What I Learned at BDW

Well, we’re back and people keep asking me what I learned at Boulder Digital Works. So…here is my list of the top 5 things I learned at Boulder Digital Works.

1)      It’s Not Yesterday Anymore

          This was the rallying cry of Boulder Digital Works. Everywhere you went, there were posters on the wall, pushing you to stop thinking about who you were or what you did and were known for yesterday, because TODAY, it doesn’t really matter.  At the bottom right corner of these posters, the challenge was clear: “Create. Make Shit. Solve Problems.”

2)      The Train is Moving, Whether or Not You’re On it

          More than anything, the feeling BDW left me with was, this evolution is happening, day in and day out, whether or not I am on board. The world has changed, is changing, and will continue to change, and it doesn’t really matter whether or not you are okay with it. The changes are happening, and will continue to happen, without your permission. I could feel that in all the technology we talked about- whether I was up to date on my Google Reader or not, almost every hour, I was learning about something new, some of which will revolutionize not only our industry, but the way the world does business. I could also feel it in looking around the room, realizing that everyone there was committed to keeping up, and some to leading, and it wouldn’t matter whether I went home to Austin and stuck my head in the sand or not…they were going to keep trucking, keep changing things.

3)      Fear is Not a Bad, Or Uncommon, Motivator

          I would usually fundamentally disagree with this statement, but in this case, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think a lot of us are a little too comfortable with our knowledge and our jobs, and where our history has gotten us, myself included. While at BDW, it was amazing to hear everyone in the group say that their anxieties mainly stemmed around not being able to keep up, not being relevant. And so you’re probably thinking, “yes, well, that’s why you people went to the workshop”…but it got very interesting when I began to realize that almost every one of the speakers, the greats in this industry, mentioned that they are also terrified that they will not be relevant for much longer. Seriously, hearing Matt Howell who is the CIO at Modernista! say something like: “The truth is, I’m 40. And I don’t have enough money to retire yet. I have got to figure out a way to stay relevant.” Or reading the title of Ed Boches’ presentation “A Generation Must Die” was really flooring. These are industry leaders, people. And they are busting their tail, day in and day out, to make a NEW name for themselves in this crazy seascape. This realization was huge for me. I also thought this point was great: how many times have you thought to yourself or heard someone say “I just don’t have time to keep up?” The truth is “you don’t have time NOT to keep up. If you don’t keep up, all you WILL have is time.”

4)      Transparency is a Virtue

          If you’ve asked me about BDW, you’ve heard me say “I just simply could not believe the level of transparency at BDW. Seriously- we were all competitors- whether agency people or clients, students, or speakers…and yet, not a single question was too specific or private. Someone clearly told these people that they were to come with a specific, actionable, and transparent presentation and message or not to come at all.” I think the platform for this transparency begins with the fact that the program is funded by several different agencies and organizations. There is a clear understanding that if we are all going to get smarter, do better, then we’re going to have to be pretty open and helpful about it. The speakers openly talked about the value of being transparent and helpful…to sit and watch Derek Robson from GSP sit there and explain exactly how they transformed their agency, step by step, was incredibly eye opening…and not only did I learn a ton, but I had a lot of respect for him for doing so. Like anything- when you’re comfortable with yourself- it’s easier to be honest and open without feeling threatened.

5)      Today is Your Day

          So maybe all of the above points freak you out a bit. This point should make you smile. While several people cited “the overwhelming volume of information” as their reason for anxiety- I actually think the opposite. I think the volume of opportunity and change can almost be freeing. Things are moving so fast- wherever you jump on- you’re experiencing the same NEW stuff that day, as the people that have been involved for years. Every day is new. With no mistakes in it yet. (Anne of Green Gables)

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