The Reception


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What is empathy?

SXSW. It’s often seen as the holy grail of adland conferences with two weeks full of tech, music, film, experiences and endless margaritas under the Austin sunshine. This hype meant I went ready to have my mind blown. I challenged myself to go to things I normally wouldn’t attend. I took in panels about transhumanism, learnt about speculative design, discovered the power behind secrets and discussed what makes a book a book. There’s no doubt I saw, heard and did things I’ve never experienced before and I’ve had my mind opened to new ways of thinking. Back in the UK, with the sun no longer shining, the free drinks no longer flowing and the jet lag long gone it’s easier to reflect on my first SXSW experience and if I’m totally honest, I loved it but my mind wasn’t totally blown. I appreciate this may be controversial given SXSW’s prestige but the reason for it is simple - the dominant theme of the conference was empathy. It was everywhere, in the sessions, the tech, the conversations, successfully upstaging the usual SXSW suspects of AI and digital transformation.


Are you a bottleneck? Sometimes it’s a good thing. It would be impossible to guzzle a Pepsi if it were served in a saucer–the bottleneck creates the path of maximum slam. It would be difficult to water your lawn without a nozzle. The bottleneck creates pressure that allows you to reach further. But in an organization, a bottleneck can be a real problem. If the project is sitting on your desk, no value is being created. The opportunity, then, is to achieve your goals by getting every single thing off your desk so that it can move forward. A team that is sitting still waiting for you to attend the approval meeting is suffering from your bottleneck. And so are the people you set out to serve. The trick: Figure out which parts of the approval process truly benefit from your unique judgment and skills, and which parts are merely your fear at work. And then get it off your desk and let someone else do it. This is a piece by Seth Godin and first appeared on his blog here

“I don’t like your work”

That doesn’t mean I don’t like you. The difference is critical. It’s impossible to be a productive professional if you insist on conjoining them. Here are two useful things to consider: There is plenty of disliked work from people (and things) where I don’t even know the creator. I don’t like John Adam’s operas, and I’ve never even met him. If it’s possible to dislike something without knowing the person behind it, I hope we can embrace the fact that they’re unrelated.   If we need everyone to like our work in order to feel grounded, it means that we’ll sacrifice the best of what we could create in order to dumb it down for whatever masses happen to be speaking up. Which will make it more average (aka mediocre) and thus eliminate any magic we had hoped to create. If someone cares enough to dislike our work, the best response is, “thank you.” Thank you for taking the time to consider it, thank you for caring enough to let me know…

Dear male allies

A memo to the many wonderful male allies supporting us on International Women’s day. Thank you for your support. It can be hard to speak out about feminism as a man. Hard, in particular to feel as though you have the right. So sometimes you may accidentally say things that don’t help because, well, no one is perfect. Because I know you truly care, I hope that you’ll appreciate some gentle feedback. So here are my watch outs for male allies this International Women’s Day. 1. Please don’t say: You have a daughter I am sure that you cared before you were personally invested in caring but unfortunately this doesn’t read like that. I was recently at a feminist conference where a male speaker got his daughters to record a five minute film talking about him being a good dad before he gave his address. This accidentally flipped his presentation to being women praising a man, when he was supposed to be elevating the voices of women. The intention was good. The delivery was not. Talk about what parenting has taught you,

Loud vs. important

Broken systems get worse when we confuse the loud voices with the important ones. Spend a lot of time listening to the loudest complaints and you will elevate those voices to importance, because you’re no longer carefully listening to the more easily overlooked constituents. A persistent typist with a keyboard might be a cranky critic, but is this the person you set out to serve? If an airline makes 84% of its profit on leisure travelers, it’s not clear that the person who flies once a year on a last-minute first class fare is the person they ought to be paying the most attention to. We can acknowledge that someone is upset, we can see them, respect them and help them. But we shouldn’t get confused that there’s a correlation between their ALL CAPS EFFORT AT ATTENTION and our agenda to serve the people we seek to serve. This is a piece by Seth Godin and first appeared on his blog here

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