I’m so glad you joined us because we have David Marquet and Chloe Doesburg. David is the bestselling author of Turn the Ship Around!. This is an interesting book about his experience on a submarine as a captain. I’m looking forward to hearing his stories with that. Chloe is the Cofounder and CEO of Driftscape. She’s got an interesting app.
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Turning Followers Into Leaders with David Marquet
I am here with Captain David Marquet, who is the author of Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. Fortune magazine named it the number one must-read business book of the year and the USA Today listed it as one of the top twelve business books of all times. It’s nice to have you here, David, welcome.
I love them all.
I was interested in what you’re doing because it ties in a little bit to what I’m interested in. Curiosity and some of the stuff I research. You talk about engagement. You talked about a lot of things. I incorporate a lot of these clips into those courses. They’re very interested in learning what makes a good leader. I want to begin with saying I saw the talk that you gave at Google. I’d seen some other things that you’ve done. I love how you say it, “What does this have to do when you’re talking about this naval ship? What does this have to do with what leaders need to know?” Can you talk a little on your background and what led to you writing this book and how it is appropriate to the people here?
I was a submarine commander. I came up through the Navy and my leadership book was exactly how you probably would imagine. It says, “Leadership is the art and science of directing people’s thoughts and actions.” It’s not only directing their actions but directing their thoughts. I don’t know about the thoughts. Like any movie about any kind of naval ship that’s ever been made and you look at the captain that was me, running around, some people will have to do jumping, being brilliant or whatever. I had this experience because I got factored to the different submarine at the very last minute. It was after spending twelve months learning about one particular ship. It was different kind of submarine in Santa Fe. It was one of the newer ships.
I come in with this mindset of, “I’m going to give orders and people are going to do what they’re told.” It wasn’t coerced. The crew said, “You’ve got to tell us what to do and we’ll do it.” It relieves us of the obligation of thinking and of the messiness of taking responsibility for our own behavior because we can always point the fingers and say, “You told us.” It very quickly fell apart. This key moment for me was the very first day we went to sea, we ran an exercise. We’re supposed to shift to a backup motor because we’ve shut down the reactor. It’s tense and the battery is getting lower. The officer is running at minimum speed on a backup motor because he wants to conserve as much energy as possible. I’m like, “Let’s speed up on the backup motor because I want to make it harder for the team. It’s going to draw more current, drain the battery faster and put time pressure.”
He orders this idea that I had, but it turned out it was impossible because this was simply a one-speed motor. When the Navy went to this newest submarine class, they simplify the machinery. I’d always been on the older ships. My excuse, so to speak, was I didn’t know. It shocked me because he ordered it and it came to light we couldn’t do it. I said, “Did you know it?” He says, “Yes, sir. I did.” “Why did you order it?” He gave me this weird smirking look. He said, “You told me to.” This was the moment when I realized my whole leadership structure, my whole paradigm was based on getting people to do stuff. The keyword is do. I was promoted and rewarded. We all liked that. We do stuff. We achieve stuff but it wasn’t about getting people to think. It wasn’t about getting people to make decisions. What I needed here was people to think.
It wouldn’t be too strong to say everything I was conditioned, all my habits, all our patterns were about doing. Here are two steps to empowerment. Readers, think about this. Step one, my team starts speaking up more. Step two, I then can step back or step one, I shut up and then the team speaks up more. I’m telling you to do step two. For so long I’ve been subjected to step one. I’m like, “Come on you, guys. I hereby empower you.” It’s nonsense. It’s you giving orders, that’s the problem. You have to stop giving orders. You have to lean back. I made a deal with my guys. I said, If I’m going to give orders, you’re going to follow him. We’re going to have a bad accident at some point. The only way out of this whole thing is me, not that you’ve ordered.”
If you do your behavior, which is waiting to be told what to do, nothing is going to happen. You have to lean into me and tell me what you intend to do. Don’t lean it like the picture was we lean into our subordinates. We direct them and they report back. We call them direct reports for a reason. It’s all about doing stuff. It’s not about thinking. If you want to activate an organization of 10, 100, 1,000 or 10,000 people and get their brains as well as their hands because, by the way, machines are taking all the handwork, then we have to lean back and every instinct of mine was against doing it. Every movie that you see about leadership doesn’t show this. Our wiring as mammals doesn’t encourage this because you’re creating uncertainty, you’re needing to be vulnerable and you had talked about curiosity. I love the work that you’re doing.
Our keyword was what you intend to do. Somebody would come to me and says, “Tell me what you intend to do.” Don’t get permission. Tell me what you intend to do and if I don’t say no, the answer is yes. Normally, if somebody else says, yes, the answer is no. Someone comes to you and say, “This is what I intend to do. I intend to delay product lines so we can add one more feature.” You’re like, “Really?” In your head you are like, “That is so wrong.” Our instinct is, “Let me explain” or maybe I’ll ask some questions like, “Have you thought about it?” This is all annoying in wrong and it all comes from a place of I know and it doesn’t come from a place of curiosity. You have to flip it. You say, “What does this person see? What do they know that I don’t see that I don’t know?”If your behavior is about waiting to be told, then nothing's going to happen. Click To Tweet
You imagine they’re right and you’re wrong. That’s what I would do in my head. I would say, “Tell me more about that.” I’d asked what and how questions. Not why because why would you want it, that can be too aggressive for some people. I say, “How does that look? What would be next? How does that align?” I would try and learn how and understand where they’re coming from. At the end of the day, I’m still the captain and I say, “We’re not going to do that.” The difference is number one, I learned some stuff and number two, maybe they were right, in which case, we let them do their thing. Number three, they felt like they were listened to. It’s not like, “I hear you but.” I’m going to ignore what you say.
People are very tense. Never say the words, “I hear you” because if you’re saying the words, “I hear you.” It’s a shortcut for “I don’t have the time to hear you.” It’s a shortcut to say, “I don’t have time to repeat back what I think he said.” You can say, “I think what you’re trying to tell me is blah, blah, blah. That’s what you want to say.” I’m guessing that feels very uncertain, “No, that’s not quite the feeling.” It’s more like anger. They’ll correct you. Every single day for the next 1,000 days as the captain of that submarine, I would act against my instincts. I would walk into the control room. I would have to be like, “What’s your plan? What are you guys thinking? Tell me about that.” That’s the story of Turn the Ship Around.
That would be a lot harder to sit back when you’re on a nuclear-powered submarine if they make a mistake than if you are in a regular corporate office. The stake is a little different there. All the things you’re talking about are fascinating to me because I’m wondering how you sell this thinking to the board if you come back to them with, “We’re not doing that.” We said we were going to do because this guy has this idea. Is that a tough sell?
I don’t know. My situation was we were founded in terms of the implementation. It felt to me like what we were doing was magical and life-changing. When I peel back what we did, all I really did was change a few phrases. I didn’t have the ability to change the structure of all the ship I operated. I couldn’t say, “We’re not going to have an engineer. We’re going to have somebody else instead.” When it came to where the ship went, we get orders from above and we would go there, pick up a CLT from Point A and drop them off at Point B. We’re not like, “I don’t feel like doing that.” We would do all that. It’s a manner inside the ship of how we would do it when so much more activated in terms of thinking that we could do these things so well. When something happened, bad weather, an enemy ship happened to be in the area or who knows. One of the SEALs is injured because the team had thought about it. I thought about all these alternate options, David springs to action. No one needed to wait for me, “What do we do now?” That delay was not there. There was no delay.
When I was thinking of reporting outside of the military, taking these ideas. That was my thought of how people above in the board or whatever in their situation how they could do this. This has been so such an empowering story that even Stephen Covey wrote about it. What is that like to have Stephen Covey write about your leadership practices in his book, The 8th Habit?
It was amazing. All this thing happened on a submarine. We started getting famous because we were setting all these records both for performance and for retention. We checked every sailor every year, 35 sailors have a chance to re-enlist, every single one record was unheard of. Dr. Covey came to ride the ship. He spent a day with us. He was amazing. It was a great day. It was one of the best days of my life. To spend the day with him and he’s a keen observer. He’s watching all these interactions. He said he has the most empowering place I’ve ever seen. I didn’t use that word because I think these kinds of words are, again, it’s a little bit of a laziness shortcut.
You have a picture of what empowerment is and then I do. The only thing I can guarantee you is they’re not exactly the same. They might be close, but they’re not the same. When you say empowerment, I’m translating that into a series of behaviors and characteristics in the workplace. What we would do is we skip that. We say, “Let’s describe the series of characteristics and behaviors that we want in the workplace. These are the practices. This is the language. This is how we’re going to talk to each other.” It felt like empowerment. Here’s a fun example. On the ship we have a lot of days, I see this in companies. The engineering operates. They didn’t work for the right part. They didn’t do the thing. The bargaining unit versus management or white collar, blue or whatever it is. We said, “No day in Santa Fe was fine. They came to me one day because I was pissed off and irritated by hearing too many days. You had to say the word we. The very next day, did anything change? No. The continuous practice of referring to each other as we even though initially, it felt like, “Those guys over in sales or supply or whatever,” but I have to say we.
What happened was six months later it felt like we. We had rewired our brains by repeatedly using the word we. The action comes first. The thought process and the feeling come second. We act our way and then we feel it. We don’t feel our way to new actions. Almost every change process I see is upside down. That’s why statistics, 80% of change process didn’t work, because it’s backward. You’re trying to hope your way into a new strategy. You don’t know what it is. People call me, “I want my team to be empowered.” “Tell me what that means.” “You know empowered.” I’m like, “No, I don’t.” It gets fuzzy sometimes.
You’re talking about directing their thoughts versus actions. It came into my mind while you were saying that, I had John Couch who was from Apple on my show talking about how he wants to rewire education because we’re teaching people to memorize instead of actually learning. It ties into that kind of thing. People want you to give them the fish instead of teaching them to fish or they want you to do things for them. That’s what I’m trying to change the thinking of with building curiosity. I’m thinking that you also created a companion workbook that went along with your book. What do you do in this workbook? Is it about changing their thinking? Can you tell me a little bit about the workbook?
We would start saying, “Can you come tell us about your book?” I started hiring some people until it became obvious that they couldn’t scale. Let’s take everything that we do and there are some sketches. In the book, it’s all text. Their sketches in terms of the thought, the philosophical structure behind this. The idea that when you give people control, you’ve got to be supported by competence and clarity. There were a number of models that come out better. The sketches are in the workbook. There are also some references to some psychological studies that support what we got lucky with. There are little activities for you to do. If you want to do it on your own, spend $11. Don’t hire me. I wanted to make it accessible. That’s been super fun. Here’s what I think about a lot of these things. It has to do with the relationship with variability.
There are some things in life which benefit from reducing variability. There are some things in life which would benefit from embracing variability. You need to know is what I’m doing about reducing variability or embracing variability because if you’re confused about that, then you will use the wrong system in the wrong language. The industrial revolution was about reducing variability. Manufacturing is a reduced variability sport. The school systems were reduced variability schools. This is why you answered the question. You said in a row. It’s about creating conformity and compliance. It’s about reducing variability. Thinking and curiosity are embraced variability. What fundamentally the problem is we’re applying a reduced variability rule set to it and embraced variability game and having a suboptimal outcome.Don't get permission just as long as you intend to do. Click To Tweet
When do you want to reduce variability?
You want to reduce variability. You’re starting up the reactor. You have the procedure. It tells you these are the 235 steps to go through it. I don’t want variability. I want it to happen exactly by those 235 steps. This is not the time to having your test, start your new idea. There were a lot of things which are reduced variability. We also need an escape hatch. For example, the Toyota production system, the workers are frustrated. They can’t get the part out. Whatever the problem is, he pushes and pulls the cord versus now it’s a button. You push this. That’s the signal to say I have to shift from reduce vulnerability, which is the manufacturing to embraced variability work, which says, “Let’s solve the problem. Let’s brainstorm.” That’s the signal. They have a signal. They have a tool. They have a mechanism, but many organizations don’t do that. We don’t say, “What’s the signal in our office to say, “Everyone out there doing their thing, crunch and now stop. Now, let’s improve our thing.” You are saying improve our thing. Reduce variability, embraced variability.
What’s that signal then? How do they know?
It depends. If you’re on a construction side or you’re on manufacturing plant. You’re on a think tank. You’re in a medical procedure. You’re in an airline, pilot or co-pilot. You’ve got to have a code. You got to have a system.
I’m wondering, what are the main objections you hear when you say, “You need to give up this control?” I’m sure people have some kickback or pushback.
First of all, I never said you need to give up control. If you want your people to think, then you need to let them make decisions. This is what I feel. You don’t need to have people thinking. You could run an extension of your will. That’s your choice. We want people to be engaged, but we won’t let them make decisions. We have all this window dressing that pretends to be engaged, but it doesn’t do anything. Step one, let them make decisions. The pushback, I don’t spend a lot of times people will push back. If they don’t fundamentally believe it, I’m like, “fine.” It’s not going to work. The other reason why it doesn’t work, the more common reason, is because they don’t think it’s that, “I need you to come to pick my people. They don’t speak up in me. What about you? How’s your behavior in these? I’m fine. I tell them to speak up.” “There’s nothing to do here.”
How do you get them to see it’s done?
I would say, “Let’s do this. Go to dinner. The next ten times you go to a restaurant, you don’t get the order. I want you to turn it away and say you choose. Don’t play it safe.” They’re like, “That’s what I’ll do.” I say, “Give me three recommendations.” You have someone talking about it. I say, “You choose. I don’t want to know what it is until it’s in front of me. You don’t have no veto power. If you do it ten times, then call me and then we’ll talk again.”
What’s their first reaction when they talked to you after that? What do they usually have as an input for you?
First of all, some don’t call. They can’t do it. They imagine it. They didn’t do it. They don’t know what it feels like. We have to do it ten times with the tenth graders will react in different ways. They said, “It was scary for me. That was uncomfortable. I learned so much.” People thought I was crazy or whatever, but it’s about this idea that A) It starts with you and B) You’ve got to be self-reflective. I said, “Keep a journal and then when we’re done,” I know if they are BS-ing me. How did it go? Because I ask them questions, “What did you end up with?” “Some kind of fish like.” People who do this, they know exactly what.
I love the comment you made about you can’t be engaged if you don’t let them make decisions because that is exactly what I’m dealing with when you’re trying to develop curiosity. If you don’t let them answer questions, if you don’t let them pose suggestions, that’s all ties into the engagement factor. If you ask leaders what their top issues are. They bring up engagement. They bring up all these things that you’re addressing that you’re flipping it around. I love the way you look at this. I had a Harvard professor on, Ellen Langer. She was interesting talking about how there is no real fact. It’s all probability. Everything that we’ve been taught, it’s probable that a horse won’t eat meat, but it’s not a fact because I’ve seen one do it. Everything seems to be an all or nothing. This is the way we’ve always been taught and sometimes we have to shake that up to get be more innovative. People are too stuck on the old ways maybe.
I’m totally locked into that. For example, how many times do you hear binary questions? “Are you sure? Should we do it? Are we going to take it?” We have a game. We have to call them probability cards. We have seven cards: 1, 5, 20, 50, 80, 95 and 99. You can’t ask binary cards. You have to say, “How sure are you? How safe is it?” I’m on a construction site. We had a little meeting, “Are we good to go? Does anyone think it’s not safe?” 0.0 people in the history of the universe will raise their hand because who wants to say that? If you say, “How safe is it?” One to five will hold their fist. A) everyone is voting and B) I can signal, most days, five, five, five. Now, it’s icy. We’re going up to the second floor. We’re shifting from concrete to wood. We have two new members of the team.
Maybe it’s not quite as safe. I’m not going to say it’s not safe and do a thumbs down, but I’m willing to put four. Because we ask binary questions, is it safe? The team doesn’t say it’s not safe and we do it. We blame the king. The problem was we didn’t ask the question in a way for them to send the signal easily in a non-vulnerable way. We say, “How safe is it?” You’ve got to ask the question now I can see. Now, the team is sending me a signal. I’m six fives, two fours. That’s different. They’re sending me a signal. You have to ask the questions then. It’s a quick story because your question about the board is still troubling me.If someone does not say no, the answer's yes. Click To Tweet
It goes outside of the military and I want to see how do you sell this thing.
I contracted that both in the real world. Here’s the deal. We’ve seen this work miraculously in all kinds of places. I’ll give you a fun example from a baseball team. Here’s the coach and this is a university team. The batting coach has done what every other batting coach is doing, which is he’s telling the kids what to do, hold up, choke up and then we go to play a game. This picture is doing it. Stand closer to the plate. He’s coaching them. He’s telling them what to do. He says, “I’m going to stop that.” He’d asked the kids, “What do you intend to do? How are you going to deal with this guy?”
The kids would be like, “Coach, you tell me?” It’s like, “No, you tell me what are your ideas?” Activating thinking, not just doing. Before, they were just doing. Fast forward, end of the season, top of the league, sign the kid to the Majors for $1 million. It’s first time ever in the history of this school. This guy, the assistant coach got hired to be a head coach for another school. Why? Because he stopped telling them what to do, which activated their thinking, ownership and engagement. It goes back to this original thing. You’ve got to lean back. How hard is it when you were a coach to say, “You see the kids going up to the plate?” You’re like, “I hope he chokes up on this guy.” He doesn’t go like, “What are you going to do?” It’s a conversation, “What’s your plan?” It’s ahead of time. What’s your plan here? We got all these things.
What about the options you give them? You may not tell them what to do, but maybe he doesn’t know about choking up on the bat. When do you tell them the option?
That’s what happens in practice. If he does a good job in practice, he comes up and I said, “Why don’t you try this and then come back and tell me how was that?” Then they say, “How come you didn’t think of that?” Not pejorative, but to yourself. “What am I not doing in coaching practice that is not enabling my team to think about all this range of possibilities?” It’s about embraced variability. That’s an embraced variability sport.
Many people can benefit from what you’re talking about because to me this is everything that I’m trying to spread as far as making people think in a new way. Because everybody is trying to be innovative right now. Everybody is worried about AI replacing jobs. Something has got to change because the way things worked in the past doesn’t necessarily work now. I love that you flipped it and are helping people look at things in a whole new Light. Your main focus now is I’m sure speaking and getting around to share your word about this and consulting and everything that you do. What is the best way if somebody wants to talk to you or get your book or find out more about you, how can they reach you?
The book, Turn the Ship Around!, is online on Amazon and the website is DavidMarquet.com. We’re in the midst of rebranding our intent-based leadership. If you do a Google search, it should be pretty easy to find me. The other thing that’s interesting is we have a channel on YouTube called Leadership Nudges. We do them every week. We have over 200, over four years’ worth. This idea of go to dinner ten times that’s a nudge. We have a whole bunch of them. That’s one of my favorites. Some of them are theoretical. Some of them telling the story. Here’s the deal, those are all less than 90 seconds except for one. I did one with Simon Sinek. It’s about listening. We put it to a cartoon, so you don’t see either me or Simon in the thing. We worked on together. You can troll through those and see what you think. If you try one and you liked it, let us know. If you don’t like it, let us know. If it works, it helps, let us know. If it doesn’t help, let us know.
I love that you had Simon Sinek. Anything that deals with curiosity and all that. I’m going to have to check out a few of them and see which ones I’d like to share those with my students and other people. It’s good to know about that. Thank you so much for being on the show, David. This was fascinating. Congratulations on the success in your book. What a great story. Thank you for being here and sharing it.
Thanks for inviting me on your show. Thank you, readers, for your time.
Creating Strong Memories with Chloe Doesburg
I am here with Chloe Doesburg who is the Cofounder and CEO of Driftscape, an Android and IOS-based mobile web app company which supports local culture, history, events by providing organizations with a platform to share site-specific stories. It’s so nice to have you here, Chloe.
It’s amazing to be here. Thank you for having me.
You’re welcome. That’s an interesting app that you have. I am always fascinated by the latest technology. One of my first jobs out of college was selling System/36 and System/38 with a var for IBM. Back then that was considered so cutting edge, and now that I get to see some of this stuff that does come out, it blows me away. I’m curious about your background that led to your interest in doing all this. Can you give a little bit about how you got into this business?
My background is an architect. I worked as an architect for several years before becoming involved in Driftscape, before being interested in this kind of thing. The way that I got here, the path that led me here is simply always being interested in exploring and discovering new things in the cities that I lived in and visited. I had seen and been inspired by some fantastic site-specific storytelling projects. I found the idea of encountering information or a story about a place when you’re physically there so meaningful. I remember even as a kid, when you read a book or saw a TV show or a movie that had a place in it that you knew, you felt so connected to the story and so much part of the story that I wanted to find a way to capture that impactful way of relating to stories into information. It started as a hobby project that I did with a couple of friends while I was working as an architect. We called it Track Toronto, but we made a map where we placed songs that referenced places in the city of Toronto.
We thought, “This will be a fun little exercise.” One of my friends who cofounded it with me was a musician and was writing music about the city at that time. That was part of the inspiration. We thought, “We’ll do a little thing and make a website.” We were surprised by how much amazing content was out there. Musicians were quickly sending us their thoughts being like, “I wrote a song. Here’s the back story. Here’s the inspiration that belongs in this neighborhood.” People were excited to explore it and to hear these songs and learn about how it related to the city that they knew. We thought, “We should build them out for that because wouldn’t it be amazing if people could walk around and get a notification and say, “There’s a song about the place where you’re standing right now. Just hop here and listen to it,” and hear the artist explain why it’s meaningful to them and how it’s related to this place.
We didn’t get very far down that road before we realized that there are a ton of other organizations that have made fantastic content. They know their local space in a way that no one else does. These are organizations like local heritage organizations, the public library, business improvement areas and all kinds of cultural institutions that have this incredible wealth of content. It’s the stuff that people are excited when they discover. We often hear from people, it’s like, “Why didn’t I know that. I’ve lived here all my life? How did I not know these amazing stories?” We thought we need to create a platform that all of these organizations can share to essentially match these amazing and sometimes underutilized content resources with this incredible appetite. To do it in a way that’s seamless and allows you to walk around the city and learn all these things that you’re interested in without having to search for it.
It’s such an interesting type of technology. I remember being in Hawaii. I got some an app that told me what I was seeing along the road as I was driving. I’m thinking this is the coolest thing. I didn’t have to have a tour guide. You could find out more. Does yours only work in Canada or does it work in other places? Are you expanding? What areas it encompasses?
We’re only in Toronto, but we’re working on expanding. We’re reaching out to other areas in Canada, in Ontario. We’re planning to eventually be global. Certainly, North America is the first step. We love hearing from people about their organizations in their town or someplace that should be on our radar. We follow the demand in terms of if there’s a bunch of people that are excited about having content about their town or their city on the app then that’s a good place for us to expand to next.
It reminds me a little bit of the conversation. I had Craig from Craigslist on my show, Craig Newmark. We were talking about how he created Craigslist and for him, it was a quick little thing. He was sharing San Francisco Bay area thing and look at what that turned into. You like this for yourself thing. You create this and you go, “This is cool.” It sounds like a lot was based on your curiosity, which is what I study is curiosity. I’m fascinated by your curiosity. What do you think led you being such a curious person? This will help me a little bit to see a little bit more about your background.
I’ve always loved to travel and explore. When I think about that, I also think about it in terms of it doesn’t have to be a big trip. You don’t have to be going to a country you’ve never visited. You can explore in an intimate way, like literally in your own backyard. What inspired it? I’m not sure. That’s a great question. I feel like it’s always been there in terms of wanting to know more and to see more and to understand the places that I visit and a lot of my curiosity is fairly focused on exploring spaces.
My daughter is a lot like you. She speaks all these languages and she loves to travel. I’m sure she’d be very interested in what you do. I could see her coming up with something in her mind. She’s not an architect like you. She doesn’t have the tech skills, but I think that this would be if she was trained the way you were. I could see she would probably go in this direction as well. There are a lot of people who are interested in learning more about and having it be an interactive experience when you’re going somewhere. I’m curious about what’s the engagement experience like when you’re on this app? Is there a lot to explore on the app? Is it pretty easy? Are there several buttons? I want to envision this in my mind.
It’s super easy to use. You have essentially a map and a list view. In Toronto, we have 27 organizations that share content on the platform so there’s quite a variety of different things you can see. We put all the control in the hands of the user. Essentially there are categories menu that allows you to select what you’re interested in. You can say, “Show me music and history,” or you can say, “Show me everything,” depending on what you to see. As you wander around the city, you’ll get a notification saying, “You’re near this interesting heritage building, read its backstory and see something you might not have noticed in the façade.” That’ll help you remember and relate these things to a place. We also think to be able to present that information right there when you’re physically looking at the building when you’re experiencing it creates strong memories. People are way more likely to retain that stuff. We hope that it helps people share these stories with each other person to person as well. The next time I’m walking by this place with my friend, I’d be like, “Check this out.” I think people love to be able to share that stuff.When you give people control, you've got to be supported by competence and clarity. Click To Tweet
It’s important to have that bonding experience. I hear so many people talking about the importance of storytelling lately, to teach and to learn. All the things that you’re talking about ties into a lot of other shows that I’ve done. I was thinking about the future of tourism as you’re saying all of this. Part of it goes, are we going to have a total recall society where they implant this memory into our head that we didn’t go, but we’ve experienced in our brain. I love that you’re wandering. You’re physically moving. It’s associated with the actual activity. Are you going to incorporate, like can you measure your steps while you’re going and have exercises involved or is it strictly a historical storytelling thing or is there any other components that you’ve considered for the future for it?
I haven’t thought about measuring steps, but you certainly could. It’s focused on the cultural component. That’s one of the reasons that we built this platform in a way that we did is because there are other platforms out there that are amazing and are great ways to discover stuff that’s around you. When there is cultural content on the platform, it tends to be essentially overshadowed by restaurant and entertainment type of information. These are great tools. They’re very useful for finding that information. We want to essentially focus on being able to bring that cultural content to the foreground because frankly, it’s harder to find. That’s the main focus.
If you’re on the app, I’m walking around, I’m looking at a church or whatever I’m looking at, can it pop with like, “There’s this art fair that’s down the corner right now. You need to go over.” It seems like it would be cool if it would be updated with updates like that. Is that a potential?
Yes. I should say there are already events on the platform so you can get a notification being like, “Next week there’s an interesting thing happening in this park or happening right now.” Where that gets the most sophisticated is when we work with something like a business improvement area or an outdoor attraction that’s at the scale of a neighborhood because then what they can do is they can essentially send a customizable notification as soon as the user enters that neighborhood. You could walk into one of the business improvement areas we’re working within Toronto, it’s called West Queen West. You entered the West Queen West neighborhood and suddenly you get a notification that says, “Welcome to West Queen West. Here are the events that are happening.” They can display a bunch of content that you couldn’t see until you’re physically there. That allows them to basically give a whole lot more detailed stuff that might not be interesting to someone who’s browsing from across town. When you’re there on the street, you want to know all about local amenities, all about different hidden gems and find out about local businesses, that kind of thing.
I’ve only been to Toronto once. It’s not too far from New York, I think. I took a tour up there for a day or something. In Canada, do you have to do English and French? How many languages is this in?
We’re English only, but we definitely have the ambition to be multilingual. French would be the next obvious language to add.
I took a cruise to Canada from New York up to Montreal. When you’re on a cruise ship, you don’t want to be on these four-hour tours with all these people. You’re stuck on a bus. Sometimes it’s nice to go off on your own. I could see that getting them known to people that would go on a cruise. I’m sure the cruise ship doesn’t want to sell it because it would take away from their tour activities. If I was going on a cruise, I could see that this would be a great alternative to having to pay all that money for going on these tours that you can have a much more interactive experience in your own way. Is that something that you could see as a potential for people?
Yeah, 100%. It’s a powerful alternative to going on a guided tour because it’s a different experience when you’re following a guide and you’re with a group of travelers. It’s not certain how everyone prefers to do it and also then you have to do it according to the tour schedule as opposed to according to your own schedule. We definitely present an alternative to that. There are tours on the platform. We’re starting to work with some tour providers to do exactly that. There’s one organization in the city that gives tours about Toronto’s indigenous history. The tours are so popular, even though they give a guided version, there’s not enough guidance to give the tour for which their demand. We can record an audio tour with them. Someone can then walk the same route, put their headphones in and put their phone in their pocket, follow the directions they’re given and have this frankly more intimate experience of the site because they’re on their own. They’re able to focus more on their surroundings, whether or not they can hear the guide, whether somebody having a conversation next to them. I think that is a powerful alternative.
Certainly, one of the trends that we’re hearing about especially with Millennial travelers, experiential tourism is key. Millennials are way more willing to spend on experiences rather than physical material goods. Being able to work in our technology with also tour providers that may have a relationship with a local business or restaurant accommodations and that kind of thing. It is certainly something that we’re exploring. We see a big part of what we want to do is to use technology to deepen your connection to your surroundings rather than removing you from it. It’s not total recall. The app almost invites you to walk into a cafe and talk to the person behind the counter because they know the history of this place so that the technology becomes, in some cases, the inspiration for a person to person interaction, which is what some people are looking for when they go on a guided tour. It was like, “We can definitely achieve something that’s best of both worlds.”
I don’t think they still tour Alcatraz, but when I toured Alcatraz, they gave you the headphones. You could walk around and look at the Al Capone and different things. Even that tour I was on this year in Canada, I went to a couple of mansions in Rhode Island or wherever I was. They give you the headphones, but you had to keep pushing enter when you changed rooms. Does the GPS follow you so it knows when to speak or do you have to keep pressing forward or how does that work?
The GPS follows you and it’s voice-guided. It’s half and half. We’re certainly working towards completing location-triggered audio, so you don’t need to do anything, but to some extent, you do still have to say, “I’m at the next stop” and press play. We’re working towards the other. What I found certainly about that Alcatraz tour is that the site that you were listening to it as audio in headphones by yourself made it so much more intimate and powerful. That’s how I felt about it.
I thought it was great. I was sorry to hear that they don’t do that anymore. They shut down those tours. It was impactful to look at that. They explained that this is what they did. This is where they ate. This is what they did. To be honest with you, I was horrible in history when I was young. When I went to Pearl Harbor I was like, “Wow,” and suddenly I’m interested in Pearl Harbor because it was so horrific when you see it. There are a lot of people who maybe weren’t interested in history or cultural things. This would open up a world to them. Since I researched curiosity, my dream is to make people, have them open up their minds to some of the things that maybe were presented to them in a way that wasn’t appealing when they were young to go into a monotone teacher’s class in high school.It is silliness when we want people to be engaged but won't let them make decisions. Click To Tweet
I had this monotone teacher. It was like the Peanuts teacher cartoon where you hear, “Wah, wah, wah,” and I didn’t hear anything. Now that I’m older, my travel has made me want to learn more. This is opening up the ability for people who were like me, who had shut down to historical knowledge and things that you’re learning things in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re learning history. You’re immersing yourself. I’m interested in the impact that all this innovation is going to have on different industries because every day I talked to somebody about AI is going to take over, you’re going to lose all these jobs and where are people going to go? Does that discussion come up with you at all in your industry? How is innovation going to impact the travel industry or anything else that you deal with? Do you have any insight on that?
First of all, I will say I completely relate to your experience of not being a history buff. In some ways, I feel like the information isn’t interesting to you and can’t spark curiosity until you have the right framework to place that information in. I feel like what we want to do is by giving you essentially the spatial framework. It’s like, “I can relate to this story because I can see the place that it’s about,” is a huge way to spark curiosity. It’s a huge way to be interesting to a group of people who frankly wouldn’t necessarily be interested in that same information if they’re reading it on their computer screen at home. The way you explained it is amazing. That’s what we hope to do. That’s a great ambition. In terms of the trends in the tourism industry, it’s changing a lot because of an increasing desire for experiential tourism. It’s more about immersing yourself in the culture and connecting with it in a meaningful way than it is about sightseeing procedure per se, which isn’t exactly about the technology.
The fact that we all have the location of where our smartphones and more people are willing to share their location and more and more people are going to have data even when they’re traveling. It does change our experience because it means we’re more connected to the life we’re taking a vacation from, which can sometimes be a negative thing because you don’t feel like you’re getting away. It also has this great possibility to give you so much finer grained information about the place where you are. One of the big trends that are going to come out of that is a lot of location-targeted marketing, which is a super powerful tool. If done right, it can be useful to the user as well because they’re being presented with information that they want to know because they’re in that place. It’s aligned with their interests. It’s something that’s important to try to do subtly and carefully and to put the user in control of what they’re seeing. If you do these things, it’s certainly a powerful tool. We’ll see it change the way that we travel in the short-term.
It’s product placement and then you’re going to get retargeted in a way, which is cool. I’m thinking of how this would work. As I’m thinking about this, I’m wondering if you’ve talked to Peloton bikes, where they’re riding the bike and they’re looking at the screen. My daughter even got one and I’ve seen them. They have a store here in Arizona. You pick all these different areas where you want to ride and you can be riding the coast of Australia or wherever you want to go.
I could see that maybe incorporating something like this into a company like that where not only are you getting exercise and riding, but you’re learning. It’s a different aspect, not the slow pace thing like we’re talking about meandering around nice cities, in church or whatever, you would on a tour. For this I could almost think I would like it if I was on the bike, not only looking at the shore but maybe learning a little bit around as I’m riding around the world because they have so many landscapes and things. I don’t think that they talk about where they are, but I haven’t done it. I could be wrong. Have you ever been on a Peloton bike?
I haven’t. It definitely sounds like good potential. What I think about when I hear that is that audio is the best way to connect you to your surroundings and which can obviously still be location aware with audio AR even the direction you’re looking. You turn your head towards this view and it can automatically tell you about that view. That’s the direction I would want to go certainly is to connect with the user through audio so that there’s still visually able to stay present in their surroundings. We’ve talked about doing bike tours with Driftscape as well where you pop in your headphones and you ride your bike, you’ll hear about all the places you’re passing through.
If you did it on a Peloton type of thing, then if you turn your head to go look at something, you’re wiped out. It’s practical. I could see different aspects of it. I know I’ve always wanted to do a Butterfield & Robinson Tour because they have bike riding, walking and all this stuff in different countries. It’s supposed to be an amazing experience in it. If you can’t afford to go and spend all the money to do that, incorporating it with some of the active things I could see would be interesting to somebody like me at least, because I love to get to combine exercise with the video virtual thing if it’s ever possible.
This was all fascinating. I’m a tech person and I love anything that’s out of the norm where you learn more, but you’re doing it in a way where you’re not listening to my Peanuts professor bore me. This was fascinating because I want to learn. I need that visual storytelling component. That’s what drew me into Alcatraz and to Pearl Harbor and the things I’ve seen. This is fascinating. A lot of people probably want to know more about what you’re doing. I’m sure this is giving them some ideas for their own city, what they’d like to see. If anybody wanted to drop you a message or read more about what you’re doing, is there a website or some way that people can contact you?
It’s certainly through Driftscape.com. If you’re interested in checking out the app, you can find it on the Playstore or the App store.
It’s interesting to see where you go with this. Thank you so much, Chloe. It was nice having you on the show.
Thank you. It was amazing to chat with you.
You’re welcome. Thank you so much, David and Chloe. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
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- The 8th Habit
- John Couch – Previous episode
- Leadership Nudges – YouTube Channel
- Craig Newmark – Previous episode
About David Marquet
Captain David Marquet is the author of Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. Fortune magazine named it the #1 must-read business book of the year, and USA Today listed it as one of the top 12 business books of all time. He is also the author of The Turn the Ship Around Workbook, which is a companion workbook for implementing Intent-Based Leadership.
About Chloe Doesburg
Chloe Doesburg is the Co-founder and CEO of Driftscape, an Android & iOS based mobile web app company that supports local culture, history and events by providing organizations with a platform to share site-specific stories.