Two To Transform : Embrace Tech. Upgrade Talent.

The Future Does Not Fit in the Containers of the Past. Edition 45.

A river of change is carrying everybody and every company into the future. Six significant forces are sculpting the frontiers of tomorrow.

While there is a great complexity to be dealt with to ensure a profitable and successful tomorrow, there are only two key drivers that matter. These are ones we should focus on and not be distracted by a cacophony of distracting headlines or consultants offering complexifying choices.

Get these two more or less right and you and your firm should thrive.

1)    Tech Alignment: Understand how technology is a) changing people and their behavior and b) how it is re-configuring your products, services, and experiences by either enabling new competitors, re-defining value, eroding or creating competitive advantage or radically transforming economics.

2)    Upgrade Talent: Given the right resources (tech alignment) the firm with a disproportionate share of talent passionately aligned towards a common outcome is likely to win. It is true in sports, and it is true in business.

These are the two key drivers, and BOTH are required at the same time. Fantastic silicon (tech) with mediocre carbon (human talent) or vice versa are unlikely to succeed.

Every Board of Directors or Leadership Confab should not begin meetings with financial updates, product updates, M&A updates but rather a) a Tech Terrain detailing a threat and opportunity matrix and how the company is preparing and making progress in ensuring competitiveness and b) a Talent Capital X-Ray which should include not just attrition and retention measures but also employee joy, educational investments, culture health checks, and much more.

Talented people in a good culture with enabling technology are what create happy customers, innovation, differentiation, revenue growth and profits.

Embrace tech by recognizing your company is a tech company.

Today every company is a tech company.

 If a decade ago one had invested in Domino’s, Apple, Facebook, or Google one would have got a better return on investment with Dominos!

Yes, Domino’s makes pizza and delivers it to a person’s home, but they leveraged technology to re-imagine and then transform every single aspect of their business from how customers could order the pizza, monitor its journey , decide where to receive it (at the football field as you tailgated?) and how it was delivered to them (drone anyone?)

They re-imagined stores, understood how delivery services could become parasites eating into their margin while trying to control customer relationships. Domino’s controls every aspect of the customer relationship and delivery.

They understood technology could re-define their future and was their business. They understood that the challenges and changes it brings about cannot be stopped and needs to be embraced.

To read more about Dominos or see a video of its transformation check this:

Creativity is where art and technology intersect so if you are in a creative business, you are in a technology business. Communication changes as technology changes and if you do not adapt (most newspapers for instance were done in by the failure of their management to recognize the impact of technology and not technology itself) your media business may not thrive in the future. Marketing is about understanding and meeting customer requirements and as customers’ requirements, expectations, and behaviors as well as the communication channels change every aspect of marketing becomes a technology infused business.

Smart companies and leaders recognize the critical nature of technology and realize an understanding of its potential should be throbbing in the beating blood of every key employee. Technology implementation may be led by the CTO and CIO but understanding of its impact and a vision about how to leverage it, must reside in every leader and should be central to every aspect of product, service, and experience design.

Prepare for the Third Connected Age of Tech.

While technology and online has been around for a long while, there was a step change in how businesses were impacted beginning in 1993 with the launch of the First Connected Age marked by the creation of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee.

During this first connected age people connected to discover and people connected to shop. The companies that created the best products and services in these areas like Google and Amazon became the most valuable companies in the world.

Search and E-commerce transformed many aspects of business.

In 2007 we entered the Second Connected Age which built on the first age as technology now allowed people to connect with each other (social networks) and connect all the time (smart phones). Not surprisingly Facebook and Apple were also big winners and are among the most valuable companies.

Mobile and Social continued this transformation of business but also transformed many aspects of society.  The challenge society faces is that many of the modern communication channels were built to optimize for consumers and an advertising operating system but now they are a society operating system and we need to optimize for citizens.

We have now entered the Third Connected Age of Technology ( its dawn was first heralded five and a half year ago)  and it will make all the seismic changes of the last three decades pale in significance.  This is because not only does this age build on the foundations of what has come before due to advances in technology but also three decades of people’s changing behavior and expectations.  Almost every millennial was born after the dawn of the first connected age and the modern graphical internet.

The Third Connected Age will see four new connections.

a)     AI: Data connecting to data which is a simplistic way of describing machine learning

b)    5G: Much faster and more resilient connections

c)     Voice/AR/VR: New ways of connecting. In many countries voice search is greater than text search.

d)    Quantum Computing: Connections to the New God in the Sky as cloud-based computing takes a quantum jump.

Today a toddler version of these capabilities bundled together are available via Amazon Echo and Google Home. Anticipate in less than 1000 days the transformative potential of these technologies will create a plethora of new winners and losers across every Industry.

Do you have your best talent in your company working to ensure Third Connected Era readiness?

Upgrade talent.

Talent is all.

People are key.

A company only transforms if the people in the company transform. A company gets better when the people in the company get better.

Technology smarts and modern technology are necessary but not sufficient to succeed.

People/Talent are the key to win.

If one reads Will and Ariel Durant’s “ The Lessons of History” it becomes clear that every advance in technology places a premium on superior talent.

Basically, technology is like a lever. It allows talent leverage and scale. It is never technology or talent. It is technology and talent.

Great people with great tools will dominate all.

Today we are living in a truly transformed terrain for talent.  One where every aspect of what talent wants from companies and their bosses, the nature of work and much more are being twisted into new shapes.

Smart companies are realizing that the next few years will be driven by how they can upgrade their talent through a combination of recruiting new talent as well as training and inspiring existing talent

Today smart leaders everywhere recognize we are at a unique moment in time due to the combined impact of Three Big Shifts : a) Importance of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion,  b) Role of ESG, Purpose and Values in a company culture and c) The unbundled workplace and new life mindsets post Covid .

This is the ideal time for leaders to truly re-think their talent strategy, company culture and training plans to attract and upgrade people.


Companies want to grow.

But so does talent.

And if talent grows the company grows.

There are six types of growth people want and every company must offer some combination of all six though they will be mixed in different ways for every individual, role, and where the person is in their career journey. A key is to think with tomorrow in mind.

a)  Compensation: Talent wishes to be paid fairly and to see their total compensation increase as their impact and skill sets and contributions grow. Companies must compensate for where they want future behaviors and growth to be rather than reward people for today while talking about tomorrow. People will follow the money.b)   Recognition: Every individual wants to be recognized for their work. They want to work for bosses who allow them to shine.

c)   Autonomy: One cannot learn and grow if every step is micro-managed. If one is rooted in process and routine, how can one spread one’s wings and navigate the winds of change?

d)   Skills: Today the half-life of many technical skill and some soft skills erode and need to continuously be re-built. Companies must invest deeply in  continuous education. Talent will thrive if they are being taught skills that increase their market value in tomorrows marketplace. Yes, increase the number of people who want to recruit away your talent. This retains talent and attracts new talent.

e)   Purpose: Critical factor in joining and staying in a company is a growing belief in the purpose and value of a company.

f)    Relationships/connections: Growing a network of mentors, colleagues and others over time is a key to career success and happiness.

Few jobs and companies allow for every one of these six growth factors at the same time, but few companies can attract and retain talent if they do not offer many of these growth enablers.

Today we are at a particular junction where a fusion between a new era of technology (The Third Connected Age) and a new talent mindset is underway. To grow and thrive we will need to grow our understanding of the implications of technology on our business while enabling our people to thrive by unleashing their potential.

Creative photography by Anna Devis and Daniel Rueda

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Rishad Tobaccowala (@rishad) is the author of the bestselling “Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data” published by HarperCollins globally in January 2020. It has been described as an “operating manual” for managing people, teams and careers in the age we live in and The Economist Magazine called it perhaps the best recent book on Stakeholder Capitalism. Business and Strategy named it among the best business books of the year and the best book on Marketing in 2020. Rishad is also a speaker, teacher and advisor who helps people think, feel and see differently about how to grow their companies, their teams and themselves. More at