Thrive in an Age of Disruption


Disruption is the new normal. Everywhere we look we find traditional business models under threat from emerging players, technology creating new opportunities for fast-moving businesses and the creaking bones of industrial age enterprises labouring to stay current, fresh or even just relevant. The darlings of our blue chip stock markets have given way to tighter, more technologically aggressive firms who wield tech not for COMPETITIVE advantage but to create UNFAIR advantages. Facebook and Google are the obvious examples, but there are more. Many more.

Many of these massively scaled companies have locked their valuations away from the markets – creating a vibrant behind-closed-doors market where Venture Capital firms tease out $1 billion valuations. Just take a look at the Wall Street Journal’s Billion Dollar Startup Club to get a sense of the scale in operation. Uber, with a current valuation of over $50 billion, leads the pack and now boasts a valuation way in excess of General Motors.


But while Uber, is on the surface, a business about transportation – and cars in particular – it is far from being a car company as we have known them. It is, in fact, a technology company. A software company. And a data company. It is disruption paradigms at every turn.

Even on a more micro level, disruption is taking place in our suburbs and in our streets. The NBN – when it arrives at it eventually will – will sweep non-digital businesses away in a tide of data. And those local institutions like post offices and newsagencies that are the hubs of our suburban malls, will be the first to go (if they have not disappeared already).


Disruption is not destruction.

It is possible to not only thrive in an age of disruption but to also prosper. And this is what I will be discussing at Newcastle’s DiG Festival on 12-13 October. In fact, the whole two days of the conference are devoted to the theme.

So if you’re wondering what disruption has in store for your career, business or enterprise, you might find this is the best investment you have made in years. See you there!

New Course: Mastering Twitter for Business this Weekend for Free


UPDATE 2: Thanks for the great feedback via Twitter and email. I am pleased you are finding the course useful. As we have already hit the limit on the previous discount coupon, I have released another code. Use THIS LINK before midnight on Sunday to enrol.

UPDATE: The special 100% discount sold out. But I have released 50 more discounts @ 100%. Use THIS LINK to access the Mastering Twitter for Business course. It is only available for this weekend.

Have you ever wondered why CEOs like Richard Branson and Elon Musk spend their precious time on Twitter?

If so, I’m inviting you to join my new Mastering Twitter for Business course which has just launched on Udemy!

This weekend I am offering FREE access to the course. Be sure to take advantage of this discount while it lasts.  Here is where you can get your 100% discount.

In this course I get you up and running the right way:

  • Setting up your profile and lists
  • Styles of tweets, hashtags and Twitter etiquette
  • Measurement, technology and more

There are video lectures, hands-on exercises and plenty of practical tips and tricks to help you get value out of Twitter from Day 1.

I hope to see you in the course – and on Twitter.

Forget Millennials – Trust is the Secret Sauce of Online Commerce


The topic of “trust” is one that we return to over and over again. No matter whether we are wanting to build awareness, consideration or purchase for our business, or establish ourselves online as thought leaders, every word we write, every video we produce and every image we take and share online has ONE CLEAR MISSION. To build trust with our audiences.

When Acquity Group surveyed 2000 US-based consumers on brand engagement, there were plenty of insights and data points. Take a look at the infographic below for a neat summary.

But look deeper. The underlying theme of every data point isn’t the shifting power of millennial consumers. It isn’t about the devices we choose or use. It isn’t even about what we buy or when. It is the REASON we TRUST.

And when it comes to social media, the TRUST EQUATION is simple:

TRUST = Reputation + Action

So the question you need to be asking yourself about your next campaign, your next innovation or project is not “who can I target” but “How do I build trust”. And if you answer that question, you may find that the rest of the marketing funnel falls into place.



The Barrier to Entry is You


Everything makes sense in hindsight. If only you had taken a chance on that young startup, Microsoft. If only you had gone on that blind date. If only you had risked all like a young Richard Branson. And if only you had bought property when the prices were low(er).

The thing is, we are all, always, starting from today. We have at our disposal what we know, what we can do and what we are passionate about. But we also have networks, connections and friends. We have family. There are people we can rely upon and trust.

So the question about your next job, or business opportunity, partnership or date is “what is stopping you”?

Maybe it isn’t your boss that is stopping your progress at work. Maybe you are settling for the backseat of the bus without realising it. Maybe. Just maybe, the barrier to entry is you.

And that can change in the blink of an eye. What are you waiting for?

HT inspiration to Seth Godin on a cloudy Sydney day.

Will Social Media Make Politicians More Likeable?


Over the last few days, Australia has found itself with yet another Prime Minister. It is our fifth Prime Minister in five years.

What is fascinating is not just that there has been so much change but the speed with which that change has taken place. In fact, some time ago I suggested that with social media, we are all swinging voters now. And so the transformation in the highest office in the land happened in broad view of the voting public – we were privy to a vast range of opinion mixed with insight as and when it happened.

While the Liberal Party met to decide whether Tony Abbott would be trusted with another six months as Captain, ABC reporter, Chris Uhlmann reminded us that behind the public persona of any politician is an individual – and that at times such as this, that individual faces great pressure and personal challenge. “We forget politicians are human”, he said.

But broadcast media has framed the political landscape in a particular way. It constructs meaning very specifically – broken into catchy slogans, sound bites and images. The meaning, messaging and positioning of every action, announcement and “door stop” interview have been carefully crafted and rehearsed towards a specific outcome – to appeal to particular segments of voters. And in the endless repeating of these messages, the words and actions of our politicians have lost all meaning. We are living Baudrillard’s simulacra, caught on endless loop.

When Stacy Lambe and Adam Smith first created the Texts from Hilary blog, I thought it was genius. It was so clever, in fact, that I suspected that it had been created as part of a deliberate strategy to “humanise” the Hilary Clinton brand. My next thought was that the Australian Labor Party (or one of its supporters) should take the same approach and apply it to then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. It seemed like a no-brainer:

  • A proven and popular model to engage the imagination of the voting public
  • Low cost, high impact media that allows non-scripted communication in a shareable format
  • Distance between the creator of the account/content and the person herself.

But the “Texts from Julia” account never appeared.

About six months ago, a Texts From Malcolm Instagram account appeared and has been steadily gaining a following. Like the Hilary account, it uses text overlays to create imaginary conversations between well-known players on the political scene. In a way, politicians are becoming the cats memes of the internet – instantly recognisable, unusually intimate and slightly irreverent.

Now that Malcolm Turnbull has taken over the big chair at Parliament House in Canberra, this account has become even more interesting. And given NSW Premier, Mike Baird’s blisteringly strong social media performance over recent weeks, it seems that political media strategists are keying into the vast potential of social media. And it makes me wonder – is Texts from Malcolm a clever setup by the former Communications Minister? Will it create the necessary distance and psychological space between the knock-down political action and the voters to engender a new form of electoral trust? And, ultimately, will social media make politicians more likeable?

We’re entering a new understanding of media communications with politicians leading the experimental charge. Brands and businesses largely remain on the starting blocks, but politicians and their advisors – whose very jobs rely on the goodwill and support of the people, are clearly realising that there is advantage to be made in the occasional tweet, video or blog post. It will be interesting to watch this play out in the coming months.

Three Reasons Distributed R&D is the “New Innovation”


We all know that innovation is good for business. We all know it’s good for our brands. And we all know it’s good for people – our employees, customers, suppliers and so on. But we also know that innovation is difficult. Problematic. And prone to failure. In fact, when visionary analyst, R “Ray” Wang looked into the data, he found that 52% of the Fortune 500 have disappeared since 2000. Such is the nature of this new form of “digital disruption” that new technologies and business models are decimating whole industries and categories. The iPhone as a single device, for example, says Ray Wang, killed 27 business models in one fell swoop.

The question that business leaders are asking is not just “WHAT is next” – but “is MY BUSINESS/INDUSTRY next”?

Time to slay the IDEAS dragon

Over the last 12 months or so I have been working to not only understand what is going on with the trends, technologies and consumer behaviours – but on methods that can help innovators from the front desk to the corner office – combat and address digital disruption. The solution requires a new approach to innovation. A rethinking of models – and even the adoption of business practices that we had thought were passe – uncool or even unnecessary.

But the very first act of the innovator is to slay the IDEAS DRAGON. It’s time we faced down the hard reality of innovation and entrepreneurship and realised that ideas are just not good enough. In fact, in pursuing ideas, we deny the true purpose of innovation – to address “problems worth solving”. The fact that many corporate (and entrepreneurial) initiatives and startups commence with an “idea” means that they are starting without the foundation of a burning platform. For entrepreneurs this means that the struggle to find product-market fit will take longer, and more difficult. And for intrapreneurs, those corporate, internal change makers, it means burning resources and opening yourself to a “career limiting” project. As David Burkus explains in this Harvard Business Review article:

When most organizations try to increase their innovation efforts, they always seem to start from the same assumption: “we need more ideas.” They’ll start talking about the need to “think outside the box” or “blue sky” thinking in order to find a few ideas that can turn into viable new products or systems. However, in most organizations, innovation isn’t hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing the good ideas already there.

It’s not an idea problem; it’s a recognition problem.

Where there’s a burning platform there’s money to fix it

One thing that I have learned from my clients is that ideas have a currency – that of attention. A good, strong and catchy idea can take hold of the imagination of an entire Boardroom and ripple across an organisation. And as those waves spread, they become smaller. By the time they reach someone who is willing to take the idea on, it’s likely that the idea has lost its potency. It’s energy. It’s Board level support.

By establishing the Disruptor’s Handbook, my plan was to create a strategy and innovation firm focused on collaboratively helping work from the problem outwards. And by focusing on the “problems worth solving”, by seeking out the problems that keep C-suite executives awake at night, we realised that where there is a burning platform, there’s money to fix it. And the reason funding is available is that the product, service or experience has customers. Paying customers. And in the world of startups, that is known as product-market fit.

Think market-product fit first for success

Rather than looking for “product-market fit”, however, we should be reversing this. We need to be looking for “market-product fit”. We need to put the needs, expectations and demands of our market first. This has a range of benefits:

  • Reduced risk
  • Improved levels of word of mouth
  • Easier customer acquisition and retention
  • Early stage focus on delivering customer value over product features

With this in mind, much of our process with Disruptor’s Handbook has been designed to focus on what we call “marketing-led innovation”. And one key component of this strategy is the use of “distributed research and development”. In our eBook, Joanne Jacobs explains that taking this approach, almost any organisation can innovate like a startup:

[Distributed R&D is] … literally a mechanism where the prototyping stage of R&D is spread to an array of competing or collaborating innovators, with minimum viable products (MVPs) generated over a highly concentrated period.

And the proof is in the pudding. Partnering with Qantas on their first hackathon saw us working with senior business leaders and coders, entrepreneurs and other innovators to solve challenging and intractable problems that the airline had been struggling with. At the end of 24 hours of “distributed R&D”, teams presented 10 working demos to judges and Qantas executives. Many of these projects are now moving to commercialisation. The process is generating not just ideas but real businesses and real business value – and is doing so because:

  • The process slays the ideas dragon and focuses on problems worth solving
  • Problems that are “worth” solving have budgets and audiences attached
  • Market-product fit means that innovators are shipping “minimum buyable products” not just products that are “viable”.

Can Distributed R&D also work for your firm? Of course it can – contact us to find out more.

Digital and the Future of Marketing


When we think of the future of marketing, we often think of our customers. What trends are they adopting? Which devices? Where are they and how can I reach them? But there’s a double-sided impact to the future of marketing – and that is to do with the future of marketers.

There have been some massive improvements in the world of technology – with automated content and engagement platforms seeming to do amazing work. Just look at the journalism robots created by Associated Press that now publish around 3000 stories every quarter. This is journalism content “without a human byline”. It is a cocktail of 1 part excitement, 1 part absolute dread. After all, what happens when those “journo bots” turn their attention to marketing?

It’s time for us to grapple with the future of marketing

I recently spoke at the Marketo MarketingNation roadshow – and discussed our marketing-technology future. I will leave you to watch the video in your own good time, but I will also raise a couple of points:

  • Data is not your only answer – you need to work with the PANDA principles to deliver broad and deep value as a marketer
  • You need to create not inherit the future – what is the future you’d like to see? If you have a vision for a creative and vibrant marketing career, it’s time for you to step forward and voice those ideas
  • Time to skill up – if you don’t have any tech skills, it’s time to work on that. As we rush towards an increasingly connected customer experience model, technology will feature more and more. It’s essential you at least have the foundations (this is covered in the presentation)
  • Get some digital muscle on your Board – the same principles apply to Boards. Without the digital expertise available at a strategic level, you’re business longevity will decline. It’s time to bring diversity and divergent thinking onto your Board.

IT’s Big Secret – Platforming: Bringing IT and Marketing Together


The big IT companies have a secret. And it’s a secret that can radically transform your business. For the last decade or so, technology has been converging – with different technology stacks coming into alignment, sharing interfaces, connecting data and improving the process of software development and deployment. As a result, we have seen huge improvements in the capability of software to impact business. Just think about:

  • The rise and role of data in business decision making
  • The importance and focus on dashboards and data visualisation
  • The growth of mobile and location based information
  • The abundance of “internet of things” devices and sensors
  • The near ubiquitous adoption of smartphones.

Behind the scenes, technology companies have been “platforming” – turning their business processes and models into digital systems. They do this across four key business dimensions:

  • Social: The Social dimension has the potential to deliver powerful, personal yet scalable CONNECTION. It offers a single conversational channel, builds trust and offers a way to accelerate a resolution or conversion process
  • Mobile: The Mobile dimension delivers LOCATION. With a connected device in your pocket (close to your beating heart), a mobile phone is the convergence point where the digital and the “real” worlds collide
  • Analytics: The power of big data is not in crunching everything known about a customer. The real value is in delivering AWARENESS to a network. This effectively means creating USER context from the social, mobile and business data signals available
  • Cloud: And the cloud provides the mechanism for SERVICE. To remain relevant to customers, brands must re-acquaint themselves with the value of service. And Cloud provides the mechanism to do so.

But the challenge for marketers is that these dimensions are largely unconnected to marketing. They rightly belong to the company’s technology teams. Right?

Combining marketing and IT capabilities

The greatest opportunity for business is to combine the expertise of marketing and IT. Marketers usually view their customers through the lens of media – combining paid, owned and earned media to reach and engage them. We have shifted, however, beyond this broadcast approach – and this is increasingly being enabled by the SMAC platforms.

To more effectively bridge the marketing and IT fields, we need new ways of thinking, collaborating and conceptualising what it is that we do. We need a shared language, shared measurements and cross-line-of-business visibility into key performance indicators, pressures, deadlines and processes. And this means digital transformation.

Is it possible? It has to be. For only through this kind of alignment will we be able to deeply impact our customer’s brand experience.

I spoke in more detail on this subject recently. See my slides and the presentation here.


DH - From Media to Experience (3)

Thinking Ahead of the Agency Curve


Many years ago I was setting up a digital team within an agency and a great brief came across my desk. It was a make or break opportunity. It came from our largest client and it took quite a deal of negotiation to even be included – and all eyes turned towards what was then, a fledgling capability.

The brief asked clearly and simply – “should we build our own site or should we just advertise on other sites?”

My response at the time continues to be my mantra for digital (or even business) strategy:

Share the message, own the destination

What I was arguing for was the creation of a platform where the brand and its customers could co-create value. It did take some time to flesh this out in practice, but it proved to be a winning strategy for that client – and for many which followed.

These days, as technology not only invades – but becomes an essential part of our business and brand strategy – this guiding principle “share the message, own the destination” resonates even more strongly. And it does so, because our work as marketers and as business leaders, happens well beyond the bounds of our enterprises. We are always on. Always connected. And always running.



Running towards brand infrastructure

Because we are always running – always seeking new value (or should be) – we also need to be thinking ahead for our own businesses and clients. We need to not only out-run competitors but to out-think them. And to do so, we need to look for accelerators. Which is why I am excited about this presentation from Zeus Jones’ Adrian Ho. They have been consistently ahead of the agency curve for many years – taking an innovative approach to solving clients problems with new approaches to strategy AND execution.

Pay particular attention to slides 19-28 where Adrian explains the three different kinds of platforms that connect brand infrastructure:

  • Growth platforms – operations as marketing and marketing as operations
  • Loyalty platforms – for managing relationships with current users
  • Mass platforms – earned media at scale

Now, platforms are challenging – but they can deliver massive upside. They also provide a way to truly differentiate from your competitors while also creating new market (and marketing) opportunities.

So the question we need to ask ourselves is – “how am I out-thinking and out-executing” my competitors, my industry, my disruptors?

How to Get Your Board Onboard with Digital


When the eConsultancy/Marketo State of Digital Marketing report for Australia and New Zealand was released recently, it revealed a number of worrying trends. Not only was knowledge of digital ranked as “very poor” in 10% of organisations – up from 4% in 2014 – but a massive 63% rated this knowledge at “Okay” or less. Only 7% rated their digital knowledge as “excellent”. All of these leading indicators of digital skill and organisational capacity are trending down. But more worrying is the dearth of digital leadership at the Board and Senior Executive levels. Only 9% of eConsultancy respondents indicated that senior execs and directors have an “excellent” understanding of digital.


While I am not proposing that Boards need a deep understanding of digital, there does need to be a rebalancing. In an era when the world’s most valuable and profitable companies are “digital first”, Australia cannot compete while 91% of our Board directors languish in a 20th Century mindset. IBM’s Global Managing Partner for Social Consulting, Andrew Grill explains this as lacking “digital literacy”. In a recent BlueNotes article he suggested:

… the issue of digital literacy remains, in my opinion, a much more important issue than it was back in 2001.

In 2015 it has the ability to affect the stock prices of publicly listed companies in the short to medium term if left unchecked …

I see firsthand how companies are struggling to ensure the C-Suite can quickly grasp the impact of digital disruption being felt across all industries. Digital disruption is not just around the corner, in many industries it is already here.

Australia has a history of downplaying the importance of digital transformation and innovation. But the clock is ticking and the threat of digital disruption is real.

At a recent MIT symposium, it was estimated that 32% of revenue is at risk over the next five years due to digital disruption. Furthermore:

One panelist went so far as to suggest that companies won’t exist in 10 years if they focus only on “traditional products.” The way forward, he suggested, is to offer products and related services enabled by digital technologies.

Digital Natives, Reverse Mentoring and Digital NEDs

Having been Chair of youth not-for-profit organisation, Vibewire, for about seven years, I have seen first-hand, the massive changes in the way that young people, think, act and work – especially in relation to digital and social media. Close collaboration with digital natives – those who were born after 1980 and have always had access to the internet – can be eye opening. But also informing and enriching. It can transform the way that you work – if you are open to it.

This is where “reverse mentoring” comes in. More senior executives and Board members can be paired up with younger employees where cross-skilling and mentoring can take place. This can be a two-way experience – where each person’s experience and skill is honoured – and new experiences and skills developed.

But how do these skills reach the Board? Andrew Grill suggests engaging digitally savvy non-executive directors. Qantas has adopted this approach, appointing ad agency boss, Todd Sampson to their Board earlier in 2015. The question, of course is, how do you spot a digital NED? Here are some pointers (hat tip to Andrew):

  • Identify someone who understands the urgency and speed of change that is taking place
  • Look for those who understand the complex workings of the enterprise and can translate this to digital
  • Seek experimenters and those with a degree of hands-on experience.