showing off some sort of “glass-less” 3D TV. Even in the sweet spot, they seem like an awesome UHD TV got messed up somehow with a blur effect around the edges. 8K, yes. 3D, no.

9. Robots and the uncanny valley

Easily the creepiest thing I saw was Toshiba’s “Communications Android,” which had disclaimers posted around it like “robot does not interact with you.” Even so, when she turned and looked in my direction, I felt a chill run down my spine.

Communication Android

On the other hand, fake robots like Alibaba’s interacted with the crowd and were entertaining.

Alibaba robot

10. Times they are a-changin’

After recent years of backlash, booth babes have almost entirely disappeared from CES, in exchange for slightly more practical robots and people working out. Moreover, people dressed in cartoon costumes seem to have disappeared from the Strip as well. Here are two types of people you probably won’t see at CES 2016:

Two types of CES staffers heading for extinction

When I visited the Intel booth, I looked across the aisle and the old Microsoft space was now occupied by two Chinese manufacturers, Hisense and Changhong. Sign of the times.

Changhong

However, what hasn’t changed is that the floor is primarily for media and spectacle, while business gets done behind the scenes and off the floor.

Samsung Smart Lounge

I’ll be keeping an eye on how these trends of digitization and connectivity play out over the year, with visible checkpoints at MWC, SXSW, and IFA.

Six years, $60 million, and all I got was this stupid hoodie.

Voting for SXSW 2015 sessions has started.

Austin panorama during SXSW 2014

If I get the chance to speak next year in Austin, I’d like to tell you about the last six years of my working life.

Between 2008 – 2014, I committed my time, energy, and intellect to build a startup company as the first employee into a multi-million dollar, multi-national social business advisory and big data analytics company. We received quite a bit of funding from Austin Ventures along the way. The company was ultimately acquired by Sprinklr and the only tangible reminder of my experience I have left is the classic cliched symbol of a startup company: a logo hoodie.

I could probably write a book on what I wish I knew then. (Maybe I will someday.) In the meantime I’d like to share the highlights of what I learned about startup life. The great reads out there make even more sense to me after having lived the experience.

I guess it’s only fair to disclose that I don’t intend this to be a sixty minute smack-talk session. Even without the snark, somewhere in between the trips to Las Vegas, managing people managing their personal brands, working with acquired companies under earnouts, writing a book, and creating an entirely new category of advisory called “social business,” there are some lessons worth sharing.

This would be my seventh year speaking at SXSW Interactive; if you’re interested in hearing more, I’d appreciate your vote.
Vote to see my session at SXSW 2015!

If you can’t get business done at SXSW, you’re not doing it right.

Austin panorama

South By Southwest interactive has come to an end for 2014. This was my sixth year of speaking at the conference and it gets better every year. It also gets bigger every year and some people say that experience quality is inversely related to attendance growth. Why? Because they miss the serendipity of the days when SXSW was smaller. What’s the benefit of serendipity? Reasons cited by Techcrunch include job hopping and love affairs.

Those two things have never been on my SXSW (let alone any professional conference) agenda so I haven’t been disappointed yet. In fact, the bigger SXSW gets, the better it becomes for a place to get business done. Here’s why.

  1. Guerrilla is out, grownup is in.
    Forget the street teams handing out flyers and putting massive stickers on everything. The only people who need to stay up all night to get lucky are desperate startups and “serendipity” seekers. Real businesses have rented out proper meeting spaces like Oracle at the Waller Creek Boathouse and Samsung at Vince Young Steakhouse, so executives can sit down with partners and clients to conduct meetings without having to yell to be heard over the noise of a DJ or without being interrupted by free beer seekers shoving their way through a conversation.
  2. Everyone is here.
    Well, not everyone. About a week before interactive started, I noticed an uptick in public declarations along the lines of “I’ve been so busy this year — and it’s only two months in! — that I deliberately choose not to attend SXSW because it is too low signal high noise for a person of my status.” It’s #FOMOSXSW. For the rest of us, this week brings heavy hitters to Austin from politics, media, entertainment, brands, and beyond. While Edward Snowden was remote, presumably due to visa/travel issues, it’s tough to be disappointed with the lineup of people available to meet in person.
  3. It’s about the hands-on experience.
    Most conferences are limited to the constraints of a single venue, like Centers Moscone or Javits. SXSW takes place over a large part of an entire city. So instead of trade show booths, most brands are able to offer hands-on activations, like giving rides in cars, sitting on an iron throne made from swords, setting up a go-kart track, walking through a wired home, eating 3-D printed candy, eating food made from artificial intelligence recipes, and so on. Brands also leverage local spots with world renown, like WCG’s event at Franklin Barbecue and Umbel’s party at Austin City Limits Moody Theater.

Hope you had a productive time in Austin — and see you next year.

For more on how business gets done at SXSW, check out David Berkowitz‘s Ad Age column “Let’s Be Honest: SXSW Is About Innovation in Marketing, not Tech” and Hubspot‘s “9 Unforgettable SXSW Moments.”

My #SXSW session “Capital vs. Talent” is today at 5 pm, Hilton 616AB #whosboss

Tax wealth not work

I’ll be hosting a core conversation today at 5 pm in Hilton 616AB.

What is a core conversation?

“The informal discussions that take place in the hallways between sessions have traditionally been one of the most productive parts of the SXSW Interactive Festival. In 2008 we formalized this process by adding our Core Conversation program, sessions in which a single moderator leads an open discussion with attendees around a specific topic for an hour’s time.”

Here’s what we will discuss:

Every business must manage a fundamental conflict between individuals who control the means of production and individuals who operate those means to a profit. Roger Martin outlined this struggle in the classic HBR article “Capital Versus Talent: The Battle That’s Reshaping Business.”

Today, businesses are challenged by an added dimension: the rise of social media. Individuals seek global recognition by sharing insider viewpoints with the world and Talent has embraced the leverage of new tools. Management has tried to quell the rise of a workforce filled with “personal brands,” wondering what defenses remain to mitigate the risks of an employee base that is active in social media.

I’ll discuss how the best solution for Capital is counterintuitive — brands are best off by wholly embracing social business. Far from condoning revolution, management can harness the collective efforts of seemingly self-guided individuals for corporate gain under the umbrella of “social business.”

If you’re at the session, I’ll see you later today!

uberX service at SXSW starts today at 5 pm

Uber ATX

As an analyst, I’ve always valued the perspective of firsthand experience. So next week I’ll be an active participant in the collaborative economy during SXSW in Austin: I’ve registered as an uberX driver.

Users get free rides, as Uber doesn’t officially operate in ATX yet. So you might call for an Uber and get me to show you around! Just don’t ask me to drive you to Driftwood or Round Rock.

Service starts at 5pm on Thu 6 Mar and ends at 3pm on Sun 16 Mar. I predict that once people hear the phrase “free rides” there will be much more rider demand than driver supply.

And of course if you need to sign up for Uber, I’d be happy to refer you to sign up: http://uber.com/invite/esu88

SXSW 2014: Capital vs. Talent

Since returning to Dachis Group earlier this year, I’ve been focusing on internal operations and consulting with a select group of clients, leaving little time for publishing thought leadership. However, one event I’ve always enjoyed participating in has been SXSW, where I’ve spoken for the past five years.

SXSW 2013 Book Signing

The 2014 SXSW PanelPicker is live and the session I’ll prepare and present is “Capital vs. Talent.” I’ve been watching the rise of social media and its impact on business for about seven years and issues of power and control are far from resolved. In fact, while social technologies may be new in the workplace, organizational dynamics are the same as they ever were.

Here’s a full description of what I’ll discuss:

The Next Battleground of Capital vs. Talent: Social Business

Since the Industrial Revolution, every business has been forced to manage a fundamental internal conflict between individuals who control the means of production and individuals who operate those means to a profit. Roger Martin outlined how this struggle originated in the 18th century and persists today in the 2003 Harvard Business Review article “Capital Versus Talent: The Battle That’s Reshaping Business.”

As we progress deeper into the 21st century, businesses are still struggling with the ever-shifting balance of power, albeit with a new dimension: the rise of social media. 72% of US online adults are social networking site users, creating indelible change in personal technology use and interpersonal relationships which inevitably impact professional operations. In the early days of corporate social media adoption, individuals like Robert Scoble gained global recognition by using emerging channels to share insider viewpoints with the world — Martin’s Talent had discovered new tools to gain advantage over Capital. Management reacted by putting policies in place, trying to quell the rise of a workforce filled with “personal brands.” These policies have now come under scrutiny, leaving employers wondering what defenses remain to mitigate the risks of an employee base that is active in social media.

The best solution for Capital in this case is counterintuitive — brands are best off by wholly embracing social business. By intimately understanding the dynamics of social engagement and leveling the conversation landscape among customers and employees, management can harness the collective efforts of seemingly self-guided individuals for corporate gain. The potential benefit: McKinsey estimates that productivity increases of 20 to 25 percent are achievable, along with $1.3 trillion in value that could be unlocked within four key industries alone. Managers would be wise to recognize the value creation opportunity inherent in social business and potentially stabilize the long-lasting tension between Capital and Talent.

If you’d be interested in hearing more about this, the session has been included in SXSW Interactive’s 2014 programing in a “core conversation” format. See you there!

Thanks!

 


 

To share or not to share


Sharing
via Lars Plougmann

Last month I delivered a session at SXSW. Immediately after came the inevitable requests that follow a public presentation: “when are you going to post your slides?”

My session topic was “social media mythbusters,” intended to examine commonly held beliefs around social media and behaviors that are assumed as givens. One that I didn’t cover in the session but that’s appropriate to explore now: content – especially that which is presented at a conference – should be shared.

Really?

Why do most social media efforts fail? A lack of clear objectives. Initiatives materialize too often without purpose and support. Effectiveness lies within a simple Covey idea: begin with the end in mind.

So the same lesson can apply to speaking at conferences. What motivates a speaker? Reasons vary: monetization, brand building (company and/or personal), perhaps skill development/mastery. All of those reasons can apply to a single instance, but avoiding conflict may mean staging different value capture activities over time. For example, the largest industry conferences rarely pay speakers, so you must weigh monetization vs. brand building.

I’ll eventually distribute my SXSW 2011 content, but not by posting slides straight up to Slideshare or similar; I’ll remix things a bit to share in a more blog-friendly format. But the question remains – and the answer isn’t the same every time. In fact, as the social “industry” evolves, increasing evidence points to the fact that it must be the money.