I spend a fair amount of time in large corporations – helping them transition from the industrial era to the technology era. I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes you can see the future of the organisation based on subtle hints in the physical environment. And hence the title of this post. Two different organisations I visited had signs on their bathroom cubicle walls which told me all I needed to know about these companies and their prospects.
“Did you bring your best self to work today? Can you show us something new and amazing we haven’t thought of?”
“Please leave the toilet the way you found it.”
Both of these signs tell me so much about the culture of the organisations in question. Whether or not an opinion is valued, whether contributions should be original, what they think about rules and following instructions. But most of all whether they regard their staff as adults or children. The second is interesting, because it also infers that if there’s a problem, you should definitely not take any responsibility to improve things.
Let’s also remember that someone had to think of these, decide it was what the company valued, print them and put them up…. this isn’t just a slight office quirk, it’s a public display of deep corporate values. The reason I decided to point this out is because if there has ever been a time in business when doing things as they were done before is a dangerous tactic, that time is now.
Tonight I’ll be doing a presentation at the amazing building above. The new Docklands Library – a library…. the original internet of knowledge transfer. It’s for the Future Crunch event, and I’ll be doing a talk I’ve never done before: The Autonomous Corporation: It’s kinda Star Trek. A short 20 minute presentation which will cover a few of these thought jams:
Language is a technology
Corporations are a form of technology
Technology removes human labour
Technology is designed to serve humans
Technology is a form of biology
Corporations need to serve humans… again
I’ll leave it at that for now. After the talk we’ll have a Q and A session and chat. But join me tonight for some thinking time on how to build better commercial ecosystem for living. Meet some interesting people, leave the TV and chores at home and explore your mind. It should be fun.
Things are changing so rapidly that we are again suffering from future shock. It’s hard to comprehend the pace of change, not just to business or pop culture, but to the way we live our lives. We’ve had for the best part of 100 years, certainly the last 50, a very stable business infrastructure and lifestyle. This makes us feel as though the changes we see are new to the human experience, when in fact they are only new to the experience of our generation. To understand it, we need to take an anthropological view of business and relearn the lessons we forgot, that other generations already learned. We need to lose our immediacy bias and review how our species has coped with radical change before.
None of this is new in the human sense, just the industrial sense. As the industrial era transitions into the technology era it’s worth worth taking a look at what happened when had epoch shifts in the past.
It won’t be your phone, laptop, television, car, your micro electricity storage grid, your thermostat or your fridge. It will be your toilet.
You may not have expected that. It will be a top of the technology chain looking after the most important thing in our lives – our health. Nothing is more important, and it just so happens that sensor technology is entering an inflection point where dramatic technology advances will change medicine and health as much as germ theory did.
All forms of technology in our connected world are under going rapid price deflation. Power is increasing and prices are dropping exponentially. The technology inside the technology is also benefiting from the same pattern of accelerating returns. This means that many vital sensors, like those found inside the 1.75 billion smart phones which have already been manufactured, have prices at the disposable level. Mere cents on the dollar. It’s this era of disposable technology that will drive the web of things era. But what it also means is that powerful high end technology is on the same path. Technology that would once have only had a place in a high end laboratory will very soon have a place in our bathrooms. It’s a pattern we’ve already seen with consumer and media based technology and widgets.
You’re toilet will become a a micro testing lab which will keep track of your health so that you don’t have to. It will include sensors of every type, measuring every kind of human feedback possible – all integrated and web enabled. It will have a DNA code of all of the members in a household, their health records and constantly be testing human waste for any anomalies which might not end well if left unchecked. It will know you are sick, or about to get sick long before the symptoms arrive. It will create a tracking timeline of changes in your health over long periods and provide the ultimate in quantified self.
It will weigh you every time you sit down, and use micro sweat to determine your daily levels of body fat and blood sugars.
It will talk to your doctor, and provide a much better assessment of what’s going on than you do when the doctor asks your those very important questions you can never remember the exact answers to.
It will have a convivial relationship with your fridge and cupboard and know what’s stored in it and what actually gets eaten. It will have a similar relationship with your kitchen and ovens.
It will make auto suggestions to your shopping list when you’re down on vitamin c, or protein or calcium, and post red flags with other items you’ve scheduled for delivery which are not in your best interest.
It will certainly track your movement via your smart devices (watch, phone and other wearables) and know what type and frequency of exercise you’re getting. It will update the shopping list to include the right foods for your level of movement and nutrition needs.
It will assess the health of your skin through the seat and track sun exposure. It will be linked to your shower which will take daily photos of your skin to check for dangerous sun spots.
In fact, it will do much more than this.
This then raises all sorts of important questions about which previously unrelated industries should be collaborating with each other. If Plumbing and medicine start to matter to each other and packaged groceries and white goods matter to each other, then you can be certain there’s an industry you haven’t thought twice about that will start to matter to you. And probably quicker than you think.
Our toilet will be the smartest device in the house, looking after the most important things in your life, your health and your family. It’s another reminder that technology is neither good or bad, but a tool we can choose use to make life better and even extend it.
As my regular readers would know, I’v recently released a book: The Great Fragmentation – why the future of business is small. Now live and available for sale.
I recently sent an email to some of my supporters and friends inviting them to a shindig to help me celebrate – just some drinks and food among like minds. Then I thought, holy wow, there are no greater supporters than the readers of my blog. You’re all part of my inner circle. Despite the fact that 80% of my readers are overseas, there must be a few out there in Melbourne town. And while some of you already have the invite I’m sure, some might not, and I thought I’d put it up here.
So my dear readers, if you happen to be in Melbourne, or live in Melbourne, then I’d love to shout you a drink and thank you this Wednesday night. A little get together from 6-8pm. It’s in the city and we are being hosted by Michelle Matthews from Deck of Secrets fame, who has probably the coolest warehouse apartment in all of Melbourne. The details of where to come are here. We only have room for around 50 people, so first in first served. It’s kinda risky putting up on open invite, but hey, risk is good. Oh, and the short notice is because, I felt kinda weird having an event where I was the focus, and my buddies (Michelle & Co) kinda just organised it for me. Nice to have friends like that.
Hope to see you Wednesday night from 6pm.
Let’s imagine something horrible for a few moments. Let’s imagine that you die. That something unexpected occurs and your life is over. The plans you had, the lives you’ve touched would all be thrown into disarray. It is incomprehensible to imagine this, our own death. It’s as if we have this built in mechanism to avoid the mere thought of it. But if it did happen, what would happen at the company you work at? Deadlines would be missed. Some stuff wouldn’t get done. Co-workers would be sad or even shocked. Friends we’ve made would be devastated. There’d be a lot of upheaval, but here’s the over riding reality of you dying and if you work for a large company:
You’d be replaced in 4 weeks.
It’s even foreseeable that the process for replacement would begin the same day the news dropped.
Now let’s compare that to what would happen with your home and family. Lives would be devastated and irreparable. You would never be replaced and the pain of the loss would last a lifetime. Young children would be especially impacted. The hole could not be filled be anyone, anytime, ever.
So why is it that we work late? So why is it we put up with corporate bullying? So why is it we continue to work for jerks for career advancement? Why is it we give large portions of our waking lives to a faceless corporation? Why would we give an inordinate amount of time and effort to an organisation when the ultimate reality is that we are disposable? The next time you have to make a choice to stay late, play the corporate game and over deliver to corporation XYZ, and choose between the job and the family, maybe you should think about how they’d act if the unthinkable happened. Once you remind yourself of this you’ll know what choice to make.
It’s another reason why we need to listen to the call to run our own race, and create our own future and for independence. The people who deserve us the most, are those who couldn’t live without us.
There’s a lot of talk about the amazing things beacons will be able to do at retail level. And all of it is true – at least from a functional perspective. For the first time products will be able to directly interact with potential customers at store level. Physical spaces people spend time in will be able to interact with the people inside those spaces. Department stores, farmers markets, concert halls and football stadiums are all being filled with beacon technology. And it will give birth to a new era of pocket spam. I wonder if what we really need right now is more vendors shouting at us with offers we didn’t know we wanted? I doubt it.
So, here’s the startup opportunity for Beacons which few are focusing on just now.
How to stop them.
Yes, the spam filter equivalent for the intrusive beacon. And I know you’re thinking that this time it’s different, because it wont happen unless we allow push messages. But when was the last time you read all those terms and conditions for a web based service? Often we say yes to something before all the details emerge and when the world was slightly different. It’s our legacy decisions which get taken advantage of.
Often the market for the hotdogs around the stadium is bigger than what is on the main playing field. And there’s always less people watching that game while you set up shop on the sidelines.
To do lists are just one of those things. We know they matter, a lot. We know that having them and following them certainly leads to getting more done. Then why is it, that they tend to get longer and not shorter? It’s because not all tasks are created equal. It’s because our human operating system is a 200,000 year old piece of software not designed for a list based society. Let me explain.
The Urgent and the Important
Generally the things we do can be broken down into either Urgent or Important. If it’s neither of these things it shouldn’t be on the list. Urgent stuff has deadlines and customer requirements and might even be a fire that needs extinguishing. Important tasks are the other things we’d like to do, and know we should do, but very often don’t get around to. We don’t get around to them because they’re well, not urgent. Our DNA is designed to respond to urgent, to fear, to danger. And while urgent tasks don’t mean a sabre tooth tiger is going to eat us for dinner, our emotive reaction is much the same. It’s why fear and urgency most often wins. In a modern, sans sabre tooth tiger world, we need to do the opposite of what our instinct tells us to.
The irony is that the less important tasks we do, the more urgent things pop up. By only doing the urgent we create a perpetual cycle of inefficiency. We start carrying buckets of water to the ‘fire’, instead of building a pipeline and hose system for the time a fire breaks out. If we ever want to get in front, and start hacking our to do list we need to undertake some counter intuitive actions. Are you ready for it?
- We need to miss some deadlines.
- We need to disappoint some people.
- We need to let some urgent things go unattended and go, wrong, break, fail.
- We need to embrace a metaphorical ground zero.
To get started it is worth splitting your do list into two columns: Urgent and Important Tasks – see what gets your attention at the end of each day and you’ll see the trap we all fall into. You’ll also see that important tasks also change their shape and often become urgent later. What we need to do is the important things which build a structure and system to remove many of the recurring urgencies. Once we have to courage to do this, we’ll end up being the people who can respond to urgent, the fewer times they occur. It may even be worth taking secret holiday for a week (pretend to be out of town, off line and on vacation) to get your important stuff in order and start a new pattern.
Happy To Do list hacking!
In a very short period of time, opinions of anything can change. It wasn’t so long ago that these statements were made about the internet as a commercial platform:
- It’s for nerds. “Fine, you nerds can do what you want but normal people are never going to use this thing.”
- It’s completely decentralized, which means you can’t trust it. No business is ever going to do anything on it because businesses won’t work on an untrusted environment. There won’t ever be any e-commerce.
- There will never be any internet payments. No one will put their credit card on the internet.
- It’s an open-source kind of thing so there will be no Internet companies.
- It’s got all these technical deficiencies. It’s slow. It’s unreliable. It doesn’t work right. When you do a search, sometimes you get an answer back and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes when you dial in you get a busy signal.
- What happen if your ISP goes out of business? Then you can’t get back online.
- Once you get on the internet, even assuming you get on the internet, there’s nothing to do. There’s no content. Time magazine isn’t online, the New York Times isn’t online. It’s just a bunch of nerd stuff.
These classic soundbites come from Marc Andreessen in a recent interview while referencing those who think bitcoin will never be more than some kind of digital space oddity. While we are on the topic of economic change, it is telling to have a look at the market valuations of the top 10 internet companies. That is, companies less than 20 years old who could not have existed pre dot com. The US top 10 public companies now have an accumulated value of $1.168 trillion dollars.
- Google – $585 billion
- Facebook – $170 billion
- Amazon – $155 billion
- Ebay – $65 billion
- Priceline – $65 billion
- Yahoo – $36 billion
- Salesforce.com – $36 billion
- Twitter – $24 billion
- Linkedin – $21 billion
- Expedia – $11 billion
We can also add the upcoming float of Alibaba.com to this at anything between a further $120 to $200 billion.
This takes my mind directly to the potential of 3D printing, web of things and the solar energy industry. All of which are in their 1993 era. The only question remaining for entrepreneurs reading is this; What are you going to do about it?