SxSWi09: Kathy Sierra rocked it!

2342930545_36e00b8d81 It may be a couple of weeks after Sx, but I am still talking about Kathy Sierra’s SxSWi 2009 presentation, Change Your World in 50 Minutes: How to Make Breakthroughs Happen! This was the event I was most excited to attend. Kathy Sierra was one of my original inspirations to begin participating in social media in 2006 and later blogging in 2007.

And how does she begin her preso?

With a big f’ng wall between you and your goal.

Does this sound familiar? Is the struggle between incremental and breakthrough exhausting you?

When incremental doesn’t work, you have to be drastic. Sierra gave us the steps to make that leap…

  1. What super powers do you want to give your users? Now imagine that superpower on a shirt. How will these powers change what you do? Let these answers guide you in your decisions.
  2. Play the superset game. Look at the big picture instead of the narrow lens of what you do in comparison to your competitor. Always focus on that bigger, more motivating and interesting thing.
  3. Learn the patterns and shorten duration. According to the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers: The Story of Success, it takes 10,000 hours to be amazing. Focus on your strengths.
  4. Deliberate practice. There is no sell-by date for solutions. Work on your strengths. Experience after a couple of years becomes stale. Find ways to enhance your performance and kick ass in less than 1,000 hours!
  5. Make the right things easy and the wrong things hard. Put things that need your attention front and center. Kathy used a treadmill gathering cobwebs as an example. It’s not in the corner because you don’t use it, you don’t use it because it’s in the corner.
  6. Get better gear, and offer it to your users. help them justify spending money by bumping them to the next level.
  7. Think clueless. What would it be like if you didn’t know how it was supposed to be? Play dumb.
  8. Participate in total immersion jams. Meet regularly with other people who do what you do and share practices. Less camp and more jam. Examples include, 48 Hour Film Project and the Ad Lib Game Development Society. Always be closing.
  9. Change Your perspective. Don’t make a better X, make a better user of X.
  10. What movie your users are in? What role do you play? And find out what movie they’d rather be in. This is the User’s Journey (i.e. Lord of Rings or Star Wars). Include all the characters, the heroes and mentors and the villains. And don’t forget the soundtrack.
  11. Don’t ask your users. If you want incremental improvements ask your users. If you want to make breakthroughs, ignore everybody. And ask other people’s users. What they say versus what they want is different!
  12. Be brave. This is the idea of the concept car versus actual car. Go for the things that are difficult and challenging for your users, or tasks that reward them for thinking. Do not let the ease of use police or zone of mediocrity interfere with brining brilliant and dynamic change.
  13. Rethink deadness. This is the best place to look for new ideas and inspiration! For example, if Ford would have asked what customers wanted, they would have said faster horses.
  14. Change the EQ. Don’t change the orignal mixer, add new sliders. Sierra brought Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV onstage to illustrate this point; how he changed haughty wine industry to an area of excitement and color.
  15. Don’t mistake narrow for shallow. Sierra directed audience to sites/blogs like Passive Aggressive Notes and the “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks. Niche adds depth of character.
  16. Be amazed. Sierra played a clip of comic Louis CK appearing on Conan, which had the audience in stitches…now each time when I am on the plane I crack myself up about being seated in a chair in the sky. Great perspective. Who is amazing? You are!

(Photo courtesy alexdecarvalho.)

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  • Alex de Carvalho

    Great summary! Thanks for using my photo to illustrate your post :)