Inspiration, Improvisation and Innovation in Austin

By Saeed Khan

This past weekend, I managed to attend Product Camp Austin 8! Thanks to some business I had to attend to earlier in the week in that same city, I was able to stay an extra day and learn from and network with some of Austin’s finest product people.

I saw my good friend and fellow On Product Management blogger, Prabhakar Gopalan. As usual, he was energetic, excited and full of disdain for conventional thinking.

I met Josh Duncan face-to-face for the first time. He had interviewed me last year on his blog and posted the video on his site. My initial thought: he’s much taller than I expected!

Also met with many other people including  Scott Sehlhorst, Tom Evans, Mike Boudreaux and Cindy Solomon. I’ve met Mike and Cindy before, but each just once, and neither time in Austin. As I’ve stated previously on this blog, there’s nothing like face-to-face meeting to really get to know someone or understand what they are about.

Although it’s not a huge city (population is under 1 million), the technology scene in Austin is vibrant. I’m not sure of the official count, but there were at least 250 people in the audience in the opening session. And this was not the largest ProductCamp they’ve had.

Inspiration

Attending the camp and meeting with everyone inspired me to dust off some old personal projects that have been lingering on the back burner for a while. You’ll hear about some of these later this year. But the day also inspired me to get back and blog more regularly. I have at least 3 upcoming posts in the works.

Although I didn’t have a speaking slot on the day (grumble grumble, unpublished deadlines, email snafus), I was directly referenced in various ways in at least 3 sessions that I attended. Two times it was by people who knew me, but one time it was by someone (Dori Gilbert) I had only met that morning and with whom I’d only had a 10 second exchange. I’m not sure what to say, but I was both humbled and, yes, inspired. You don’t find that level of cordiality everywhere.

My lesson and advice — get out of the building more and meet, talk, engage, interact, learn, teach, network, experience, share and deal with people face-to-face as much as you can.  You will only come out better for your efforts.

Improvisation

I want to tell you about Josh Duncan’s talk Own Your Story or Someone Else Will. Yes, you can click the link to see the slides, but I want to tell you about the talk, not the slides.

Josh was presenting at the end of day in the main auditorium. The AT&T Conference Center, where ProductCamp was held, is a nice facility. It’s new, modern, high-tech, with wall-sized projection screens, stadium seating etc. What better venue for Josh to deliver his talk. He’d prepared a top notch, visually interesting slide deck. And he’s a good speaker.

Well, Murphy’s Law struck just as Josh was setting up, the projection screen refused to work. Where his slides should have been, all we had was a floor to ceiling 20ft wide black wall. But the show must go on. So what did Josh do — with a bit of encouragement from the audience? He turned his talk into a fireside chat.

That’s how he gave most of his presentation. And you know what? It worked. Everyone learned something. He owned his story!

Innovation

Earlier in the afternoon, one of the speakers was a no-show. Too bad, as the title — A Slice of Design — sounded intriguing, and there were at least 50 people in the room patiently waiting. I was one of them.  Once it was confirmed the speaker was not around, one of the organizers came in, apologized for the no-show and suggested people go to one of the other sessions that were underway.

While a few people started to get up, someone said “Let’s get another speaker” or something like that. Prabhakar had just entered the auditorium a few seconds earlier and was standing near the front of the room. I pointed at him and said, “I want to hear him speak!”.  It seems like everyone knew Prabhakar there, and soon others joined in, encouraging him to give a talk, completely on the fly.

He accepted the challenge, took a few seconds to compose himself and then gave an impassioned talk on the future of Innovation. Here are a couple of tweets from the audience.

And here’s a picture of him in action. No slides, no prepared notes, but lots of great ideas and  A LOT of audience discussion!

And did I mention that at the end of the day, his talk — impromptu as it was — was voted best of the day? That’s what an “unconference” is about!

I’ll end it there, still inspired as I am, and I hope that I inspired you a bit. Where ever you are, whatever role or job you have, if you’re reading this blog, realize that obstacles in your path are simply there to help you think and find creative solutions to problems.

Get out, meet people, learn from them, teach them and leave each other inspired to do great things.

Saeed

Tweet this: Inspiration, Improvisation and Innovation in Austin http://wp.me/pXBON-3au #prodmgmt #innovation #pcatx

Curious people can change the world: +1 for ProductCamp Austin

by Prabhakar Gopalan

Tweet this: @PGopalan: Curious people can change the world: +1 for ProductCamp Austin http://wp.me/pXBON-2OM  #pcatx #pcamp #prodmgmt

pennybacker bridge austinThis past Saturday, I was at ProductCamp Austin – a biannual un-conference for product leaders.  What a treat it was!  Apart from the privilege of presenting a session myself, I had the opportunity to learn quite a bit attending sessions as much as I could, have fun in an interestingly themed Game room track and chat with a number of like minded community members.

Earlier this year I wrote about why ProductCamps are the future of how conferences will turn into.  This time I’m going to focus on the people that attend and how they are different from everyone else in the product management community.

ProductCamp goers are curious people.   People get up bright and early on a Saturday morning, come to vote for their fellow peers’ sessions and stay all day learning and networking.  If you thought what’s the big deal in that – after all it is just a bunch of sessions by normal people (no celeb status) and you could get all that information in books and slideshare presentations anyway, you are mistaken.  It is about identifying yourself with a community of forward thinking people who want to test their hypothesis, listen to fresh ideas and are actually, curious.  Yes, curious.

Curiosity comes to all of us when we are born.  We are curious about how the food we eat tastes, the air we breath smells and much more.  But over time, as we ‘grow’ up, some nurture it, others suppress it or throw it outright.  Those that are not curious get into routines because routines are comfortable ways.  Until something disruptive happens.   And it is then, they do not have any ability whatsoever to absorb or adapt.  They scramble for the product roadmap, the plan and swot analysis and other routine strategies.  Alas, nothing works.  Not so with curious people.  Because they are curious, they’ll always be ready for changes.  They’ll embrace it, live it and try new things, continuously.

Curious people don’t need marketing, don’t need gimmicks, don’t need a sales pitch.  They are self organizing.  If you go and ask a ‘consultant’ on how to build a community, he’d give you a best practices document with 100 tricks and charge you an arm and a leg.  He’d also tell you to ‘price’ the ‘product’ and ‘promote’ it in multiple ways and make sure it’s ‘placement’ is appropriate channels.  All that fails when you have something like ProductCamp.  Because it is unconventional.  It is not the norm to see 300+ product leaders show up for a conference entirely on their own account to stretch their imagination.  But curious people make it happen at ProductCamp.  The not so curious people may have excuses – the dog ate their calendar or they were too busy with something else.  That will not stop where the world is headed.  For the curious people will carry the ideas forward.

Hats off to the founders, organizers, volunteers, attendees and sponsors at ProductCamp Austin!

– Prabhakar Gopalan


Tweet this: @PGopalan: Curious people can change the world: +1 for ProductCamp Austinhttp://wp.me/pXBON-2OM  #pcatx #pcamp #prodmgmt

 

Less than 1 Week until ProductCamp Toronto! – July 23, 2011


The next ProductCamp Toronto is less than 1 week away.  Join everyone on Saturday July 23th at the Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, in downtown Toronto.

For those of you in the Toronto area, plan on attending. This will be the 4th ProductCamp here in the city.

For those of you unfamiliar with ProductCamp, it’s a collaborative, user-organized, unconference focused on education, networking and open discussion around product management, product marketing and related topics.

There is no cost to attend ProductCamp Toronto, but you need to register.

REGISTER:  here.

For more details, check out the ProductCamp Toronto site: http://productcamptoronto.wordpress.com

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Announcing ProductCamp Toronto 2011 – July 23


The next ProductCamp Toronto is set for Saturday July 23th at the Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, in downtown Toronto.

For those of you in the Toronto area, plan on attending. This will be the 4th ProductCamp here in the city.

For those of you unfamiliar with ProductCamp, it’s a collaborative, user-organized, unconference focused on education, networking and open discussion around product management, product marketing and related topics.

There is no cost to attend ProductCamp Toronto, but you need to register.

You can register here.

For more details, check out the ProductCamp Toronto site: http://productcamptoronto.wordpress.com

Looking forward to seeing you there.