Designing the World of Customer Experience

The Serendipity of SXSW

image credit: Luca Sartoni

The 2011 SXSW Interactive festival just wrapped up in Austin.  Because of the sheer size of the event, it was difficult to attend all of the panel discussions and speakers you wanted to see — but that wasn’t the best part.  The highlight of SXSW was the great people you met in those seemingly “accidental moments”.

I enjoyed talking everyone from social media superstars to influential music industry people — from masters of the mobile space to those that push the boundaries of advertising and technology.

“By intelligently using social technology, businesses can find opportunities in the new economy.”

Photo by Doc Searls

Photo by Doc Searls

The idea of creating situations where people serendipitously meet others and have unexpected experiences has fascinated me since reading the book, The Power of Pull.  It was a pleasure to finally meet author, John Hagel and hear him speak again at the Social Business Summit (put on by the Dachis Group).  On Thursday, Mr. Hagel talked about “unexpected encounters that surprise and delight.”

The ability to enhance these moments of serendipity can be shaped by creating environments that bring delight and fortunate encounters to those in attendance.  (Experiential Brand Marketers should definitely be paying attention to this!)

The idea presented was that most people “don’t even know the questions to ask.”   This ties into Maslow’s Four Stages of Competance. So the question then is… “how can we find things when we don’t know what we’re looking for… when we don’t even know what’s out there?”

Here are some soundbites from Hagel’s talk about the future of Social Business.  Please keep in mind that I was typing as fast as I could!

Engineered Serendipity

  • Carefully choose your environments. (ie: Attend SXSW if you want to meet motivated people in that industry)
  • Don’t create and stick to a regimented schedule.. you might miss out on those “moments”
  • Tell people the problems you’re working on to get their input and fortuitous help

Knowledge Creation

  • Social Media builds relationships that allow us to build new knowledge together
  • New knowledge is created by coming together… comes from relationships
  • The only way new knowledge gets created is through an incredible amount of friction and argument
  • To create productive friction, you should urge more friction… rather than less friction
  • There are opportunities to shape serendipity… through choices you make at various levels
  • those who do make those choices will be more successful

Social Media Programs

  • These are not about programs it’s about People… especially passionate people.
  • But  passion is embarrassment in a corporate setting… so what do you do?
  • Take passionate people and connect them to pain points in the organization.
  • How do you find them? These people are usually camouflaged…
  • When you find them, help focus them on pain points and get them using social media and you will have good things happen.

Lessons from the Edges

  • Dont go to core… go to edges. Go to the areas with high uncertainty because those areas attract people with passion

For me, the highlight of the entire SXSW experience was the question… “What’s your serendipity strategy?”

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