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The Dawn of the Third Connected Era


Two decades ago in 1996 with the advent of the Netscape browser we entered the first connected age where the key connection artifact was the web link. Click on a link and you found yourself in a different space and experience including the ability to shop. The companies that were built on best exploiting the link in the first connected era which lasted a decade was Google and to a lesser extent Amazon.

In 2007 we entered the second Connected era built around the smart phone and social networks where it was a constant take it with your connection and the ability to share and democratizing of publishing. Apple, Facebook and Tencent were the big new winners of this era, while Google and Amazon continued to thrive as they adapted to a mobile world.

In 2017 at CES one began to see the third connected era which builds on the link, mobility and social networks with three new connection paradigms.

  • Deep connections between data which enable machine learning that powers Artificial Intelligence. (AI)
  • Distributed computing and connections across a spectrum of objects which connect to everything resulting in the Internet of Things including big things called automobiles(IOT)
  • New ways of engaging and connecting utilizing Voice, Augmented, Virtual and Mixed reality to enable communication and tell stories in new ways (Voice/AR/VR/MR)

This Third connected era which builds on the first and second decades of connection is likely to be the most impactful, wealth creating and industry/society disruptive era of all.

It is also likely to be the most competitive.

At CES it was clear that the leaders of the first and second eras were likely to be dominant players in the third era joined by some new players from the computing eras of the 80’s and early 90’s.

Amazon with Alexa dominated the show as its voice operating system was found embedded in toys and cars. Google with Google Assistant, Google Home, a super powerful new Google Translate, Deep Mind and its AI first mantra highlighted that this generation of leaders will not be easy to displace. But in the wings IBM with Watson, NVidia whose chips seem to be the chips for AI and no longer just fancy gaming graphics and a re-invigorated Microsoft with Cortina, LinkedIn and Azure will ensure that this third era will be more competitive than ever before.

Implications for Marketing and Marketers 

  1. Next Generation CRM and Customer Service: AI and Voice will change customer expectations on relationship management and customer service. They will expect that next generation recommendation engines driven by AI will anticipate their needs and will be easy and simple to interact with using Voice. Marketing will become increasingly anticipatory versus reactive. If Netflix and Amazon can recommend what I need these same algorithms should be available across all service interactions.
  1. Search will be revolutionized: Recently Google replaced its head of search with its head of AI. Google realizes that increasingly as shown in Google Now we expect answers before we query the search box. Over time as voice becomes a key interface what will search advertising look like and how will it affect the ecosystem? 
  1. Frictionless Commerce may be so smooth that there could be a backlash: If every object around the voice can be addressed to order things could we find ourselves so impulsive that we find ourselves swimming in debt. Alexa order me ….
  1. The rise of a new generation of Creative story telling: A combination of voice based search, ad blocking, and increased penetration of ad free content like Netflix and Amazon will result in fewer and fewer opportunities to engage and interact with people, thus placing a premium that every single interaction be as resonant as possible. One can anticipate a new creative renaissance which uses smart bots, deeper engagement palettes like VR/AR/MR and “ads” being replaced by “connected experiences” which combine intelligence, creativity and technology will grow in importance.
  1. The Third Connected Era may reduce Google and Facebook dominance in marketing: Google and Facebook will continue to very powerful platforms but as we move from ads to connected experiences, IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, Amazon, Apple and many others will make it a far more competitive landscape as marketers focus on marketing experiences versus advertising experiences in the third connected era.
  1. Control and Sharing Fetish may indicate growing uncertainty and isolation: There was a plethora of devices which allowed consumers to monitor, control and calibrate every aspect of their home, health and much more. Drones, robots and other mechanical objects listened and obeyed. All the data and images could be shared. But is this control really a pacifier for a world changing fast and in uncertain ways and if we are constantly streaming does anybody have the time and the bandwidth to watch or listen?

This post first appeared in Media Post



Four Key Takeaways From Summer Davos


Recently,  I attended  the World Economic Forum’s,  Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, China which is also known as Summer Davos. Here were four key takeaways.

1.We all want to stop the world and slow things down but underlying forces will not co-operate

 At Davos the backdrop was the stock market decline in China that spread to other markets combined with a collapse in oil prices which tinged the proceedings and this time it was Brexit. Both events were unexpected and six months apart. In addition, in the US we have Trump as the nominee, a surging anti-immigration backlash around the world and the arrival of negative interest rates in Europe and Japan.

The new normal is not low growth but high uncertainty. The reality is life is uncertain but despite repeated attempts to slow or stop them we can be certain of three trends which are digitization of everything, demographic shifts including larger populations in Africa and the move to safety or opportunities with hundreds of millions of immigrants who will not be stopped and globalization which is out of the bottle and cannot be stuffed back.

Today 150 million Chinese travel widely. The second largest and in some cases the largest number of employees for all the major American tech firms are in India. More than half of all the sales of Fortune 500 companies are outside North America. Backlash there will be. Anyone trying to stop it will be whiplashed.

2.The future of Consumption is going to change dramatically impacting all Companies

 Technology breakthroughs are coming fast and furious and are feeding off each other creating even more exponential change.

Eight factors that are driving change: Artificial Intelligence (Cognitive Computing), Internet of Things, Robotics, 3 D Printing, Block chain, Autonomous Vehicles, Digital Traceability, Virtual Reality

These eight factors create five systems of future consumption which are the on demand economy, the sharing economy, the circular economy, the experience economy and the platform economy.

A company like Uber displays all these five economies in that a single Uber car replaces 30 cars and could reduce the number of cars in London from 2 million to 1.6 million within a year showing how a circular economy works. It’s a platform for not just delivering a vehicle but food, it’s clearly a sharing and on demand economy but also an experience economy since more an and more people believe the experience of getting a car with a push of the button and then sitting back and looking at their mobile phones is a better experience than driving themselves. 10 percent of millennials have given up their driver’s license.

Every firm must now adapt and re-invent itself for these five economies of consumption which will impact the global 5 trillion-dollar consumption economy.

3.AI and VR and other technologies are re-inventing how we get information and will be entertained.

Today there is a breakthrough in AI like never before due to machine learning algorithms particularly a technique called deep learning. Deep learning has allowed for major leaps in natural language processing, speech recognition and image recognition.  Here is a wonderful presentation on AI (the first 20 minutes are a bit boring but explain history but the last 20 minutes are wonderfully illuminating)

When Alexa speaks from Echo, when Netflix recommends a list of movies or Buzzfeed shows you the articles you want to read all of these are AI deep learning. AI in our business at one level is about hyper personalization but also will give rise to issues of privacy.

Virtual Reality is about to break through due to the fact that it can be delivered via a mobile phone and with little as a Google cardboard one can experience things. The New York Times won a Cannes Grand Prix for its work in VR for itself and Clients. See Displaced by downloading the NYT VR app on your phone. You do not even need a google cardboard.

The key with VR is that it makes you believe you are in a place and it can be addicting. Some have called it an empathy machine and it opens up completely new fields not just in story telling but in experiencing travel, getting educated and much more.

4.The Future Does not fit in the containers of the past.

 Today the big challenge is whether it be government or academia or media or business organizations all of us are struggling to cope with the shifts underway with organizational structures and rules of engagement fine-tuned for an eroding age.

In a world of cross border companies like Google, Tencent, Facebook among others how can todays governments and structures manage? In a world built around ownership where access (music, experiences, transport) is growing how does one adapt. We have to disrupt ourselves.

The multi stakeholder approach at WEF and the move to systems (understanding that systems are interconnected) makes this conference key to adjusting all of us to the future.


TED 2016: Forsee (Four C) Future


Chris Milk speaks at TED2016 – Dream, February 15-19, 2016, Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

TED 2016 which concluded this past Friday was themed “Dreams”.

My takeaway was that we should watch the inter-connectedness of the 4 C’s of Computation, Communication, Connections and Creativity which are increasingly intertwining and re-inventing, re-energizing each other, taking quantum leaps to a different level.

This will change society in ways we can barely comprehend.

And mostly for the better!

Here are where the combination of 4C’s have already got us…

A.The Final Mediums?

Three of the most compelling demos at the conference were about Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.

Virtual Reality

Chris Milk took 1200 folks through the largest collective viewing of virtual reality. A segment of us can be seen in the picture above.

Chris  noted that most visual media requires a suspension of disbelief, but virtual reality will have our minds be the medium. Today music is the medium that leverages our minds best, but virtual reality soon will do so. Even though it is in the very early days, Virtual reality has an amazing ability to make you feel you are in an environment creating an amazing  feeling of empathy. Chris has called Virtual Reality the “empathy machine” and it is true.

It is very easy for you to experience virtual reality even without Oculus or even Google Glass. All you need is a smart phone and a pair of headphones and download the free VRSE app from Apple or Android stores.

Here is a collection of movies and how to see them so you can experience VR right now. I would suggest “Clouds of Sidra” and “The Displaced”.

Augmented Reality

There are at least three companies today working feverishly on Augmented Reality which is different than virtual reality in that it fuses the analog and digital worlds by superimposing one on the other. The three firms are Magic Leap, Meta and Microsoft. Both Meta and Microsoft demonstrated their product. The Microsoft HoloLens demonstration allowed us to see what Alex Kipman the driving force behind the project saw in his HoloLens. He saw amazing gardens (picture below) , brought an astronaut onto the stage and then brought in and had a conversation with someone in another room! This shit is for real!


Unfortunately, HoloLens is not yet a consumer product since Alex Kipman who was behind Kinect wants to make sure that there are enough useful cases before introducing the head set for the rest of us.

You can learn more about HoloLens and experience some holograms at this Microsoft site and see some of the other compelling demos at TED if you click here.

One can safely predict that communication, the ability to connect with folks and  story telling creativity is at the cusp of a mind boggling leap and within the next couple of years.

B. The Dance of Drones

Along with Alex Kipman’s amazing HoloLens demo was a live in-theater demo of what is possible today with Drones. The most modern drones use sophisticated location computing technology to “see” each other without any cameras and they can even “dance”. Here is a video of the talk  that is a must see. Imagine drones shooting virtual reality movies….yes….coming soon…

C. Computational Data  Re-Inventing Art

Who says big data and brute computing has to end up with a scientific output. Can we not use it for Art. If Art eventually lets us better understand ourselves cannot data infuse art in ways that reveal new connections and make us feel and think in new ways.

R Luke Dubois is a computational artist who finds a way to fuse technology and creativity into making data art. The picture below are eye charts of the most used words by different presidents in the State of the Union addresses over the years. The more the word is used the higher/bigger it is in the eye chart. The word most used by George Washington was “Gentlemen” and by Nixon ironically was “Truly”. Looking at these are revealing indeed. Can you imagine what President Trump’s most used word will be…Fear?



This is just one of many different ways Dubois converts data into art. To see more visit this collection.

D. “Inception” was not a Fictional Movie. The Cutting Edge of Brain Science.



Modern Brain science is now making it possible to show how one can virally influence communication and record and influence dreams! Yes right now.

But now Brain Hackers (yes a real title) like Moran Cerf a professor at Northwestern who used to be a computer hacker  are learning how to influence your dreams and you, while you sleep…

In recent years, Cerf says, neuroscientists have discovered that the brain is susceptible to external influence while people sleep. 

“In those moments, your brain actually listens and rehearses,” Cerf says. “When your brain rehearses memories during sleep, you can intervene using sounds and smells and things that the body responds to without waking. This process can help navigate the brain towards certain thoughts and memories.”

The result, Cerf says, is that, “you can actually change behavior.” Cerf cited a recent study where people were able to significantly decrease the desire to smoke cigarettes after being subjected to external stimuli while asleep and dreaming.

“During this small window of time when the brain can rethink what it wants, you can make it find the choice of smoking less rewarding, by creating an association in the brain between smoking and bad experiences,” Cerf says. “And when you wake up, you suddenly don’t want to smoke as much.”

But there is more…we can brainwash people…


When you see a television show your brain patterns respond in a particular way. Surprisingly anybody else who sees the same show responds with the same brain patterns. When you recall the show your brain patterns replay in the same way. But here is what is extra-ordinary…when you tell the story of the show to somebody who has not seen the show their brain patterns respond as if they were seeing the show! Communication is truly viral and which explains why sometimes get so deeply influenced or almost brainwashed

Read more about Uri Hasson and his understanding of how we communicate

E. Are We Gods Now? Genetic Coding and Where its Going.


Riccardo Sabatini speaks at TED2016 – Dream, February 15-19, 2016, Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Two speakers spoke about the powers and perils of genetic modification which modern computing power is  making increasingly powerful.

Riccardo Sabatani shows how the DNA of a single human takes up 175 volumes of the size of an Encyclopedia Brittanica. We now are understanding at such a level that we can predict and adapt humans by predicting just with a pinch of blood what a person looks like. And therefore we can tell what they can look like so we can choose what our Children look like. While that is scary the same technology can attack cancers and much more…

But while some of this is distance a word processor for gene editing is already here.

It is a reality in that we will soon be able to design specifics of our offspring and using “CRISPR”  which is a word processor for Genetics which just like Microsoft Word allows us to cut and paste genes.

This allows us to undertake “Gene Drives” eradicate species such as the mosquito that transmits malaria!

F. Connecting Conundrums. Opportunities/Implications from AirBnB and Uber

Uber existed 100 years ago in San Francisco ! Folks saw long lines at Street Cars and decided to put a sign on their motor cars offering to take folks to where they wanted for 5 cents. A nickel was known as a Jitney and so this gave launch to the Jitney service in 1914 which by 1915 was being used to transport 150,000 people a day…in places like Kansas City and New York


What happened? By 1918 the Street cars and other legacy firms got Jitneys regulated out of existence. If that had not happened we may not have had the personal cars, massive highways and parking lots, pollution, OPEC..

It is clear that as we move to the current legislation ( see latest news on Apple encryption) has not been built for a connected age.

What made AirBnb succeed when previous efforts did not? Some of it was luck. Some of it was timing but the Founders believe it was “design” of the reputation system that allowed renters and guests to rate each other in ways that were not too comprehensive but useful.

This ability to rate attacked the stranger=danger reality and got guests to understand that AirBnB is about sharing which is a combination of renting a place and involving oneself.

123 million room nights have been made possible by AirBnB and tonight 785,000 people in 191 countries will AirBnB to “connect” in ways that the computational math or reputation systems , the communication learning of how much data is enough and the creativity of a connected idea.

A summary of their talks are available at Wired

G. Inspiring Creativity and Story Telling That Modern Democratized  Tech Computing Makes Possible

Between each session of speakers TED curators share strangely compelling videos that they have found. Some are by amateurs and others by professionals using simple low cost capture and editing tools. Here is a fun piece which makes you wonder how they did it..


You can experience the entire collection of amazing videos at this TED microsite. Strongly recommend you look at the “Human” movies and for fun see “Kyoto”

H. The Importance of Original Voices and Visions



While the visual stimuli of seeing different realities, amazing computation, flying drones and inspiring  thinking we were reminded that behind all these breakthroughs in approaches and thinking were humans with original voices and unique visions.

Adam Grant’s new book Originals which I have recently read and which he summarized in a talk shows that all of us can be unique and these originals are a) not early movers but copiers, b) they fret and are anxious and hedge risks like crazy and c) they strike out a lot having many many bad ideas along with the original great idea. You can read more or buy the book at Amazon.

Authentic! Passion! Big Idea!

The single most compelling talk for me was by Adam Foss,an Assistant District Attorney in Massachusetts. It was a talk without a single visual delivered without notes with deep passion.


Adam Foss speaks at TED2016 – Dream, February 15-19, 2016, Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Why did it work so well? Because what we heard was a) a unique authentic voice b) a breathtaking insight that the best way to defend people and offer justice is to be an prosecutor since prosecutors have all the power to determine what they will arraign a person for and c) addressing of a massive problem ( the US spends 80 billion a year imprisoning 2.3 million people who often then are ostracized from society) by thinking upside down. When his speech is online listen to it and you will be moved and recognize that a voice, a unique idea and passion is the flame that will drive all the new technology too. Till then here is a summary of his speech.


P brain


Many of these original thinkers also were procrastinators. Do you procrastinate? Tim Urban explained why we do so and what we can do about it in the big areas that matter where we do not have deadlines to wake us up. A simple exercise is to realize that we all have about 900 months of life and by mid life you only have 400 left so what are you waiting for? You should definitely read the piece or get the pdf.

So in the end the most important insight is the fifth C. Carbon Based Humans!

Finally Bill Gross of IdeaLab whom I am lucky to have worked with always does a great re-cap of TED which you should read.

And do not forget to experience past TED talks and monitor the new ones released all the time at TED.Com….

Re-Winding. A Collection of Videos.

Half a dozen videos of my most popular talks and interviews which many folks have found helpful are now collected in a single place

1.A Ten Minute Overview Of Marketing  in a Transformative Age

This is an opening keynote at a Video Everywhere Conference in New York City in  November 2015 which was popular both for the content and the lack of any notes or slides….

2. How to connect with people in a data driven, content filled age

An Interview in Johannesburg, South Africa in October 2015 which explains how companies should rethink a lot of assumptions including how they think about data and content and even marketing. Click the link below  the picture for the video


 How To Connect With Customers In a Content and Data Driven Age

3. Six Key Trends Driving the Future of Marketing

A short talk at Yale School of Management in New Haven in August of 2014 including how the future of marketing is really about outsourcing market to the customer!

4.Why Agencies are like Cockroaches and will not go the way of Dinosaurs but will transform ourselves like we always have

A pep talk to the Industry at the 4A’s in New Orleans in 2013 on how not to let change get one down

5. Change and the Future. A  TEDx Talk at the University of Chicago

What are the key trends driving Change and how should people and companies adapt. A talk in June 2013 at TEDx University of Chicago

6. How To Build A Personal Brand

In todays networked world it is key that everyone focus on building a Brand by understanding their niche, their story and their voice

Davos 2016: Leading in a Transformational Era



The official theme of Davos 2016 is “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” in recognition of the range of upheavals that have begun and are anticipated driven by technological advances from robotics, genetic design, 3-D printing, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and the exponential power of connected mobile devices. A free download of the book “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” is available here

The Four Key Discussions

At the end of four days of listening to panels, attending breakfasts and dinners with businessmen, government officials, social workers, artists and scientists,  technology was only one of four key discussions.  The four big themes were

  1. China: Christine Lagarde’ of the IMF  framed China’s economic challenge as how to manage three transitions in its economy from a)export to import, b) infrastructure to consumer consumption lead and c) high growth to mid growth. The decline in oil and commodity prices, currency wars and softness in emerging markets (with the exception of India which remained a shining star at Davos) were all seen as originating in China.  In addition to the economic challenges, China faces a demographic challenge of an aging population , an environmental situation which is leading to significant health issues and hundreds of millions online who are insisting on change. While the range of expectations on hard landing to soft landing, big yuan depreciation to slight yuan depreciation and adjustment to environmental and demographic change ranged dramatically the general belief was that China would be alright if its leadership maintained the faith of its key internal constituencies and did a better job communicating its intentions and its numbers could be trusted.
  2. Immigration: Globally there are 240 million immigrants and while historically immigration has been a net positive and shows no sign of slowing it has become a huge issue due to lack of economic growth creating angry unemployed youth and resentful “natives”. The recent floods of displaced refugees (there are 60 million displaced people) whose numbers are increasing exponentially due to the troubles in the Middle East and Africa which is overwhelming Europe’s sense of self and its open borders policies (Schengen). As we have seen with  the different styles of a Donald Trump (who was a big topic at Davos too and increasingly seen as a likely Republican nominee) to Angela Merkel, the quality of leadership will matter to adapt to this new reality which is transforming societies everywhere.
  3. Inequality Schism: Globally  just 62 people have as much wealth as the bottom 3,700,000,000 (3.7 billion) and the top 1% control more wealth than the remaining 99 percent. These trends of concentrations have been growing due to a combination of government actions biased towards capital, the network economic effects of technology companies, slow growth and the ability to replace carbon based life forms with silicon based digital computers. In addition to economic inequality the inequality of opportunities and pay between men and women, caucasian and colored, connected (half the world is connected to modern science and another half lacks electricity or water or internet).  The Edelman Trust Barometer shows that the top quarter of society increasing  regaining trust with business and other leaders while the bottom 75% are losing trust. Society is now questioning its leadership all over the world who are seen as short term, selfish with narrow goals  who are forgetting we are living in a multi-stakeholder world.  As someone on a panel noted ” we have rulers not leaders”
  4. Impact of Technology: Many CEOs are fearful of technology  with the CEO of KPMG noting that 1 in 3 CEO’s see their business being highly disrupted by outside competitors in the next thousand days . Some folks were gloomy wondering if a combination of locked in network effects ( Google, Tencent, Facebook, Amazon) and AI/Robotics/Chips would lead to even further radical inequality and mass unemployment.  But overall mood was that we were about to have some of the most amazing technological advances if applied correctly could transform society and create 100 trillion dollars of new economic benefit within a few years!  And most consumers see huge benefits to a digital society.  These benefits would not just be in more wages and better lifestyles but better health, more immersive and empathetic story telling, wider distribution of culture and much more. The question is how will business, government, society leaders understand and adapt technology to its goals. Technology is not bad or good but it can be used for good or bad goals.

Tectonic Trio Transformations creating a Crisis of Leadership

We are living in a transformational era driven by the Tectonic Trio of globalization, demographic and technological shifts which is changing society with great force ( masses of people undergoing accelerated change). The potential for great positive change will depend on all of us learning to lead our organizations, our communities and ourselves.

The future is uncertain and uncertainty is crippling leadership. Truth is the future has always been uncertain but right now the pace of change is making one question ones very model and self confidence. The challenge is relevance and whether todays ways of working are relevant in the future.

As Marc Benioff the CEO of Salesforce yelled ” we do not have a technological crisis we have a leadership crisis”

Thus the real key theme from Davos: Leadership in a Transformational Era.

Seven Ways to become a Transformational Leader

Across the conference I kept my eyes and ears wide open for how the best leaders or thinkers had learnt or were doing to ensure an optimistic outcome from this transformative age. I went to cultural panels, health panels, business forecast panels, panels on the future of religion and to ones with government leaders convening and between meetings read the WEF blogs and reports published at the forum. Here are some key learnings

1.Be hopeful/optimistic: In reality, globally the world is much better today than 20 years ago. Over a billion people have come out of poverty around the world. Radical breakthroughs have given people “god like power” of mobile phones and search engines. We have voices and connections due to social networks and more advanced and better health care. While racism, wars, inequality, slave like work conditions remain widespread there has been considerable progress made. As someone said ” I am not afraid of the world but I am afraid of the news”. More people have more access to services and each other than ever before and increased empowerment and connectivity has always led to significant gains in societal and business wealth.

The World Economic Forum completed a land mark global survey on Digital Media and Society and its Implications in a Hyper Connected Age  which indicates that significant majorities feel more empowered, more connected, more productive and have more access to learning. The only significant but a huge concern regards control of privacy and identity in a big data age. Should we own, monetize and control our own data? This is an issue we will be soon discussing but even data well used is hugely enabling.

People do not follow pessimists or stay in companies with tyrannical, scared, inward looking leaders. Hope matters, and realistic pragmatic future based growth plans make people hopeful. Technology is going to allow for major new ways to innovate, service and benefit people across every industry. A hundred trillion dollar opportunity said some at Davos.

2 .Think Longer Term: Some of the biggest challenges we face is because leaders are focussing on the urgent versus the important. Growth which is a challenge requires investment and innovation which takes time. Culture, talent growth, impact of acquistions and change management does not happen overnight with edicts and vision statements but is an iterative process of years. True leaders do not do only what the numbers tell them to do but think higher and feel deeper. If you manage by the numbers one of the new AI robots is poised to replace you since they can compute faster than you can. Mark Benioff wondered whether Governments should not have a Minister or Ministry  for the Future so they could prepare their societies for tomorrow and not just today. Many company leaders are so busy putting out Client and Market crises that the future melts away in the heat of the present…

Technology and Transformation are long term sustained investments and initiatives and press releases on partnerships and deals or hiring a digital officer or two is worth a hill of beans. The key is how to remain relevant, lead the change and transform.

3. Manage & Constantly Communicate with Multiple Stakeholders: We are living in an interconnected and networked world and leadership will be balancing between multiple constituencies. In business, a new word of quadruple bottom line which measures not just how a company is doing for it stock holders but also the environment, its community and its employees. Often these run at cross purposes but simplistic thinking of maximizing shareholder returns for business despite short term pressure of financial markets is an era that is passing. A key is to identify key stakeholders, communicate with them on setting goals and then measure and adapt based on performance. Constant communication is a key otherwise others hijack the narrative.

4. Build a Collaborative and Creative Mindset:  The lines between industries is being dissolved due to the acidity of digital technology which does not recognize analog or industry borders. Consumers expect quick access with minimal friction. Clients expect seamless and fast deliveries and punish balkanized firms whose inner dysfunctions lead to heat but little light. Superior performance at competitive prices on unrealistic timelines is now the digital reality and only highly networked and collaborative leaders and companies will thrive.

This often requires creative new ideas, new ways of telling stories, new ways of developing and delivering products and services. Creativity and Innovation become critical.

5. Question your organization design and skills: The future does not fit in the containers of the past and most current successful organizations have been optimized for yesterday. If you were to launch a competitor to yourself today what would it look like. It is unlikely to look the way your firm or school or business does. Re-inventing their structures and investing in talent and skills.

6. Earn Trust through Purpose, Authenticity and Empathy: Key themes again and again were the best firms, the best governments, the best leaders spoke to and delivered to a higher purpose, were authentic in their behaviors and listened, felt and understood others in an empathetic way . Millennials in particular are looking for purpose driven companies. They compare notes constantly and inauthenticity is a huge fail.  They want their point of view and their hopes and dreams to be understood. This is not just true for millennials but for all people. One of the most admired recent leaders is Pope Francis who embodies Purpose, Authenticity and Trust. The key is to be genuine. People ask is my leader, is my company the real thing?

7. Grow yourself: A key struggle among all constituencies was remaining relevant in changing times. The challenge was often personal. Could they learn new skills or appreciate new models. Could they re-invent themselves? Some of the ways leaders were growing themselves that seemed to work were

a) Going on learning tours: These tended to not just be to Silicon Valley but could be to consumers, new competitors or other travels that would create a sense of disorientation and therefore questioning of the status quo.

b) Finding reverse mentors: Get younger folks to mentor them on different topics, create junior boards that presented to the real boards and go to lunch/drinks with folks many levels outside of the corporate headquarters confines to get the real scoop.

c) Learning to communicate better particular using newer platforms: In an always on world blogs, social media, online video channels,  and “all hands” meetings are the new way forward rather than long memos, press releases and corporate message massaging. The problem with these new forms is one has to do it oneself or be deeply involved  and not have some one do it for you ( authenticity matters) and there is always talk back (not always nicely and respectfully). But in a battlefield of narratives the leaderships voice cannot be intermittent or delivered by carrier pigeon.

d) Stepping outside themselves: Oddly ,the busier and more harried the best leaders should be what was clear is that they did more than work. Two common additional goals were giving back via charities or causes or education and the other was a deep involvement in some form or art, literature or culture. This stepping outside seems to have made them more authentic, purposeful and empathetic but also synch to a more longer and harmonic time spans.

So if we are to truly leverage the data driven, silicon based, digital possibilities it is us emotionally complex, carbon based, analog lifeforms who will have to make it happen.

A harmony. An alchemy of technology and creativity. Of silicon and of carbon.

Davos as usual was incredible and illuminating and is a place for dialog and interacting which both makes one feel smaller and leave bigger.

You can experience it increasingly virtually here


Change Management. Six Lessons.


Originally published on LinkedIn…

1. Change Sucks: To anybody who says change is good there is only one human answer. “Things are fine thank you and if you want to change go ahead my friend!”

Lets get real and recognize that change is venturing into the unknown. Change is going up a learning curve. Change is difficult. Change is not good but rather it is necessary. The more you want things to stay the same you have to change.

2. The future does not fit in the containers of the past: Most organizations have been structured to optimize the past. They have developed processes and measurement that ensure that yesterday is brought to a fine shine while tomorrow slips away. The importance of re-thinking organizational structure is key. Is your company one that can respond or is it only an instigator and distributor? Is your firm agile enough to partially or wholly re-invent it self or is it a Groundhog day solution repeating a worn out mantra in a new day?

3. The world may be digital but people are analog: Every theory is easy but people get in the way. We seem to forget that while computers are silicon based digital computing things, humans are carbon based analog feeling things. To change they need not just facts but meaning, stories, emotions and inspiration. True change leadership incorporates, understands and leverages the human reality.

4. If you want to see changed behavior, change the incentives: The biggest learning from the book by Steven Levitt called Freakonomics was that the best way to predict behavior was to understand incentives. So many leaders wax poetic about change but do not change the incentives. People will do what they are rewarded for and if you want tomorrow but incentivize or measure yesterday your organization will be humming a Carpenter tune…”yesterday once more” again and again.

5. The only way a company changes is by changing peoples mindsets or changing the people…. and companies find it is easier to change the people: While strategy, acquisitions and investment in new technologies and innovations that can create competitive advantages are critical, the rubber hits the road with the quality and mindset of the talent. Successful organizations find a way to upgrade, attract, retain and inspire people to change. Unfortunately, many people do not change and sooner or later the business realities overcome them and they find themselves out of a job. Do not resist the force of change. Align with it.

6. Success requires perpetual re-invention and forgetting some of yesterday guidelines. Today the successful individuals are in perpetual beta. It is imperative to learn new skills and question silly thinking. For instance if scale mattered how did a 40 person Instagram have a higher valuation than Kodak? Is it speed or the lack of speed that kills? In an age of access does ownership really matter? And surely when you barely have time to have relationships with your loved one do you want to have a relationship with a brand like say “Tylenol” or do you want to just have your headache go away?

Ten Career Lessons


Often when asked for career advice from students coming out of school or individuals early in their own careers here is what I share.

A. The First Decade

1. Find the least sucky job you can: Early on in your career your initial assignments being those of the starter variety will be filled with a certain rote drudgery as you being the lowest of the low will be delegated work that no one wants to do themselves.

Do not delude yourself that in your early years that you are going to find “your purpose”, “your passion” or “your identity”. Nope. You have found yourself a job in a competitive landscape and you will be learning valuable lessons on showing up even if you do not feel like coming to work to do stuff “beneath you” , how to deal with a spectrum of characters and personalities, how to present and write, and what it feels like to being bossed around.

These elementary skills will turn out to be essential in that communication skills, empathy and discipline will carry you far and be your friends forever even if you constantly change industries or the world changes around you.

Unreal expectations must be controlled in the early years or you will be seen as a sniffling blow hard in need of attitude adjustment.

2. The Trend is your Friend: If you are fortunate to be able to pick between jobs or find demand for your skills that allow you to choose between opportunities in a company do not select the higher paying one but the one that is aligned with the future. Shakespeare wrote “we must take the current when it serves. Or lose our ventures” which in modern vernacular is “go with the flow my friend”. A majority of career success is to be aligned with trends and industries that are rising and even mediocre players can succeed in an unstoppable tide. Aligning with a trend and particularly aligning early is critical because not only will the force be with you but your skills will be in demand as the area grows and if you have joined early you will be experienced and become well known in the field.

3.Plan and make decisions over a long horizon: Most people coming out of school and early in their careers will work for nearly 50 years. With life expectancies nearing the mid eighties, social security being pushed back and health holding out till the seventies it is unlikely that you will be parked on a beach in your mid fifties. Maybe in your mid sixties or later. Thus do not make job or career decisions with three to five month horizons but  three to five year horizons. Try to give each company  or assignment or adventure at least three years and if it is an industry or company at least five. Your decision making will be better, your skills will mature and you will take daily and weekly gyrations in perspective.

4. Even the best jobs are only good seventy percent of the time: If you have a great job you will find yourself wondering three days out ten you what you are doing, why you are doing it and if you are any good. The reasons for this are three fold. First. do recognize that you are being paid for what you do and the more you are paid often the harder the job is and the problems and troubles you must deal with. Often the challenges or the situations or the people you have to deal with require you to steel yourself with a drink or more. Second, if you have a great job it is one that is growing you and sometimes throws you challenges that require you to build new muscles and do new things. Learning is never easy and if you are growing there will be days that the pain will feel more like a signal that you dislike your job rather than you are building new expertise. The best jobs have flow which is a combination of competence and challenge and sometimes the challenge can be quite daunting. Finally, we are all living in a time of great change,  chaos and velocity which is filled with uncertainty . The most relevant and most transformative industries are in the eye of the storm and this can make a day at work feel like a day in the high speed spin cycle of a laundry machine.

5. Compete against yourself rather than with others: The trick is not to try to better than every one else which is neither possible nor attainable for long or with everybody who is doing the grading. Rather it is to be better every day than you were yesterday. Perpetual improvement by learning from those you admire and respect or expertise you appreciate is not only fulfilling but one that you can control free of petty politics or pissing of people that you will need to work with. Oddly it is more competitive than external competition because you can win externally often by bamboozling and sleigh of hand but you cannot really fool yourself. Get better because in it there is reward.

The Middle Years

6. Who you work for is critical so choose your boss well:  Once you get past the first decade of your career and you have learnt essential skills including how to keep learning, built an early reputation and if lucky aligned with a growing trend, the key to success is to find and hold on to the right boss. Over the next decade or two who you work for will be the determining factor in your success more than anything else you do. The middle years are really about being given new opportunities to learn and grow and linking with someone who is both growing themselves and is mentoring your own growth. A successful boss increases their remit and thus makes new opportunities for you, but also ensures that they have your back while being very upfront and straightforward with you face to face. They challenge you but cover for you when necessary. Find one or more of these and hold on tight. It makes all the difference and every successful leader has been fortunate to have someone who mentored, challenged and looked after them.

7. Find Fit: In your middle career you should begin to specialize. You now know what you enjoy and are passionate about. You also know where you have comparative advantage. And you can see where there are growing and declining opportunities. Continuously adapt your job and find ways to start doing more and more things at the intersection of passion, comparative advantage and market demand. Today, more than ever before it is experts who love their jobs that are happiest and successful. Stop thinking that everyone can or should be a CEO. And for a lot of people the CEO job makes zero sense. Stop doing and pursuing things just because other people think they are cool jobs. Stop living in other peoples mind and start living in your  own life. It is only then that autonomy, purpose and mastery come together and you fit your role and your role fits you.

8. Build a  Personal Brand: As you get to the last third of your career it is very crucial to enter it with a stellar reputation. As Jeff Bezos said a brand is what they say about you when you are not in the room. In addition to being generous and working with integrity which are key to being a successful brand it is important to be well positioned niche (what are you world class at or what is your special expertise?), have a distinct and clear voice (who are you and what do you stand for) and have a story (why should people believe you). Here is an exercise on how to build a personal brand

The Later Years

9. Unlearn. Transform. Re-Invent: A quarter of  century or three decades into work still leave a decade or more of career ahead and this is where things can get really dangerous or interesting.

If you have been successful you are  being set up for a fall because without you knowing it the Industry you grew up in is being transformed and there are new technologies and approaches that make what you learned obsolete and just when you think you have arrived you have to unlearn what made you successful.  Now you have to start learning and changing and making mistakes that you long thought you no longer have to do since you are a leader and not a rookie. You are too cool and too senior to actually make a fool of yourself but if you do not want to become as irrelevant as you fear privately  you will have to change.. Now all this talk about “change is good”that you have been stating to your teams has to be applied to yourself and you begin to realize that change actually sucks since you have to learn and trip and re-grow.

The really successful folks in the last third of the career are students and learners again and if they have built a brand and have worked with integrity and helped others along the way, a swarm of people come to help them adjust. They reverse mentor, form a trampoline and ensure that you do not fail since they recall the days you helped them.

10. Build a portfolio career and start giving back aggressively : Anyone successful in addition to working hard and playing the long game has been helped immensely by other people and of course been blessed with luck. They have been given chances and now is the time to give those chances back.

In addition it is time to build a portfolio career that expands from a job to one that includes a job, consulting, advising and giving back. Sooner or later the job will end but meaningful and purposeful work will continue. Successful older people end up being consultants part of the time and serve in advisory roles on boards or as mentors and they start teaching and helping non- profits. The folks who have ended their jobs most gracefully began these alternate streams during their last decade at work by volunteering, by teaching classes by mentoring and advising younger folks. This way they have a new road ahead when their full time job ends and because they do they move on gracefully into a new phase.