Business In The Automation Age with Larry Boyer and Market Credibility with Tom Warda

After the start of the Great Recession, there was a lot of economic disruption. Banks were failing literally overnight. People would wake up and find out that the company that they were working for had closed and they had no job. Fast forward a few years, we’ve gone through a lot of technological change, and the idea of the fourth industrial revolution is starting to come through. We’re seeing many new technologies being developed across industries, whether it’s artificial intelligence, virtual reality, drones, or work in the biomedical fields. Economist Larry Boyer partners with business executives across divisions to help them anticipate and address complex challenges through big data and advanced analytics. He is the author of The Robot in the Next Cubicle: What You Need to Know to Adapt and Succeed in the Automation Age.
Many individuals do not believe anything they read or see anymore. One of the things that have been a topic of conversation for the last few months is the lack of credibility that companies are having with their product and how they take things to market. Tom Warda, Chief Revenue Officer and Market Explorer for Convertant, a firm that studies purchasing patterns and behaviors with particular clients, says there’s a general distrust in the market caused by the political environment or the evolution of more information. Tom talks about innovation, sales, and taking risks, and discusses how Convertant helps companies with home services, national franchises, healthcare offices, new investments, and political campaigns.

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We have Larry Boyer and Tom Warda here. Larry is a Leadership Strategy and Change Management Coach and Tom is the Chief Revenue Officer and Market Explorer at Convertant. We’re going to talk about economics, strategy change and sales. It is going to be a diverse show. I’m interested in talking to these gentlemen.

Listen to the podcast here:

Business In The Automation Age with Larry Boyer

TTL 259 | Automation Age
The Robot in the Next Cubicle: What You Need to Know to Adapt and Succeed in the Automation Age

I am here with Larry Boyer, who is a global executive with more than twenty years’ experience partnering with business executives across divisions to help them anticipate and address complex challenges through big data and advanced analytics. He’s the author of The Robot in the Next Cubicle: What You Need to Know to Adapt and Succeed in the Automation Age. Larry, welcome to the show.

Thank you. I’m very happy to be here.

You’re definitely on the radar for what’s going to be popular to talk about right now because AI is everywhere. What made you interested in writing this book at this point? Did you see that this was going to be the next hot topic or has this always been your passion? I’m curious why you got to this level.

I’ve always been interested in this combination of analytics and technology and people and over the years I’ve done a lot of work that combines all of these areas. I started my own business after the start of the Great Recession when there was a lot of economic disruption that was happening. If you remember back then, banks were failing literally overnight. People would wake up and find out that the company that they were working for had closed and they had no job and that all of the other companies in their industry were struggling as well. It didn’t matter whether it was banking, insurance, even the automobile industry. There’s a lot of disruption and upheaval, and a lot of people approached me during that time asking what should I do with my career?

This is where the start of the idea comes from. Fast forward a few years, we’ve gone through a lot of technological change. This idea of the fourth industrial revolution is starting to come through. We’re seeing many new technologies being developed across industries, whether it’s something like artificial intelligence, like we were talking about or virtual reality, drones, lots of work in the biomedical fields. I can see a lot of these disruptions are starting to happen. I got very interested even as an economist in past industrial revolutions or what it was like to live through one? We hear a lot of talk in the news by politicians and even people in the industry, “Everything is going to be fine because we’re going to create all of these new jobs.”

We don’t know what they are, but have faith in it. The problem with that thinking is that there’s still disruption and people still have to live through it. It may be that everything will be fine because we’ve seen that in all of the past industrial revolutions, but it takes time. What people don’t notice is that that can be twenty, 30 or 40 years even. That could be your entire working life and so how do you survive through that time period? Your grandchildren might be fine but what about you? That’s where I got a little bit of interested in this combination of seeing what’s happened in the past economics and looking at our recent disruptions where we can see that people don’t lose their job today and have a new job tomorrow. That doesn’t work.

It is interesting to see what’s happening. You’re a proactive thinker and that’s what I try to teach in the courses that I teach in the different universities. We’re not seeing enough proactive thinking and having foresight for what this can do. I remember selling computers in the ‘80s when everybody’s freaking out that they were going to lose their jobs, but then other jobs were created. It does take time and AI is going to be so much more than what we saw then. It’s very scary for a lot of people and many jobs are going to be lost.

I’ve talked to a lot of economists. I’ve interviewed John Tamny and a lot of different people who look at different aspects of that. What’s interesting is to discuss the industrial revolutions. I remember going to a Forbes Summit, they were in the Midwest and they were saying, “This was used to be the center of it all.” This was Silicon Valley back in the day and now we’re seeing this. We’re going to have a fourth Industrial Revolution. Some people might be wondering what do you consider the one through four and what do you expect for the fourth?

Let’s understand what an Industrial Revolution is first. It’s a combination of both new technologies. There’s often a new source of energy that comes to be developed and it is happening across the economy and across industries. It’s not just an evolution of an existing technology. They’re very disruptive and it changes the way that people work and the way that people live. You can think back to the earlier industrial revolutions like the first one, where we moved from an agricultural society to a more industrial society. There were many changes that occurred there. The first thing is mechanization of labor where we’ve developed new machines. We developed new sources of energy like the steam power that didn’t exist before and started harnessing them in new ways.

Throwing money at a problem doesn't necessarily fix it. We have to change the mindsets. Click To Tweet

We developed new ways of transportation like the steam engine and trains. We built trains across the country and that transformed everything. The second Industrial Revolution was marched by mass production, the assembly lines. It changed everything and how we lived and worked. There were lots of struggles during those times. If we look back at the labor movements and there were struggles between labor and capital back then. That’s when we saw the rise of socialism and communism. There was this battle between the two groups to be able to survive and live. Now, we saw the third Industrial Revolution, which was about the computers and electronics and automation that comes from there. We saw the introduction of some of the robotics, the computers, and the disruptions and elimination of many types of work as a result of that.

As we move into this next fourth Industrial Revolution, we’re seeing it again. Many new technologies that are changing the way we live. I mentioned a couple of them, artificial intelligence, new types of robotics, drones, virtual reality and things related to that. Most of the advances in medical science, the CRISPR, gene splicing and editing is another one. It’s going to change even how long we can expect to live. There are many of these things happening all at once. We’re looking again at new types of energy being developed, whether it’s from solar energy, storage with batteries is being transformed and how we do that. All of these things are coming and they’re all in their infancy. It’s very easy to say, “None of these are happening, we’ve seen lots of hype about it, and I don’t have to worry about it,” but all of these things will grow and they will develop. It’s important for us to grow and develop along with them rather than wait.

I know you give examples of different things about how fast a company can collapse, whether it’s due to technology or other reasons, in your book and in your work. 75% of the companies that are around will be gone in whatever number of years. It’s interesting to look at Kodaks and the different companies of the world and you think they’re going to be around forever and then look what happened. What companies do you think that are around right now that we can’t even imagine living without? Is there any industry in mind that you go, “They better watch out,” or any predictions or is it hard to tell?

It too early and it’s hard to tell. There are interesting things to look at. One of the examples I like to look at is Tesla, which is in the news a lot. It’s struggling in many ways but it’s also very disruptive. If you look at it, the way they’re manufacturing automobiles is different. The whole concept of the batteries that they’ve got with it is different. The autonomous nature of what they’re doing is a little bit different. They’ve got the same valuation or greater valuation than every other car company, even though they’re not producing the same number of cars. Something at some point will have to give. Either Tesla will have to collapse or perhaps one of the other bigger car companies will need to collapse. The valuation of all of these car companies can’t stay where it is because the demand and the supply of cars are not there for all of them to exist like that.

Something will have to give. It will be interesting to watch how that evolves. The race that’s going on between all of the car companies to develop autonomous vehicles, more energy efficient vehicles, and also the business models. Tesla pioneered this but there are others that think there will be a day where we don’t own cars. We call up a car that we want when we need it. It will be on demand. I’ve seen them talk about cars as a very large wasted resource in many ways. Generally speaking, we sit around doing nothing all day. Why is that? We spend lots of money on finding places for them to park, another wasted resource. Why not let the cars drive around and pick up people as they’re needed?

That will impact how houses are built if you don’t need a garage anymore or parking lots are not needed, you’d look at all the impact. My husband would be pretty sad. He’s got a Tesla and he doesn’t want to give that one up. It is fun to watch what Elon Musk does and what he’s capable of. I’m fascinated by people like him who dive in and figure it out and they don’t worry as much as some other do. The supply and demand thing that you’re talking about remind me of what I saw in online education. When I first got into that, it was a great demand and little supply. That’s why companies like University of Phoenix or whatever, did so great. Now everybody’s in it and everybody’s finally seen how great this can be and there’s a demand, but there’s so much supply. It will be interesting. Do you have any predictions for education where you think it will go? Do you go into that realm at all?

That’s another fascinating area and I do wonder about it. Universities themselves have started developing their own physical satellite offices, but as education moves more virtual, there’s less and less need for that. How many educational institutions do we need? Can everybody go and graduate with a Harvard degree because they studied online? A lot of the basic courses, can you record them once and then that’s it? Can you get some of the top professors and teachers to teach that and you show the same course over and over again? A lot of courses don’t change. Calculus One is going to be Calculus One all the time. It’s not a very interactive thing.

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Automation Age: Universities themselves have started developing their own physical satellite offices, but as education moves more virtual, there’s less and less need for that.

 

You could study that where people have the opportunity to ask questions and people do this all online now anyhow. They say, “I don’t understand how to solve this problem, can you help me understand it.” There’s a lot of that discussion that happens online either within the university community or outside with all of the message board setters out there for things like that, like Quora or Reddit. People ask those questions and learn that way. The way we learn is fundamentally different and, in many ways, it’s fantastic because now you have access to much more information than you ever could have before. It does mean that there are going to be disruptions in the educational institutions and especially since it costs so much.

What will happen to critical thinking and interpersonal skills and soft skills and all the things when there is a recorded thing? It will be fascinating to see what happens. The younger generations are looking at or value the degree process a little bit differently than past generations. They like smaller bits of information. Right now, the formal degree is still valued in certain organizations by higher level leaders or whatever, but that may be different in the future of how things are perceived. You look at a lot of future things and industries when you write about what you write about.

That’s what interested me because I’m writing about curiosity and you had mentioned that in a note to me, you wanted to learn more about what the Curiosity Code Index. What I was looking at was how we can become more innovative, more productive, more engaged, and all those things by improving our level of curiosity. If we have a robot in the next cubicle doing things, we’re going to have to do different things.

If we need to learn to do different things and if we need to learn to adapt and succeed in the automation age, how can we become more curious? For me, what I found out was there were four things that impacted curiosity. They were fear, assumptions, technology and environment. A lot of that is people don’t even recognize how much their fear or how much growing up in a certain school setting or in their family setting impacts them. Just assumptions that they’re not interested in things or that it’s going to be hard or difficult or that technology should do it for them. How much do you think curiosity impacts our ability to be innovative and be successful in the robot automation age?

It’s absolutely huge. That’s one of our differentiators as human beings from machines. What I like to tell people is that machines, whether it’s artificial intelligence or robots, they are learning and being trained to be more like humans. We as humans need to learn to go deeper into being more human and what that means. Most of us don’t go there. We’re focused a lot of times on learning tasks, learning this, which is what the machines are doing. The way we go around that, curiosity is a huge element to that. You have to be curious to learn, “What else can I do? How else can I do this? How can I do this better?” Asking the question, “How can I bring in this other piece of information that seems not to have anything to do with the subject area and bring it in and create something new from it?”

Those are the things that people need to be able to do. Just to go back to our point on education, the nice thing about the way education is evolving is you can do in time learning. We’ve seen the impact in time on manufacturing processes, but now imagine you can learn these kinds of skills or knowledge you need right when you need it. This is how we’ll be able to evolve and keep up and keep pace with what’s happening and all of the changes.

People have to have the information that's available to them. Click To Tweet

Will we be like The Matrix where we can plug our brain?

That’s one of Elon Musk’s other projects, the Neuralink, to augment the human brain with crowd computing. People are working on that. That’s where people miss what’s happening and why these changes will happen. There are people who are dedicating their lives and huge sums of money to accomplishing some of these tasks. As fanciful as it might sound about hooking your brain up to a computer, our brains are a bunch of electronics. It’s a question of how do you do that? How do you make a connection between your brain and a computer? It’s not an easy question to solve but if you throw enough money at it, you probably can solve it.

Elon addressed that in his interview with Joe. That was interesting when he said, “We’ve already done that.” Maybe it was not called Neo or whatever, but we’ve attached ourselves to our phones that have all the information there right now. I thought that was a fascinating perspective of how he looked at it, that we are already there to some extent. It’s a question of how fast we can get it. It’s interesting to think about having a robot in the next cubicle. Do you think we’ll be working in a workplace where there are robots walking around soon? Is that a figure of speech? How do you look at it?

In many places, there already are robots walking around. It’s not even science fiction. You can go on to any warehouse floor for example and you will see robots driving packages or equipment around. If you have surgery, depending on what surgery it is, there’s a good chance of robot could be performing much if not all of the surgery. Just like the point with Elon Musk, some of these things are already here. It’s a question of evolution and how they work their way into the workplace. They’re going to be, especially at first, augmenting what people do, enabling them to do more and increasing the productivity of people. The question then immediately that comes from that is will we need fewer people? Maybe the robot doesn’t take everybody’s job, it takes some because people become more productive. Robots and whether it’s a computerized intelligence or something like that, will all be there. It may not literally be a robot, it may be some computerized intelligence.

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Automation Age: Some of these things are already here. It’s a question of evolution and how they work their way into the workplace.

 

I interviewed Andrew Yang, who’s running for President in 2020 and I’ve interviewed Steve Forbes and other people who run for President. It’s interesting to see their platforms of what they think should solve things. Steve was very much interested in the flat tax to fix things and Andrew Yang is thinking of giving everybody $1,000 a month so that they can become educated and go back to school or whatever to be prepared for different kinds of jobs. Since you’re here as an economist and you understand the different complexities, is there a simple fix like that where you hand people money and say go back to school or is it much more complex? How do you solve this?

It’s much more complex and the reason is at a very high level you can look at these things that help, but the question is, how does that trickle down to everybody else? Like Andrew Yang’s idea of giving everybody $1,000. That does have some interesting ideas because it does go right to the individuals. Is that going to solve the problem? Not if we don’t change our mindsets. We can see from a lot of policy areas that throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily fix it. It might help with some of it. We can see with our health care and our education systems, throwing money doesn’t solve the whole problem. We have to change the mindsets. People need more direction about where to go and how to develop.

There’s a role either for the government to say, “This is the way technology is evolving. You should think about studying some of this.” Companies need to do that more with their employees. I’d call AT&T as being a great example of one where the CEO said, “We’re evolving our company and here’s the way we are evolving and these are the technologies we are using. We’re going to dedicate some time and a little bit of money to help you do that. Now it’s up to you to decide whether you want to do that or not. If you want a future with AT&T, this is the way to go. If you don’t want to and you want to take your chances and maybe you get laid off in a couple of years then don’t”

People need to know where the future's going. Click To Tweet

There’s some forward thinking there and it’s letting the people know where to go because there’s much happening. It’s difficult for any individual to know where to go in what direction. How would you go and assess the impacts of all of these new technologies on your life? Larger entities can do that and provide a little bit of direction, whether that’s at the company or a government. People need to know where the future’s going. They need to understand a little bit more about how fast it’s evolving and what can happen, so they can have a realistic understanding of what their future is going to look like. It’s very hard for individuals to be able to do that.

That ties into the environment part of what I wrote about. I want to see people get direction and help, but I also want them to open up their minds and not go with what their teachers or their parents or their company or whatever. That’s a hard thing because you have to try different things all the time and force yourself to go through experimentation. I like the Google 20% thing where they let people go into their pet projects and whatever. What did you think about Google doing that? Is that an effective thing? Should other companies consider that?

It is an effective thing. I don’t know if it’s effective for all types of work. Companies should think about that and evaluate it and maybe do some pilots and experimentation with it to see. It makes sense that at Google they are doing a lot of intellectual development, they give people some intellectual time to foster their intellectual curiosity and see what they develop, but does that work on a manufacturing floor? Does that work in a retail environment? It would be good to see some experimenting with that to see what can people who were doing some of this work come up with?

It’s interesting because we had a guest on who was talking about pro tennis champ. She had learned from her experience in tennis how’s the best way to make a swing and now she created the most effective robotic arm. You bring people in across companies, across different things, I would like to see some more of that. That could be effective because you’re coming in with fresh eyes and you don’t know what you don’t know. You jump in somewhere else then everybody else’s group thing could push you. Do you think that’s different?

When you look at frontline workers too, oftentimes they know and understand what the problems are much better than the executives and how things are done. It’s important to get that kind of feedback especially.

There are so much that the individual can learn from your book because you don’t write it from the presidential perspective so much, you look at it from the individual, what they need to know.

I want people to have that mindset idea. You don’t want people to say this is exactly the skill you want to learn because you don’t know about the individual. They have to know that. They have to have the information that’s available to them. What I wanted people to understand in the book was what the Industrial Revolutions or how they create disruption. Give those examples of how fast companies can collapse or how fast jobs can be eliminated literally overnight, and that they understand that. Then it gives us some of those thoughts and tools about what it is that the future does look like, that you can at least start to explore that. The answer is different for everybody across industries what the individual’s particular interests and talents are. Individuals have to figure that out for themselves, but they at least need to be aware of what can happen.

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Automation Age: The answer is different for everybody across industries, what the individual’s particular interests and talents are.

 

Your book is important for a lot of people to learn that. They’d like to know how they could find it. Can you share how people can get your book or find out more about you?

You can get the book anywhere where you can buy books. Any bookstore, anything like that. You can learn more about me, whether it’s on any social media channel. I’m fairly easy to find there as well as my business page, SuccessRockets.com where I talk and blog a lot about these topics as well.

They would just look up Larry Boyer.

Yes, you can Google that and I should come up fairly easily.

Thank you, Larry. This has been such a great conversation. I enjoyed having you on the show.

Thank you very much. It was a pleasure.

Market Credibility with Tom Warda

I am here with Tom Warda who is the Chief Revenue Officer and Market Explorer for Convertant. He helps companies with home services, national franchises, health care offices, new investments, and political campaigns. It’s nice to have you here, Tom.

Thank you for having me.

I should have said Thomas Sigmund Warda, that’s a great middle name. Are you a genius, like another Sigmund we know?

I am not, but that’s a family name and my family is full of psychologists, so that’s where it came from.

We’ve talked in the past and we were talking before we even got on the show about something that we thought was an unusual topic that we thought, “Let’s talk about this on air because people want to hear about it.” I’ll let you introduce the topic of what you said you’re seeing a lot in Colorado, certain issues. First, before we go into that topic, can you give a little background on what you do and how you get to this point where this interested you.

This particular subject came up with an old friend of mine that I’ve been in business with for about 30 years. His name’s Dan Carney and he’s the Founder of Pizza Hut. We’ve been in probably close to twenty different deals together and we kick around ideas. He uses me as a technical consultant in some of the investments that he looks at. He sends me out to discover not only what the market potential is for a potential investment, but also what the technical veracity of it and whether or not it does what it says it’ll do this and that. I get to use a little bit of my left brain and right brain with the marketing and my engineering degree.

How did you get to know Dan?

In the early ‘90s, I was at a dinner party with my wife, this was at a law firm. I just paired up with one of the principals and he said, “You remind me of this guy, one of our favorite clients. You laugh at the same thing, you have the same sense of humor, sensibility and stuff. You guys should meet.” Ultimately, he introduced me to him and then we started the environmental packaging industry together.

We’re seeing that establishing the truth is no longer being accepted as a valid way of explaining a technology or something. Click To Tweet

Let’s get into what we were talking about before about what you’ve been seeing in Denver or Colorado. Was it Denver specifically?

In the Front Range in Colorado. One of the things that have been a topic of conversation for the last six or seven months. I had heard people have whispers on this before, but I’m starting to collect actual data on it, which is what we do at Convertant. We study purchasing patterns and behaviors and things like that with particular clients. I had heard this and I started thinking this is probably real and one of the concerns, I hang out with a lot of salespeople. I’m on the side of the business where I believe nothing happens until there’s a transaction. I paid particular attention to the reasons for people making purchasing decisions. In doing that, there’s a lot of emotional intelligence in there as well as technique and personality classifications.

The thing that I found that is of most interest now is the lack of credibility that companies are having with their product and how they take things to market. What I mean by that is there’s a general distrust in the market. I don’t know if that’s because of our political environment or because of the evolution of more information, but there’s a general distrust on the internet. What happens is that well-intentioned companies that are doing the same way of expressing that their technology works or their ideas are great or this opportunity that they could create for the client is waning because nobody believes anything they read or see anymore. I am also an instructor at the University of Colorado in the Springs and there’s a convention for establishing the truth. What we’re seeing is that is no longer being accepted as a valid way of explaining a technology or something.

TTL 259 | Automation Age
Automation Age: There’s a general distrust in the market. Nobody believes anything they read or see anymore.

 

Specifically what happened was right around Christmas time, Dan Carney called me up and said, “I bought a company for my son. I was wondering if you could work with him to determine the technology as well as established the market with him.” I said, “Sure.” This was right up my alley. This was one of these wonderful opportunities where I get to save the planet and I get to use my engineering, I get to use my marketing, I get to use my relationships. This looked like a slam dunk and easy because the technology was sound, the market was there, and in helping them develop their market parameters we’re coming up with these series of objections. Just like you do with all products, taking them to market. You overcome one after another after another until you get some traction and then you know what you’re doing and that’s when you can blow out a scalable marketing plan.

We had probably one of the finest engineers in the country. This guy’s resume is crazy good and he did ten years of study at the University of Colorado with this product. He takes it around the world and installs it in different people’s systems and then studies their system. We had iron clad our case studies. This guy’s credibility is he literally writes the textbooks that universities use for fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, and things like that and everybody is still questioning this guy. It’s laughable almost if you would know him and converse with him because he’s got no level of sense of humor or sense of exaggeration or anything. “It’s just the facts, Ma’am.” He’s like Dragnet. He’s an interesting fellow when he does that and he was one of the people that influenced me how well this product worked.

As we roll it out to different universities and hospitals and clients, what we’re finding is the people that we’re dealing with, that make the decisions to do this, are unable to read technical papers nor if they can, do they believe the source. This is the first time in my 30-year career of selling things where I don’t know where to go with that. This product is coming from DuPont and they don’t believe the DuPont research and they don’t believe the university research and they don’t believe the field research. It’s an interesting phenomenon that I have not come across before. As I reach out to my peer group as well as my mentors, this is something new that they’ve never come across either. That’s the premise of what we talk about a lot.

It reminds me of some work. I know somebody who worked on a company where they were trying to make researchers share their information so that we can have replicable data. The other people can do the same exact studies and get the same exact results. A lot of people don’t want to share how they came up with things. I learned when I was a pharmaceutical rep that you can get a study to say just about anything you wanted to say. They’d have these long research papers that they give us to read and then you’d see one little sentence in there where something sounded good. 50 marketing things are built around this one sentence that sounded like the whole research was all about that and that’s how great it turned out. Are we getting better at critical thinking because of fake news? In global warming and those kinds of settings where people are going back and forth, are they looking at the data? Why do you think we’re having such controversies when there’s a certain amount of research out there?

This is my opinion and hypothesis of what is going on here. It comes back to that general topic that you introduced this as. People are acting more in their own self-interest and preservation than they are in promoting the best interests of their company or organization. They’re getting more sensitive to that because of maybe a tighter labor market or the position that they’re in. I’m coming from a technical perspective and I appreciate your example of the pharmaceuticals because it falls right in there. There are basic fundamental laws of science and physics that apply everywhere. It’s almost indisputable and it’s something interesting because I’ve never had to defend that since I’ve been in college and doing papers and things. What I see happening is there are people that are even questioning those sorts of things.

The idea of innovation and taking a little risk and leveraging your career for the benefit of your company is waning. Click To Tweet

Then you go to the next stage and you know as a salesperson that your next thing is, “This works for everybody else, but I understand how you might not believe that this is applicable to your situation so let’s test it with you.” Then we would go through this process and we would test them and get the results that we promised in the first place and they’re still not willing to make that decision to pull the trigger. We’re all shaking our heads up like, “What do we have to do?” We even asked them about that and some of the clients have taken a very firm stance of, “We’re busy and we don’t want to do this or try something new.” The idea of innovation and taking a little risk, leveraging your career for the benefit of your company is waning. I’ve never seen this before. I’ve always had people who, “Let’s make the company better. Let’s try this. We’ve got to try these things and see if it works.” We’re not getting that anymore.

It’s an interesting perspective. For some reason, when you were saying how people are looking at, what they should be considering when they’re being logical and how they’re looking at data and everything. It brought to mind for some reason, I flashed back to The Newlywed Game with Bob Eubanks where he was asking the couples, “In your neighborhood, does the sun rise in the East or the West?” He’s like, “You remember this is your neighborhood.” It was a joke because you know that this is a certain way. Some things we think, “Because there’s data, because there’s this or that.” I looked at some of that in my research for curiosity because I created the Curiosity Code Index. It determines the things that keep people from being curious.

Bribing people is not a sustainable value proposition. Click To Tweet

One of the things that you’re talking about is keeping people back that there’s fear, you don’t want to look bad or fail or a lot of different things. There is the environment, everybody else is saying this, and you don’t want to buck the system. There are so many things like that. There’s assumption that this is the way it’s always been, so it will work. That worked well for Kodak and Blockbuster for a while. How do we get them over that way of thinking? You’ve looked into this, what do you think is the solution?

I don’t know if I can mitigate their risks or their perceived risk of their situation. That’s the turning point on this is that there’s got to be something and believe me, I hang out with a lot of very creative groups and they were saying, “You should just bribe these people.” That’s not a sustainable value proposition. It’s got to be something else is how do you get them comfortable and coming again from my psychological family. What’s happened is I always ask, “What do you want? How can I make this happen for you? What do you need?” I’m very adept at asking those questions for people and they don’t know. Another theory that’s been kicking around is where they compartmentalize their job. I cannot tell you how many people, I’m thinking probably ten or fifteen right now of highly paid functional executives in companies that will tell you, “It is not my job to save money for my company. It is not my job to bring innovation to the company. I do this and that’s somebody else’s job.”

TTL 259 | Automation Age
Automation Age: I always ask, “What do you want? How can I make this happen for you? What do you need?”

 

There are a couple of things I get from when you’re talking about this. Maybe we need to paint a picture. I was in sales forever and everything was painting a picture. There are opportunity costs involved and maybe they’re not truly visualizing what they’re giving up by not doing whatever it is they’re doing. You’ve got these silos, you get compartmentalization, you get all this. It reminded me of when I was a pharmaceutical rep, I call in a doctor, I had a migraine drug at the time and I was painting a picture, you don’t have the patient calling you in the middle of the night, waking you up, you’ve got a migraine, you don’t have to send them to ER.

He looked at me and he said, “I don’t care if they go to ER that comes out of somebody else’s budget.” I was like, “Remind me not to go to you.” What’s in it for me mentality has been around there for a long time and it’s a cultural issue coming from the top leadership. Emotional intelligence and all that is something we talk about and the importance of it and I wrote my dissertation on it. I don’t know if we’re getting it through the importance of interpersonal relationships. Why we have a problem with engagement is because people don’t feel emotionally committed to what they’re doing. They’re not wanting to help somebody else because it’s not in their job, but a lot of people don’t even know what their job description is and how it ties into the overall end goals of the organization. If you ask them, what would they tell you, do you think that most people know?

That’s a wonderful question because that also occurred to us. One of the things we did is initially we would contact, this is a refrigerant product that goes into air conditioners and it’s an energy saving chemical. Typically, we would get thrown into the go talk to the guys who are in charge of the HVAC stuff and the air conditioning. We would ask them and they were the ones who would say, “It’s not my job to save money. I don’t have any interest in trying something. I’m busy.” Then we would go to the CFO of the organization or whoever is paying the bills that this would directly impact and ask them, “Would you like to do this?”

They go, “This seems like a good idea.” “Why don’t you talk to the HVAC guy?” “We already did.” “What did they tell you?” “They say it’s not their job to save money.” They go, “It’s their job, isn’t it?” I’m like, “I don’t know. It’s your company and your university or your hospital.” I would assume that everybody there, you give them a pep talk once a month that we should look for the best ways of doing stuff and that’s apparently not happening.

It sounds like the CFO’s need to be educated. They’re not tying together what they’re trying to accomplish with what everybody else is trying to accomplish. There’s a lot of bucking that you do, it’s always your job. We see a lot of that in the working world and if it’s not coming from the top and from the CEO. We talk about that a lot in our show, especially when you’re talking about engagement and cultural changes. If you can’t get a CEO to come to you saying they want to change your culture, going to them and often, they’re not.

We saw that with Steve Jobs. He had a lot of problems with emotional intelligence and got kicked out. He realized what he had done and properly, when he came back he tried to repair that. Maybe painting a picture with leaders of this is what’s holding people back. Here are your opportunity costs. If you have an engaged workplace, companies are losing $500 billion, $600 billion a year because they don’t know. It all ties down to a lot of it is engagement, a lot of it is emotional intelligence, and a lot of it is innovation and those are the things that what was driving me crazy. That’s why I wrote my book and that’s why I wrote this assessment because you can’t get people to be more curious, more innovative, more all these things, if you don’t know what it is that’s holding them back.

If people realize the things that are keeping them from being engaged or being innovative, that's when you can start to develop it. Click To Tweet

What I tested them on this fear, assumptions, technology, and environment, FATE, was to see which of these hold them back and to what extent. Then once you know what’s keeping people from that, if it’s environment, it could be the boss. No good deed goes unpunished kind of thing. You don’t know if that’s happening in the workplace. If people realize the things that are keeping them from being engaged, keeping them from being innovative, that’s when you can start to develop it. You need to open a dialogue with the leaders and the employees. It can’t be separate. You can’t talk to one group without talking to the other, there are too much of the silos going on where nobody moves to interact.

Younger generations are good at the team atmosphere if you could get them all together, but you have to have the overall culture where they support that. If you don’t have the leader from the top buying in, that’s a tough buy. I’ve worked for leaders like that and being listed at the bottom 5% of CEOs on a list don’t even have any impact on them. There’s some, you’re barking up the wrong tree. There’s not a lot you can do. What do you think?

That’s exactly right. I’m too old to fight City Hall all the time. It’s an interesting thing is we have tried that where we were trying to find that person in an organization that does care about things and does want to make things better. They might be given the responsibility to do it without the authority, which is a classical management issue. What we’re finding is that there are people in organizations when you wiggle around. As an example, here is something that we’re trying right now and it’s in its early stages but apparently, it’s working. We take this product to universities. This is ideal for universities. It was developed at the University of Colorado.

My first thought was this has got to be like catching fish in a barrel here because that’s one of their own developed it, this is their research. They will believe him. He’s the dean of their engineering department. Apparently that was not good enough for these people to believe. What we have done is we’ve organized a group of graduate engineering students who have an interest in energy efficiency, which this product is the category of. They are creating the pressure from the inside, from a student’s perspective, going to the administration and say, “We have studied this technology and we would like to implement it in our own school.” What’s happening is we’ve made a business arrangement with the school with the energy savings that will pay these students’ tuition.

They’re going to get out of college debt-free. They’re going to have job experience in selling energy efficiency, albeit to their own school. They’ll probably have a successful career moving forward because of this experience that they’re having. That seems to get some traction here. The same people that I talked to before that we went from the outside are now being taught in the inside. There seems to be some movement on that and we’re getting preliminaries. Why don’t we take another look at this? Let’s give this a shot. Let’s do this.

You bring up a couple points that I’ve worked in universities where the dean’s research wouldn’t hold a lot of weight. It’s because it’s not necessarily their best thing that they do. They may excel at other things and then you deal with the CEO who’s trying to buy into something. A lot of CEOs want to see that it worked well for other CEOs. That’s going to be much more what appeals to them and if you can do some lost leader giveaway situation where you do it at one organization and say, “Look at what they were able to achieve,” then you have that data to bring to the other CEO who’s maybe more complicated.

We considered that and it comes back to our general point here is we have probably 40 or 50. We have very recognizable large companies that put us through the grinder that we have done that with. That information is not relevant to these people that are making this decision.

How much pressure are they getting for certain angles? The bottom line is they have to be making money to have the stock, appreciate, and all the things that they need to do. It all comes down to the presentation of making them look good if they’re thinking of their own self-interest then. It’s all about them. Don’t you think?

I have always positioned my sales propositions to affect the individual’s own self-interest. I learned that at the dinner table growing up, most people operate in that mode. Even that being, there’s a risk evaluation that they take of what’s the game versus what’s the risk. I don’t want to stir up any waters and do this and I don’t know and it’s easier to do nothing.

TTL 259 | Automation Age
Automation Age: I don’t want to stir up any waters. It’s easier to do nothing.

 

That didn’t work for a lot of companies that are gone up there.

These people are probably fully aware of that and they’re willing to take that risk.

There are many case studies of how well that did not work out for people and it fascinates me of how many people want to put in the time, get their paycheck, and go home. It’s unfortunate, but it’s an interesting topic and a lot of people probably might want to weigh in and if they want to contact you and give you a little feedback. Is there some way that people could reach you and find out more about what you’re doing?

They could certainly email me and I’ll respond because this is a passionate interest of mine. That would be at Tom@Convertant.com and then we set up a phone call and talk. I’m always one of those perpetual learners and I love to get new insights and perspectives from other people. I’ve been in the sales business for quite a bit and have lots and lots of data on it. This is something that is perplexing to us and difficult to overcome because our whole value proposition from the get-go has always been this is in your own self-interest. That is not an effective tool anymore.

I wonder how much research you can do, what they do go for, and what it is that sent them over. Asking them those kinds of questions. I guess we’ll have to leave that for another conversation. It was so fascinating to have you on the show, Tom. Thank you. This was a great conversation.

Thanks a lot for talking with me about that. This is fun.

I’d like to thank Larry and Tom for being my guests. What a great show. To find out more about the Curiosity Code Index and Cracking The Curiosity Code, go to CuriosityCode.com. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Larry Boyer

TTL 259 | Automation Age

Larry Boyer is a global executive with over 20 years’ experience partnering with business executives across divisions to help them anticipate and address complex challenges through big data and advanced analytics. He is the author of “The Robot In the Next Cubicle: What You Need to Know to Adapt and Succeed in the Automation Age”.

 

About Tom Warda

TTL 259 | Automation AgeTom Warda is the Chief Revenue Officer and Market Explorer for Convertant. He helps companies with home services, national franchises, healthcare offices, new investments, and political campaigns.

 

 

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