I’d be lying if I said my colleague Madison and I didn’t choose Collision to be our first conference based in part on location, because we definitely did. But, in addition to seeking lessons from design movers and trendsetters in attendance, I was searching for answers: How can we create original content in a space that demands it at breakneck speed?

Of course, when two gals announce they’ll be in New Orleans for a week, everyone expects to be flooded with selfies in the French Quarter and Snapchats of crawfish.

(Although, we did sneak in a few requisite #humblebrag photos and crawfish.)

We spent most of our time at the PandaConf/creatiff stage, getting close and personal with a robot name Pepper and deciphering an emoji-fied presentation. #womenintech The Collision Conference was a robust series of smaller conferences covering everything from AI, startups and environmental tech to SaaS, development, data and design. In an industry with seemingly little time for such trivial things such as authenticity, speakers placed a considerable emphasis on failure, transparency and the value of- gasp- putting pen to paper.

We left New Orleans with a remarkable amount of information to consider, but there were five takeaways in particular from Collision that really resonated with us.

“Criticism isn’t just for haters, it’s inherently optimistic because it imagines a better world.”

Khoi Vinh, Principal Designer, Adobe

“Design is about focus, it’s about cutting things, it’s about saying no to things. It’s about taking everything left over after you say no and making it into one, small, holistic notion. “

Joe Stewart, Co-Founder, Work&Co

“Operate in the culture, not just the category.”

Kristen Ward, General Manager, Windows and Devices Marketing, Microsoft

“Fail fast so you can move on. “

John Suh, CEO, LegalZoom

“Brands need to think about who they are when they don’t have a screen to cling to or hide behind.”

Natalie Monbiot, SVP Futures, Samsung USA

And whether or not you happen to be a woman (or in tech for that matter) here’s a bonus takeaway that’s valuable across all disciplines and industries:

“What can we do for women? Hire, invest and mentor. If you can’t hire or you can’t invest, mentor. “

Sophia Bush, The Girl Project

Creative work in the ever-changing digital space requires keen emotional intelligence. You can’t fake authenticity. You’re going to fail at some point during the process, so just embrace it now. And if you’ve never been to New Orleans, find an excuse to go.