6 Thoughts From Attending SXSW (and how I spent less than $100 in the process)

I went down to South by Southwest (SXSW) this year to learn, catch up with friends from around the US, connect with brilliant minds and embrace the serendipity of being down there.

This was my first time going down and despite my best efforts to prepare, the experience is quite overwhelming — yet one hell of a ride. Also, I will note I didn’t have a badge while down there.

See full post on Medium here

Exploring tours of duty inside companies

tours of duty

Tours of duty are often associated with the military, but as it turns out, the authors of “The Alliance” address the idea that “tours of duty” can exist and thrive inside workplaces.

To briefly highlight the concept: regardless of whether you’re joining a company, shifting into a new role internally, or operating in a senior role, all team members should be on a tour of duty that is a specific, finite mission the employee and employer agree on. This function is a specific mission and realistic timeline.

If the concept seems strange, it’s one that’s been applied in something many of us are familiar with: sports.

The “tour of duty” in the NBA:

The Miami Heat (before LeBron jumped to the Cleveland Cavaliers again) embody the concept of people coming together for a finite period of time to complete a specific mission: win NBA titles. They accomplished this goal twice — mission accomplished.

In the workplace, The Alliance encourages companies to embrace this philosophy —people aren’t going to stay on your “team” forever, so you might as well rally around some goals that can realistically be accomplished while you all are a unit.

The “tour of duty” with the coaching carousel of college football:

College football coaching also has a well documented “tour of duty” history — now more than ever. A graduate assistant (new hire) gets his foot in the door however possible. After getting a grip on what path to pursue (offense / defense / strength coach etc.) he may have to hop to another school to become a position coach (manager/director). After a few years at position coach (and possibly a few different schools), they may get called to a new school to become a coordinator (VP), and may hop around a few different schools in this role as well. Finally they may get a head coaching gig (CEO), but likely at a Sun Belt school to polish their chops as a leader. Then, several years down the line they may get the “dream job” coaching in the SEC / Big Ten.

We can all think about our own careers in line with the coaching carousel. Some people may be content as a manager at a company or as an expert in a specific field. Others may take the more ambitious route of scratching / clawing / hustling their way to the top. The top looks different to almost everyone, which is why some people are happy as a small business owner (Division III head coach) vs. CEO of a Fortune 500 company (head coach of a dynasty).

Regardless of what tours we work towards, we rarely stay in the same jobs / organizations now for more than 4.4 years (Bureau of Labor Statistics). It is important to strive for what realistic goals are achievable in the time given for a team to collaborate, as it keeps all of us more authentic and striving for mutual benefit when working together.

To read more about the Tour of Duty concept, check out this slide show.

Photo Credit: Reid Hoffman, “The Alliance: A Visual Summary”
Originally published on the Des Moines Business Record’s blog

The Metrics of a Creative

A few months ago I launched my first creative project in a good bit: “Goody Good” a crowdsourced music video where I found 32 people around the world and had them each submit something crazy, weird or fun. Then I teamed up with my music partner Paperclip Jaye to edit / mash up the video and pushed it out.

We made it in an effort to accomplish a few things:

-execute on an idea on my head
-explore what it takes to “send a song to market” (the song is on Spotify, iTunes and others)
-expose new ears to a song i’m extremely proud of (for real it’s catchy)

The project took months to flesh out.

And I knew the song had viral potential. I deemed 5,000 Youtube views a “success”. But it didn’t come close. I’m fighting for 1K views at this point.

Based on that metric, this effort was “unsuccessful”.

But there were qualitative / “feel good” metrics I never factored in.

Numerous friends, colleagues etc. were exposed to a talent I don’t often share and were all impressed. They watched the video, downloaded the song and shared it.

A good friend called me to tell me how much he loved the song and that he planned to play it on his party barge all summer.

Another friend says she dances to the song every morning to get the day started.

A community group I’m a part of used the song/video as the end of year video montage.

Based on those results, I’m humbled. And proud.

As creatives, shooting for KPIs (key performance indicators) to indicate success just isn’t a part of what we do. Yes we’d all love to get compensated for our efforts, but sometimes releasing something for the sake of learning the process and sharing the joys of your work with others is the only reward we need.