For those who haven’t been to SXSW Interactive, the conference completely takes over Austin for about 5 days across 6 or 7 hotels / venues, with most sessions having queues of up to 500m (maybe even up to 1km) winding around the corridors. It can be a bit of a rush to get between the different sessions and there were a few times that I lined up for a session, only to find it had already been filled, and then I had to go to one of my backup sessions. Having the SXSW mobile app is a must to plan out your daily adventure.

Here is a quick recap of the best sessions that I went to (in no particular order). If you get a chance, you should look these people up on TED, Twitter, or just Google them. It’s also worth taking a look at the SXSW Schedule, as there were lots of other great sessions, and you can read a lot of the presenters’ materials on the web.

Don Tapscott, How to Solve the Worlds Problems

Don is a futurist and the author of Wikinomics and Macrowikinomics. He has recently written a new book about How To Solve the Worlds Problems.

He outlines that with the advent of the printing press, City States turned into Nation States; and that with the advent of the Internet, a new way of governing is required. His argument is that Nation States are no longer sufficient to govern in the Internet age. Fairly small concept, huh?

His proposed solution is to utilise non-state networks, that he terms Global Solution Networks. His discussion was very thought provoking about how governance and crowd-sourcing might work.

A very similar presentation that Don Tapscott gave at the RSA conference is below.

Al Gore, The Future

Interviewed by Walt Mossberg, All Things Digital

I realise that Al Gore is a great public speaker. He is a Nobel Prize winner, former Vice President and Oscar winner. However, listening to him speak in person was fascinating. He and Walt Mossberg danced around a lot of topics during his keynote… way too many to mention here. Mostly he outlined his thoughts on his 6 drivers of global change and how they are likely shape “The Future”.

A similar presentation from Al Gore on “The Future” from the 92nd Street Y in New York is below.

Elon Musk, CEO SpaceX, CEO Tesla

Interviewed by Chris Anderson, author of The Longtail

If you didn’t walk away from this session completely inspired (sans Elon’s gaff about parenting), then you were probably asleep.
Elon is the founder of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla. He is currently the CEO / CTO of SpaceX and CEO / product designer of Tesla.
– He wasn’t satisfied with the progress that NASA was making towards a Mars landing, so he decided to start building his own re-usable rocket ships.
– He was similarly disappointed with the progress of electric cars, so he decided to start building his own mass market electric cars.

The progress that both SpaceX and Tesla, in their respective fields, are making is nothing short of amazing and a testament to his drive and passion.

It’s worth taking a look at the SpaceX Grasshopper video. This is a 10 storey high rocket that lands back on Earth using closed loop thrusters. 

Elon’s latest TED talk is below. Well worth watching.

Phil Libin, CEO Evernote

I took three main things away from Phil’s presentation. He was utterly brilliant. There were many, many other insightful things in his presentation but I really liked these three.
1. Don’t play zero sum games as there is only one winner. You should change the game.
2. Measured over the life of a company, your culture is your product.
3. Don’t strive for consistency across all your connected devices, you’ll only achieve it through mediocrity.

Stephen Wolfram, CEO Wolfram Research

To most secondary and university students, Wolfram Alpha is the way they complete their homework. Listening to Stephen speak about his life from being an academic (he received his PhD from CalTech at age 20), to developing Mathematica, and then to developing the Wolfram Alpha computation engine was fascinating. (PS. He received Speaker of the Event at SXSW Interactive in 2012.)

I used Mathematica extensively as an undergraduate student so was really interested in where the Wolfram Alpha computational engine has taken the Mathematica product.

The theme of connected devices, cloud and crowdsourcing came through strongly in Stephen’s presentation. Wolfram Research are releasing the Wolfram Language into the cloud so that anyone can use it as a computational engine. I think this is a brilliant concept and I hope that the Wolfram Language will somehow get a life of its own.

It’s almost too hard to do justice to Stephen Wolfram in words… his TED latest talk is here.

Dr. Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots, Google [x]

Google[x] is the “moonshot” lab that is responsible for Google Glasses, the driver-less car and internal buildings in Google Maps.

This was a truly fascinating session about the art of the possible… and had many, many interesting topics. The three main things I took away were…
1. If you think about improving something by 10 times rather than just 10%, then you will likely frame the problem and your assumptions very differently.
2. If you are creating value for world, then at some point money will find its way back to you as a business. Focus on creating the value first. Money second.
3. Astro Tellers question to all his new-starters… “What would you work on if you knew it wouldn’t fail?” and his follow up questions “Why wouldn’t you start it tomorrow?”

It’s worth taking a look at

Astro’s latest session at Singularity University is below.

So what…?

So what did I take away from all these sessions about digital? Well lots… but I’ve summarised into the eight points below.

1. We’re only at the beginning of the crowdsourcing phenomenon. There will be some really innovative uses of the crowd in the next few years around digital. If you aren’t thinking about how to  include the “crowd”, then you are likely to miss out.
2. Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. If your product  or service is only available via the desktop web, you are aren’t properly connecting with your users properly.
3. Connected devices. This theme integrates the trends of cloud, devices & mobile and is much more than just the Internet of Things. Your product or service needs to be available whenever, wherever your customer wants to use it. Preferably on-the-go and contextually aware.
4. If you’re creating value for your users, then the money will find its way back to you. Think about the value you are creating before you think about how you will get paid.
5. Social & gamification are no longer add-ons. If you aren’t thinking about how social & gamification should be used in your product or service, then you are missing a large component of key functionality… and therefore adoption.
6. 10 times not 10%. Thinking about a 10 times improvement and not 10% increment makes you think of the problem differently. You’ll be more likely to change your assumptions and actually succeed.
7. Leadership is still key. Great leaders create great products & services.
8. Your culture is your product. Over the long term, the culture of your company is your product or service… the culture of your company will shine through over the long term.

I’m interested in your thoughts and whether you agree.

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