Boardroom Disruption: How Silicon Valley and the Fear of Missing Out Can Reinvent Your Business

FOMO

The Silicon Valley tech-mythology-machine, replete as it is with unicorns and trolls, is a wondrous device designed as much to assist in reality distortion and suspension as it is in self-paving its streets with digital gold.

We all know the story of how the Valley has reinvented itself through various technology phases. Currently it is awash with apps and social media. Even though they helped create this social flow, a few of the tech pundits are swimming against this tide, reinventing themselves as mindfulness gurus, but that’s a fairy tale for another time.

There is a new tide washing into the Valley: autonomy – artificial intelligence, self-driving everything, asset-rich services on demand and cognitive systems that know us to the point where they are 2-3 moves ahead of us in our own personal game of thrones. Their aim is to be 6 moves ahead, and they are rapidly progressing to this point.

But this is all backdrop.

The real foundation of Silicon Valley, the grease in its gears is FEAR. In particular, the FEAR of MISSING OUT (FOMO) is driving the Valley’s sense of urgency.

FOMO is the ultimate reality distortion field creator. This is best explained through examining the fluidity between viewing a new venture in terms of its friction points versus how much it could scale with limitless fuel. Take Uber as an example. Donning friction-tainted lenses restricted many from seeing it as anything more than yet another taxi service, operating in a highly regulated market with well entrenched incumbents. However, for those who looked at Uber through fuel-filled lenses, they saw its true potential, namely to revolutionise transport. They were able to suspend reality long enough to understand the ultimate promise of Uber.  Those who then went on to invest early enough into the company may be rewarded handsomely.

In a low FOMO environment, i.e. most other places on the planet than Silicon Valley, there is little incentive for people to don fuel-filled lenses. They have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for a venture to achieve sufficient traction, they wait for the entrepreneurs to derisk the business. However in a high FOMO environment, those who hesitate: miss out.

Nowhere else on the planet is the FOMO-meter so high. In fact, it is off the charts in comparison to many other geographies. The same can be said for the boardrooms of so many companies. Does your company have a FOMO culture at executive level? For most organisations the answer is a resounding “no”. How then can incumbents compete against agile Silicon Valley startups? The short answer is that they cannot.

Ask the former Kodak board if they understood FOMO. Apparently not.

I’d like to advocate that every board, every senior executive needs to up their FOMO ante. How high you might ask? Not to hysterical levels, but high enough to palpably increase the urgency around tackling disruptive innovation. High enough to also burn the boats and chart new courses if necessary. Definitely higher than the dual path some would advocate of keeping business as usual turning over while exploring new paths on the side.

How do you instill FOMO into the boardroom?

1. In the short term, have your board do a tour of the Valley. Not the bells and whistles version with champagne on the tour bus, but the grungy start up tour where they get exposed to the highest levels of FOMO.

2. In the mid term, look to bring Silicon Valley into the boardroom. Place at least one FOMO expert on the board. Their experience and skills will prove invaluable to you in dealing with the status quo.

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Does Your Business Have the Capabilities for Achieving Exponential Growth?

Growth
As CEOs and Boards you are faced with an unprecedented level of pressure to achieve growth. Your company needs to stay ahead of increasingly aggressive competition, from other companies in your industry, from outside your industry and even from scrappy startups who define their own playbook.

Growth is not a lever you turn on or off at will. It requires focus, it requires a set of core capabilities that work together as a well-honed scalable operating system. Does your company have such an operating system in place? To achieve the nirvana of hyper-growth, this operating system needs to be working at peak performance capacity. How close is your business to operating at optimal capacity?

THE HYPER-GROWTH CAPABILITY QUIZ

We’ve designed a set of questions that help you uncover whether your business has scale in its DNA, whether it will be constrained by limitations and frictions and whether it has the capability to easily add fuel into its mix.

You can access the quiz via exoscalr.com or directly here.

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CEO Top Priorities: How to Achieve Growth Using the Universal Rules of Exponential Scaling

SydneyOverwhelmingly, CEOs’ mission-critical priorities over the last few years have been and continue to be dominated by growth. Their focus is increasingly on digital, and if you consider the combination of growth and information technology, what we call GROWIT, this represents a very high percentage of the priority focus for CEOs in 2015.

What is GROWIT?

Growth can mean many things, but for Fortune 500 CEOs in 2015 it mainly means moving into new geographies and new markets. Within the IT part of GROWIT there is more and more impetus around the shift into digital.

More CEOs see digital as having a disruptively deep impact than those who don’t and the vast majority of CEO’s feel that technology innovation is accelerating faster and faster.

Against this backdrop, our focus when working as transformation coaches with CEOs is to help them achieve rapid or hyper growth by utilising the Universal Rules of Exponential Scaling.

We help them focus by keeping things simple, by reducing things down to their essence and making them measurable, repeatable and improvable. At EXOscalr we make use of a very, very simple scaling algorithm – scaling involves adding fuel and removing friction.

  The higher the fuel:friction differential, the higher their company’s growth velocity.

Let’s use talent as an example. Talent is an essential area that CEOs focus on to generate the fuel needed for growth. At EXOscalr we optimise the ability of our clients to attract and retain top talent through the use of the Talent Density Algorithm –  essentially,

the higher their talent density, the less requirement for process, and
–  the higher their process, the lower their top talent retention.

In this respect, top talent becomes a magnet for other top talent, fuelling business growth. In contrast, companies that are too process heavy and too bureaucratically organized contain too many frictions for top talent either to want to work there or to stay working there.

It’s very important to understand that the Fuel/Friction differential will change over time. This is the whole point and we encourage CEOs and other business leaders to get granular with how they measure, monitor and progress their interaction with this differential.

What can CEOs do to improve their Fuel:Friction Differential?

CEOs can take control of the Fuel:Friction Differential by engaging with their executive team as follows:

  • In regular exec team meetings, let’s say weekly*, they throw up on a board all the factors that are holding the company back, and the opportunities they have to push it forward.
  • The team quickly diagnoses the current balance of Fuel/Friction forces, then ranks the items by their impact and ease of execution.  Priority is given to the high-impact, low-difficulty items first, and they spend the next week addressing these forces.  As the Fuel/Friction equation improves, the company is set to grow faster.
  • Repeat. Regularly.

* [We suggest the frequency of these meetings should depend how much growth features as a company’s mission critical priority – if it is imperative and the urgency is being driven by facing corporate extinction because of competitive threat, for example, then weekly meetings may not be the right frequency, daily may be more suitable.]

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Achieving Flow In The Face of Near Death: My Recent Experience

Flow

I had one of those major mind focusing events over the past three weeks.

I collapsed on the evening of Sunday, 16th February for 15 seconds and then went into an extraordinary conscious ventricular tachycardia at 200 bpm. The ambulance crew were astounded that I was conscious. The trick was flow – I’ve been a proponent since my youth when I was an elite athlete and serious surfer. I managed to pull myself into the zone and maintained this on the journey to the hospital. En route a code 3 had been called and I was greeted at Royal North Shore Emergency by a crack team of 15 doctors. I was still at 170 bpm and they were literally just about to stop my heart and try to shock me out of the tachycardia, when to their amazement I self reverted down to 70 bpm. I’d like to say it was flow again, but my humility refuses and I dare not say I purposefully did that all myself.

I was very lucky. This conscious VT event took place at home and my quick thinking family called 000 immediately. That morning I’d done a stand up paddling training session alone and in the dark, with no safety devices. And the next morning I was scheduled to fly to New Zealand on business. If this event had happened in the air or out on the water I’d very likely not be having this dialogue.

After a series of extensive tests, the specialists determined the best course of action for me would be the insertion of an implantable cardioverter defribrillator. The plumbing of my heart reflected my super fit status, but for some reason the electrics were out of whack.

I had the device installed on Thursday, and on Friday afternoon I walked out of intensive care for the first time in a week and into a private room for recuperation. I felt like a new man, but this feeling was shortlived. Unfortunately a clot had developed and within fifteen minutes my speech slurred and I lost all feeling on my right hand side. Again I was very lucky, as my wife noticed the signs of a stroke immediately and called the medical staff who jumped into action. It was a very scary feeling and not one I’d like to repeat. Within about 20 minutes I began to get feeling back, again to the amazement and relief of the medical staff and my family. I’d had a mini stroke or transient ischemic attack and the clot had moved through my brain.

I again found myself in Emergency and it was established that while I had about 85% recovered from the stroke there was still a strong possibility of further clots. I was given a thrombolysis – a very powerful procedure that reversed all effects of the stroke and broke up any other clots. This was a very intense six hours as there was the possibility of a haematoma developing on the brain.

I made it through that phase, but a haematoma did develop around my defib wound site. I spent another week in intensive care and returned home on Saturday 1st March. The haematoma developed some complications and a week later I was operated on to drain the site – the fear being infection. I remained in hospital on intravenous antibiotics and was discharged on Monday, 10th March.

All through this experience I was thinking about flow, performance and optimizing human development, aided in part by reading Steven Kotler’s book, The Rise of the SuperMan.

Commenting on my experience, Steve says, “It  did seem like you’ve moved through fight or flight and into flow – a very difficult thing to do, so you have some mad skills!”

This whole episode has got me really thinking hard about what I do with my life once I’ve recuperated. I know I have been given a gift, a second chance, and I also know that I’ve adopted a new mantra, GO BIG.

I’m still working this all through, processing and thinking about what I do next. I’m going to have some interesting conversations over the coming weeks.

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Big Data: Have You Carved Your Dugout Canoe?

Technology pioneer George Dyson spoke to the Long Now Foundation this week in San Francisco about “The Digital Universe And Why Things Appear To Be Speeding Up”.

His first nugget was that at the dawn of the digital universe over 60 years ago it was all of 5 kilobytes in size. In todayspeak that’s about half a second of MP3 audio! It’s purpose was as far away from making music as you could imagine. It was set up to design hydrogen bombs.

Fast forward and as the digital footprint expanded exponentially, its acceleration became reflected in the self replication of computers: the pace today is 5-6 trillion connected resistors being added per second.

George used a brilliant analogy, that as a long time waterman resonates with me – as a kayak builder, he initially emulated the wood-scarce Arctic natives to work with minimum frame inside a skin craft. But (today, we are) in the tropics, where there is a surplus of wood, natives make dugout canoes, formed by removing wood.

According to George, “We’re now surrounded by so much information we have to become dugout canoe builders. The buzzword of last year was ‘big data.’

Stewart Brand, from the Long Now Foundation, defines the situation today as: Big data is what happened when the cost of storing information became less than the cost of throwing it away.

Have you started carving your canoe yet?

FounderTalk: Pic-See’s Yen Lim discusses apps with a purpose

Pic-See

Sydney-based Yen Lim has developed Pic-See, an incentive-driven visual communication system for children with early learning needs. She was inspired to embark on this journey by her experience working with a 3 year old boy with autism while she was completing her Honours Degree in Psychology at The University of Sydney.

As a passionate psychologist she believes that research and technology can, and should, be integrated into widely accessible solutions that improve quality of life. Through this filter she observed how special needs teachers were taking many hours to source and create libraries of visuals to use in day-to-day therapy. It struck her that there must be thousands of parents, carers, teachers and therapists around the world laminating paper-based visuals and she thought, “Surely, there has to be an easier way!”

This is so often the catalytic event that launches entrepreneurs into action!

The original concept behind Pic-See was to make it easier to construct and implement visuals, so valuable time and energy would not be wasted. Yen felt that time should rather be invested in what matters most to dedicated parents, teachers and therapists, namely engaging and connecting with those they care for.

In developing Pic-See Yen wanted to utilise touch-screen technology to reduce the long-term labour-intensive, environmental and monetary costs associated with producing visual communications systems.

Pic-See not only replaces outdated paper-based systems, but also captures the imagination of users to make visually-based learning fun. The app is packed with images and animations designed by graphic artists, purposely created sound effects to enthral users, an drag-drop interface to build visual sequences, the ability to customise visuals with imported images, the ability record audio to promote verbal communication skills, an emotions centre, a choice board, and a data centre to capture the achievements of users and areas in need of further development.

 

Yen’s key lessons learned in embarking on this adventure are:

  •  It’s a full time job. Surround yourself with people who can help.

What she thought would be a straightforward app to develop, soon turned out to be a highly complicated technical project. Being new to the world of entrepreneurship she had a steep learning curve. She says, “Be prepared to dedicate yourself as it’s a full time job. Surround yourself  with people who can make the journey easier. If I could go back in time, I would definitely seek out a mentor who can guide me through the app space and the broader ecosystem, not just to survive but to thrive.”

  • Once the app is developed it’s just the beginning

The market moves quickly. App-spaces are dynamic environments. You have less than 18 months to take your product to launch, listen and respond to the ecosystem, keep your ideas fresh and turn your brand into a household name. This is a process that requires time, perseverance, a lot of hard work and a willingness to venture into the unknown.

  • Marketing is everything

A strategic marketing plan is essential. It’s one thing to have a great product, but if no-one is benefiting from it your app can get swept away by a flooded market.

  • You need  a strong business model

Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.” Having a great idea for an app is definitely the first step, but deciding to take the plunge, backing yourself and growing a startup, is arguably the most difficult. A strong financial and business plan is needed for your idea to realise its true potential.

  • Secure funding

Passion has driven the development of this app. Yen invested her personal funds into Pic-See. She strongly suggests seeking government grants (if available) and skilling up on how to approach investors.

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