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My original plan had been to blog about both of these incredible conferences separately.  But as I sit in the closing sessions for MadPow’s Healthcare Experience Design Conference, it occurs to me that really, my comments apply to both – not only in my high praise and applause to the organizers and speakers for the quality and engagement level of their talks, but also in my key take always… A deep focus on information – how we engage with it, consume it, produce it, and ultimately use it to drive actions and decisions… and the role that context plays in that experience – and in differentiating valuable information exchanges from less valuable exchanges.

Going to #SXSW for the first time, I really had no idea what to expect.  I knew it would be a cultural experience just as much as it would be a learning experience.  But what I was not prepared for was that actually, it would be a cultural disruption… That for a week, I would do nothing but think about all of the ways technology has interrupted my daily life, interjected itself into my interactions with other humans, and forced me to question wether my devices are empowering or disempowering me.  Amber Chase’s famous opening, “we are all cyborgs” takes on a very different meaning when you realize we aren’t so far removed from star trek as we might like to think.  The need for ambient information and ubiquitous computing may be an incredible move in technology innovation – one that makes our interactions with computers much more productive and meaningful – but will it cost us something we really shouldn’t be so willing to give away? One of the highlights of each day was the Pepsi Ideas Slam.  It was exciting to spend 20 minutes just riffing with tech heads not about what the coolest new gadget is going to be – but about what what our lives are going to look like in as far into the future as we dare to dream – and what does that really mean for the experience of being human.  Yes – there was lots of human talk at a technology conference.  Funny how that works… but that was probably the most important theme to be highlighted at SXSW – that technology is only as valuable as the humans its supports and enables.  Everyone there, no matter what they were presenting on was aligned on that.  But it can only be all of those things when it understands the person using it – who that person is, what they care about – are trying to accomplish, and how they want that piece of technology to help them accomplish that goal.

And now – onto #HXDConf.  What I love about HXDConf – what makes it a unique experience far beyond that of other healthcare conferences – is the fact that for 48 hours anyone present is asked to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, of helping people live better lives.  Speakers are not reveared preachers – but true evangelists for OUR collective cause of achieving a higher state of wellness than we are currently experiencing.  Yes, we start with tiny steps – “we brush one tooth” (#BJFOGG) but then we think bigger… BIGGER (thank you Ronnie Battista for daring me to commit myself to that) than any goal a single one of can achieve.  And what is so fun about it is that the conference, while lofty in its goal, somehow manages to share its message with a tone of collective game as well as collective prayer.  Talks are more idea slam and workshop than they are presentations – we share ideas about what we, as practioners in health, in design, in research and experimentation, in technology, have seen work well as well as what we have seen work not so well (and what we have learned from it).  For example, we heard about how the Mayo clinic is actually implementing the healthcare strategist idea in tangible day to day ways to help patients navigate the complex condition journey (an idea you all probably know by now is very near and dear to me — check out my presentation at last year’s conference if you are curious). We were inspired by Todd Parks never ending energy as he spoke prolifically about the important role technology and innovation has to play, NOW, in helping all of us achieve better health.

Because of these conferences – I feel in some ways reinvented and reinvigorated.  I realized – I shouldnt be dampening my words to fit in – but rather, be following “The Reverand” and YELLING BIG! And so – I am now on a mission (not necessarily a “Blue’s Brothers’ Mission from God”)… so calling all XDrs, UXrs, IDrs, or whatever other “rs” you want to call yourselves – to seek to redesign the world around a model of humans first, everything else second.  Use technology to help us to achieve human goals, not technology ones.  Oh yeah, and to take a little bit of liberty with a HXDConf reference… SCREW THE BLUE BOTTON!

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