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Remaining Relevant in Transformative Times Through Re-invention.



On February 8, I was invited to speak at the Facebook Global Marketing Summit. I made my comments without notes or teleprompter. There has been an interest in me sharing what i said and so via memory I have re-created my talk in the piece below. 

Today we are living in deeply transformational times.

These transformations are driven by three unstoppable forces.




You may wonder if these three forces matter today in a world that seems to be anti-globalization, anti-fact/post truth and questioning of the “other”

Yes, they do.

There are a billion people in Africa today projected to be 2 billion by 2050 and 4 billion by 2100. There are 3 billion people in Asia.

As the world demographically changes and intermarries the future will be brown.

Nothing anybody can do about it. No tweet or wall will stop it.

So chill everybody. Chill!

Globalization overall works and will continue.

People want to get better. Globalization is the result of our Darwinian urge to better our lives for ourselves and our families. We want to be able get more for less. We want to be safer and better fed. We want the best that is possible and globalization is a result of this urge as people, capital and ideas seek best outcomes.

Today, there is a countervailing force against Globalization as the Middle Class in developed countries feel the downside of this competition and wonder what they get from it? They are asking who is on their side as globalization makes China and India pull people out of poverty and multi-national companies and their shareholders benefit? Brexit, Trump and the rise of populist Nationalists is in part this resistance to the downside of such changes and must be heard and addressed through a combination of political and economic and educational imperatives. True leadership and investment versus blow hard unrealistic propaganda.

But the underlying force will continue because too many people gain and the majority of the world will not yield to the very countries who promoted globalization but now have changed their mind since the rest of the world has become more competitive.

Science too cannot be stopped or denied. Look around and see the forces of digitization and its impact on your life. Are you overall better off with your smart phone, Google/Baidu, Facebook/Tencent or did you prefer a less connected, enabled and empowered life?  How about pharmaceuticals, sanitation, electricity, or heat? People who fight science get in time to become North Korea.

So yes, we have a somewhat scary set of leaders who seem to be anti-globalization, anti-science and anti-demographic change. And we do have large groups of people whose voice we have not listened to and whose concerns must be addressed.


Facts are stubborn things.

Truth has a habit of breaking in.

Reality lingers after fantasy fades.

Yes, make your voice heard but also find ways to remain relevant in these changing times by making the most of the one reality you have which is your life.  Grow and re-invent in a world of demographic shifts, scientific progress and globalized connectedness. Improve your and other peoples lives.

What is life?

My definition is as follows.

Life is a journey through reality and time in search of meaning.

This definition in many ways is mirrored in the timeline of Facebook.

For instance, the three defining characteristics of life are Change, choice and chance. We become what we have because of chance happenings like who we were born to and where we were born or the chances we took or were given as we grew older. It’s the choices we made or the choices that others made whether it was who loved us and who employed us. And all the while change kept happening. Change in the world around us, change within us.

Look at the Facebook time line or Instagram feed. It changes all the time. We choose what we like and your algorithms choose what we see. It’s pure chance what we interact with based on not just the algorithm but the time we decide to look at Facebook and how long we look at it.

Life is also a journey through time and reality.

The most real thing is that we have limited time.

Our timeline begins on our birthday and our timeline scrolling will end on a date we do not know except each year we pass our future death anniversary.

And as we get buffeted through chance and change and choices we make along this diminishing timeline in the reality of the world, we find ourselves on a journey looking for meaning.

One way we make sense of this journey is through telling ourselves and telling our stories.

Joan Didion the great essayist, noted we tell ourselves stories in order to live. Story telling in many forms is the basis of Art. Art has been defined as the lie that tells the truth and in our curated and embellished stories we glimpse the truth. It is why story telling is so powerful and sharing our life stories and their curation and communication and glimpsing other stores is so addictive. One of the reasons nearly two billion people are on Facebook.

And what meaning do people find in their life? Well if we at the timelines we see three themes.

The first is improvement. People are trying to get better all the time. Or make the people they love better. You see education. You see dieting. You see a quest for a better self. In fact, half the most popular/shared articles in the New York times are about bettering oneself.

The second theme is self-actualization or discovering who we really are. I have often advised my daughters never to live in other people’s minds but live in their own. Be aware and learn from what other people have on their minds but do not live there in their expectations. People who thrive and flourish become the best at who they are. A lot of activity on Facebook is people finding or helping loved ones find their fit. Not just discovering but pursuing their passions. Transforming and changing the co-ordinates and contours of their lives in search of who they are or were meant to be.

The third theme and in many ways the most powerful is finding connections. Connecting with people. Finding love. Finding relevance. Connecting with old and new friends and known and unknown discoveries. Helping people. Facebook. Instagram. WhatsApp. All our about connecting in different ways.

Facebook power as a platform has been that it has aligned with our story telling journey for self-improvement, self-actualization and a greater connection.

This has made Facebook the company and many of you famous, powerful and wealthy.

Sometime this quarter you will pass 2 billion users on Facebook alone.

But is that enough?

Is Fame, power and wealth enough?

Is Fame, power and wealth meaningful?

Fame is fleeting.  Just take a look at the obituaries today and you will read about movers and shakers that ruled their age whom we have never heard of.

Or power. Whether Royalty, politician or CEO or any other powerful person, they sooner or later loses it.

And wealth is either given away or often appears to own the wealthy rather than they own their wealth. Counting and managing and keeping score or showing off assets is how so many fritter away their time. When we were younger did we not say the whole point of having money was that we did not have to think about it?

Actually it is not power, fame or wealth that we most admire.

It is wisdom, grace and elegance.

And its time for Facebook to grow up and become wise, graceful and elegant.

Wisdom is to realize the important things before it is too late. Wisdom to realize that people are not a sum of their likes and content they imbibe and are often mysterious and cannot be fully known or profiled.  When someone believes they have been totally understood or defined they will go out of the way to show you that you are wrong. Wise to realize that privacy matters and we are only our real selves when we are alone. Wise to realize that Europe and other countries will probe on privacy not because of jealousy of Silicon Valley but their own history.

Graceful to know how powerful a platform of 2 billion people can be. If you are so impactful with marketing products you also are therefore powerful in the way news is consumed, ideas formed and much more. So denying this is bullshit. You are now a global force and this requires you to recognize that much of concern about your impact is real and that mantras of moving fast and breaking things or not being afraid needs to be gracefully adapted.

And finally elegance. The world is not black and white but shades of grey. Of course you have to compete against your current and potential competitors. You need to make money to ensure that you care for your employees and shareholders. But what about the fact that your advertisers are not sure of how things are measured or even more they wonder whether you want to disrupt them by owning the consumer/customer? How do you elegantly unify, balance and integrate your need to keep winning with the growing concern about you?

How do you remain relevant in these transforming times by re-inventing yourselves?

And when you do you will become what you really are capable of being.

Not just a Facebook but a Lifebook.

3 comments on “Remaining Relevant in Transformative Times Through Re-invention.

  1. Rishad, thank you for sharing this. Impressive. Shared it on FB.

  2. Anuj Sahai says:

    very well articulated Rishad. Thanks for sharing. I will share this with my friends – Mariners.. many of whom suffer in silence onboard tramp ships in high seas.

  3. Peter says:

    Way to go Rishad! Hopefully the responsibility these people carry will be realized and taken seriously. Keep pushing!

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