SXSW Highlights: 9 Talks to Challenge and Inspire You

And just like that, South by Southwest (SXSW) is over. If you struggled to keep up, you wouldn’t be alone. Mixing music, technology, and film with the keynotes and panel discussions of a conference, SXSW was 10 days of funky vibes, innovative trends, and inspiring conversations (not to mention breakfast tacos and Texas BBQ).

“Hosting such a widely diverse collection of interests in one place inevitably produces chaos,” said Evernote CTO Anirban Kundu, who was a speaker this year, as was CEO Chris O’Neill. “But SXSW amalgamates and organizes that chaos like no other event.”

Amalgamating and organizing chaos? Sign us up. Evernote staff took notes at more than 50 sessions this year across the Workplace, Intelligent Future, and Brands & Marketing tracks, capturing words, photos, audio, slides, and PDFs. So if you missed some sessions or weren’t able to attend in person, we’ve got you covered.

Here are some of the best insights we heard at SXSW. For more, check out all of our session notes—and look for the “Save to Evernote” button so you can save them forever with a click.

How teams and individuals are upending business as usual

“I don’t think the Beatles wrote ‘Hey Jude’ in a meeting room with bullet points.” — Torkel Mellingen, VP of Design, Cisco

In Collective Tech Experiences & the Future of Teams, Cisco’s VP of Design Torkel Mellingen made some provocative claims, including that ‘meetings are dead’ and that ‘the age of the individual genius is over’. In this new age of teams, Torkel shared a vision for how teams can better work together, exploring how ‘team tech’ differs from personal tech.

Chris O'Neill, CEO of Evernote

“We need to come together as teams to create something meaningful.” — Chris O’Neill, CEO, Evernote

In B2B and B2C are Dead: Now What?, Evernote CEO Chris O’Neill explored how the Bring Your Own App (BYOA) trend is changing the way we work and how we build products for the workplace, moving beyond B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) models. He delved into our thinking here at Evernote and proposed a new approach: business to individual to teams. “Your customers aren’t corporations, they are people. Design for them,” Chris observed.

Check out the slides and audio recording from Chris’s talk »

The brain and the machine: what’s next in AI

“The human brain by way of AI and brain computer interfaces (BCI’s) has potentially become something more that it was. It may not be such an easy peaceful and simple transition.” — Jonathon Keats, experimental philosopher

In Mental Work: Moving Beyond Our Carbon-Based Minds, Ricardo Chavarriaga, a brain-computer interface (BCI) researcher, and Jonathon Keats, an experimental philosopher, discussed ‘mental work’ and the possibilities that arise from controlling machines with nothing but our thoughts. They explored the potential impacts on art, science, and the workplace.

Anirban Kundu quote

In Sci-Fi to Reality: Evolution of AI in the Workplace, Evernote CTO Anirban Kundu dove into how technologies such as machine learning and AI are evolving, ushering in a new era of workplace productivity. Touching on how we use AI here at Evernote and how it will change the way we work over the next 20 years, he said: “I’m not saying machines are going to replace humans, but could we have a machine that is trained to do it and free up humans for something else?” Afterwards, while reflecting on how much AI was discussed at SXSW, Anirban observed that the next steps will be to figure out “how we can shape the world of tomorrow while not being fueled by the biases and polarization of today”.

Check out the slides and audio recording from Anirban’s talk »

Why timing is everything

“The hidden pattern within our days profoundly affects our mood and performance.” — Daniel Pink, bestselling author

In The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, bestselling author Daniel Pink showed how timing is not an art, but a science. It turns out that when we do things matters. Daniel gave advice on when to drink coffee, when to workout, and even covered the science behind the perfect nap.

How to build a better workplace, for all

This past year, gender, diversity, and inclusion have been top of mind, so these topics unsurprisingly cropped up in many SXSW panels and discussions. From The Post 50/50 Workforce to The Truth about Diversity in Tech, there were numerous sessions with real, vulnerable conversations around how we can build a workplace that works for everybody. Here were some highlights:

“We need you at the table, we want you at the table, and we have made room for you at the table.”
— Author Dr. Patti Fletcher’s message for men

In DISRUPTERS: Gender Equality for 2018, tech executive, board member, and angel investor Dr. Patti Fletcher shared successful strategies for challenging the status quo. She discussed combating unconscious bias, how men and women can work together, and how the ‘Disrupter’ approach differs from ‘Lean In’.

“If you have an opportunity to be in a position to fix it, then absolutely, I want a firm seat at the table, in my sequins.” — Bozoma Saint John on joining Uber

Claiming a seat at the table was a key theme this year. In Break & Re-Make Your Brand with Uber, Bozoma Saint John (Uber’s first ever Chief Brand Officer) discussed the power of brand and the turnaround underway at the ride-sharing company—but she didn’t shy away from talking about what needs to change in order to build more inclusive and diverse workforces in tech.

“Companies that have diversity and inclusion departments are companies that want to last for another 100 years…The goal of the diversity and inclusion team isn’t to make everyone feel good—it’s to increase price per share.”
— Eileen Carey, Founder & CEO, Glassbreakers

From strategies on making technology work for everyone to the specifics of how to create a diverse pipeline, the panelists of Inclusion + Tech: How To Get It Right discussed how diversity and inclusion is a competitive advantage for companies.

How companies can listen

“As a company, don’t be afraid to listen to your employees. You hire amazing talent for a reason and it would be a shame not to listen to their ideas.” — Stephen Huerta, Co-founder & CEO, Workify

In Power to the People: Turn Employee Ideas Into Gold, a panel discussed how companies miss out on ‘employee gold,’ or the great ideas that come from within. They shared listening strategies for capturing feedback and made the case for tapping into the minds of your own people.

Get even more session notes

Enjoyed these highlights? There’s more where that came from— 51 sessions in total, to be specific.

See all of the SXSW sessions we covered here. After reading through the notes, you can save them in Evernote to review later—that should tide you over until the excitement of SXSW rolls around again next year.

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