I had a blast at the last South by Southwest conference in March. It wasn't just Fast Company's jam-packed party (apologies to those who couldn't get in; blame the Austin fire marshals and the cops). What really made it memorable was the live gathering of all seven people I profiled in my first Generation Flux article.
In our Baratunde Thurston (now our back-page columnist) to GE's chief marketing officer Beth Comstock; from Mashable founder and CEO Pete Cashmore to digital anthropologist danah boyd.
At our SXSW event, the atmosphere crackled with all these GenFluxers in one place. Bob Greenberg of digital agency RG/A traded quips with his onetime student Raina Kumra, who has worked in documentary films, tech, advertising, social enterprise, and government—and she's just 34. DJ Patil of the venture firm Greylock Partners brought his double pendulum as a visual aid for chaos. The career choices they'd made were so varied and unexpected, and the vibe was as playful as the insights were complex. The electrons were flying.
Ideas about Generation Flux have kept flying ever since. Publicly, dialogue has circulated on social media (#GenFlux) and through a series on fastcompany.com. Meanwhile, executives at institutions large and small have reached out to me privately with observations—and questions—about the implications of GenFlux for organizations. Duly inspired, I explore that question in depth in this issue's cover story.
"Secrets of the Generation Flux Leader," shows how the characteristics that breed success for individuals in an era of constant change can also aid corporations and not-forprofits, regardless of size. But there is no five-step system, no single model to emulate. Indeed, that is precisely the point. "We're reinventing on the fly, all the time," Dennis Crowley, CEO of Foursquare, tells me, referring both to his company's product and its structure. "I'm a big believer that there's no one single approach," adds Nike CEO Mark Parker. Troy Carter of Atom Factory, who manages Lady Gaga's business, puts it this way: "It's all about mastering the no-look pass."
GenFlux is an attitude, not a demographic. It embraces paradox and diversity. It sees opportunity in today's chaos. It rejects nostalgia and fear of change. Can efficiency coexist with flexibility? Does a hierarchy need to be static? Is a strong leader at the top essential to dynamic, bottom-up operations? Cracking open these questions is a journey of discovery. Share your own #GenFlux stories, because every perspective is valid, useful, and enlightening.
I'm not sure what Fast Company will do at SXSW next year. We'll make plans, and then things will change. But I am sure that we'll have fun. SXSW is a physical gathering, but in GenFlux terms, it is also a metaphor. See you there.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.