What makes SSWC so special?

Yet another Sweden Social Web Camp has come to its end.

And it was as beautiful as ever.

This was my third year on the Tjärö island in the Blekinge archipelago (I had to miss one year due to the birth of my daughter – a very good excuse if you ask me) and as I read through all the love coming from the participants and my old summaries and thoughts about the unconference (This is the Internet and What your company can learn from Sweden Social Web Camp) I am left to ponder: what exactly is it that makes this happening so special?

What’s the secret SSWC-sauce?

Burning sheep
Burning of the what!?

Because special it is. It’s almost a religious experience being there, including group singing, praising the almighty (web) and the burning of a wooden sheep(!). But, it’s all done tongue-in-cheek and the only reason to burn a wooden sheep in front of 440 people is of course so that you can tweet about it and share the experience.

But, it’s not just fun and games. As I wrote in What your company can learn from Sweden Social Web Camp I really do think there are important lessons for every business to understand what makes #SSWC tick. SSWC is a conference, but it provides more value at less cost than a traditional conference. More value and less cost is a sign of disruptive innovation, so let’s dig deeper into what makes SSWC so special.

  • Tomas Wennström & Kristin Heinonen. We start off with the two persons at the center of the whole thing. Look up “nice couple” in the dictionary and there’s a good chance there’s a photo of these two there. Tomas & Kristin are the founders of the conference and form the very important function of community leaders for the whole thing. Their friendliness, common sense problem solving and warm humor sets the tone for the rest of us to follow.
    Lesson learned: Set a culture and lead by example.

  • Not a product. A platform for sharing. This is the core of what sets SSWC (or any unconference) apart from a traditional conference. It’s not a prepackaged product with predefined speakers and topics. No, it’s a platform for the audience to become contributors and create the experience themselves. That’s why Joakim Green brings the SSWC flag each year. That’s why there’s an SSWC movie produced each year and even a book.
    Lesson learned: Go from product to platform.

  • It’s on an island. The fact that the conference is mostly outside and on a small island leads to some interesting consequences. Everyone you meet on the island is part of the same experience. People also live in tents which forces everyone to be more down to earth (literally). There’s more sheep than suits and ties on the island. The island, the tents and the sheep make us all equal. The island is the big equalizer. (Note that this also repels certain type of people.)
    No suits.

    Lesson learned: context and environment is important and you can use it to design how certain behavior is rewarded.

  • Swedish summer. August is the best time of the year in Sweden. Nuff said. Even when it rains it’s OK. We Swedes love this time of the year and being outside in nature to enjoy it. It’s part of our culture.
    Lesson learned: Swedish summer rocks.

  • Tjärö. The crew. The food. The setup. Everyone working on Tjärö help out making the experience for every participant as great as possible. They thus become the extended arms of Tomas and Kristin.
    Lesson learned: Hire people that share your values.

  • The long tail on the web. Of course an internet conference wouldn’t be an internet conference without blogging, tweeting, bambusing or facebooking. The internet enables us to transcend place and time and connect over physical boundaries. We can share stories – blog posts such as this. We can relive the moment, long after it’s over – and prelive it before it happens.
    Lesson learned: Share everything. Be open. Create social objects that people can discuss. Use the web. .

Pinteresting stuff?

That’s a few lessons from Sweden Social Web Camp. It may look like a weird camp for nerds but look deeper. There’s an important business lesson for any company looking to upgrade their business model to the 21st century hidden among the rocks, sheep and beautiful ocean water at Tjärö. The lessons learned above are lessons in modern marketing and business development. I highly recommend a visit next year.

The best way to understand what makes SSWC so special is after all to be there.

/Me on Twitter. Me on LinkedIn.


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