How can we help you be more awesome? More thoughts from 99u

Last week I was at the 99U Conference in New York City, which is about making ideas happen. Here, I reflect on my favorite philosophy, distilled by 99u speaker and brilliant maker Jane ni Dhulchaointigh: People are awesome. How can you help them be more awesome?  That idea, or leap, can be applied in so many ways, including to event design. What if we embodied it as a core belief?

Jane is the inventor and CEO of sugru, a play dough substance that cures into rubber to transform your broken stuff. Her talk inspired the only standing ovation. This was because 1) we got a sense of how awesome she is and 2) because of her company’s story. In short, the turning point was when they decided to stop searching for an application for their product, but instead put it out to the people. People come up with the most amazing uses of the resource… I think there is a metaphor for libraries here.

Curated content and beautiful experience

Thinking about Jane’s talk, one reason it was so successful was that she was so real. She wasn’t polished to the point of feeling too branded or institutional. She was someone you wanted to call friend.

Creative isn’t separate from content! Creative is integral to content. Write it the way we say it. Shoot, say it the way we say it. Let’s embrace this ethos and in the process make our users feel more a part of us, more welcome. Like a friend, not an institution.

Friends look out for one another. In this way, Ramit Sethi, suggested that you be your users most trusted adviser, “their sword and shield.” There is a lesson here for libraries, too. We are in a unique position to be a neutral friend and adviser like no company can. Will we?

Empathy is always at the center of good experience

As someone who produces experiences, things can get meta when I attend events. I believe the most critical part of the experience is creating a sense of shared empathy. How do we feel while we’re here?

Volunteer as maker, helper, doer.Jocelyn K. Glei, the totally fab director and executive producer of the conference must have a similar philosophy. As an example, I was chatting with someone who I didn’t want to stop chatting with — but I needed to find the location of my next workshop. Late, I dash onto 65th, not sure where to turn. Am I going to miss the first few minutes of this workshop I’ve been totally looking forward to? Looking forward to so much that I emailed the leader weeks before to introduce myself and ask questions?

Ah, there’s a volunteer holding a sign directing me to the correct building. I’m going to make it.

Not just a nice touch, it shows care. They’ve been there too, lost frustrated, running late, and want to spare you the feeling. Why? Because you’re awesome.


More from 99U: How vulnerability is a critical part of the creative process.

I took this photo of a delicious espresso at Oslo in Williamsburg.