What Is Missing From Zoom

I saw a recent post from Steve Blank titled ‘What’s Missing From Zoom Reminds Us of What It Means To Be Human‘. It caught my eye as I have been posting about my recent VC experiences, plus anything from Steve Blank is guaranteed to be insightful. 

It is worth scanning the longer post but I agree with his observations. Without the missing non-verbal cues and context (e.g. physical environment), conducting business or friendships is less productive, social interactions are less satisfying, and distance learning is less effective.

In essence, today’s video conferencing applications feel like they are an engineers technical solution to the complexity of human interaction

As it is super interesting, below is a summary of Steve’s main insight:

There is an Opportunity for Innovators to Take Video Conferencing to the Next Level. This billion person science experiment replacing face-to face communication with digital has convinced me of a few things:

    1. The current generation of video conferencing applications ignore how humans communicate
    2. They don’t help us capture the non-verbal cues – touch, gestures, postures, glances, odours, etc.
    3. They haven’t done their homework in understanding how important each of these cues is and how they interact with each other. (What is the rank order of the importance of each cue?)
    4. Nor do they know which of these cues is important in different settings. For example, what are the right cues to signal empathy in social settings, sincerity, trustworthiness and rapport in business settings or attention and understanding in education?
    5. There’s a real opportunity for a next generation of video conference applications to fill these holes. These new products will begin to address issues such as: How do you shake hands? Exchange business cards? Pick up on the environment around the speaker? Notice the non-verbal cues?
    6. There are already startups offering emotion detection and analytics software that measure speech patterns and facial cues to infer feelings and attention levels. Currently none of these tools are integrated into broadly used video conferencing apps. And none of them are yet context sensitive to particular meeting types. Perhaps an augmented reality overlay with non verbal cues for business users might be a first step as powerful additions.
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Building a Blogging Habit

I just checked my blog post volume since the start of this year (2020).

The stats look like this:

  • April – 19 posts this month (including this one)
  • March – 3 posts
  • Feb – 1 post
  • Jan – 2 post

Before that, the prior few years were very sporadic. I was unable to build a regular habit of writing and posting. I could start, but never could get into a regular routine. Perhaps I had a good excuse of limited spare time as was in survival model (still in it?!) with 2 young babies (now aged 3 and 4).

It is no coincidence that the above productivity coincides with the COVID-19 lockdown. My blogging strategy during it has been simple: post once a day on topics I am thinking about or interested in.

Here is some insight into how I am going about it:

  • I don’t have a regular routine to achieve this. Sometimes it is late at night before bedtime, other times it is whilst the 4yo is doing a school activity which doesn’t need supervision;
  • I build constantly add to an ‘ideas pipeline’ in WordPress by writing the title and if needed, add a few thoughts in the description box or link to an article, webinar etc. Right now I have a pipeline of 20 posts;
  • Each morning I’ll quickly scan the draft ideas list and whichever one grabs me I’ll aim to get it done right then, or during the day whenever I can. I know that this lack of structure will not sustainable for me over time, but given lockdown, home-schooling and everything else it is the only tactic – albeit a very loose one – which has worked to date;
  • The time to write each post is different but I’ll aim to not spend more than 30min on average. Some are more detailed – for example, Top 9 Strategic Planning tools – which may require more than 1 hour;

Having done this now consistently for over a month, it helps me to re-engage with something I have always loved: writing. Over the past decade, as a start-up founder and management consultant, I have spent 99% of my time in powerpoint and excel i.e. story-telling via diagrams, and analysis.

Hopefully I can continue the momentum and produce similar output for next month (and thereafter). We’ll see.

Assessing Your Firm’s Innovation Readiness

Before COVID-19, it would be fair to say that most CEOs to some degree were focused on innovation as a top or near-top priority. Whilst the current crisis has caused many of these CEOs to adjust priorities and resources to short-term survival mode, there are others who are accelerating, pivoting or experimenting with new businesses in the face of disruption from the pandemic fall-out.

There are many tools out there to help leaders to re-start, or get started, on a future-focused innovation and ‘exploration’ path. Below are a few tools which might prove to be useful. They are from StrategyTools in Norway, and were valuable for me with a client recently. You can read more information on these tools here.

If you have any feedback on these or other related tools, be sure to let me know.

Transformation_Test

 

Transformation_Architecture

 

9 Tools To Enhance Strategic Planning

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, strategic plans of every company around the world are being torn up and re-written. As an expert in strategy formulation – whether corporate, business, product, technology or operational – I have listed a number of useful tools which can help with this process.

There are many, many tools out there, however these are ones which I have used the most over the past 12 months.

If you have any feedback on these or other ones you have found valuable, be sure to let me know.

  1. Strategic Planning Process

There are 100s of versions of this process, whether from academics, consultancies, or other practitioners. In fact, the topic occupies a huge amount space in the strategic management academic literature following decades of empirical studies.

Whilst I don’t have a specific view on this one or other tools, if you just want a rough, simple, logical guide on the general steps, this one works (sorry, I don’t know the source).

What are the steps of strategic planning? - Quora

2. 11 Sources of Disruption 

This is from Amy Webb, a Professor of Strategic Foresight at NYU and Founder of the Future Today Institute. It is like PESTLE on steroids. I tend to add a few more categories, and you can read about those additions here

The Future Today Institute | The Future Today Institute helps ...

3. Strategy Introduction

This is a tool from Strategy Tools, founded by Norwegian academic and consultant Christian Rangen. You can read more about the tool here

Strategy_Intro

4. Strategic Time Horizons 

Another tool from Amy Webb which links strategy to time. You can read more about it here

How To Think About Time | The Future Today Institute

5. Strategic Innovation Canvas

Another tool from StrategyTools. It builds on the Horizon Planning map and links degree of innovation to time. You can read more about here

Strategic_Innovation_Canvas

6. Industry Shifts Map

The Industry Shifts Map helps you identify, analyse, and develop capabilities to go after new market opportunities. You can read more about it here

Industry_Shifts_Map

7. Business Model Canvas

This is a popular one when looking for a simple way to analyse and present thinking about an existing or new product/service. You can more about it here.

Alex Osterwalder🇨🇭 on Twitter: "*Simplicity* is the ultimate ...

8. Value Proposition Canvas

Another tool from Strategyzer, it allows you to map customer profiles with value to the created. You can more about it here

Value Proposition Canvas - ProductCoalition.com

9. Go-To-Market (GTM) Strategy

There are 100s of GTM tools out there. Whilst I don’t have one which I have utilised every time, this one is a good, simple starting point (I don’t know the source, sorry).

Go-to-Market Strategy - Who Are You Selling To | Marketing plan ...

 

HelloFresh

It’s an exciting day today. Our weekly HelloFresh order of 5 tasty meals for the week has arrived..

Prior to lockdown we had started to experiment with HelloFresh. Perhaps a few meals per week every few weeks. Any service which can make preparing tasty, healthy meals easier and more convenient for busy parents will be a winner. Especially in a location (Guernsey) where online food delivery is very limited.

Since lockdown, we are now power-users moving to 5 meals per week, every week. I doubt this will continue, but for now it is our treat given that we can’t easily access supermarkets, restaurants or bars.

IMG_6101

Online Home-Schooling

A few weeks ago I posted here about managing our kids schooling during the first week of schools closures during lockdown. That week didn’t involve specific structure from the schools as they weren’t set up for online.

Last week was the first week of online home-schooling for our 4 year old, Angus (our 3 year old Georgina is at nursery which is closed).

Here is broadly what they did Monday-Friday:

  • Microsoft Teams as the tech platform e.g. comms, activities, resources, calendar
  • 830-9am live class VC welcome led by the teacher
  • 3 x activities to complete per day, led by a parent (Literacy, Maths, Creative)
  • Take a photo or video of each activity deliverable and submit
  • 230-3pm live class VC, typically a story

In short, it was difficult to manage, although we did complete everything each day.

It certainly felt like it was online version of what they actually did in the class each day. This makes sense as the school has only had a few weeks to prepare.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see how it evolves. Obviously the power of online delivery enables different formats, customisation (e.g. advanced vs beginner learning), gamification, digital tools, apps, and other experiences.

Whether this happens (i.e. innovation) is probably unlikely unless lockdown continues for many more months. What is more interesting is whether some aspects of digital learning will be incorporated as part of physical classroom learning. We will wait and see.

Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19

On Friday I caught up with a friend who works at WhatIf (now owned by Accenture). We were talking about the impact of COVID-19 on the future workforce. He mentioned an interesting point around how the crisis could drive increased mental health impacts as employees (and companies) grapple with the future transition from ‘work-from-home’ to whatever is the ‘new normal’.

Some firms may stay as is, some may adopt a hybrid model, and some may go back to offices full-time. Whichever the model, each presents its own set of unique short-term challenges for staff and firms.

Gartner have a great article here discussing these issues further. It is called ‘Leading Your Employees Through The Emotional Side of COVID-19’. If you are leading or managing teams, I suggest you take a look.

The Last Dance on Netflix

Netflix and ESPN have just released a documentary featuring Michael Jordan (MJ) called The Last Dance. As a massive fan of sport (and business) documentaries, I’m one episode in and already hooked.

I knew that Michael was ultra competitive, but I didn’t realise the extent to which that competitiveness got in the way of how he treated the people around him.

A review article in The Nation (here) summed it up perfectly:

“Michael Jordan is compelling, but not when his bullying is portrayed as a positive part of his brand”

The article is a great read. I can’t wait to watch more episodes now through a different lens.

 

The Challenge for Video-Conferencing Vendors

Yesterday I participated in a 4hr virtual symposium called ‘Disruption 2020’ run by the MIT Sloan Management Review. If you are interested in disruptive innovation and strategic management, this was a brilliant session with experts including Scott Anthony (Innosight), Amy Webb (NYU Professor and Founder, Future Today Institute), and Rita Gunter McGrath (Professor, Columbia Business School).

They have an edition dedicated to it which you can see here.

The VC session was run on GoToWebinar, one of the traditional VC incumbent firms founded in 2004. Unfortunately, the technology didn’t work that well. If I had to rate the user experience of the technology on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being perfect, I would give it a 5.

Every speaker and host (there were 8 or so speakers and 2 hosts) had issues. One had to drop out then come back in. A few speakers could only speak as the VC wasn’t working. Some had constant cutting out or freezing throughout.

It is unclear why these issues were occurring, and who exactly is responsible. Whether it is GoToWebinar, internet bandwidth, home wifi, 4G, human error or something else, this shouldn’t be an issue in 2020. For me, this feels like what dial-up internet was in the early 2000s.

Clearly these are the fundamental CX issues which have enabled a young start-up (Zoom) to rapidly scale across B2B and B2C with a powerful value proposition focusing on the B2B SaaS Playbook: ease of use, integrations, free or flexible pricing, and better performance. I wrote a post recently on how impressed I was a few months ago in being able to easily host a global conference hosted by Seth Godin with many hundreds of people.

Whilst Zoom is facing other challenges right now (e.g. security, privacy etc), from what I have seen with competing vendors, it will be around for a long time to come (and the others, won’t be).

Strategic Responses of Firms to COVID-19 Crisis

This week I developed and launched a survey designed to gather insight on how a range of firms in different sectors are responding to the COVID-19 crisis. If you are interested in completing it, the survey is here.

To provide more context, I’ve pasted below what is contained in the Introduction section of the survey:

Overview:
This survey seeks to understand what strategies, tactics and activities a sample of organisations large and small across sectors are undertaking to manage the current crisis. It is a project being run by Andrew Essa of ROCKET + COMMERCE (a management consultancy). An advisory board of cross-industry leaders is forming to interpret the results.

Geographies surveyed include firms based mainly in Guernsey and Jersey (Channel Islands), although there will be respondents from UK, EU, US, and APAC.

Timings:
The last day to complete the survey is 30th April 2020.

Interviews:
A number of short interviews via VC are also being conducted with select leaders or senior managers. If you would like to apply, please contact Andrew Essa via the details below.

Insights:
The results will contribute to a white-paper and new report series e.g. Disruptive Change 2020 Report. I will share these with all respondents in due course. It is expected to generate useful market insight for firm leadership on how your peers within or across sectors are managing and strategically responding to the crisis. The results therefore should improve firm decision-making in the short and long-term, including strategic planning, operational reviews or change management.

There may be further (e.g. 3+) surveys across the year to track strategic responses and changes over time as the crisis develops, but this will be kept under review.

Audience:
The target respondent is a senior manager, executive or experienced professional within an organisation. Firm sizes will range from international business to local SMEs, with sector coverage broad including Technology, Financial Services, Legal, Accounting, IT, Retail, Aviation, Health, PR, Government, Corporate & Fiduciary Services, Education, Charities etc.

Disruption 2020 Symposium

The MIT Sloan Management Review have released a Spring edition entitled Disruption 2020. On 21st April they are running a virtual symposium with about 5-6 speakers who are thought leaders on relevant topics including strategic response, trends, innovation, leadership and prosperity. For example, Scott Anthony (Innosight), Rita Gunter McGrath (Colombia Business School), Amy Webb (NYU and Future Today Institute), and Efosa Ojomo (Clayton Christensen Institute).

I have just signed up for it. Check out the link here if you are interested

Disruption 2020: A Virtual Symposium | April 21, 2020

 

 

14 Sources of Disruption

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause significant or catastrophic disruption to many organisations, it is almost crazy to think that COVID-19 represents one source of disruption. Obviously it is a major shock and is inter-related with other forces (e.g. economic). However, from a crisis response perspective and the need to re-set short and longer-term strategic plans, it is important for leaders to always look at the bigger picture.

Why? According to Amy Webb, founder of  The Future Today Institute:

If leaders think that they are aware of the forces that might disrupt their company, their lens’ may be far too narrow…

To support such analysis, I use a tool called The Strategic Forces Framework (SFFF) which Amy Webb discusses in detail here

MAG-webb-essay-s1

Clearly, the SFFF builds on long-standing (and less comprehensive) frameworks including PESTLE. Many forces will seem obvious, but others less so.  

Amy Webb provides context on using the tool:

The SFFF helps clients identify external uncertainties which broadly affect business, markets, and society across positive, neutral, or negative dimensions. In over a decade of strategy consulting and research, I have observed that all major or ‘disruptive changes’ are the result of one or more of the 11 forces. 

For leaders and executives, the critical skill is being able to look for areas of convergence, inflections, and contradictions, with emerging patterns especially important because they signal ‘transformation’ of some kind. People must connect the dots back to their industries and companies, and position teams to take incremental – or transformative – actions as required.

Whilst many of the 11 sources of disruption might seem obvious or onerous at first, taking a broader viewpoint provides perspective as the tool can help identify critical growth opportunities (e.g. market-creating innovations) or areas of potential disruption (e.g. new business models). For example, an established regional farming equipment firm tracking eco-friendly infrastructure trends could be a first mover into new or emerging markets, while a traditional electronics retailer (with online operations) monitoring 5G, IoT and AI plus segments of non-consumption, could be better positioned to compete against the big e-commerce platforms.

Whilst Amy uses 11 forces, I add 3 more to make 14. See below for details but I believe that Legal, Industry, and Business Models deserve their own line of enquiry. You only have to think about the music-industry in the early 2000s to understand why that matters.

Sources of macro change encompass the following:

  1. Prosperity: the distribution of income and wealth across a society; asset concentration; and the gap between the top and bottom of the pyramid in within an economy.
  2. Education: access to and quality of primary, secondary, and postsecondary education; workforce training; trade apprenticeships; certification programs; the ways in which people are learning and the tools they’re using
  3. Infrastructure: physical, organizational, and digital structures needed for society to operate (bridges, power grids, roads, Wi-Fi towers, closed-circuit security cameras); the ways in which the infrastructure of one city, state, or country might affect another’s.
  4. Government: local, state, national, and international governing bodies, their planning cycles, their elections, and the regulatory decisions they make.
  5. Geopolitics: the relationships between the leaders, militaries, and governments of different countries; the risk faced by investors, companies, and elected leaders in response to regulatory, economic, or military actions.
  6. Economy: Standard macroeconomic and microeconomic factors, including interest rates, inflation, exchange rates, taxation
  7. Public Health: changes occurring in the health and behaviour of a community’s population in response to lifestyles, disease, government regulation, warfare or conflict, and religious beliefs.
  8. Social: Life-style, trends, ethics, norms, religions, diversity and inclusion, culture, religion, demographics, population rates and density, human migration, and other dynamics are leading to shifts in communities, markets (including non-consumption) and societal needs
  9. Environment: changes to the natural world or specific geographic areas, including extreme weather events, climate fluctuations, rising sea levels, drought, high or low temperatures, and more. Agricultural production is included in this category.
  10. Communications: all of the ways in which we send and receive information and learn about the world, including social networks, news organizations, digital platforms, video streaming services, gaming and e-sports systems, 5G, and the boundless other ways in which we connect with each other.
  11. Technology: not as an isolated source of macro change, but as the connective tissue linking business, government, and society. We always look for emerging tech developments as well as tech signals within the other sources of change.
  12. Legal: Privacy, health and safety, labour, consumer rights, product safety 
  13. Industry: Suppliers, buyers, non-buyers (e.g. non-consumption), competitors (current and new), substitutes, distribution channels, partners, ecosystems and value-networks 
  14. Business Models: The incredible pace of technological change continues to open up more ways to make money and go-to-market. Combined with the tremendous disruptive impact business model innovation can have on traditional firms and industries, I believe it is critical to include it as a separate category for investigation e.g. Software-as-a-service, Direct-to-consumer, Pay-as-you-go

How best to use the SFF?

Most companies we encounter use the Strategic Forces Framework to help make sense of initial or deep uncertainty, optimise existing planning processes, or reinvent how that is typically performed. Some use it at the start of a strategic project at corporate levels, while others use it as a guiding principle throughout their functional or departmental work streams, processes, and planning. The key is to make a connection between each source of change and the organisation with questions such as: 

  • Who is funding new developments and experimentation in this source of change? 
  • Which populations will be directly or indirectly affected by shifts in this area? 
  • Could any changes in this source lead to future regulatory actions? 
  • How might a shift in this area lead to shifts in other sectors? 
  • Who would benefit if an advancement in this source of change winds up causing harm?

Here are some good examples of use in business as usual (BAU) provided by Amy Webb:

I have seen the most success in teams who use the macro change tool not just for a specific deliverable but to encourage ongoing signal scanning. One UK-based multinational professional services firm took the idea to an amazing extreme:

    • It built cross-functional cohorts made up of senior leaders and managers from every part of the organization all around the world.
    • Each cohort had 10 people, and each person is assigned one of the sources of macro change, along with a few more specific technology topics and topics related to their individual jobs. 
    • Cohort members are responsible for keeping up on their assigned coverage areas. A few times a month, each cohort has a 60-minute strategic conversation to share knowledge and talk about the implications of the weak signals they’re uncovering. 

Not only is this a great way to develop and build internal muscles for signal tracking, it has fostered better communication throughout the entire organization.

Whilst this process might go against the established culture of your organization, embracing uncertainty is the best way to confront external forces outside of your control. Seeking out weak signals by intentionally looking through the lenses of macro change is the best possible way to make sure your organization stays ahead of the next wave of disruption. Better yet, it’s how your team could find itself on the edge of that wave, leading your entire industry into the future.

Strategy Tools

Recently I came across Strategy Tools and the founder Christian Rangen. He has put together a series of simple tools and software to make it better, easier, and more fun to think about, and develop, strategies and plans within businesses large and small. There are multiple ways to use the tools, whether in-person or virtually via canvasses, simulations, games, apps, and more.

There are many other use cases for the tools (e.g. government, executive education etc) however the point is well made: the practice of strategy has become too hard.

As a strategy practitioner and consultant for over a decade, he is 100% right. Why this is the case is a post for another day.

For example, the below ‘Strategy Intro’ tool is visually, super simple. The hard part is obviously getting the details filled out. But having an easy way to represent something complex – in a way a teenager could understand – is a huge benefit for firms and practitioners.

This is especially relevant for those firms who believe that ‘strategy’ is spending 6-9 months every 3-5 years to create a 300 page document full of power-points which no-one ever reads, nor can remember.

The Long Term Funding Roadmap

There are 30+ more of these tools available for different business requirements (e.g. scale-up planning, transformation). Over the next few weeks I’ll be learning from Christian (via the Strategy Tools Coaching Course) deep-diving into these. I’ll be sure to write a few posts on how it goes, as well as the most relevant tools I come across.

Gig Work Acceleration

I came across an article today (here) in Forbes which summarised findings from recent PwC and BCG CEO surveys. Most of the findings were self-evident, especially around the acknowledgement of increased requirements for, and adoption of, independent consultants going forward during and beyond COVID 19:

  • More companies are likely to access freelancers both for cost efficiency and to supplement critical skill sets;
  • The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) offers interesting and important freelance work and lots of it;
  • Freelancers are a critical resource to more industries;
  • More areas of freelancing will grow in importance.
Source. BCG

 

It is hard to believe that a little over a decade ago, organisations weren’t able to easily access remote (or on-site) highly-skilled workers and teams using the internet (e.g. online marketplaces) or mobile apps.  Nor were such firms willing to do so, especially at scale and for a wider variety of higher-skilled freelance talent e.g. lawyers, management consultants.

As a lawyer in Australia and London in the mid-to-late 2000s, I remember that it was career suicide to turn your back on traditional law firms and pursue contracts with in-house legal departments. How things have changed!

 

Jeff Bezos

“We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards. That becomes the touchstone for how we invent” – Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos is arguably one of the greatest – if not the greatest – founder/CEO’s of all time. What is more unbelievable is that he is only 58, and many believe that the company he founded (Amazon) is only just getting started.

Like many of the best leaders who have disrupted industries or successfully navigated disruptive events or crises, there are many unique leadership traits which characterise Jeff Bezos. However, when I think of one thing, it is this: Customer-obsession.

Below are some ways that Jeff executes this within Amazon:

Leadership principles: It is so important to Amazon that it is the first on their list of 14. Apparently all the other principles are interchangeable, but only one must be first – customer obsession.

Core value-driver: Jeff Bezos sees that there are 5 main ways of creating shareholder value:

  • Competitor obsession
  • Business model obsession
  • Product obsession
  • Technology obsession
  • Customer obsession

While he acknowledges merits of all the approaches he believes that Customer Obsession is the healthiest approach:

Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers. They experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight. A customer-obsessed culture best creates the conditions where all of that can happen…”

Symbols: Early on in Amazon’s life, Jeff Bezos brought an empty chair into meetings so lieutenants would be forced to think about the crucial participant who wasn’t in the room: the customer. Now that ­surrogate’s role is played by specially trained employees, dubbed “Customer Experience Bar Raisers.” When they frown, vice ­presidents tremble.

Founding value: Amazon’s 1997 shareholder letter is the first documented account of the term Customer Obsession – in the heading Obsess over Customers.

While the whole letter makes an interesting read, not least the growth between 1996 and 1997 of 838% from $15.7 million to $147.8 million. It’s this paragraph discussing their relentless focus on delivering value for customers as the driver of their growth.

Customer obsessed growth has taken Amazon from a start-up in a garage to one of the leading companies in the world and disrupting multiple industries in its wake.

Customer focus vs customer obsession: Gibson Biddle, former VP of Product at Netflix, wrote an interesting blog post explaining how Netflix adopted ‘Customer Obsession’ in his time there. In the post Gibson uses an image to compare Customer Obsession with Customer Focus which properly distinguishes the strategies:

Screenshot 2019-05-17 at 21.39.05

The below is a great short video summarising Jeff’s approach to customer obsession and long-term thinking:

This video provides details on Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles with footage from various interviews with Jeff:

Other useful articles:

Below I have captured a few must-read resources to gain insight on Jeff’s leadership philosophy:

Forbes article on seven things a highly agile CEO does: Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos (2017) on his management style and philosophy 

Havard Business review article on how Jeff Bezos makes decisions

Hal Gregersen on the one skill that made Jeff Bezos so successful: Experimentation

 

 

 

Steve Jobs

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

—Apple’s “Think Different” commercial, 1997

Steve Jobs cofounded Apple in his parents’ garage in 1976, was ousted in 1985, returned to rescue it from near bankruptcy in 1997, and by the time he died, in October 2011, had built it into the world’s most valuable company. Along the way he helped to transform seven industries: personal computing, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, retail stores, and digital publishing.

Most people would agree that Steve Jobs will go down as one of the world’s great innovators alongside Edison, Ford and Disney. However, the story of Steve Jobs will likely polarise as many as it will inspire. None of these men were saints, but long after their personalities are forgotten, history will remember how they applied imagination to technology and business. His biographer Walter Isaacson explains why:

The essence of Jobs, I think, is that his personality was integral to his way of doing business. He acted as if the normal rules didn’t apply to him, and the passion, intensity, and extreme emotionalism he brought to everyday life were things he also poured into the products he made. His petulance and impatience were part and parcel of his perfectionism.

When I reflect on Steve Jobs, there are many different leadership attributes that come to mind. However, one stands out: the ability to inspire.

Whilst Jobs was famously impatient, petulant, and tough with the people around him, his treatment of people, (though not laudable) emanated from his passion for perfection and his desire to work with only the best.

Whether in times of crises or during business as usual, the ability to inspire your people (and stakeholders) is a critical trait of the disruptive leader.

Here are some great resources to learn more about how he was able to do this:

 

Reed Hastings

As part of the 30 Disruptive Leaders in 30 Days Challenge that I set myself here, today I provide some insight around one of the best examples of a disruptive leader in Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix.

If there was one word to describe how he demonstrated disruptive leadership, it would be this: Courage

Courage (noun)

  1. the ability to do something that frightens one; bravery.

“she called on all her courage to face the ordeal”

Why?

For almost a quarter of a century, Netflix and Reed Hastings have been in a constant stream of business wars, technology paradigm shifts, business model innovations, consumer habit changes, and multiple economic crashes. Despite this, Netflix has not only survived this chaos with Reed at the helm, but on multiple occasions, come out on top (as at April 2020).

A few examples of courageous (or, audacious, bold, daring, fearless) decisions made by Reed and Netflix during this time include:

  • Decision to bid $100M (at the time a significant chunk of revenue) to win House of Cards from cable rival HBO in 2011, and launch a risky backwards integration strategy into original content production;
  • Decision (2007) to open up its recommendation algorithm to the public and offer $1M to anyone who can improve it by more than 10%

However, it was the game-changing decision in the mid-2000s to pivot the company to invest and scale a streaming model which I believe was the most significant. To execute, the company split into two business units and the management team of the DVD business –  at the time representing 95% of revenue – were allegedly told by Reed to stop attending Netflix senior management meetings (see CNET article here).

Reed explains his thinking below:

“For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn’t make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming,” Hastings wrote. “Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores — do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us) because they are afraid to hurt their initial business.

“Eventually these companies realise their error of not focusing enough on the new thing, and then the company fights desperately and hopelessly to recover,” Hastings continued. “Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.”

4 Resources to Learn More About Reed’s Leadership:

CNET article (2012) – A brilliant inside look at what happened during Netflix’s 2011 price-hike crisis which cost it 800k subscribers and stock to crash 77% in 4 months. A few leadership learnings from Reed are below:

  • Do not underestimate the need to manage different businesses separately;
  • Be forthright and transparent with customers at all times
  • Take responsibility, quickly.

TED Interview with Chris Anderson (2018) – A great interview which goes deep into Reed’s leadership style, decision-making, and ethos. According to Reed:

‘…courage is a value which must permeate the organisation. employees to have the courage to speak their mind as otherwise ‘to disagree silently is disloyal. You need the debate but it is not intense; it is more curiosity, to draw people out…’

Netflix Culture and Philosophy – This has been codified on its careers site. Once you read this, you are not left to any doubt as to why Reed – and Netflix – has been able to successfully lead the firm through disruption. More than once.

Reed’s Top 10 Rules for Success (see below). This is a compilation of advice from various interviews Reed has conducted. It is nicely put together. Key themes are :

  • Be Authentic
  • Edge of Chaos
  • Create Joy
  • Known Your Mission
  • Be Honest
  • Keep Improving
  • Think Long Term
  • Focus
  • Strong Values
  • Patience

 

 

 

5 Disruptive Leaders 5 Days

Following my crisis leadership post (here), I’ve been thinking a lot about how the senior management of businesses around the world – whether multi-national companies with 300k staff or small SMEs with a few employees – are leading their firms through these disruptive times.

So starting tomorrow (Wed 8th April 2020), I’m starting a mini-challenge: 5 Disruptive Leaders in 5 Days.

Each day I will focus on a business leader who has demonstrated leadership through a disruptive crisis, whether due to competitive threats, new business models, war, product liability, terrorism, or economic meltdowns. I’ll keep it simple with a few practical tips on key things to learn, including leadership attributes they demonstrated, and links to a few resources to learn more (e.g. videos, podcasts, books, articles etc).

Right. Let’s do it #5DisruptiveLeaders5Days

Disney+ Launch

Today we signed up to Disney+ after it finally launched in the Channel Islands. We have been waiting for this day since Disney announced the service in 2019. We are big film fans but haven’t been too keen to pay £12-15 per title to stream a Disney film.

As such, we haven’t been able to introduce our 3 and 4 year old to animated classics including Aladdin, 101 Dalmatians, and Beauty and The Beast. With the lockdown and homeschooling due to the Corona Virus pandemic, the £5.99/mth represents unbelievable value.

The performance of Disney+ has been extraordinary, but not surprising. CEO Bob Iger’s M&A strategy to bolt-on franchises including Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel is now paying tremendous dividends across its digital and physical assets (e.g. theme parks).

On 3rd February 2020, the company had signed up 28.6 million global subscribers (since US launch in November 2019) with many more markets to launch. By comparison, Netflix has 149 million paid subscribers (see chart below):

disney v netflix

Despite limited content, Apple TV+ has around 33million US subscribers, although it is unclear how many are paid. Amazon Prime has also been very serious player for some time. These firms both have the deepest of pockets and serious ambitions. It will be interesting to see how these streaming wars play out.

 

Lockdown Learning

I saw a Ryan Holliday blog post today (here) where he talked about how to think about using your time effectively during the Corona Virus lockdown. In it, he referenced a quote from the author Robert Green:

There are two types of time: alive time and dead time. One is when you sit around, when you wait until things happen to you. The other is when you are in control, when you make every second count, when you are learning and improving and growing.

As we enter week 2 of lockdown, I certainly haven’t been proactive or strategic about learning or improving anything specific. But I have noticed the following changes in behaviours and habits:

  • Running to make up for no sport (45min runs with our labrador every other day)
  • Creative cooking (I cooked an amazing southern fried chicken – using panko breadcrumbs and buttermilk – and chips…on a Monday night!)

IMG_5558

  • Blogging activity has increased (have posted 5x compared to x1 over past 3 months)
  • Significant more quality time with our 3 and 4yo (I’m doing the lion-share of home-schooling at the moment)
  • Significant more VCs with family and friends (this includes a 5hr session using HouseParty on a Sat night with 3 other local friends…let’s just say Sunday was very tough)
  • Sleeping has stayed about the same (I typically get around 8hrs per night, which I need)
  • Podcasts, audiobooks, books, online articles etc have remained the same

I have downloaded Duolingo although am yet to take the next steps. I need to co-ordinate with Lydia on which language we should attempt.

Over the next few weeks, I anticipate that the above will continue. A major addition will be an independent work project or 2, and hopefully be in early development by the end of April. Whether this is research, a product (e.g. online course, e-book etc) or something else, I am yet to decide. But I will post an update here soon when I know more.