Anything that lasts more than 30 years, and yet keeps growing year on year, has to have deep roots in people’s souls. Some critics have said the festival has lost its grass-roots’ spirit from the early years. And undoubtedly, when you have more than 70,000 registrants the organization, the keynotes, the shows become so massive that portrays clear signs of blockbuster mainstream productions. That is not the case. The indies, the transformers, the nonconformists, and the revolutionaries engage and perform side by side with the mainstream, and are not obfuscated by them. The event becomes a platform to unify visions and launch an army of thought-leaders into aligned action – a transformative power.

It is priceless the number of connections and engagements with so many kindred souls and like-minded leaders around the themes you are passionate about. We all come with open ears, will to share and the need to debate and bounce back ideas. When we leave, we have a renovated arsenal of concepts, connected ideas, and clarity on actual trends.  One aspect of the event is especially intriguing to me. The number of tracks, sessions, exhibitions, and shows are so big that no one leaves the festival with the same impact or perception of another. In other words, the way one consumes and digest ideas will be different from everyone else, and that makes “south by” so fascinating. 

I intended to make new connections and propose more in-depth conversations on themes like the future of work, social equity and the impact of new technologies. Those are the main themes in my book “(Non) Human Intelligence” and very relevant to the one I am working on now. I wish to have followed and absorbed more than it was physically possible to me, and still, I am leaving so energized and enlightened by brilliant speakers, companies, and participants sharing openly and altruistically their thoughts and vision.

Here are some takeaways from “south by” yet limited by my own experience.

1. The new workplace is real; it is growing and requires a lot of new solutions and regulation.
2. The gig economy created opportunities but not true social equity yet. There are abuses due to its informality and asymmetric power of big players.
3. The traditional organization of legacy corporations are being shattered and reassembled in new ways to test new formats. Hybrid teams, D&I approaches, outsourcing of core functions, new market partnerships with startups and incubators, new Human – AI models, in different levels. 
4. The 50/50 movement is just the beginning. Everything is more fluid in society, and that has to reflect quickly in the workplace and corporations to attract and accommodate a Z gen that thinks and feels different from the previous ones. We need to go beyond and above to create equity to a more fluid and vast gender scale, to multiple races and origins denominations and an aging population that needs to keep productive longer. 
5. Remote work is socially and ecologically correct. We need to embrace and define the right level for each organization and each team member individually – young talent, working moms, family supporters, city dwellers, and others have different needs and aspirations.
6. The startup community is growing in number and impact. There is a clear need for more and better investments to keep the innovations and jobs growing. More cash is essential, not only collaboration or mentorship.
7. CVC’s (Corporate Venture Capital) are a growing entity. More understanding and regulation is necessary for this segment. Is that an early sign of a monopoly play?
8. AI in everything and the Human discomfort with this new reality. AI believers and AI pragmatics agree on the primary challenge ahead – how to create social equity with those new technologies now that we are on the cusp of jobs elimination galore.
9. With tectonic shifts in markets and organizations, all businesses are on the search for profitable innovation
10. Everything is changing fast and require an in-depth review of our working and social ethics and moral compass. We need to reunite and ignite new social pacts around central human themes that celebrate unity and not divisiveness. 

Of course, the event was not perfect. Some commercial exploitation, some uninspiring sessions, some complexity to navigate. Those will fade in memory comparing to the overall impact. Across films, music, interactive experiences, companies and speakers, it is clear we have already an army of leaders working hard to change the world for better. 

A true transformative power. 

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