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SXSW 2015 (Pt. 3): You Get Knocked Down, But You Get Up Again

So what was the takeaway from SXSW 2015? Given some early stumbles by Google Glass and the slow adoption of some other emerging technologies, some might preach hesitation in the face of innovation. But did thousands of tech wizards, futurists, thought leaders, inventors, influencers, dreamers, up-and-comers, trailblazers (and maybe a few nutbars, weirdos and wackjobs) really come together to say, "Pump the brakes, world!" Of course not.

Nobody likes to wait. But an eye on the horizon is crucial to decision making. At a SXSW panel featuring Abigail Posner, Head of Strategic Planning for Google, the Waze app was mentioned as an example of a promising new technology rapidly finding its niche. Waze displays the least-congested traffic routes between points A and B. In a room full of early adopters, relatively few had used the app or were even aware of it. However, as Posner pointed out, although it may not yet be a household name in North America, it is already indispensable in parts of South America and other regions where traffic congestion can reach epic proportions. As the app evolves its way into the cultural consciousness of the rest of the world, its usage and monetization opportunities will become more clear. The seed just needs time to grow.

Unfortunately, trying to be patient stinks. It is ingrained to remain in motion, to adapt or die. But being patient doesn't mean being stagnant. Continue to plant bold new ideas, and not just a few wilting petunias — get some freaking redwoods going.

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, gave a presentation entitled "Be Epic: The Art of Bold Decision Making." He touted the benefits of aiming high with a positive outlook, rather than taking the easy path toward devil's advocate, fear-based thinking:

"When you're trying to be epic … you explicitly avoid the downsides … and you make the decision that's the most good, not the one that is least bad."

The world is full of cautionary tales to help us avert disaster, but too much caution can lead to the death of your greatest idea. Libin's presentation pointed out a phenomenon called "The Negativity Bias," which states that people tend to think they sound smarter when saying something negative than they do saying something positive. You may have experienced this in your office; it probably went something like this:

You: "I have an idea for an app to help dogs exercise."

Steve From Upstairs: "Well, I just read that pet-related apps are notoriously risky … a survey showed 64% of people don't like pet apps … dogs exercise themselves, they have plenty of time because most are unemployed … not to mention, dogs don't have credit cards, how will we see ROI?"

Hopefully you tied Steve to his office chair and rolled him out into traffic before he finished trashing your dreams.

The point is that we should all recognize the difference between caution and cowardice. It's difficult to wait for the perfect moment to launch an idea; it's extremely easy to walk away from it altogether. "Winning" and "not losing" are two different things; don't settle for the latter.

The South By Southwest Conference ultimately shows attendees thousands of examples of what can happen when aspiration meets knowledge. The constantly evolving technology beast is capable of amazing things, and wise brands will adopt these advances to offer compelling experiences to consumers. So think fearlessly — strive to astound and make the world more amazing. Yes, you need to know the rules of the game and how to make smart decisions. But the SXSW message to your brand is not "Exercise Caution" — it's "Aspire Mightily … and Wisely."