SXSW panel preview: Don’t Be Ned Stark: Change Your Institution– and Win

[I posted some conclusions from the panel here. ]

Making change is hard; making change within institutions is even harder. Institutions, by definition and practice, are designed to resist change. Next Sunday at SXSW, I’m pulling together a conversation with three people who found a way to succeed as innovators within three different industries:

  • Laura Ramos is VP for innovation and design at Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper publisher. She also runs The Bold Italic, a SF local news startup, owned by Gannett, that she helped create.

  • Harper Reed is CEO of Modest, Inc. As CTO for Obama for America, he built and managed a “dream team” of engineers and designers team larger and more talented than any seen in any previous political campaign.

Game-Of-Thrones-007The panel’s title, “Don’t Be Ned Stark: Change Your Institution & Live,” is a reference to the Game of Thrones fantasy book and TV series. Without dropping any spoilers, suffice to say that Lord Stark has a hard time reforming the realm when he takes on a role as the King’s chief of staff. He’s beset by entrenched interests on all sides, is unfamiliar with the bureaucratic terrain, and has middle managers who were there before he got there and will be there after he’s gone. It’s a job he doesn’t want, but one he takes on out of personal loyalty and civic duty.

Our goal for the panel is to tease out stories and lessons for others in tasked with leading innovation within institutions. I also hope people who work with, or supervise, or otherwise benefit from such people will derive insights into what we need to do to build organizations that can thrive in the digital age.

Among the questions we might take on:

  • How do you apply startups’ culture of experimentation, appetite for risk and acceptance to established institutions?

  • Describe was the last time you thought about quitting.

  • How do you develop buy-in with your organization, from above, and below?

  • Where do you look for external allies?

  • Were you to rebuild your org from ground up, how would you design it differently?

  • What do your jobs look like 5 years from now, and what skills will be needed?

  • What hacks, tools, skills, approaches, have you developed to succeed?

The panel is Sunday at 1230 in the Rio Grande Ballroom at the Courtyard Marriott.

You can also track it via #notned.

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