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Our Top SXSW Panel Picks for Creative Leaders

This month SXSW opened up it’s 2015 Panel Picker with voting open from August 11th – September 5th. There are 4,512 entries, and we have no doubt that they are all filled with some amazing ideas from some very cool and talented folks.

But at the Creative Executive we’re laser-focused on cultivating creative leadership, and as such we’ve pulled out a few panels that we’re particularly excited about. (And you know we won’t be shy with a shameless plug for our own!)

With that, here is an overview of some of the best panels for Creative Executives looking to be inspired:

Powering the Creative Economy

“Have you dreamed of quitting your job and starting your own business, whether it be a bar serving artisanal cocktails, a cronut shop or an online fireworks business? There is now a resurgence of people starting small businesses, taking advantage of new technology which makes it cheaper and easier than ever to make their dreams a reality. Join Brad Brodigan, Vice President/General Manager SMB Retail, PayPal, as he hears from three small business leaders who have followed their hearts and do what they love.”


Building a Culture of Creativity & Innovation

“With all the hype about creativity and innovation lately, they are among the hottest buzzwords of 2014. Buzz as they may, creativity and innovation can be your company’s strongest assets—74% of CEOs in PwC’s annual survey agree. But building a company where creativity and innovation thrive is often easier said than done. Join us for a discussion with innovation leaders who have made it their business to be creative. These innovators will share how they‘ve built cultures that promote autonomous problem solving and inspire creative ideas among their team. We’ll hear about their internal methods & strategies, from crowdsourcing ideas to collaborating on processes. Finally, in a candid discussion, these innovators will discuss how they balance experimentation with managing the business.”


Keeping Creatives Fucking Creative

While creatives are always dreaming of innovative films, groundbreaking effects, and their debut on the SXSW stage; many spend their days working on corporate spots and commercials for companies with little imagination. Their juices stop flowing, their eyes gloss over, and things start to get dull. What do you do to maintain passion? Create! Constantly creating cool work attracts cool work. Great in theory you say, but am I supposed to pay my staff to create stuff that we aren’t getting paid for? YES! Staff at boutique production company, World Famous, are required to complete creative “Assignments,” short projects to push staff in new ways. Staffers choose from a list of video assignments, collaborate, complete the project, and then show it away from desks, deadlines and clients. Learn about the cultural impact of the Assignments and other things they do (mandatory daily team lunch, Call of Duty games, and more) to keep the team feisty, passionate, and creating cutting edge work.


Diversity: the best thing to happen to Creativity

Corporate America is shooting itself in the head by not making the most of the diverse resources at its disposal—the very diversity that could drive us all toward innovation and economic success. This is a critical business problem that’s plaguing every industry, including advertising.

Kat Gordon, the founder of The 3% Conference, which is an event and community that champions female creative talent and leadership, has been touring the world speaking on this topic since 2012. She recently spoke eloquently on the subject at a One Show event during Creative Week in NYC this spring. In a SXSW talk, Kat will discuss the importance of building a business case for more diversity in creative and tech industries and beyond.


She’s a C-Word! Lessons From Tech’s C-Suite Women

The c-word. Some women might cringe at the thought of it, yet others light up. They choose the latter when the word is C-level. But what does it take for women to break through the C-suite glass ceiling, especially in the tech industry’s notorious boy’s club.

Silicon Valley is a cutthroat job market where unbelievable talent line the streets. We’re currently at a time when “leaning in” is encouraged, but is that really the right path to success?? What are the real challenges – personal and professional – that women need to navigate in order to succeed?

Moderated by Re/Code’s Kara Swisher, this panel will feature powerful women who’ve made it to the C-suite in Silicon Valley – Trulia’s CMO Kira Wampler, Pandora’s CSO Sara Clemens, and BlogHer’s CEO Lisa Stone. Together, they will share their approach towards problem solving, leadership, and interpersonal challenges. They will also share their own stories about how they got their start, how they’ve landed where they are now.


The Innovator’s Guide to Getting S*%# Done

We all know that a brilliant idea without execution is not worth much. You aren’t here to be a “brain on a stick.” But if your daily work and life require you to be on your innovative toes, sometimes the pressure to ideate, iterate and then create IRL can keep you from producing your best work.

In this fast-paced talk, speaker and strategist Lauren Fritsch gives you the tools that epic creators throughout history have used to bring their brilliance out of their brains and into the world. Now you can harness the same frameworks to support both creativity and productivity for yourself and your teams.


She’s the Boss: Lessons Learned from Female Leaders

Hear from an impressive group of female executives in the branding/marketing/tech/digital media worlds on their secrets for success and making it to the top in male-dominated industries. Led by Ruth Bernstein, Co-Founder and Chief Strategic Officer of agency YARD, Ruth and friends will discuss female empowerment within creative services and how their own experiences have translated into their work, transforming them into more strategic and effective businesswomen.


  • Ruth Bernstein – YARD

Side Projects: Stop Talking, Start Making!

Oskar and Per are two award winning digital creative directors from Sweden with experience from some of the world’s most prominent digital agencies (R/GA, Farfar, Perfect Fools, Great Works, Blast Radius etc).

They have been friends for many years but never actually worked together at the same agency. But after one night of many beers they decided to team up to build a stupid website together. Just for fun. The project unexpectedly became a huge hit and since then they have created many projects and it has been very rewarding and a whole lot of fun.

This session will talk about how amazing it can be to work on side projects and how it can help boost your career. It will also guide you on how to get started, launch projects and get traction for them. But most importantly it will push you to get off your butt and start making stuff. Just because it’s fun. The Internet will reward you.


Not the Fun Police – Leveraging HR the Right Way

There is a fundamental misunderstanding in startup culture about the role of HR professionals. Long mis-perceived as the “fun police” tasked with setting up insurance policies and settling internal employee disputes, human resources has been de-emphasized at many startups for fear of dampening an “anything goes” company culture. By avoiding establishing a healthy HR practice early on, start-ups are at best losing out on the opportunity to develop a diverse, healthy culture, to attract the best talent, and to create a place where people want to work. At worst, they end up dealing with major (sometimes public) crises. Veteran HR professionals Patty McCord, formerly of Netflix and author of the Netflix “culture deck”, and Margaret Wheeler, Chief People and Culture Officer at Stitch Fix and former SVP, People Potential at lululemon athletica, will discuss how best to build a healthy company culture for the long term, how to recruit the best people, and lessoned learned from their careers.


Writing Your Next Act

“You’ve kicked ass in your career. But now you’re restless. You’re feeling like it’s time to evolve.

So what’s holding you up?

The story that you’re telling yourself about your career and career.

Those old plot lines are played out. We’ll help you write new ones.

You’ll learn how to identify the story you’ve written so far and how to shift the plot. We’ll guide you through creating a vision, maximizing your strengths and looking at your team and network in a whole new way.


The Next Stage in the Evolution of Work

The career journey of the creative-class professional begins with the vision to do something meaningful. Organizations are often formed and start the same way. In the process of growing, changing, responding to market conditions that initial zeal can get lost. Work becomes rote, foosball and ping pong tables replace meaningful purpose, and real engagement, as research shows, dwindles.

Even if an individual can resurrect their passion and purpose, it’s hard to find a company that can be fulfilling, because companies don’t understand their own essence. They recruit on a framework of commerce and employ people through a commodity exchange of time & money. While that’s necessary, it can’t inspire passion, innovation or creativity which are chief drivers of economic growth. We continue to build companies on outdated employment models that satisfy the lower rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy when the creative class, those who drive who drive innovation in the economy, are aiming for the peak.


The 8 Things Everybody Should Know How To Write

As a professional speechwriter, I’ve spent nearly a decade helping Washington’s top power players deliver the right messages to the right audiences.

But politicians aren’t the only people who need to do that. Indeed, many of the social and professional challenges we face in our daily lives are really creative challenges.

In this session, we’ll cover eight of those challenges:

— The Apology
— The Complaint
— The Email Solicitation
— The Wedding Toast
— The Comedy Roast
— The Letter to the Editor
— The Op-Ed
— The Ten-Minute Speech

Each has its own audience, its own strategic objective, its own form — and thus its own rules of the road. Learn them, and the next time you have to apologize to a customer you’ve let down, deliver a toast at your best friend’s wedding, or pitch an idea in an op-ed or on stage, you’ll be able to approach that challenge with confidence.

You don’t have to be a pro (or hire one) to write your way to social and professional success.


Where’d You Get That Gut? Developing Intuition

There are few skills and talents more useful in your career than intuition. All day you make decisions – feasibility, design choices, calendar and effort projections. Some are well-reasoned and long-researched, but in today’s fast-moving environment more often than not you need to make guess large and small.

Good guesses save you time. Your gut makes you a better collaborator and contributor. It builds confidence in those around you – and helps build trust from your team, your client, or your funder. And in that trust is where all our best and most rewarding work happens.

Intuition is a sense and can be honed. Intuition is a muscle and can be exercised. We’ll talk how to develop your gut, how to make it more professionally useful, and how to keep it tuned. And sure, along the way we’ll talk about those times when your hunches can be dangerous.


How to NOT Get the Job of Your Dreams

In this interactive session, Laura Laser, renowned executive recruiter, joins in-house talent professionals from top creative advertising agencies nationwide to share their secrets and personal anecdotes from interviewing thousands of candidates who did NOT get the job of their dreams, and they reveal what it really takes to get that job.


Managing @ Pixar: What We’ve Learned

Managers & Supervisors: You know that there are a million unexpected things you have to grapple with when you’re project managing in a digital creative space. Make that a million and one, if your company is lucky enough to have a successful product and you’re scaling up fast.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to get the the work done on time and on budget. But how do you do that when you’ve got to balance the challenges of meeting creative direction and product requirements – against technology limitations – and keep your team happy at the same time? And how do you manage change & growth: in systems, methods, people, and culture?

Hear from some of the seasoned Pixar management vets as they share their experiences and lessons learned from working on films and technology in a company that’s celebrating their 20th year making movies.


Love My Job! Changing Culture from Crappy to Cool

Culture is the secret to happy employees and company innovation. As the founder, president, HR leader, manager, team leader or dedicated employee, you are part of the company brand and you impact the culture of your company. So if you want to keep your core values strong, are in the midst of a culture clash, or need a culture shift as a result of growth, a merger, acquisition or other major change – identifying what makes your company unique – and then branding the hell out of it – will lead to a productive work environment and innovative employees who keep your company fresh. Get concrete ideas and see examples – like the “School of Cirrus Rocks!” culture camp – of how to brand, integrate, measure and sustain your unique culture, making your company a place employees love to work and stay for the long haul. Employees who believe in their company culture are more engaged. Leaders, who think like marketers and brand their culture to employees as if they were customers, reap rewards.


Should I Stay or Should I Go? Defining Your Path

Ever since he was 18, Mike Smith thought that he wanted to run a publicly traded company. With the title of CEO within his reach, he was passed over for the promotion he’d always dreamed about. Realizing that his ultimate career goal was delayed at that company (they told him that he would get it “next time”), Mike was thrown into a long period of contemplation. Why did he want to become a CEO in the first place? If he couldn’t achieve this goal at this company for another three years, should he try to achieve it at another? In the highly competitive recruiting environment that is technology, many people often find themselves at the crossroads of major career decisions, without a set of tools to determine whether a job or career change is right for them. In this talk, Mike will share the tools that helped him define what he wanted to do next, what success truly meant to him, and how anyone can use these exercises to define their own unique path to success, wherever it may lead.


Special Shout out!
Friend of CE Jack Mathews is hosting a killer panel about the future of gaming. Learn more here!

Thanks for reading. Now go rock the vote!

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