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Focus and Flow

Bryan Wiener is one of the early digital pioneers who has created over half a billion dollars of shareholder value across the many companies he has either co-founded or helped grow and sell. He is best known for his leadership of 360i which he sold to Dentsu and his turnaround of Profitero which he sold to Publicis Groupe and which he continues to lead.

In the latest episode of the What Next? podcast titled “I am not Nostradamus” Bryan shares many learning and beliefs including:

a)     how large companies can innovate by becoming fast followers.

b)    how digital commerce will leak into everything and in doing so re-sculpt marketing and organizational design.

c)     how future organizations will be built with product at the core and service at the edge.

During our conversation a theme emerged on how successful individuals and organizations combine focus and flow.

Focus One: Right time/Right market.

Successful individuals and companies pick their spots and time to market.

Surprisingly the companies that succeed the most are not pioneers but fast followers.

They identify where consumer/customer behavior is outstripping current market supply or where existing business models are falling short and then they focus on improving upon the early pioneers.

Facebook, Google Maps, and the iPod were all fast followers to My Space, MapQuest, and Rio Player.

Moving too early requires years of investment in trying to find a product/market fit and moving too late means a crowded marketplace where margins are low, and differentiation is hard.

Large companies need to a) be ready to follow fast through acquisition and/or b) ensure they have focused teams that identify the small but about to become big marketplaces which the larger company may not be paying attention to.

Centralized innovation that does not utilize small teams focused on unaddressed markets, which are not sufficiently outward looking or too driven by the metrics of the big company is why too many companies burn through tens of millions without anything to show for the investment but power points and innovation offsites.

Focus Two: Outcome vs Activity and People versus Process.

We often confuse activity with outcome.

So much time spent on the sounds and processes of the colon versus the cool shit that is created.

We often forget its talent and people that drive success versus structures and processes.

A few great players aligned as a team but otherwise unleashed will overwhelm armies of mediocre people chanting some corporate song written in yesterday’s script.

Flow One: Commerce is flowing into every corner.

Twenty-seven years ago, Time-Warner launched the Full-Service Network in Orlando Florida which would combine television and on-line buying, broadcast, and commerce.

It went nowhere but did eventually lead to the disastrous AOL Time-Warner merger.

Today online companies like TikTok and Firework, Cooler Screens. emerging connected TV models and Walmart Connect, Amazon and Roundel are making this reality not just connecting video and commerce but re-thinking what next generation commerce can be.

It is greater than just e-commerce and is not on the side but encrusted everywhere.

We are moving into a world where a grocery store is a media company, a connected automobile is a huge part of commerce and Marriott is not just a hotel chain but a network to find, build relationships and sell to travelers.

Commerce has flowed into every corner of every enterprise and connection point.

Organizations must now learn to flow and be fluid and no longer fit into the old container of above the line, below the line and other containers of the past.

Digital transformation and modern marketing transformation is often about organizational transformation.

Eric Clapton sang “Let it Grow.”

Today it would be “Learn to Flow.”

Flow Two: Water over Rock aka Perseverance and Humility.

Today for the first time in 15 years the tech and digital media industries are facing very difficult times. Many people under 35 have never seen such tough situations which unfortunately got much worse this weekend due to the failure of one of the keys of the tech industry for over forty years (Silicon Valley Bank).

This too will pass.

During our conversation Bryan with over 25 years of ups and downs speaks about the importance of persistence.  The need to remain calm and harness emotions. The need for humility.

Right now, everyone is finger pointing and blaming each other: Silicon Valley Bank Collapse Sets off Blame Game in Tech Industry.

It is now that one must recognize that rock beating against rock just makes both rocks smaller.

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong” Lao Tzu

The game is long.

Technology is long too and from the advent of fire and the wheel is a key to  the advancement of humanity.

It is time to help. Time to resurrect. Time to show up.

Time to persevere.

Technology will go on and in fact is now integrated into every company. 

Every successful company will both be a product/tech company and a service/custom delivery company.

That is how things are built.

Flow on…

Photography by Rishad Tobaccowala

On this weeks What Next? Bryan Wiener, CEO of Profitero, the e-commerce analytics platform empowering over 4,000 brands with solutions across 900 retailers in 50 countries, explains why companies need to become great at being “fast-followers”, why solution providers of the future will have product at their core and service at the edge, and how digital commerce is revolutionizing stores, advertising, industries, and organizations.

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