Do you know what you’re really selling?

GE Jet Engine B787

I’ve become convinced the reason businesses get overthrown, is that they get confused with what they actually sell. They define their business by what they make, instead of the problems they solve.

The problem with defining a business by outputs instead of solutions, is that companies can fall in love with their infrastructures. Which makes it nearly impossible to transition to new solutions which come from different systems.

I recently came across a very novel way to redefine what is sold. Surprisingly this happened at GE Aviation, a big, monolithic and justifiably conservative organisation. GE recently announced it will be selling its aircraft engines, not at a price, but at a cost per thrust. Wow.

Thrust is the clear benefit of jet engines, so why not sell the solution. Very innovative indeed. Why would they do this? It enables GE to own the solution rather than a particular product which solves it today. It gives GE a greater influence on an IoT driven Aviation Industry, better feedback loops, and it creates a permanent platform they control for aircrafts and their operators. Add to this a cheaper acquisition price of engines and everyone is happy. You can read more about it here.

So, what is it your business is really selling? 

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

10 public speaking hacks to do before you hit the stage

In my line of work I do my fair share of keynote speeches. Now, I’ll preface this by saying I’ve never been formally trained, but I’m fortunate enough that I do get paid for it. So, I have a few ideas on how to do it well. I’ve practiced this craft for over 20 years and have developed my own set of things to do before the speech itself. This is not a how to ‘do the speech’, but what to do in the moments leading up as preparation. There’s some good hacks in this list that anyone can use immediately to make their stage time a bit more effective.

  1. Read through your notes the night before. It has to be the night before so your mind has time to digest while you sleep.
  2. Assess the room you’ll be presenting in while no one is there. Imagine yourself walking around and engaging the audience. Get the feel of the space.
  3. Ensure the tech is working. The best way to do this is not to have any tech. You are the technology they came to see – a human giving a human performance.
  4. Do some pushups or other powering posing 5 mins before you go on stage (even hide in a toilet to do it) to create a winning feeling in your mind.
  5. Talk to at least 3 people from the audience to go on stage. Be nice and intro yourself to them. Tell them one cool thing you’ll be mentioning and why it matters. Like you’re letting them in on a secret. These people are now ‘barracking’ for you like a football supporter. Others around them catch their positive vibe.
  6. Tell these 3 people you’ll look for them specifically during the talk – they’ll think you do even when you simply look in their general direction – this takes it to next level personal delivery.
  7. Go through your killer funny bits or poignant moments pausing after each one, imagining the audience reaction you desire. Believe it has already happened, and then it will.
  8. Drink some water immediately before you go on stage to ensure your throat doesn’t dry out, especially if you like coffee.
  9. Brush your teeth, rinse with mouthwash or have something fresh and minty in your mouth. A fresh mouth creates a confident mind.
  10. Finally, remember the audience wants you to do well. They have invested their most scarce asset, ‘their time’, and they’ll be looking for your signals to engage with you. Presenting is always a team effort with the audience.

Oh, how did I learn to do speeches? Simply by paying close attention to others I thought did it well. I take the best of what they do, and incorporate their pieces into my natural ‘Stevie’ style. And let’s be honest, the best way to do anything is to learn from ‘them’ so you can be the best ‘you’.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

The one thing you should take without asking in business

Chairman Mao

When we’re driven by the desire to do more for our startup, customers, or even an employer, we often think about constraints.“If they’d just promote me, I’d do this, that and the other thing.” We hope for a stamp of approval that it’s Ok for us to go and do the thing the business so desperately needs.

But instead of waiting to be given authority, what we need to do is take responsibility. This will help us understand more about ourselves and those we work with than waiting ever will.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation. 

The surprising price increase of Televisions


It seems like the price of televisions have come down a lot in recent years. Early flat screen TV’s cost tens of thousands of dollars. But when we stop and think, the truth is the exact opposite. Yes, the amount of money needed to buy a TV has never been lower, but the cost to watch one has never been higher.

Yes, right now is the time when how we use our ‘spare amount of it’ has never been more important. The cost of watching traditional TV, could be many thousands of dollars in opportunity cost. It has never been easier to learn anything for free, right now with other screens at our disposal. The skills we may learn could be those people pay a premium for…. they could be the informal and emerging skills that didn’t get covered in school. Any of us, could transform ourselves and our lives at the whim of re-allocating some of our down time.

While we always think about how cheap something is to buy, a better approach is to think about how expensive it is to use.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Why predicting the future is more about sociology than technology

Technologies arriving by 2025

This chart above is from a new World Economic Forum report, Deep Shift: Technology Tipping Points and Societal Impact, predicts 21 dates in the future when previously unimaginable innovations will enter our daily lives, transforming the way we live and the way communities and governments function. And after perusing the report, I couldn’t help but think that the results focused too deeply on technological capabilities rather than social and economic incentive. It seems that while predicting the future is always a difficult task, every time I read such predictions, human behaviour is not considered at a deep enough level.

I disagree with most of the predictions above, but mostly for two reasons:

  1. The flawed and simplistic definitions from the past. (This is how companies get disrupted by the way, but more on that later)
  2. The lack of consideration given to how incentives shape behaviour.

Simplistic Definitions:

Report Claim: 10% of people wearing clothes connected to the internet. Reality: We are already wearing technology. Our phone is a device we have been wearing as clothing for nearly 10 years. The definition given in the report doesn’t serve the function of why you’d wear technology – it’s too limited. It’s a yesterday definition.

Report Claim: Over 50% of internet traffic to homes to be for appliances & devices. Reality: The internet of things (IoT) in the home will be at least 10 times the size of humans connected, current estimates are for 50 billion items. So in pure connections it will be way bigger than their estimate. But as a portion of traffic and bandwidth it will still be small compared to human generated internet traffic. Most IoT devices will have simple sensors and awareness functions through connected nodes, which in real terms generate very little traffic as long as we maintain Net Neutrality. I’d also add that we are already generating more than 50% of web traffic through home connected devices – aren’t TV’s, smart phones and laptops in the home ‘devices’? Again the way things are defined mislead.

Report Claim: First city of over 50,000 people with no traffic lights. Reality: We already have hundreds of cities around the world of more than 50,000 people without a road rule in sight, let alone traffic lights. Seriously, have any of these people behind the report ever been outside of the confines of Davos or their Ivy League Learning Institute? China, India, Indonesia, Africa, Eastern Europe and South America all have cities that fit this definition today. Another example that the world view of the economically fortunate is often myopic and first world centric.

Report Claim: 1st 3D printed production car by 2025 Reality: At volume this will not make sense, but it also depends on what they mean by ‘Production’. If less than 10,000 units then this is a clear ‘No’ as the industrial production line has advantages 3D printing will never have, an undisputed fact among 3D printing experts. While many parts of cars will come from printers, the entire production process will not. In fact, they key benefit of 3D printing is the exact opposite of ‘production efficiency’, it’s about customisation. They’re missing the reason.

Ironically, the reason many companies get disrupted through technology is how they define their business. They define things in terms of what they sell, and not the problems they solve. Technology often unveils new ways to solve old problems, which renders yesterdays logistics and infrastructure outdated. 

Incentives & Social Considerations

Report Claim: First Robotic Pharmacist will arrive by 2025. Reality: We already don’t need pharmacists and it is largely the strength of their government lobby that keeps them putting little labels on little bottles. There is no economic incentive for the pharmacists to replace themselves, and so I doubt they’ll let it happen. If this incentive existed, they’d already be selling medicine in grocery stores. If however, the report is referring to 3D printed medicine, well the FDA approved that in August this year.

Report Claim: 5% of consumer products printed in 3D by 2025. Reality: While I think 3D printers will be in a majority of homes, it’s still like 1975 was for personal computers. An entire infrastructure of software, materials and socialisation around the industry needs to be created. The opportunity is really in platforms to support the potential of 3D printing – read here, selling shovels, not finding gold nuggets. But let’s add the social reality to the mix. We are more than 20 years into the World Wide Web and e-commerce is still only 7% of US retail sales. And this is more evolutionary and easier to adjust to socially than 3D printing items is. This tells us the truth more than any predictions will.

Report Claim: First AI machine on a corporate board of Directors by 2025. Reality: As per the pharmacists being a Board Member is not a question of need and decision making ability, it’s a question of power, influence & gettin’ paid. The incentive for board members to replace themselves, is really not there. If someone does it, and they will, it will be a mainly be about company PR.

Report Claim: Driverless cars will represent 10% of all cars on US roads. Reality: This number will be significantly higher, maybe even higher than 50%. This is true for a few reasons. Firstly, the cost of self driving cars will be a lot lower than people expect. Because cars are now rolling computers, the same pricing dynamics now apply. Costs decline while performance increases exponentially. I’ve already written about why every car on the road will be electric in 10 years, and when we add things like; the ability to watch movies or sleep while travelling; having an extra drink after work on a Friday night, putting your car to work to earn money while you’re not using it (if indeed you own one); and not having to pay insurance for a self driver, then the incentives for self drive put this in the smart phone category – we curve jump to it as soon as it’s available.

The problem with the report, was in my view, that it was done by asking opinions and averaging them out. A bit like designing something by committee. You end up with well, average results which probably don’t reflect the real views of any individual who was asked.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

The secret truth about what we wear to work

t-shirt with sneakersA friend of mine does keynote speaking. One of his topics is company culture and how it impacts an organisation’s ability to move quickly and adapt to disruptive forces. He recently did a gig which was one of many they planned with him around the country – a roadshow. After the first gig he was really pleased with how well it seemed to go. He got amazing feedback from the audience and people from within the company he was working for. But then something happened….

He was asked by a senior executive if he could wear ‘Business Attire’ at the next session. His initial response was, this is my business attire. [For context, he’s the kind of guy who wears jeans, a t-shirt, a nice jacket over the top of said t-shirt and runners – clean new ones.] Then the executive, said, I understand, but could you wear a suit to the next session. And this is what he said:

“I’ll do it if you change your logo.”

Wow, that took some courage. I’m not sure I would have had the guts to say that. But I can’t help but agree with his sentiments. What my friend said was totally on point. They hired him to help the organisation change, but then wanted him, to become them. It just doesn’t make any sense. After his jarring comment, the executive and my friend had an important discussion about how simple things like clothing can impact the way a company does things. And the executive to his credit, understood the importance of ‘uniforms’ and culture.

We all wear uniforms to work, even when we are not in the Army. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s overt, but it always says much about hierarchy and whether we follow rules. The stricter the uniform, the stronger the hierarchy. Organisations with an informal, yet ‘expected uniform’ have less freeform thinking, and a culture of rule followers. Just take a look around this week at what people wear – from McDonalds, to bank tellers, to politicians, to creative types and you’ll see their culture on display.

We can use our uniform to immediate advantage. Often the decision is as simple as do we want to fit in this time, or stand out on purpose?

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.