This is the first Inbound (in the three I’ve attended) that focuses overwhelmingly on the power of the individual. Every conference has the typical product and tactical sessions, but this year, the sessions fell into three categories: improvement of the self; organizational momentum; and tactics. Inbound 2017 made it sexy to embrace this concept: If we’re at our creative and authentic best, it will reflect in the interactions and products we create for our customers.
Below are highlights from a few of my favorite self and organizational momentum sessions.

Improvement of the self:
Piera Gelardi, Executive Creative Director and co-founder of Refinery 29
Gelardi’s keynote focused on how individuals can tap into courageous creativity bringing authenticity front and center via these tenets:
– Be the “most you” – Bring “all” of you to work
– Create the conditions for creativity – Surround yourself with items that spark enthusiasm, and recreate conditions where you’re successful to get your brain centered. Don’t sit at your desk expecting creativity to appear!
– Friction creates sparks – explore the uncomfortable because it can lead to opportunity.

Generating organizational buy-in:
Adam Grant, Author and Wharton Professor
Grant shared four behaviors of “originals” (trendsetters) that get their ideas heard.
– Put your “worst foot” forward. Sharing challenges with your audience creates a sense of trust – If you are willing to be honest about flaws, you are likely telling the truth elsewhere. And, it makes harder for your audience to poke holes in your idea.
– Make unfamiliar ideas familiar. Demystify abstract ideas by framing them in terms of another industry or product. The Warby Parker folks once said of their business, “We’re going to do for glasses what Zappos did for shoes.”
– Set your ego aside. Yes, you’re amazing, but stay grounded. Find a few creative peers outside your domain who can challenge your thinking.
– Give yourself a second score. Score yourself on how well you implement feedback. You’ll be better for it.

Jeff Rosenblum, Author, Advertising Agency Founder, and Documentary Filmmaker                                                     Rosenblum discussed what it takes to build passion brands, which remove friction from the customer experience. His examples included: Patagonia, Yeti, Crayola, Sweetgreen, Delta, and USAA.
– USAA serves as an example in customer understanding.  Recognizing that deployed men and women (its   customers are active military and their families) don’t have access to bank branches, USAA developed the   technology for mobile deposit. Now it licenses this technology to every bank that offers this service. USAA   removed friction and steered the industry in a new direction.
– Creativity is the true competitive advantage of brands and will ultimately help us create value instead of   disruptive distractions.

Andrew McAfee, MIT Principal Research Scientist
– McAfee urged us to reconsider everything we believe about business because of the power of the platform. Platforms normalize buyers and sellers. Regardless of conceptual details or missteps a platform brand experiences, if the platform marries a positive experience with a sure-fire revenue flow, it will withstand adversity. Uber is an example of this. Airbnb and Classpass are other platforms that leverage data to deliver benefit to both sides of its ecosystem – customer and seller.

Paul Schempp, Professor University of Georgia
– Schempp studies how high performers make good decisions. One helpful suggestion: take time to fully understand the need or challenge and then identify multiple viable solutions. This allows for shifts in environmental conditions. This is what defines great coaches in the heat of the moment, as illustrated in this year’s Super Bowl. 😊

If you’d like to chat about Inbound, feel free to send me a note. In the interim, my research for this quarter takes a closer look at how brands can increase their social media maturity as they develop better brand experiences. And I’ll analyze how social media management solution vendors can simplify their offering to increase adoption. I’ll weave in information to help marketers continue their development in the face of change.