Marketing Skills of the Future, Now


I have dozens of conversations with marketers every week. And in almost every conversation, the topic turns to skills. Skills shortages. Employee capabilities. And technology. The rapidly changing marketing technology landscape shifts each quarter with new features, functions, platforms and data coming into play. Meanwhile, universities are pumping out graduates whose capabilities are already out of date.

It is becoming clear that we need marketing skills for the future. But we need them now.

I recently discussed these skill gaps with MediaScope’s Denise Shrivell, AOL’s Yasmin Sanders and RadiumOne’s Adam Furness. Each week Denise presents a 30 minute live video chat on the topics impacting Australia’s media and advertising industry, and this episode focusing on skill shortages was a cracker. On a positive note, we are seeing forward momentum. But are we seeing the gap closing? Watch a replay of the episode below.

Addressing skill gaps by improving your innovation fitness

Over the last 12 months I have been working with a range of clients on their digital and marketing strategies. As part of this work, we map out not just the strategic landscape, but the skills needed to deliver. Sometimes this means:

  • In-house teams need training
  • Finding the right agency to fill the gap
  • Every now and then, creating something entirely new – which is when the project gets really exciting.

One of the programs we have developed to help organisations to continue to move forward in this environment is called Innovation Fitness. The Innovation Fitness program, with its bootcamp, ongoing mentoring and support and target skills audit process is not just about closing the gap, but about delivering changes in the ways that you work.

After all, the future is not determined by technology but by our reactions to it. The questions we all need to ask ourselves is “How clear is our future skills strategy? And are we even on the right path?”.

Improve Your Innovation Fitness: Make Yourself Redundant


“Waves are not measured in feet and inches, they are measured in increments of fear.”
Buzzy Trent

When we talk about technology – and when we talk about change – we often talk about “waves”. Like surfers talk. Except it’s nowhere near as interesting or compelling. Except when we add a tinge of fear to it.

When I first started working in publishing, I realised that I was already redundant. Or was on the way to being redundant. I led the way in implementing online coding in a world full of typesetters, and I started using desktop publishing when it seemed like blasphemy. The change was coming and I was doing all I could to ride the wave was there before me.

Later, at IBM, I learned about process re-engineering. And “restructuring”. And “outsourcing”. Everywhere I looked, I could see disruption, dislocation and relocation. There were people losing their jobs, careers being swept out from under them. It was a time of tremendous uncertainty.

The thing is, it is no different now than it was then. In many ways, we now live our lives in a constant state of disruption. Gone is the fabled “job for life”. Gone is the bond between employer and employee. And gone is the social contract that saw us all working towards a shared future where a “fair go” was on the table for anyone who stepped up. In its place is uncertainty, change and anxiety.

But disruption is not just about fear. It is also about opportunity.

One of the better lessons from my time at IBM was the need to treat a company like a living organism. Every year or two, there would be a restructure. While this was used as a way to reduce costs or shift them to another country, it was also amazingly invigorating. It challenged us to forge new networks in new parts of the business. It forced new and often unexpected ways of working. And it did so when all we wanted was to stay in our comfort zones.

Now, “restructuring” is not always the most pleasant of experiences. And it is emotionally bruising to find yourself out of work suddenly.

Disrupt yourself first

If you take your job seriously – and almost everyone I have ever met does – then the challenge is to make yourself redundant. The opportunity is to disruption yourself, your career and your industry before it happens from the outside in.

This is partly what we are doing with the Disruptor’s Handbook. Despite the name, it is not a “book”. It is a strategy and innovation firm. Our mission is to bring the innovation practices and methods used by startups to the enterprise. And yes, we have handbooks. We make them freely available on our website so that you can apply these practices to your own business. We also have thought leadership eBooks designed to help you make the case for innovation in your business. We also have a series of techniques and approaches that have not been published but are used in our client work. These are shared with clients so that they learn to do what we do – so they know what we know and grow in confidence and capability. We are effectively disrupting ourselves as we grow.

Challenging yourself

I believe that you must challenge yourself and your industry. Can you do better? Can you reinvent your business?

In challenging yourself this way, it keeps you thinking about the long game. It keeps you focused on the health of your skills and networks, your capabilities and your ability to deliver. And it keeps you focused on your customers and their needs, serving them as they shift and change.

And in a time of uncertainty, making yourself redundant puts you in the driver’s seat of your career. You can choose the timing of your next step and its direction. You can prepare yourself for the changes that are coming. It’s Darwinian. Survival of the fittest.

And this … “innovation fitness” means that you are giving yourself the best next chance possible. Don’t just see the next wave coming, ride it, baby. Ride it.

60 Seconds to a Startup Future


Got a problem worth solving? A solution to that challenge? A market and a team to tackle it?

Then it’s time to step into the spotlight at the Muru-D 60 second pitch competition.

What is involved?

Muru-D and Seven West Media are providing you with the opportunity to pitch your startup to Annie Parker, Clive Dickens and Alan Stuart with the winner receiving a fast track ticket to the interview stage of the muru-D accelerator program.

You can RSVP here.

Get a head start

If you want to give yourself an unfair advantage – set aside some time to get clarity around your business, messaging and pitch. Seriously. One of the greatest mistakes many startups and founders make is to rely on the sizzle of the product, believing it will sell itself. Focus not on the Product-Market fit, but on the Market-Product fit. To help you, download the Disruptor’s Handbooks:

This is just a start – remember you only have 60 seconds. You’ve got to work really hard to make your pitch simple enough to wow the judges in 60 seconds. Rock it hard.

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)

Google Goes Back to the Garage with Alphabet


When a company the size of Google makes a massive change in their structure and the way that they do business, it’s big news. Today, Google announced the formation of Alphabet, a holding company that will stable the portfolio of companies formerly known as “Google” – giving the organisation potentially a new lease on life and a new direction – or series of directions.

Constellation Research’s R ‘Ray’ Wang provides a laser sharp analysis of what the announcement means in the following video.

Given that so many organisations grow to a size which prohibits innovation, this restructuring offers an amazing live case study of an attempt to avoid the “Kodak moment”. The new, low carb version of Google – which generates the vast majority of revenues – will look vastly different and more tightly focused on digital and internet properties:

  • Search
  • Advertising
  • Maps
  • Apps
  • YouTube
  • Android

This structure effectively hives off the “business as usual”, high velocity, transactional revenue streams into a separate unit which will continue to be called “Google”. The new CEO, Sundar Pichai will be able to keep that digital focus while continuing the optimisation and incremental improvements that keep Google at the centre of our online lives.

The high potential, future-oriented remaining businesses will become separate businesses under Alphabet. Taking a portfolio investment approach to innovation, Alphabet’s stable features near and far term innovation ventures that are:

  • Inside us: Life sciences – biotech research through new company, Calico
  • Around us: Consumer home technology – internet of things hardware for the smart home through Nest
  • Connecting us: High speed internet service through Fiber
  • Moving us: X-lab – the incubator charged with developing self-driving cars and drone technology

And Google Ventures will continue its investments in early and growth stage ventures.

While the business implications for this restructure are significant – the most interesting impact is likely to be felt at the level of culture. Creating a culture of innovation – and maintaining it over the long term is extremely difficult. This is a bold move that brings Google back into the garage from where it came from. It sets a new model for tech sector innovation and has the potential to re-invigorate Google’s innovation agenda.

Who will be the fast follower – or copycat – to Google’s lead? Time will tell.

The secret lesson for corporates from the world of startups


When ANZ chief economist, Warren Hogan recently explained Australian business’ aversion to risk, it made a lot of sense. Not only are corporates concerned about project success, they are also geared and structured towards large projects which makes it more difficult to innovate in a more “agile” manner. This gives rise to several other challenges. Without flexibility, Australian corporations are subject to:

  • Unnecessary competitive disruption – smaller businesses can easily capture mindshare, momentum and a raft of unhappy customers simply because companies don’t have the agility to address emergent threats.
  • Higher levels of customer dissatisfaction – if customer experience projects are subject to this same lack of responsiveness, then customer satisfaction is more likely to quickly result in customer churn and lower NPS.
  • Market irrelevance – today’s customer is hungry for differentiated experience. Slow response to market challenges simply means that your market moves elsewhere. And they do so “at the speed of digital”.

But all is not lost. There are four key lessons that corporates can learn from the world of startups. And they can all be easily implemented, trialled and scaled with a minimal investment. I explain more here.

Why You Need to FOCUS – Forget Ideas, Start with Problems


In the rush to innovate, we jump to solutions, look for silver bullets. We cool hunt. Crowd source. Idea storm.

But there is a problem with ideas. Sure they are fantastic for a fledgling startup, but they are dangerous, time consuming and unproductive for most corporates. Unfortunately, one of the first responses to a “call” for more innovation is to ask for “big ideas”.

A better approach is to forget ideas and put out a call for “problems worth solving”. It’s the approach that I have been following for years and it has distinct advantages:

  • Focus on business value – there is an immediate connection between any subsequent ideas and the business value that needs to be created
  • Ownership – you can pinpoint a “business owner” who has a vested interest in the problem being solved
  • Crowd solving – it’s easier to direct structured and unstructured teams to solve the challenge
  • Understanding and articulation – working with the problem owner means that there is a clear understanding and articulation of the challenge. It means everyone is “on the same page”
  • Systems win – in the corporate world, systems win. Taking a systematic approach to solving problems rather than pursuing ideas means that business value can be retained, capacity can be sustained and velocity can be built into (or on the edge of your business).

Once you have your problem sets, you’ll find it’s much easier to get started on that next innovation.

The Cheating Strategist’s Guide to Mary Meeker’s Digital Trends


Each year around this time, the web goes into a slow motion melt down over the much anticipated Meeker Report into internet trends.

This year is no different. And as I did last year, I will encourage you to reflect on your own business and priorities before diving head first into the report. I call it the “Three What’’s and a Why”. Consider:

  • What mattered in mid 2014?
  • What matters now?
  • What are you measuring?
  • Why are these things important?

And if you’re time poor or just bone lazy and don’t want to click through the hundreds of slides in the report, you’ll love Michael Goldstein’s summary for cheating strategists. It’s 10 times the punch at 1/10th of the effort. Now that’s what I call a good strategy.

Decyphering Bitcoin and the Blockchain


No doubt you’ll have heard about Bitcoin by now. It’s that disruptive technology that is keeping Financial Services CEOs awake at night. JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, in his annual letter to shareholders warned investors and the banking industry that “Silicon Valley is coming” – suggesting that there are hundreds of startups focusing on the financial services technology space (“fintech”) and that traditional banking will need to double down on its innovation efforts.

[Startups] … are very good at reducing the ‘pain points’ in that they can make loans in minutes, which might take banks weeks. We are going to work hard to make our services as seamless and competitive as theirs. And we also are completely comfortable with partnering where it makes sense.

But his particular focus on next generation payments systems like PayPal and Bitcoin were called out for special attention.

Here in Australia, these new systems have been the subject of a Senate Hearing Committee investigating digital currencies.

But how does Bitcoin work? Sean Carmody, Head of Credit Risk at Westpac put together this presentation that explains the technical underpinnings of Bitcoin – the blockchain. It explains:

  • Why virtual currencies are a happening thing – the perfect match for a virtual world
  • The problem with virtual currencies – how to prevent people simply “copying” a digital currency
  • The innovation in the “blockchain”

And while the presentation does get technical, it is also eye-opening. Technology may be transforming the way that currencies can operate (now and into the future) – but TRUST remains a vital ingredient in currency transactions. And as Sean suggests, Bitcoin may not be the winner in the digital currency race – but it has fired the starter’s gun.

Disrupting the Disruptors – Follow Me on Meerkat


I feel it. I’m sure you feel it too. Launch fatigue. It is what happens when you can’t bring yourself to click a link or open yet another email announcement about the app or website that is going to change your life. After all, our lives are pretty much the same as they were last year, right? AND the year before. And the year before that.

Actually, I can’t recall being truly, authentically excited about a new technology for sometime.

Until Meerkat arrived.


I frequently attend events of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes as a guest. Sometimes as a speaker. But always as a curious participant. If there is something interesting taking place, I will live tweet the speeches. I will take photos from the stage. It’s as much for my own benefit as it is for those who follow. I find this kind of live coverage a great way to capture value – to tell the story, to bring people closer. To explore. But with Twitter and even with Instagram pictures only take you so far. And for most events 15 seconds is just not long enough.

Enter the Meerkat

While Twitter recently announced its purchase of Periscope for live streaming – Meerkat has been able to build a substantial user base in a matter of weeks. And while new apps come and go, it feels like this cat may have some interesting and stripy surprises.

In my view, most social networks handle new product launches appallingly. It seems that once they achieve some level of scale, they lose their way, hire in “enterprise” types and follow the beaten path towards monetisation through advertising. Facebook are getting better at this. But Twitter is clearly lagging. Not only have they invested in an app with little or no public traction, their track record with new releases does not inspire confidence. And this leaves the door open for disruption.

Meerkat takes what has been happening in a much more clunky way and removes the friction. They’ve taken a leaf out of Apple’s playbook – observe an innovation and make it better. Pioneers of portable web streaming like JustinTV led the way, struggling with battery packs, bulky technology and low network connectivity. But for the individual it was all too much. Trouble. Bother.

And that’s where Meerkat’s elegance wins out. With your smartphone and a good 4G signal (or 3G while standing on one leg), you can now livestream anything. Everyday events. Activities just t. Special occasions.

With Meerkat, social media is not about telling people what you are having for breakfast. It’s not even about how good your breakfast looks in photos. Now people can watch you eat. Live. With sound.

We’re all breakfast TV hosts now

Effectively, our conversations can actually be turned into conversations. We become both interviewer and subject.

But already this new medium is challenging the old form. Twitter excels for those who find social settings too in-your-face. On Twitter you can know all the answers, but Meerkat’s critical eye demands high energy. Conversation. Viewpoints. Meerkat is the medium of the incessantly curious the verbally dextrous.

Is it all too much?

It’s very early days – but Meerkat is setting a new direction that we didn’t know we needed. But one thing is for certain. Those who win on networks like Meerkat will be very different from those who win on text based channels like Twitter. And when the disruptors are disrupted, things get interesting.