Lessons from SXSW: Learn. Create. Innovate.

March 18, 2015

3D Cement RobotSo, the saying goes, “The more I learn, the more I realize the less I know.” Attending South by Southwest (SXSW) this past weekend absolutely made me feel dumb and old.

Dubbed the largest interactive, film and music festival in the United States, the event attracts over 72,000 people and spans 10 hotels and multiple event locations throughout downtown Austin, Texas. The interactive programming sessions encompassed tracks arranged around themes that touched on robotics, content, art and science, healthcare, wearables, gaming, global impact, and so much more.

As the incubator for cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity, the conference’s goal is to connect people, allow them to explore content that is outside of their comfort zone and, thereby, stimulate learning. Participants and speakers were the likes of research scientists, developers, students, entrepreneurs, political figures, celebrities, and even Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud whose mission is to empower the women of Saudi Arabia. Being in the presence of so many individuals who “build,” such as the team prototyping a 3D cement printing drone that flies to communities to help rebuild after natural disasters, or listening to Jessica Alba speak about creating her Honest Company focused on transparent, chemical-free family products meant to better our lives and society, stirs excitement and creativity.

The stories told at SXSW were filled with passion for developing creative solutions that make a lasting impact to better our society. The people telling the stories were insanely curious; had developed strong, talented teams; and were wildly inspirational. Daniel Pink’s book, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future,” makes a statement that traditional business school skills and traits will take a back seat to those of creativity, empathy, and big picture problem-solving. Scientists who have long studied the brain and how it responds to creativity identified that when an individual is focused on creative activities, the brain’s mental workspace is extended. Not only is the brain active in the four core brain areas involved in visual processing, attention and executive functions, but also other brain regions. You could say that individuals who are highly imaginative and “thinking out of the box” are using more areas of their brain together in concert.

Creativity is an essential component for innovation. It involves right-brain imagination, artistry and intuition, plus left-brain logic and planning. Creativity at work is about problem-solving, asking better questions, collaborating effectively, being an opportunity finder, and enlisting others. Organizations that do this well find breakthrough products, improve processes and identify new market areas for growth. They view this as part of their intellectual capital to fuel their competitive advantage.

Konica Minolta’s Edge Leadership learning program has done a tremendous job in helping us identify our own individual strengths and weaknesses. Successful individuals capitalize on their strengths and ask for help with their weaknesses. They, in turn, become effective leaders who assemble teams comprised of individuals with diverse strengths and talents, not based on roles and responsibilities. Our advantage working at a $9 billion global organization affords us the opportunity to be creative every day. Couple creativity with the drive to create and build, and you have a catalyst for innovation: one of our six core values.

I certainly was far from the oldest person attending the conference but since there’s really nothing I can do about my age, I am going to work on being less dumb. My biggest takeaways from SXSW:

  1. Learn so that you can activate more areas of your brain.
  2. Foster creativity to generate new ideas and solutions.
  3. Lead and inspire others to think differently
  4. And, most important, turn creativity into action to champion innovation.

Join the conversation @kaydufernandez. #SXSW

Kay Du Fernandez
Senior Vice President, Marketing

Kay Du Fernandez leads the creation of innovative marketing strategies throughout the entire customer journey. Through digital disruption, brand awareness, a focus on customer experience, marketing communications and channel management, she works to improve the value we deliver to customers, partners and employees. Her responsibilities also encompass strategic business development and pricing to support sales efforts for Konica Minolta’s U.S. operations. Kay established the Step Forward Program at Konica Minolta to inspire women in professional excellence.