Last week I went to a little event called SXSW. This was my first time, and I can’t lie … I was a bit skeptical about what I would find down there. Over the years, this massive interactive festival has been deemed “too big,” “too mainstream” and even “over.” But, we decided to make the journey to Austin anyway. If it was a big disappointment, we could drown ourselves in BBQ, tequila and food truck goodness.
To say I was pleasantly surprised by the experience is an understatement. On our first day, we partnered with Brand Innovators, who know how to throw a party. They held a one-day conference on How To Be a Change Agent and filled the agenda with impressive folks who are making a dent in the universe.
Mondelēz has the “Intrapreneurial” Spirit
We met some brilliant people, including B. Bonin Bough, Vice President of Global Media and Consumer Engagement at Mondelēz International. He showed up a bit late to kick off the day because he was unveiling the Oreo Trending Vending Machine. (Yes, this is a real thing.) The beloved Oreo meets 3D printing technology; each cookie is layered with creme filling that is hyper-personalized and customized based on what’s trending on Twitter. Pretty exciting stuff.
It’s hard to believe that anything could get more exciting than a personalized Oreo; but it did. Bonin shared his philosophy on how to create meaningful change within massive organizations like Mondelēz. He encourages his teams to be “intrapreneurial” in their day-to-day jobs. If they’re not having impact every 90 days – doing work that matters – they need to shift their focus. It’s a lesson we can all learn from. No wonder Mondelēz continues to climb the ranks on Forbes’ list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies.
Startup Thinking, Cleared for Takeoff
Bonin’s Mobile Futures initiative has been wildly successful in industries burdened by long product cycles and red tape, and is attracting young talented folks. Why not apply startup thinking to traditional corporate business? In his words, “You can’t be a change agent if you are complacent, if you think you have nothing to learn.”
One of our brilliant clients, Abigail Comber, the Head of Marketing at British Airways, is challenging startups to come to the table with disruptive solutions. By opening up their API to startups, British Airways is folding the speed and energy of the startup community into a large corporation. Last June, the British Airways UnGrounded “Innovation Lab in the Sky” – an in-flight hackathon – brought together 150 techies on a San Francisco to London flight, and is just one example of how the airline is tackling innovation by partnering with smaller, faster moving companies.
It’s a Shared World, after All
Another huge theme on everyone’s mind at SXSW was the widespread influence of the sharing economy. Consumers are collaborating with each other and brands like never before. A couple of panels I attended validated what we at Communispace already know to be true: companies like Uber and Airbnb are redefining how we connect and do business.
The sharing economy is not new, however. It gained momentum in 1999 with a guy named Sean Parker, who decided getting music for free (and having the ability to share it back and forth) might be a good idea. Spotify probably would not exist today without Sean paving the way.
More fascinating is how traditional companies are embracing this collaborative thinking, fine-tuning it to fit their business and seeing real impact – on consumers’ lives and bottom lines. It’s a simple premise, really: collaborate with the people most important to your future success. Build relationships with them. Listen to them like they listen to each other. Earn their trust and respect. Tap into their imagination to inspire innovation and better experiences. Make them full partners, not merely passive transactions. The sharing economy is part of a collaborative ethos that’s driving all businesses – from startups to the “been-here-a-whiles” – simply to do better.
We can all think like a startup … regardless of where we work. Focus on the positive change you can make, and shout it throughout the organization. Create movement. Take risks. Because standing put will get us nowhere.
Consider this former skeptic an SXSW-believer.
Jen Reddy is Senior Vice President, Global Marketing, for consumer collaboration agency Communispace, which she joined in 2006.