ep. 95 - Mike Walsh
Mike Walsh is the CEO of Tomorrow, a global consultancy on designing companies for the 21st century. He advises leaders on how to thrive in the current era of disruptive technological change.
A true global nomad, Mike travels over 300 days a year worldwide, researching trends, collecting innovation case studies and presenting on the future of business.
Mike’s clients include many of the global Fortune 500, and as a sought-after keynote speaker he regularly shares the stage with world leaders and business icons alike.
Rather than focusing on the distant future, Mike takes an anthropological approach - scanning the near horizon for emerging technologies and disruptive shifts in human behavior, and then translating these into pragmatic plans for digital transformation.
ep. 95 - Mike Walsh
Gail Davis: Mike Walsh is a futurist, and the author of the best selling book, The Dictionary of Dangerous Ideas. He is also CEO of The global innovation research agency, Tomorrow. Constantly traveling the world, in search of the next [00:01:00] big thing, Mike advises Fortune 500 companies on digital transformation and algorithmic leadership.
Mike previously founded Jupiter Research in Australia, and has also helped senior strategy roles at News Corporation in Asia. Mike's books are quite unique, and like his talks, very visual. His best selling book, Futuretainment, published by Phaidon, was the winner of the Design Award by the art director's club in New York.
Mike Walsh [00:01:30] is our guest on today's episode of GDA Podcast, and he will take our listeners on a whirlwind ride into the world of tomorrow. Welcome, Mike.
Kyle Davis: Hey, Mike. How are you?
Mike Walsh: It's very good to be on your wonderful show.
Kyle Davis: Well, I hear an accent. Where are you from?
Mike Walsh: That is probably the most difficult question you could ask.
Kyle Davis: Potentially so.
Mike Walsh: I am significantly mixed up. I was born in Australia, that was the [00:02:00] easy part. But, I grew up on an island in Fiji. I went to school in London. My mother is from Malaysia, but she's Chinese. And my dad's Irish. That's the easy part.
Kyle Davis: Oh, the joys of being a mutt. It's fun.
Gail Davis: We've come a long way.
Mike Walsh: It's hybrid vigor.
Kyle Davis: And for people who don't know this, we actually, all three of us, hung out in Sydney in 2012.
Gail Davis: I think that was right.
Kyle Davis: For New Year's.
Gail Davis: It was wonderful.
Kyle Davis: That was fun.
Mike Walsh: I thought you just [00:02:30] called me up because you wanted someone to help you buy a didgeridoo.
Gail Davis: There you go.
Kyle Davis: We did. We wanted someone to buy us a didgeridoo, and to get us close to Kylie Minogue, who was performing on a boat in the middle of Sydney Harbor. Oh well, whatever.
Gail Davis: So, how do we dive into this? I guess maybe just starting with that wonderful background and how it led you into this specialization and focus on the future. Bring us up to speed on [00:03:00] how you got to this point.
Mike Walsh: Well, I think futurism is one of these strange jobs that I'm sure no child every intends on being. In fact, I like ... Many people who end up in strange jobs started off by being a failed lawyer. I trained as a lawyer. I went and worked at Mackenzie for a little bit, and all these management consulting firms. But, when I joined the workforce, it was the late '90s, and pretty much, if you weren't involved with the internet, the first internet boom, you were really [00:03:30] living a very dull life.
So, I had internet companies, and towards the end of that, I met one of the Murdocs in a bar, and ended up doing strategy for News Corporation in Australia, and also throughout Asia. It was a very fortunate time to be doing that because I got to travel all throughout southeast Asia, and Korea, and China. And this was before the iPhone. But, what I saw in those markets was something extraordinary. I saw a world that would [00:04:00] soon come to the West, which was a world that was totally mobile and totally digital.
So that experience really convinced me that I should immediately quit my job, I should write a book, and I should do the worst possible thing, which is to become a speaker.
Gail Davis: Now, why do you say the worst possible thing?
Mike Walsh: I've always been nervous telling people I'm a speaker because I'm a reminder of that old adage that people who [00:04:30] can, do, and that people that can't, teach.
Kyle Davis: When we unpack the term futurist or futurism, there's a lot of different avenues and ways that people approach it. What's your underpinning, or your philosophy that really guides you when you're making, not necessarily predictions, but how the world will be in 3-5, or 10, or 15 years?
Mike Walsh: There are also many types of futurists. And [00:05:00] my real focus is not so much on technology. It's on people, because what I've noticed is that things really change when people change. You can have new technologies, you can have disruptive devices, you can have faster broadband speeds. None of that actually means anything until consumers change their behavior, until companies change their behavior, and until leaders change the way that they make decisions and do things.
I travel a lot, and I spend [00:05:30] a lot of time in all kinds of places, from India, to Brazil, to Shanghai, to Turkey, and what I'm looking for is pieces of a puzzle, to try and understand how some of these new disruptive technologies are interfacing with human society.
Kyle Davis: And when you're looking at the way that people change their behaviors, and you're looking at leaders, and you're looking at companies and culture, maybe even how employees ... What's the old way [00:06:00] of doing business, and what's the new way that you think is going to work moving forward?
Mike Walsh: There's kind of a set model of what a 20th century company looks like, and we're quite familiar with that. It's pretty much something that was born out of the industrial revolution. It was about the factory, and it was about command and control. They called it tailorism, where you would measure the time every task took, and work out the maximum efficiency. And this very hierarchical [00:06:30] siloed model of a company worked fantastically when things were predictable, when you could draw up 5 or even 10 year plans.
But now we're in a time where not only are things moving so quickly that a 5 month plan starts to look ambitious. Leaders are finding that the core of their business is having to change, their business models are having to change, and their customers, and who their competitors are, are in a very [00:07:00] fluid state.
So, that's almost what's happening now, is that leaders are realizing that they have to take a more fluid agile approach to the way they organize their people.
Kyle Davis: Good. I felt like you had a little ... you were going to add one more-
Mike Walsh: I did.
Kyle Davis: Go ahead.
Mike Walsh: What I often like to tell my clients and audiences is that they're comfortable with the idea that technology has changed and transformed their business. [00:07:30] It's happened over the last 5 years. But, the important thing to remember is that culture is still their operating system. It's the set of rules that determines how people behave, how your best people interact with each other, and really it's the secret behind how you get to the heart of what drives 21st century productivity.
Kyle Davis: So, when it comes to being fluid to change ... [00:08:00] We've had this discussion before, when we talked a few months back, but I come from the startup world, and it's pivot, pivot, pivot. Don't worry if something fails, just move, move, move. But then you have these old established companies, and they just don't understand that philosophy. They don't understand failing fast and failing forward, or anything else like that.
How can we unplug ourselves and reboot with the new OS?
Mike Walsh: I think the starting point [00:08:30] is, you've got to realize how dangerous the myth of the startup is. It's become quite fashionable to tell big companies they should behave like startups. It's like telling somebody that they should lose 50 kilos and look like a supermodel. It would be wonderful, but it could be quite disheartening when you're actually working in a company with 5000, or 10000, even 20000 people.
The problem is that when you're 5 people, [00:09:00] like a typical startup, if you're not agile, and creative, and adaptive, there must be something profoundly wrong with all 5 of you. It's actually very easy to have great culture when you have a small number of people. The minute you get a critical mass of human beings together, it's strange, all best intentions aside. It's like there are these unseen cultural antibodies, which spin up into place, and their sole purpose is to hunt down, [00:09:30] and identify, and terminate with extreme prejudice anybody who has an original or disruptive idea.
The only way you can combat that is to take a quite deliberate approach to coding a new way of interacting.
Kyle Davis: So, when you're talking about the myth of the startup, you're saying that a startup mentality, or the agility of a startup, can't be applied to a large, blue chip or Fortune 500 company? But instead, if it was a sub-100, 50, [00:10:00] maybe a 10-person company, that's where you still have the ability to be agile, and proactive, and set the narrative that you want your audience or your customers to hear, or feel, or see?
Mike Walsh: You can be agile as a big company, but you have to break yourself into smaller components. You can't just copy/paste a startup's culture because the fact is that even startups stop behaving like that after a while. You're scrappy, and you're fighting over resources because that's just the reality. But, at some point, [00:10:30] you end up with a HR department because you have HR issues. You end up with processes because you can't just wing it anymore. And that's okay, that's maturity.
But what's happening now, is if you look at a lot of successful companies that have managed to scale, and Amazon is a classic example, they've evolved practices that allow them to remain agile. Jeff Bezos is famous for talking about his two-pizza teams. [00:11:00] You should never have a team any bigger than can be fed with two pizzas. I was actually running a session for Amazon Seattle a couple of weeks back, and I said, "How big are these pizzas?" It's a bit deceptive. How many people are we actually talking about here? Apparently, it's kind of like between 4-8 people is sort of the critical mass for a project team.
Someone like Apple will actually extend that idea even further. And there's this [00:11:30] really interesting study on productivity, which Bain and Company did. They looked at the difference between highly productive companies like Dell, Netflix, and Apple. These companies were an average 40% more productive than normal companies. I guess the thesis was, maybe they've just hired more superstars. But, it turns out that most companies have a similar distribution of very smart people. The difference is, companies like Apple put all of their best people on [00:12:00] the biggest, most existentially threatening projects. They'll kind of put all their eggs in one basket, and say, "Look, this is iOS. We can't screw it up. We have to win. Let's put all of our superstars on this one project."
Kyle Davis: And if it's the Apple Watch, then they put everybody else who's like second team.
Mike Walsh: That's right. There are many companies-
Kyle Davis: Even though I love my Apple Watch, Apple. Sorry. Go ahead.
Mike Walsh: [00:12:30] I think these are the kinds of emerging strategies for big companies to remain agile.
Kyle Davis: I saw that at the large startup that I was at. And all my friends who worked for other companies, like Apple, or even Amazon, they'll be on, it's almost like internal consulting. They'll be on a project, and they'll run through the duration of the project, maybe it's 8-9 months, and then once that comes to completion, maybe they're on the beach for a week or two, and then they get [00:13:00] tasked out to another project. But it's taking the best components for whatever that need or project is, and then that's how they attack it.
Mike Walsh: There's a reason why this way of thinking is becoming more important. It's because ... One of the key debates of the 21st century is going to be: What is work that is best done by machines, [00:13:30] and what is work that is best done by people? There's a lot of fear and hype about robots taking over human jobs at the moment. But that's not really the issue. The more interesting issue is, what is people-shaped work? The kind of, putting superstars on super problems is a classic example of things that humans are uniquely tasked to handle. [00:14:00] These are cognitively difficult problems that require the kind of skills, which machines would find very difficult to handle.
Kyle Davis: You mention robots taking people's jobs, and there's no secret here that we do send a questionnaire out to the guests. And one of the things that you wanted to talk about was the fact that there's a lot of discussion with AI taking people's jobs. And I remember not so long ago, I was having a conversation with a lawyer, and I was like, "Hey, bud, you may [00:14:30] think that robots are taking the blue collar jobs, but the reality is that AI is going to take all of the subject matter expert jobs." This is my opinion. Whether it be diagnosis for doctors, or if it's someone who can read natural language legalese as quickly as possible, as a machine learning algorithm can do.
I'm wondering, who should be worried, or should we be worried, or are we using these AI programs and machine learnings as an assistance for a short stop-gap measure before we go full AI? [00:15:00] How is that looking?
Mike Walsh: It's a subtle issue. I remember when I finished law school, I only spent one day in the law firm because I walked into the office, and there was a partner there in a three-piece suit, and he was staring at me like a cockroach that scuttled in. I was excited to be a lawyer, and he said, "Oh, good you're here."
He pointed at this stack of papers, and he said, "You see all these paper?"
And I said, "Yes." He said, "Look, we need these all check for spelling immediately." [00:15:30] And I was like, "What? Don't you have software to do that?"
He said, "Oh, that's right. We do. It's you."
I immediately quit because I thought this was ridiculous. All these lawyers are going to be replace by software in the next five years. That was 20 years ago. There are now more lawyers on the planet than in history. And the reason why software hasn't replaced these jobs in the way we thought is because what automation tends to do is actually create more work. [00:16:00] It just shifts people into different roles.
I was interviewing the CIO of a big magic circle global law firm. I said, "Aren't you worried about these algorithms automating all of these functions?"
He said, "No, because essentially these machine learning algorithms need to learn from something, and what they're learning form is all the data from all of the transactions we've ever worked on, all of the deals we've been involved in, all of the combined knowledge and intellectual [00:16:30] property. But, you still need people to guide the learning algorithms, to interrogate them, to order them."
So, people are making the shift from doing work to designing work. Sure, there's going to be a piece of software that can better diagnose a cancer skin cell than a doctor. But, you're going to need doctors to help design those systems. And that's the big transformation, I think, in knowledge work.
Kyle Davis: Di you think it's going to limit [00:17:00] the amount of individuals that are needed to go into a specific field, like a general physician, or something like that? Since it is mapping, it's like the experience API. Something that plugs in, and it reads every decision point that you've ever made, and if you're plugging 100,000 people into that data set, you can really start to limit the amount of new doctors or lawyers, right? Or am I missing something?
Mike Walsh: You may [00:17:30] need less people with specialist knowledge. The ones that have that will be, perhaps, a smaller percentage of the population. But, you may need more people with human caring skills and good bedside manner to break the news that the algorithm's delivered to you. And one of the wonderful things, I think, about this revolution is that for the first time, those very soft human skills of caring, of nursing, of empathy, that have traditionally [00:18:00] been not paid as well as the knowledge jobs, may actually start to get the premium they deserve.
Gail Davis: That's interesting.
Kyle Davis: So, it's kind of like reverting back to the way it was, when you didn't have a doctor every time, but maybe you had a bedside nurse.
Mike Walsh: Just to tell you that you have no hope. Basically.
Kyle Davis: Hold my hand. Take me to the light.
Mike Walsh: I think that's right. I'm writing a book about this at the moment, [00:18:30] and I'm really focused on this question of, what is going to be a great algorithmic leader? For me, it is those two very important qualities. The first is, as you mentioned Kyle, which is the empathy with the human condition, the ability to understand, connect, motivate, incentivize other human beings. Machines aren't great at that, and when they do try to do it, like the algorithm at Uber, [00:19:00] working for algorithms is not particularly fun.
But the other side, which is another key skill, which is something that most leaders don't yet have their minds around, is the ability to be proficient at computational thinking? That's not the ability to program, it's the ability to solve and break problems down in a way like a computer would, that's very much about creating a hypothesis, about coming up with different strategies, [00:19:30] about collecting data, about testing and getting feedback. It's a different of thinking about strategy.
Kyle Davis: When you talk about leaders lacking this ability to have computational thinking or problems solving skills ... I think I know what you're saying. I definitely know what you're saying. But, what can people look for to either sharpen these computational skills, or if they're looking to hire either a replacement or find a partner or [00:20:00] co-founder, what are you looking for to have somebody who has robust computational problem solving skills?
Mike Walsh: The first kind of foundational capability is a familiarity and comfort level with data. Amazon, for example, if you want to a decision made at Amazon, you don't bring a Powerpoint. In fact Powerpoint is banned. You have to come in with a [00:20:30] maximum 6-page memo, and a stack of data appendices. And people spend the first 20 minutes of the discussion going through the data, and they argue about it point by point. The ability to look for data, to support your decisions is probably the first skill.
Beyond that, it's starting to understand the power of algorithms. It doesn't matter if you work in a beverage company like Coca-Cola, [00:21:00] or you work of or a car company, or you work in manufacturing, or logistics, algorithms now, are really the core of how a company creates and delivers value for its customers. There's an algorithm at FedEx, which is hundreds of pages long because it determines the scheduling, and how trucks and deliveries are moved around.
There's a wonderful story about the CEO of Deliverer, which is one of the leading [00:21:30] delivery companies in the United Kingdom. And he spent the first six months of his job riding on a motorcycle, delivering pizzas. And it wasn't because they were short staffed, or they didn't have the venture capital to hire more drivers. It's because he wanted the situational context for understanding what are all of the variables that impact a rider's journey, and that contributed to the customer experience. Because only after he was able to internalize [00:22:00] that as a leader, was he able to step back and then make strategic decisions about the algorithm that drives the value of his company.
Kyle Davis: Where do you think the divider schism is between the comfort level and familiarity with data that I feel a lot of great leaders have, versus those that just don't have that or choose not to understand what the powerful data is that they possess or own?
Mike Walsh: [00:22:30] I think most leaders understand the value of data. In fact, we've all grown up with Excel. If anything, there's been and over-reliance on Excel generated data. The subtle change is, now we're dealing with real time data. Coming to a meeting with a fanciful Excel projection with made up numbers, it's just not a smart way to make decisions. [00:23:00] If you're making a major decision today, and you're in a big company, you should be looking at the real time information from your operation, and you should be working with people that can create algorithms that can run what it analysis, and look at different scenarios. But it should be with real live information, because that's the speed at which decisions now need to be made.
Kyle Davis: What are some other key issues that business leaders are facing besides ... [00:23:30] There's a lot of great software platforms out there, like Domo, that will give you real time data and analytics. But besides that, what are some other key issues that people need to have, instead of looking at the shadows on the cave wall, they need to turn to the light?
Mike Walsh: The #1 issue, I believe, for leaders today, is transformation. Because a lot of the stuff we've been speaking about are tactical [00:24:00] changes in the development of your teams, or your leaders, or the way you think and handle culture. But the big overarching issue is about how you manage the new pace of change. And people talk about digital transformation as a key priority.
It's interesting, when Mackenzie surveyed companies about the biggest obstacles to digital transformation, #1 was beliefs. People, in general, [00:24:30] in large companies, think that digital transformation is about upgrading you technology. But it isn't. It's about upgrading the mental software and the processes and the way your company thinks about problems. So, driving that agenda from the board room, right down to the people on the warehouse floor, is one of the most pressing challenges, I think, for any serious 21st century leader.
Gail Davis: [00:25:00] Mike, in some of your talks, I know you argue that millennials aren't that important. Why do you say that?
Kyle Davis: And watch what you say. Watch what you say.
Mike Walsh: Millennials love it when you say that.
Gail Davis: Yeah. I can hardly wait for the answer.
Mike Walsh: Let me be diplomatic about this, and just say they're not as important as they were, just by simple fact of numbers. When you look at the demographics of most countries, and I say most, probably with the exception [00:25:30] of Japan, because Japan is kind of old, now. But most countries on the planet, America included, have the vast majority of their population now are Millennial. Millennials are in the workforce, they're everywhere. They're almost 50%, 60%, 70% of the population. So, they're not the lead indicators of the future that they were 5 or 10 years ago.
The people that, I believe, that we should be [00:26:00] terrified of, are eight year olds or younger. Because this is the generation post-2007, who didn't get their first iPhone at 50, like the current generation of leaders. This is the generation that had iPhones put in their hands as babysitting devices, to keep them quiet by their irresponsible parents. And as a result, they have totally changed their [00:26:30] entire mentality of what they will expect growing up. They're going to be a generation that will be very hard to predict just the scale of their impact as consumers, as employees, as designers of the future.
Kyle Davis: We had this conversation not so long ago. I want to say maybe back in January, where you were saying you spent a lot of time looking at them, and it's interesting because it's not just that they have the iPhone, but they're growing up in a day and time where AI [00:27:00] is a part of their life, and it will just increasingly become much more, and more, and more a part of their life. And it won't be seen as weird or odd, versus maybe and older Millennial, or someone of the baby boomer generation, views it as this weird encroachment into their life.
Mike Walsh: That's a great point. And you can actually imagine a Millennial who's now got young kids looking at their young kids and going, Where is the app for that?" And essentially this new generation, [00:27:30] which look at them like they're insane because these kids are growing up in a post-screen, post-typing society because they've grown up talking to technology. Siri and Alexa have been the default second parents for this generation, because when their parents are away, and they've got hundreds of questions, Alexa's got to be the stand-in parental. This [00:28:00] is going to change the way that they view technology. Technology is going to be about as interesting as running water and electricity. It's going to be just kind of a backdrop to the way things are done.
But if you look closely, this is not about mobile phones at all. It's about, what is it to grow up in a world where you've got a layer of machine intelligence that sits between you and every experience that you have? You can't upload a photo to Instagram, you [00:28:30] can't listen to a song on Spotify, or watch a video on YouTube, and not expect to have a profoundly different experience to anyone else.
Kyle Davis: Yeah, it's interesting. The whole Alexa thing, I'm not a huge Alexa fan, or I was not a huge Alexa fan, until I went over to my friend's house and she has it. And the things that she, at a basic level, has set up her Alexa to do for her are insane. And then Burger King, USA, they had a commercial where they said, "Hey, Alexa, where's [00:29:00] the closest Burger King." And they timed the commercial so that way it said, "Your closest Burger King is" and then it said the miles or time and location. People are even hacking from a marketing standpoint as well.
Gail Davis: That's great.
Mike Walsh: There was a funny story about that. There was a young girl who was left alone by her parents, and she was a bit lonely, so she asked Alexa if she could play, and then she basically asked to play dolls. And Alexa pretty much [00:29:30] interpreted this that the young girl needed a dollhouse. So, the next morning, the parents were a little bit astonished to find there was a very expensive dollhouse had been delivered to the door, and a big bag of sugary cookies.
Kyle Davis: Gotta love Alexa. She knows what I want.
Mike Walsh: Of course, when they ran this story on the news that night, it then triggered hundreds of other Alexas to also order dollhouses. So we've clearly got some [inaudible 00:29:54] issues.
Gail Davis: You know, Mike, earlier in our conversation, you jokingly said you became the [00:30:00] worst thing, a speaker. Well, you did become a speaker, and you're very good at it. I'm curious what you think the most rewarding part of being in the speaking industry is.
Mike Walsh: I think, hands down, the part I find most interesting is the people you meet. One of the ... I feel like I'm in such a privileged position to ... A lot of the companies that hire me are some of the world's most interesting companies, with incredible missions. [00:30:30] And I get to hear about the things that terrify them, that excite them, that they're passionate about, that their senior teams are working on. So, it's like having a microscope into some of the world's smartest people and what they are doing.
And the briefing calls are the best part because that's your opportunity to talk to people who would probably never bother to speak to you, that you could never get on the phone if you turned up every day with a box [00:31:00] of chocolates. They would never see you.
What I love is, you start to see the links between companies, between industries, between leaders, at a very high level, which you just wouldn't see if you weren't on the road, giving a hundred talks a year.
Gail Davis: Speaking of that, I know in your profile, it says you travel about 300 days a year. I'm curious, is that a limit of 300 days, or what's behind that number 300?
Mike Walsh: [00:31:30] The secret behind that is that I like to take two months off a year.
Gail Davis: I knew there was something there.
Mike Walsh: I've got a little beach house in Australia that I like to go back to, and just hide and read books. And I also love the Greek islands. So, I take about 60 days where I just refuse to get on a plane, and have some downtime to think, and read, and plan what's coming next. But, in between, I'm constantly on the [00:32:00] move. I'm always in different cities, countries, and seeing different things.
Kyle Davis: And you're rather cosmopolitan. Where are you today?
Mike Walsh: I'm in London today.
Kyle Davis: I see.
Gail Davis: Hey Mike. The 60 days that you take of, are those 60 days together?
Mike Walsh: Yeah.
Gail Davis: Okay, that's cool. I bet that helps really recharge you and get you ready for the busy season, when it rolls around.
Mike Walsh: Exactly. It's a wonderful thing.
Kyle Davis: One of the things that you mentioned when talking about [00:32:30] coming into the speaking industry, is that you have the opportunity to come in contact with a lot of really smart people. And in case people are wondering when they're listening to this, why this is such a good sounding podcast. It's because Mike Walsh is also a podcaster, as well.
So, I'm wondering if you could talk about your podcast, and the guests that you have on there, and the topics that you discuss.
Mike Walsh: Absolutely. My podcast is called Between Worlds. I started doing it, initially, because I was lazy. [00:33:00] It's reasonable difficult to write something clever once a week. But I thought it would be reasonably easy to have an interesting conversation with someone once a week. It turns out it's actually very difficult to find great people to talk to.
But I was meeting lots of people on my travels, and I decided rather than to do it via Skype, I would actually meet up with people in coffee shops in Paris, or in Tokyo, or in Silicon Valley, and I would let people [00:33:30] sit in and listen in on the conversations I was having, as I was researching my books and my talks.
So, I've had a very wide range of guests. Everything from a guy who's a data sculptor, he's commissioned by companies like Salesforce and the LA Philharmonic to create sculptures out of pure data. Today I was interviewing the producer who created The Crown, and Wallander, and Outlander, and a bunch of hit TV shows. [00:34:00] I was talking to him about what it's like now being commissioned by Netflix and Amazon, rather than traditional TV studios.
But I also speak to crazy scientists, and entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists. So there's no real thread for me, other than people that are interesting, and that are trying to come to terms with what it is to live in a algorithmic world.
Kyle Davis: But at the same point in time, having these varied viewpoints allow you to have a better informed [00:34:30] futurism. I was trying to find the word.
Mike Walsh: Yes. That sounds like a congenital disease, but yes.
Kyle Davis: It does sound like something rather horrible, doesn't it?
Mike Walsh: These are people I was talking to for research for my books anyway. I just thought I would let people listen in so that they'd realize that my information was coming from experts, rather than other people's blogs.
Kyle Davis: From the horses mouth, so to speak.
Mike Walsh: Yes.
Kyle Davis: I do want to wrap this up, but one of the things that we had when we talked [00:35:00] back in January, when we were talking about technology and fun stuff, we were talking about internal communication tools, like Slack or Hipchat, changing the way that people internally versus email, and how things are changing in that regard. So, I'm just kind of wondering, if you're a small business, let's say you're 10 people, what are some things that Mike Walsh believes that you should have, and a quick reason as to why, from a technology standpoint?
Mike Walsh: [00:35:30] In truth, I don't think it particularly matters. In that, if you're on the cloud, and you've got a fast way of working, it doesn't actually matter what your tools are anymore. And that's because pretty much all the tools are the same. What is more important is your rhythm of working. I would say three years ago, it mattered a lot that you were using one tool over the others. But there's sort of a kind of equilibrium, now. Even Microsoft, [00:36:00] it's got fantastic tools now. They've kind of taken a lot of the elements of Slack, and built their own teams-based product.
But what you want to do, whether you're a company of 5 people, or 50 people, or 5000 people, is to get into a rhythm of constantly challenging yourself that you've identified projects that are going to move you forward, that are going to disrupt what you're doing, and that are critically important. You've got your best people working on it, you're running [00:36:30] experiments, you're iterating, you're taking some of those elements of fast production, and you're working in a way that's agile. And if you're doing that, it doesn't matter that if you're using bits of paper and throwing aeroplanes at each other. It's just about challenging the human dynamics.
IBM recently ended their practice of allowing people to work from home. And this was really controversial because IBM created a lot of the technology that allowed people to work from home. [00:37:00] But the reason why they did that is that when they looked at their most innovative projects, they were generally driven by small teams of people that were co-located in a single location.
So sometimes old school is still new school.
Kyle Davis: One of the things that you did mention was that being Cloud-based, and I'm a huge fan of that. From there, if we're just looking at Cloud-based solutions, doing that, generally speaking, just going [00:37:30] Cloud-based versus saving it on your computer or saving it on a server farm, or something else like that, makes a lot more sense.
Mike Walsh: It makes sense because it allows you to get up and focus on the work much more quickly, rather than spending time trying to run an IT department when you're 5 people. But that logic applies when you're 5000 people, too.
The reason why I think technology didn't significantly improve productivity for the last 10 or 15 years, [00:38:00] is we spent so much time on the technology. Technology's not important, it's a commodity. What matters is the way people interact with each other. And that's really hard.
Kyle Davis: Cool beans. Well, I think that is a good place for us to wrap.
If you would like to listen to Mike Walsh's podcast, we will have a link of it on the GDA podcast website, as well as the transcript, and the books. So, the website's gdapodcast.com.
For speaker information, [00:38:30] or to book Mike for your next event, you can do so by contacting GDA Speakers. The phone number in the US is +1 214-420-1999. And that's for the international audience, the "+1". I don't know why I remember that, but I just do. And then the website's gdaspeakers.com.
Mike, thanks so much for joining us. And I know that we're planning on getting you in here soon. I look forward to that, as well.
Gail Davis: Thanks, Mike.
Mike Walsh: Wonderful. Thanks so much.