SXSW: What’s so funny about Innovation with Baratunde Thurston

This is the third in a series of posts I’m doing to recap the SXSW sessions I attended in return for the free ride from my agency.

I was really excited to see Baratunde in person after hearing him on The Nerdist podcast last year. He’s former digital director for the Onion, a standup, and a cofounder of Cultivated Wit. Oh, and he wrote a book called “How to be Black.” Everything went really well until I awkwardly (and badly) slapped him high-five as he ran by after the panel.

Also, I should mention he had a partner for this panel, Paul Valerio from Method (not the brand) in San Francisco.

They did a lot of back and forth around using comedy as a way to explore the tennets of innovation. I took really lousy notes during this session because it was a lot of tangents and side conversations. Overall, they talked about a lot of the things that you’d expect a planner to talk about

With apologies for the presentation of this, I’m not sure how to do it well, so here’s some fragments of some sort of list that they did:

1. Know your audience, and then ignore their advice.

  • In Paul’s experience, Really lousy ideas and really good ideas tested about the same.
  • Knowing the audiences is important, but in standup you get to know them by going in front of them and adjusting as you go.
  • My audience is definitely not everybody (you have to accept that fact)
  • The first audience test I do is to make sure I crack myself up. That’s what matters
  • If its the brand instead if just a product, you should be able to write a joke about it.
  • Knowing what the room knows is important
  • Because of tech, there’s more data than ever, but not truth
  • You don’t need research for insight
  • There are unknowable things…you can feel of something is right
  • Most if us can see and have cameras, but not all of us can see like photographers

Then I didn’t write anything for awhile. Which either means that numbers 2 and 3 were unimportant or I was distracted by god only knows what.

But after THAT, I started writing again…

4. Develop your own point of view

  • Every late night host has to deal with the same news, but can put their own point of view on it.
  • Knowing yourself and what your angle is is important, because having proprietary access to information is gone
  • We have a limited ability to articulate our wants and needs
  • When people discover something that they didn’t expect to discover, it’s more satisfying—The familiar surprise

5. Don’t expect everyone to get it

  • That is part of the process
  • There are people who don’t like puppies
  • Good branding is the art of sacrifice…what you say no to defines who you are
  • Sometimes you failed, sometimes the audience sucks … sometimes you just don’t belong there
  • To be able to make a statement that’s excepted by some and not by others is a mark of quality
  • There is no one definition of success

6. You can’t test your way to a decision

  • Research is an aide to judgement not a replacement for it
  • Testing in standup is open, because the audience is a good portion of the show
  • You test by launching, by deploying
  • You learn ways to do it better or places where people laugh at the unexpected as you try things out.