The future, a subject the radio industry lives with and stresses about often, was on display at South By Southwest Interactive.
Beyond the long lines and the incessant partying, there were thousands of shiny objects in Austin, Texas.
I’ve written in this space about the need to tap into current listener behaviors and interests. SMS, the least sexy technology I can mention, is working for thousands of radio marketers and programmers who are driving engagement, loyalty, and with the inclusion of calls to action in ads and shows. Many have built robust permission-based databases to reach back out to an eager listener.
Other stations are making money and driving listening through mobile websites and other products and services.
Still, it was interesting to hear about the future from some of the top luminaries in business.
I heard Nate Silver, writer for the New York Times and one of the hottest speakers around after his dead-on predictions about the presidential election.
Silver said that while analytics and targeting are important, don't forget serendipity.
“I think sometimes people mistake what I do as someone who’s saying everything we do is predicable… Whereas, really, I’m more of a skeptic of prediction. What I’m actually doing is taking polls and averaging them and the fact that it’s so surprising says a lot about where we have to go in terms of science and math.”
America’s favorite nerd, took the stage in Austin at SXSW on Sunday to talk about his favorite topic: data. Needless to say, Silver’s had a few wins this year in that department.
He recently published a book called "The Signal and the Noise" that looks at the role data plays in our daily lives and the way we can use it to better understand the world around us.
Another great session was led by Ford Motor Company futurist Sheryl Connelly who calls for the “balance between provocative and plausible” when assessing what could be ahead of us. She said that her team talked about $100 barrels of crude oil nearly a decade ago, but also had a discussion about what would happen if aliens landed on Earth.
To our knowledge, only one of those scenarios came true.
Such is your life when your role is to create a Center of Excellence for global consumer trend insights and a forward-looking mindset that can support and inform design, product development, strategy, business, and marketing functions throughout Ford.
Speaking to a packed audience, Connelly offered Lessons From A Futurist.
Many of her assertions were on the surprising side. Among them:
She once thought that the future is a mystery and best unexplored.
Connelly cautioned against the use of SWOT analysis that attempts to look at a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. She said that such endeavors limit thinking and fail to take change into account.
“It’s foolish for an organization to think it owns its strengths,” she said. “Those are defined by the marketplace.”
Connelly describes her job as a mission to look outside the automotive industry to understand what's happening in social, technological, economic, environmental, and political arenas so that we can understand shifts that are coming that may influence consumers' values, attitudes, and behaviors. She looks for those insights and collaborates with people in Ford Design and Product Development who try to turn them into business propositions.
She said that SXSW was the perfect venue to talk about “information addiction” which she said is a medical condition. Further, she cautioned attendees from information overload, adding that it takes away self-reflection time that spurs innovation.
“Explore what you can't control,” Connelly said. “Use scenario planning – 'what if's'.
You don't have to be a victim to the future -- you can help develop it.”
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