Rising from the Ashs

with Peter Hinssen

Rising from the Ashes

with Peter Hinssen

TF guests Peter Hinssen GTA BW glow style 500x500

In this week’s episode of The Futurists, Peter Hinssen joins the dynamic duo to talk the new normal of constant technology change and his new book The Phoenix and The Unicorn. A specialist in corporate forecast planning, Hinssen’s insights are compelling 

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Breaking Banks

Hosted By Brett King, Jason Henrichs, & JP Nicols
The #1 global fintech radio show and podcast. Every week we explore the personalities, startups, innovators, and industry players driving disruption in financial services; from Incumbents to unicorns, and from the latest cutting edge technology to the people who are using it to help to create a more innovative, inclusive and healthy financial future.


This week on the futurist if i look at my kids that they’re never more than probably one meter away from their smartphone and i mean it’s not too small that you would just you know lose it in say a shirt pocket or in in a sofa so i think that’s probably a really convenient form factor but i do believe that at one point it’s going to be replaced by by what we see i mean honestly i’ve been wearing regular glasses since i was 14 and the moment that we can actually think about an augmented reality with the form factor of you know these lightweight devices that what i don’t know what percentage of the population wears glasses but a hell of a lot more and more i think that’s the moment when we have the capability to really flip that to a new form factor

well here we are back in the hosting chair robert and i are both outside of the u.s right now he’s in eindhoven i’m at my apartment in bangkok um you know for those you’ve listened to the show for a while you know i spend some time here um robert is on here on a a journey through europe over the next few weeks um what’s eindhoven like today robert i know it’s fine the weather is fabulous it’s it’s unusually warm but it’s a perfect day for biking and that seems to be what everyone’s doing what do you call unusually warm in eindhoven uh so here it would be in the 20s um but in the u.s that would be in the 80s right it was 34 degrees celsius in bangkok today so that’s a bit more unusually warm stay off the bike get on a long tail boat no we got a beautiful uh pool here so um and joining us uh for the show today is peter henson um peter and i met about 10 years ago actually through our friends at swift at sibos he’s a serial entrepreneur a keynote speaker he’s been involved in the startup world but he’s a thought leader on radical innovation leadership and the impact of digital on society and business he lectures currently at the london business school he’s lectured also at mit in boston he founded a future focused organization called nex works to help organizations adapt um his uh some of his books the new normal the day after tomorrow and his uh upcoming book the phoenix and the unicorn i’m sure we’re gonna get into that today peter henson welcome to the futurists thank you very much and and thank you brett and robert for having me happy to have you here great to meet you tell us about the room that you’re in because uh for those who are watching video you’ll see there’s an awful lot of apple computer equipment behind you yeah i call it the apple chapel and and brett’s actually been there um i i’m one of the largest collectors i think of apple computers in the world um i learned how to program on apple ii when i was 11 and that love for both the technology and for the brand never disappeared and i think contrary to my i never threw anything away so it was cluttering our house like crazy it was driving my wife up the wall and then three years ago i had the chance to buy a church here in belgium an abandoned church that i renovated and this was i think finished probably three or four days before we had the first lockdown and i thought damn what am i going to do so i started using the apple chapel as my office and i did webinars for you know more than two years and honestly i i i don’t think i’ll ever have a better office than an abandoned renovated church filled with vintage computers so tech is the new religion and i think that’s what this apple chapel really shows yeah it it is quite a spectacular location peter i’ll give you that and uh your um your love for it and your enthusiasm um for all things apple is clear not not just with the uh obviously the the incredible background we can see this you know um but just also the passion with which you speak about how how this project came to be so um fantastic and speaking of apple we passed a big milestone this week uh the iphone is now 15 years old and it’s the world’s first trillion dollar product so it’s actually quite an extraordinary milestone in the sense that um you know when i give talks now i ask people how many people have an iphone and it’s extraordinary how many people raise their hand in the room uh of course that’s you know going to be more likely the case in europe and in the us less likely the case in asia and other parts of the world where android phones are more prevalent but what’s extraordinary about that is now you can walk into a room and say try to spot the windows computer try to spot the ibm computer right 15 years ago before the iphone the world was dominated by windows today the world seems to be dominated by apple and then everyone who’s trying to be the next apple i suppose but along the way an awful lot has changed it’s been a rather extraordinary ride the last 15 years peter were your thoughts about that well i mean one of the things is that i i as as you can see behind me i collect a lot of the old computers but one of my fascinating things that i collect is the documentation and i think that tells a part of the story that isn’t always told so one of the favorite objects that i have and that’s probably my most cherished one this is the prospectus that um uh morgan stanley used to take apple public back in 1979. so this is one oh yeah the s1 and this is the document that they use to sell the force the first four million six hundred thousand shares of apple computer inc and what is truly fascinating about that when you talk about the trillion dollar product one of the items in here is of course how big is the market going to be because in those days nobody knew what a computer was and the fascinating thing about this document is that in the document says we actually believe at apple that personal computers might at one day become a billion dollar market a billion i mean that’s what apple does on a bad wednesday morning just online so in terms of being able to look at the future i think these types of historical documents are really interesting one thing again throwing the history at it one thing i like to do is you might have seen me use this in a keynote previously is talk about the compute power we have in an iphone today compared with a notable computer that was a key part of human history being the apollo guidance computer from apollo 11. the current iphone has approximately 250 million times the processing power of the apollo 11 computer that took neil armstrong buzz aldrin and michael collins to the moon that is incredible um progress to think about it and of course you know it fits in a much smaller unit than the apollo guidance computer but what’s astonishing about that is it doesn’t just make your um personal computer irrelevant in a lot of contexts it’s actually making a lot of products irrelevant i talk a lot about the way the phone has vaporized so many different devices start sort of suck the functionality of different devices into it peter tell me about this form factor since you’re so interested in form factors how long are we going to be living with this this uh shiny rectangle that would stick in our pocket do you think that well the smart glasses just vaporize the smartphone yeah well i think um the nice thing about um this the form factor is that it’s probably gotten to the point where you don’t lose it too much if i look at my kids they’re never more than probably one meter away from their smartphone and i mean it’s not too small that you would just you know lose it in say a shirt pocket or in in a sofa so i think that’s probably a really convenient form factor but i do believe that at one point it’s going to be replaced by by what we see i mean honestly i’ve been wearing regular glasses since i was 14 and the moment that we can actually think about an augmented reality with the form factor of you know these lightweight devices that what i don’t know what percentage of the population wears glasses but a hell of a lot more and more i think that’s the moment when we have the capability to really flip that to a new form factor interesting battleground coming up because of course uh you know facebook or now meta is investing heavily in a new form factor for your face whether that’s glasses or a head-mounted display 64 of the population wears glasses there’s 64. exactly so and we’ve crossed you know across the halfway point so yeah so so facebook is going to try to get you to wear a computer on your face but i suspect that’s going to happen with this uh long rumored ar goggles that apple is developing i think they’re going to be extension of the phone the same way the apple watch is an extension of the phone in other words they’re going to try to entrench their monopoly or their dominance in this form factor for a bit longer they have too many they have too much to lose there’s too much at stake for apple and also frankly the head-mounted display space those are going to be underpowered initially so it’s better to put the heavy duty processing power and also the connectivity you know the network connectivity put that in the phone where it belongs right now your apple iphone already has ultra wide fan so they’ll be able to transmit data high rates to headsets or glasses and i suspect this is going to be a big battle between apple and meta uh for what is the form factor for the future which is the dominant device apple’s going to try to reinforce their smartphone dominance i agree and i think if they get that right that could be probably their next trillion dollar product if they get that right and they’ve been mulling around for a long time everybody every single worldwide developers conference people say finally they’re going to release it and they never do so yeah they really know how to you know keep the suspense going but i think the moment they do i think that is going to be a game changer so that’s true i’m carrying a whole new chapel for that yeah it’s true the last earnings call everybody expected apple to talk at the worldwide developer conference they were supposed to talk about these new air classes that we’ve been hearing so much about through the rumor bill and they very noticeably did not mention a word about it and i think part of that is apple has very smart strategic planning and very smart people who deal with investors and i think they noticed that when facebook talked about their investment or i should say when meta talked about their investment during the earnings call and mentioned that they were pouring 10 billion dollars a year into vr with no no visible results they got smacked and a quarter of the company was erased overnight i think apple’s very cautious about their position so they’re like we’re not going to talk about ar just yet it’s like let’s talk about becoming a bank and putting more banking functionality into the phone so peter i do want to get into um you know you’ve done a lot with adaptation um from a business perspective from a personal perspective even just when when we look at your subtitles of of your books the network always wins you talk about surviving in the age of uncertainty um you know the new normal explore the limits of the digital world how to survive in times of radical innovation from your book the day after tomorrow so you you are thinking often about adaptability of humanity to the rate of change that we’re undergoing we’ve just been talking about that from a compute perspective but um when was it that you realized that your skill or that your passion was for this intersection of change and human behavior and sort of um being an architect of that or navigating that and and you know decided to make that your your core focus as a futurist well i think um um i’m a technologist by training so i’m an engineer and and i think for most of my you know young life that’s what i wanted to do i just loved technology and i wanted to see what technology could bring and what it could do and and i think my biggest weakness is that i get easily enthusiastic about new things i mean i i just love shiny new things which is a good thing as an engineer but i think um the the reason i got into what i do now is i when i graduated i started working for a company called alcatel and i don’t know if you remember that but it was a big french company building telecoms infrastructure they later merged with lucent um you know who owned bell labs and when i when i had a chance to join the company i thought wow this is one of the coolest technology companies in the world that’s where i see myself actually building out a career that’s where i want to live for the rest of my professional life when i joined i had one ambition i wanted to be the chief technology officer of that company at one point but when i joined um this is the time early 90s when there was no world wide web the world wide web actually burst onto the scene a few years later and in my personal life i got hooked onto that new technology i mean i started building websites and i started understanding how to program you know and and and construct the scripts to you know generate the html and i just love that and the story is that you know i that obsession was like a few years a few hours every evening and then it became an all-nighter and then at a certain moment in 1995 i went to you know alcatel in the morning i had not slept i had just been debugging a website all night i walk out of the elevator and the chief technology officer of you know alcatel sees me staggering out of that elevator and says please come into my office and he sits me down and he asks me the most important question everybody’s anybody’s ever asked me in my professional life he said are you on drugs and i said no no i’m i’m hooked on the world wide web and he said what’s that and i showed him and at that moment he said nah just if you have any of having a normal career just knock off this this will never work this is mickey mouse stuff focus on your real work and that’s the moment you know brett robert when i decided to quit that afternoon and start my first startup and do something with the world wide web and i had no idea what i was going to do but for me it was earth-shattering that you know some of the people that i really respected even in the form of technology actually didn’t see a huge radical shift that was happening in something that i saw very very clearly anyway long story short i i spent 15 years in startups ironically i sold my first startup to alcatel five years later five years later the same guy called them said well you were right about this world wide web thing you know can we buy your company which i did but it was fascinating to see how large organizations had huge difficulty in actually not just understanding the future but then acting on the future and after 15 years of startups that became really my my life’s work i mean the last 10 years i’ve spent mostly with very traditional companies whether they be banks or retailers or you know insurance companies and trying to help them figure out how to make sense of the future but also how to not just get them aware but how to get them to act on the future and that’s been i think probably the feel rouge through my work that’s been the feel rouge through my books when i wrote that book the day after tomorrow i had the you know in in you you’ve probably both had that right you’re in a workshop and you think what the hell am i gonna do and write on that flip chart and i put something on that flip chart and said how much time you spend on today tomorrow and the day after tomorrow what is today it’s the hundreds of emails you get that eat up all of your time what’s tomorrow and then i said it’s like the budget it’s the classic way of looking at the future the budget is the yearly sarcastic corporate ritual where people put fake news in excel that never works and then there’s the day after tomorrow new ideas new innovations new business models things that change the rule of the game and i asked them how much time do you spend on that and they everyone in the room said 70 20 10. but the reality when you actually started to examine was not 70 2010 it was 93 7 and 0. and then i realized that if you really wanted to have the capacity to reinvent what you did as an organization you needed to focus on that day after tomorrow and that really has been the last 10 years of my life trying to work with these large established organizations and there is in my opinion a huge difference between showing them and making them aware and that is still relatively okay to do in the job that we do but then getting them to act on that and to actually leverage the power of the day after tomorrow that is a whole different kettle of fish no i was just going to follow up with that peter you know like your conversation at alcatel and you know um the the fact that you’ve chosen this course of coaching people on preparing for the day after tomorrow why is it when we can look back at 300 years of technological disruption and technological development and we can see that every time technology wins and this is a point that many of our guests make in in respect to adaptation why is it then that so many people when they look at something like the world wide web just discounted or like at the moment i mean a crypto and fintech and and things like that that are you know potentially disrupting the space i mean you know so many traditionalists just like yeah it’s it’s much to do about nothing instead of you know inevitably you know the the like history teaches us that it’s all going to get disrupted and vaporized as as as robert talks about well i and and i think to that point just just two things i mean one is i think it’s really an appetite for risk which is a really important element of that and honestly if if you know when i was 25 and i decided that afternoon to just quit my job at alcatel and start on my own i i didn’t know what the risks were i just did that because it felt right but i’m sure that if you’re a senior executive and you’ve always been doing it that way that’s maybe not the risk spectrum you want to get into and that was something when i look back in the first 15 years of that startup life i mean i was on the receiving end of venture capital i mean you know that business you know better than anyone else and this is a really tricky thing because you need you’re convinced of something and you want to find other people who will back you up and that’s what the whole vc industry does really really well they make really risky bets on people who have a dream more than anything else who have a belief more than anything else and the venture capital is is a is a pretty tricky industry i always call vc’s you know loan charts with teslas i mean that’s basically what they are but they’re capable of actually taking huge risks and you know it pays off quite handsomely but they also know that if they invest in 10 ideas seven are just going to die and the whole idea is to let them die as quickly as possible two are going to be mediocre performances one is going to be the the ballpark that you know takes the money home a few years ago i joined the advisory board of a private equity firm and i’d never done private equity and i thought i just want to understand what it means and they invest in traditional companies traditional industries and they make them a little bit better and i remember in my first meeting i made a complete fool of myself there were 10 companies in their portfolio nine were doing really well and one was a mediocre performance and everybody was panicking about that well my god that was an introduction to a completely different way of looking at a segment of that risk spectrum and i think in corporates what i’ve seen is there are so many mechanisms there is such a numbness that takes over where you are blind or really really scared to get into that more adventurous side of risk-taking that from me brett is probably the number one reason why there is such a possibility of creative destruction i mean i i had the great pleasure i had the book here um i did some work with carlota perez i know if you’ve you know worked with carlota but she’s the one who wrote that book technological revolutions of financial capital she’s been studying these s-curves and she says it’s all over the place it’s industrial evolution steam railways mass production over and over again but one of the things that she also notices is the cycles are getting shorter and shorter and shorter and that’s why i think if you want to get corporate enterprises to think about new ways to adapt that risk spectrum they’re going to have to realize that some of their timelines that they used to have say 20 30 40 years ago are not there anymore and that’s why i think you have to completely rethink that whole paradigm of thinking about the future the challenge is that vcs of course are rewarded for betting on disruption and nowadays they’ll bet huge amounts because they’re trying to disrupt entire industries not just a company so that makes sense perhaps for them for a company when the company but you know what traditional company bets on destruction they’re really betting against themselves and there are many many conservative voices that are going to come forth inside the organization and begin to lecture you about why that’s never going to work or why that’ll cut off the core source of revenue and therefore it’s not time yet we should wait ceos are struggling i think to make the correct decision nobody wants to be the person to blow up their own company on the other hand nobody wants to miss the boat on the opportunity to change and certainly none of them want to be the subject of disruption or the object i should say of disruption it’s a very difficult balance within a company peter one thing i’ve noticed is that companies often company leadership will often try to create an um innovation team they’ll sort of dump the problem on the desk of a small team as if that team has the power to change the company and what i found is if corporations don’t have support at the very top if the if the leadership doesn’t come from the c-suite and everyone’s aligned and the financial incentives meaning the bonus structure is aligned towards destabilization and change and embracing new ideas then it’s never going to happen because there are just too many videos too many voices of descent inside of the company that can slow it down that’s a mouthful why don’t you respond to that and then we’ll have to go to break shortly after that absolutely and and the short answer is completely agree the longer answer is let me give you one example i mean um being in an apple chapel a lot of the technology that apple actually used to you know take it to the next level from the apple ii to eventually the macintosh was all technology that they stole from xerox and xerox is probably the company if you if you go back in silicon valley and go to xerox park which is their you know far future research it’s a shrine to actually inactivity because xerox was a company that had revolutionized one industry namely you know photocopying and then they put their smartest people in silicon valley gave them an almost unlimited budget and said invent something you know what happens if you put a big bunch of nerds together with unlimited budget and say invent the future they will laser printer graphical user interface personally all invented by xerox never commercialized the best book on that is called fumbling the feature um how xerox invented and then ignored the first personal computer i believe that if you read this book and do everything completely different you’ll be fine i mean that’s that that i think is the logical conclusion but it shows that many companies when they isolate their future forward looking they’re never capable of changing the mothership and i think if you really want to act on the day after tomorrow that’s what you need to do else you’re just going to frustrate these people beyond belief fantastic you are listening to the futurists it’s with brett king and myself rob tercek as your co-host and today we’re speaking to peter henson an entrepreneur a future thinker a speaker and the author of a number of books he’s been telling us about the day after tomorrow and soon we’ll hear about the phoenix and the unicorn after the break please stay tuned after this we’ll be right back welcome to breaking banks the number one global fintech radio show and podcast i’m brett king and i’m jason henricks every week since 2013 we explored the personalities startups innovators and industry players driving disruption in financial services from incumbents to unicorns and from cutting edge technology to the people using it to help create a more innovative inclusive and healthy financial future i’m jp nichols and this is breaking banks

welcome back to the futurists i’m brett king and i host the futurist with robert tursek he’s uh we’re both outside of the us right now but we have peter henson with us joining us talking about um you know how corporations tackle this issue of thinking about adaptability uh and and how the culture of these organizations must form to be able to successfully navigate the future so peter just in terms of your role and the work you do at the corporate level at the board level and and in terms of this this advising space you know what is your methodology for you know a looking at the future and picking those hot topics that that different organizations need need to build awareness for and how do you encourage that cultural development from the top down to to be more adaptable yeah and i think um if i go back to that model we talked about earlier the the after tomorrow model i like to use that as a little bit of a framework actually the model’s not complete but it’s not just today tomorrow the after tomorrow the you know the element i always ask is that there’s a big red square next to that with negative energy which is typically the [ __ ] of yesterday because it’s the mess of the past it’s the legacy the technical debt that is often really dragging companies down but when i talk about that day after tomorrow what i really try and do is force a management team or a force of board to say okay why don’t you spend a significant amount of time for you to actually understand what that day after tomorrow could be and when i talked earlier about the the 10 that might be a lot because 10 of an executive time or a board time is a lot of time but even if it’s just five percent of getting out of your normal day routine your normal you know spreadsheets milestones and budgets and thinking about what could be the game changers in your industry and that five percent might be crucial for you to spot things and to to pick up things but then you have to act on it and i think that’s where you know going back to robert’s question about isolating the innovation that’s the worst thing that you can do i picked up a model which i call the hourglass model which i really like we are we all know what the shape of an hourglass is but that that top part of the hourglass the wide part is this is where you sense that the after tomorrow this is where you pick up the signals in the organization then you need to reduce the sauce as that you know top part actually starts to taper to the middle this is where you experiment and figure out what is relevant for you in the organization and then it falls into the bottom part of the organization this is where you run and scale and focus on the bottom line and actually scaling solutions and what i always do with companies is say how much of your resources talent people are spending that top part in sense and try and how much is focused on run and scale and then a lot of companies start to figure out that they really need to beef up that capacity in that top part of the hourglass just to be able to understand what that day after tomorrow could mean the second thing and that goes back to robert’s question about the isolation i see a lot of companies who do have that top part but it’s not connected to that bottom part and then it basically just falls on bearing ground and nothing happens with that and that is incredibly frustrating for those people who are in the top part of that hourglass so that combination of forcing them to think about the day after tomorrow and then trying to figure out what it means into the reshaping of their hourglass inside an organization is something that i found that is a very powerful mechanism for them to think and trigger and even put resources people’s numbers and money on that because if you don’t do that it won’t happen by itself i’m sure you you both have had that where you get invited to like a strategic off-site you know where two days in the summer they go to a wonderful resort and talk about the future and then i always say at the end i hope you don’t ask me back because i’ve often had it where a year or two years later they ask me back and i think you know what i’m gonna go i wanna see what they’ve done and they’ve done nothing and i say but why do you ask me back oh it was so nice to talk to the future about you it’s like going to a zombie movie a horror movie but then you go back home and you think that could never happen to me that is the worst possible outcome actually you know that there’s an interesting thing i mean the three of us you know and and many of the people we have on the show um you know we’re constantly thinking about the future and as a result you know we do view the world in different ways from normally well-adjusted people right you could argue right um because we’re always looking at these trends we’re looking at um you know we just talked about ar glasses you know we’ve all been watching that space for years now because we’re very interested in the impact of that whereas i don’t think the average person sort of gives it a second thought so um you know is there an element of that which is training people to think like a futurist is is that a core skill that a ceo should have do you think peter i i do and i think um and i think at this moment we probably agree that in almost every geography on the world the the education system is the slowest moving part of society that is is almost everywhere the case and especially also in business education as i said i’ve been teaching at london business school for a while now and i mean i i do most of it in in the executive education but if i have a chance to talk to the mba group i always do that and i always make a really corny joke in the beginning i say well really glad to be here and i’m really glad that you’ve chosen for the perfect perfect education for the last century and the reason is that a lot of the subjects we teach in an mba are about optimizing a current situation but not about being open-minded to uncertainty or even dealing with uncertainty where you don’t have all the ingredients and i think that’s the type of education or re-education we’re going to have to do because yeah i talk more and more about the never normal i wrote that book the new normal 10 years ago but we’re in the never normal we see a constantly changing world and i think if we’re not going to train you know the next generation of leaders to deal with that type of uncertainty and to make bold moves and then be flexible on the details but have a different way of dealing in in getting that message out in getting the troops rallying behind that that’s a different type of leadership and i really believe that might be one of the big challenges that we need to have we need to re-connect and rethink how we train that next generation of leaders in that never normal one of the things that’s happening right now as we speak we’re recording this in mid 2022 and there is a generation of leaders that’s on the brink of retirement and these folks are not digital natives they didn’t grow up with digital technology in many cases they don’t have your background peter they’re not engineers they don’t write software some of them aren’t even comfortable typing they’ll handle email but not all enjoy digital technology and i’m referring to specifically i can make an example to a company i worked with a few years ago major automaker one of the biggest in the world everyone who’s successful in that company loves cars in fact they love internal combustion engines that’s why they work for a motor company so no one in that organization is enthusiastic about electric vehicles or worse autonomous vehicles these are people that love to drive cars for a living right that’s what they do that’s why they’re successful in a culture like that if you’re going to be talking about a future that is disruptive in other words autonomous vehicles self-driving cars maybe doing away with cars and using some sort of like taxi system uh rethinking public transport in general you’re really swimming against the stream you’re really going up against the mainstream thought you’re really challenging management in a way that might not be great for your career peter what advice do you have when you meet someone like that inside of one of the companies that you’re working with who takes you aside at a coffee break at a lunch break and says hey peter i got to tell you this place the words you’re giving us are landing on dead soil this these seeds are never going to grow let me tell you how bad it is here what do you tell them well i let me make a distinction there and i think i’ve often seen that and heard that and sometimes you have people who come up to you and say what what could we do to change this and sometimes i have to say well maybe there’s nothing you can do maybe you have to find another place to actually make it happen and one of the things that i’ve seen and that is i think really weird is that um and and i wrote the book uh the phoenix and unicorn also based on what i’d seen at walmart for example because walmart is a company that when i first met them five six years ago i i was not really impressed i thought well you know they’re old school and you know retailer of the past and then i got more and more enthusiastic about their willingness to change and to see a company like that fight back against the amazons trying to reconfigure what they do and and honestly they are now more and more in a mode where they think you know what for 50 60 years we had people coming to us we’re now gonna have to go to them it’s a fundamental rethinking of what they do but i think one of the things that i’ve loved about working with a company like walmart is they are capable of developing a long-term vision and that for me has been one of the most important characteristics when i see the opportunity or not to act on the day after tomorrow and one of the strange things about a couple like walmart is they’re publicly traded i mean you can see the stock price every day but the walton family still has the controlling stake in the company and they are not there for this fiscal quarter or this fiscal year they are really in it for the long game generational wealth absolutely and when i see them empowering a ceo like doug macmillan and and doug is i i’ll just quickly give that example doug is the the ceo of walmart he used to run walmart international before he did that walmart international is brazil and canada and mexico but india flipkart china and what doug saw there in the changing of retail gave him a perfect view that it’s not just fighting the guys from seattle this is about a whole retail landscape that is fundamentally going to change and i think with that baggage and then that that leash on life to think about the long game from the family that creates a perfect environment where you can actually act on the day after tomorrow but isn’t that what all corporations need to be doing now especially with climate change and ai and all of these things impacting us shouldn’t we have longer term plans shouldn’t humanity be thinking about 20 year 50-year 100-year projects i mean we used to do that back in the renaissance right but what you know why can’t humanity have that type of inspirational like the only corporate leader you know you know fortune 100 you know leader that’s really thinking like that these days you could argue tim cook maybe right um but is elon musk you know like these really big plans for humanity you know what do we have to do to change it from this focus on next quarter’s balance sheet and next year’s budget and you know the next year in two years the election cycle to really big picture stuff peter well you must case you know he’s telling the truth right he believes it to his core right absolutely i think if you’re talking about a very typical corporate suit who’s grown up through the ranks of the company if he were to say the exact same words about transporting humans to the planet mars those words would fall flat and ring hollow so that’s part of the problem in in a way yes but let me give you another example because the nice thing about elon is that is a unicorn right i mean he starts from scratch has no legacy he can really build a completely new culture on the future from day one and and i think keeping that day one spirit is essential if you want to be able to to have that capability you’re right about the corporate side which is often completely different let me give you one example and if you’ve read this book net positive by paul paulman so paul paulman used to be the ceo of unilever now unilever is one of the huge giants in the world and and i think when he was running unilever he was one of those executives that did try to fundamentally make a difference he said you know what we’re we’re just going to screw up our planet if we keep doing what we’re doing and he for the decade that he ran unilever said we’re going to focus on esg he took you know the sustainable development goals and said you know what i want to double the business but i want a half our environmental impact and i want to do more good for society that’s the whole you know gist of the book net positive he says you know what i when i i had a chance to meet him earlier this year he said i hate companies who say oh in 2050 we’ll be net zero he says that’s horrible you know you should do something now i mean one of his statements is is like he says it’s like a serial killer if you’re used to killing well i say 10 people a year and you say you know what i’m going to cut down to only killing three people here is that a good thing no you have to become net positive you have to do more good than less bad anyway during his 10-year tenure at unilever that’s exactly what he did and he was incredibly successful but when he left you could clearly see that everything he started to build started crackling down again for example one of the things he did is he said you know what i’m not going to give you quarterly guidance anymore on the stock if you want me to think about the long term don’t every quarter just you know figure out i need a long-term capability great but the moment he left they went back to quarterly reporting now we have shareholder activists who are actually cracking him down and i think that’s the the really if you don’t have that inherent structure to keep that long-term game going then even if you have a wonderful executive who actually can explain that to the market i think it’s going to fall apart once that person isn’t there yeah you need a culture of innovation a culture that loves innovation and is comfortable with being uncomfortable in a culture where people aren’t that concerned about certainty and a lot of people are not comfortable with uncertainty a lot of people that that causes great distress well you know finance departments love to have quarterly projections that go out that they can feel very confident about so they can communicate to investors the sales people are are tasked with that job of generating that sales pipeline right so that’s how they’re evaluated that’s what they’re trained to do product people love to have a product pipeline where they can look five years out into the future so most people prefer stability and i think if you’re going to work for someone like elon musk who’s not afraid to break some glass you’re probably a self-selecting group you’re a member of a self-selecting group that says okay i could deal with a disrupter in charge because that’s what i want as well and you start he starts to build a culture and that appreciates excellence and maybe breaking through limitations solving problems from first principles as he always says uh you’re going to attract a certain kind of person who’s frustrated in a traditional company that wants to achieve at that level and so he kind of creates his own culture so if it all depends on a single executive that’s not sustainable no but i do think um i i do think the pendulum is you know changing i think um that long corporate culture we’ve had we are now you know paying down on that debt of that culture of of super capitalism and you know um resource conversion and so forth um i don’t know whether you guys saw but stephen fry just released this video supporting extinction rebellion in the uk it’s a really interesting piece but um you know we are starting to see a ground swell of pushback against corporations that are bad for humanity right and i do think that as climate change accelerates i do think that that’s going to become more common um and i do think that you know if you’re in the fossil fuel industry or if you’re in the the the um you know pharma sector um you know and you can’t very quickly turn that around to show the good that you’re doing for human society i think in the 2030s you’re screwed right as a corporation um but um you know and i i think that that sort of that’s part of what’s missing um but you know what i like about elon’s approach to that or his business side of things is he he he talks about getting up in the morning and be ex being excited about what humanity’s doing and i think that’s another element of we’ve we’ve lost a lot of that like yeah can you be excited about the next product innovation sure but you know at the end of the day you know where is it taking us yeah in the us right now everyone’s focused on status quo and maintaining the status quo whether that’s the right move or whether that’s a suicidal move it’s no accident that the three of us are having this call and we’re coming from countries that are directly threatened by climate change you’re in bangkok where there’s a possibility that bangkok is going to sink under the chow prowl river sometime in the next 50 years i’m in the netherlands right now obviously climate change the challenge speaks for itself i think that’s probably also true for belgium where peter is in the united states right now there’s almost a willful denial of some forces that are shaping the future we’re telling ourselves a story that we don’t need to adapt or respond when i flew out of the u.s there were five major climate events happening wildfires record heat waves uh gigantic storms that washed away the bridges in yellowstone park and a huge electoral electrical storms on the east coast and yet everybody was saying look this is okay we can deal with this for all systems go this notion of the status quo is good enough and we can put our resources into protecting that but you’ve got like texas and you know like their grid is going to fail at some point right and they’re saying that’s happening in australia right now you know it previously did in adelaide where you were right but it’s happening in in you know victoria new south wales there all because you know these conservative governments have not committed to sort of renewables and um you know building up the grid i know we’re going off off off track a little bit but these forces are forces that shape the future you’ve got to respond to them right it’s it’s an absolute necessity people tell themselves a lullaby that says look you can stay asleep you don’t have to wake up you don’t have to change yeah peter we’re not letting you get a word in edgewise we should really let him let’s let’s let’s do it this way um what excites you about the future and let you let’s be a bit sci-fi here le i wanna i want you to go full futurist on us here you know take us out 20 30 you know 50 years what is it about the future that really excites you for you know humanity and you know what are you really interested in seeing develop well i mean being a technologist at heart i i think um i still get that giddiness when i see all the new opportunities that technology provides the only maybe sad note in that is that i i think if i really wanted to have full full autonomy on my career i i would have wanted to be the chief engineer on on star trek enterprise i mean that that would have been my ideal dream job i mean just being a nerd in a starship right i i’m not going to see that in my lifetime i mean that is probably the most depressing part but i still have that enormous enthusiasm that technology is going to be able to provide a better world but i think my my main concern i think what i really hope that we’re going to be able to do in this century is that we’re going to find global mechanisms to deal with more and more global issues and i think that is something where look at something really mundane like the cloud right i mean the cloud there is there is no denial that that is a much better more efficient more scalable more environmentally sound way to think about computing power than everybody having their own little device under their desktop but then you get into the legal issues where we have cloud providers you have data sovereignty data residency yeah yeah and the whole idea of oh it’s in the cloud but you have to show that it’s on a server in europe or in the us that is just nuts and it shows that more and more we’re seeing technology actually bounce against those old national boundaries where on a legal concept it makes sense to do that 150 fiat currencies is another example yeah exactly and i think that’s where we’re gonna have to figure out how to overcome that i mean i’m a huge fan of ian bremer i had the chance to work with ian on a few occasions he has this you know concept which he calls g zero he said the united nations dysfunctional g20 doesn’t work g8 is a joke g7 a laughing stock we’re down to g0 nobody gives a rat sass about the global picture it’s everyone for themselves and i think that’s what we need to reverse because i think now with things like currencies or cloud that’s the easy part but once we get into say you know the intertwinedness of healthcare and technology and innovation that’s going to happen or what we need to do in the environmental space there we need to think as global environments and i think honestly this 21st century is going to be you know fail or make it’s going to be break or not but if we don’t figure out a way to deal with these global issues as global mechanisms we are not going to advance the society and i in fact hope that i’m going to not even we may not survive as a species if we don’t fix this exactly yeah to your point and i think that’s what i fundamentally hope that i’m still going to see before you know i pass away because i think if i see a shimmer of hope in that direction i’m confident we’ll figure it out technologically but i think we need to dream about these opportunities to figure out global mechanisms to deal with these global possibilities global governance um and or in some capacity like share a shared responsibility the way i talk about it in techno-socialism is in the rise of techno-socialism book is i talk about the fact that we have to start competing for the human species instead of against each other yeah that’s a nice way to phrase it yeah but i i i am still the dreamer with open eyes and if you know that that wonderful poem by lawrence of arabia it’s actually in literary machines one of my favorite books this is the book you know that ted nelson wrote which is like the precursor of you know everything that we have but one of the things he puts in the book which i love is he he puts that poem by thomas uh lawrence of arabia all men dream but not equally those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was just vanity but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men for they may act their dreams with open eyes make it possible i am still an absolute dreamer with open eyes and i think that’s what all futures should be wow that’s great that’s a powerful note tell us tell us about your book yeah yeah tell us about the phoenix and the unicorn um and you know where can we order it and go to my website www.peterhinston.com and the phoenix and unicorn was really i was getting tired of some of the unicorn stories because every conference you went it was uber and airbnb you could see people in the audience thinking yeah it’s nice but we’re never gonna be airbnb and i wanted to find a ray of hope for traditional companies that could reinvent themselves since then i’ve expanded the list of animals i talk about ponies you know the small startups who want to be a unicorn i talk about the godzillas who are you know the big tech companies who seem to be out of this world and some companies might become phoenixes but not everyone some will become dinosaurs but most of them are what i call king kongs now they’re big and loud and no idea how they got there but if you’re interested in that you know www.peterhinson.com very good fantastic peter it’s been a great pleasure chatting with you you’re very lively and engaging with super vivid examples i’ve enjoyed every minute of this it’s been such a pleasure to have you on the show thanks for joining us today well thank you very much for having you and good luck with the rest of the show brett robert thank you yeah you know we’re uh we’re i don’t know we’re like 14 weeks in so um but yeah it’s it’s just i you know robert and i continue to comment on the fact that we we love listening to this stuff uh you know we’ll often listen back to our own episodes and i haven’t done that

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