Weekly Research and Commentary on the Future of Business and Technology.
Have we reached “Peak Blockchain”?! / Leading Through the Fear of Disruption / Meet radical Ally Carol Reiley.
Dec 11, 2018
Welcome to the radical Briefing 0003. A quick tit-bit before we get started: Did you know the word radical was formed from the Latin adjective “radicalis,” which simply meant “of or relating to a root.” This meaning was kept when it came into the English language as “radical.” The radical Briefing aims to get precisely to the root of the latest learnings, advice, and articles covering exponential technologies, and how they affect business models, culture, and leadership. With that being said, let’s get started.
P.S. With the holidays approaching fast – our next Briefing will be out in the first week of January.
Have we reached “Peak Blockchain”?!
The other day we were debating the seemingly free fall of cryptocurrencies – which, amongst other things, seems to pull the rug underneath quite a few blockchain startups who had significant holdings of their ICO proceeds in Bitcoin & Co – and the related dramatic cooling off of the whole blockchain space.
For me the blockchain technology always felt like a technological concept which first required us to better understand the actual use cases – instead many of us seem to have done what we tend to do: Get uber-excited about a (disruptive) technology, buy into the hype and then see it crash and burn; until it rises from the ashes and finds its unique use cases.
One of the last times I saw this movie play out was with the advent of NoSQL databases. Hailed as the end of SQL-based databases with claims of fantastic performance, much better scalability and a more modern architecture, NoSQL databases like MongoDB became the proverbial hammer which made everything look like a nail. Well, turned out that NoSQL is good for some very specific use cases – and only for those, but not much more. But – it also pushed the industry forward and modern SQL-based database systems have learned a lot from NoSQL toward scalability, etc.
The primary challenge most businesses today face is disruption. In this brave new world, leading through change and uncertainty is critical for success. We want our organizations and people to thrive, be innovation ready, creative and fast. And yet, we are often frustrated when our teams are resistant, simply don’t seem to “get it”, and ask more questions than work to solve big challenges.
Fear is now a very real concept in the workplace. Both across the employee base and throughout leadership. Fear of change, fear of making mistakes, fear of not having all the answers. Fear equals a scarcity mindset where little can be achieved. In order to create momentum and build a positive future, a fundamental shift in mindset away from fear must happen.
To disrupt fear in yourself and your people, work on stepping forward into discomfort, walk toward challenges, and even if the direction is wrong, you will still be moving forward. Work on staying curious and opening your mind. Notice when you are holding on to a belief, a way of always doing things from the past. Practice finding another perspective. Finally, work to deeply connect. Being in a relationship with others, breeds respect, humility, and vulnerability. The underpinning of all things necessary for high performing teams to succeed.
These may not seem like ground-breaking new leadership skills. They are not. And, we promise you – working on your mindset, and that of your entire team can make the difference between success and failure. Our minds are powerful beyond comprehension. Let’s make sure they are operating at full capacity.
We are delighted to kick-off the first “radical Ally Interview” with Carol Reiley. Carol is an industry leader in robotics and AI and was the youngest member on the IEEE Robotics & Automation board. She co-founded and is a Board Member of drive.ai, an artificial intelligence self-driving vehicle startup, as well as co-founder of Tinkerbelle Labs, engaging people to build healthcare products on a global scale.
Carol, you have spent your career at the forefront of technological change. How do you describe your work to others, and how is your work currently affecting change?
I work at the intersection of tech and humanity on things that enrich the human experience and hopefully save lives. I choose to work on hard tech problems that have the largest potential to impact how we currently do things.
I imagine a world where humans and smart machines work together collaboratively. Humans and robots have different strengths and weaknesses - together we can do something better than either can do individually. I’ve had the fortune of spending the last 18 years working with great people to build products in underwater, space, health and self-driving cars.
What have you learned about yourself as a leader during your career?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about myself as a leader is how to work with those who have a different work style. I have a very high tolerance for “structured ambiguity” and thrive in uncertain environments, but not everyone can work like that.
My biggest pet peeve is the inability to make a decision or a slow-moving group ruled by too much consensus. It is better to at first make a wrong decision (and know the core assumptions you’re basing decisions on with the limited info you have), quickly learn then correct course than being paralyzed on decision-making. The paralysis of decision-making wastes valuable time and energy - two of your most important resources at a startup. In a perfect world, you’ll be able to gather all the information to comfortably make a decision (as they say, hindsight is 20/20). But most people need to make decisions with imperfect or a lack of information.
As a leader, you have a different perspective from many others on the team. It’s important to get feedback from others, but ultimately you are responsible for the ownership of the final call - right or wrong. While some people make very convincing and negative arguments, I learned to trust my instincts by going back to first principles, testing core assumptions, and standing firm on things I believe in. Sometimes the decision is not a popular one and it’s your job to convince them and create a process for decision making that is constructive.
What’s the single best piece of radical advice you received in your life (so far)?
I’ve received so much good advice through the years that I could not narrow it down to one.
The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want. ( Writing it down increases the chances the goal will be achieved!)
Optimize for learning. Don’t choose another path because right now you feel fear, laziness, or lack of money.
You can plan ahead but your plan will definitely change when the time comes. Your greatest survival skill will be flexibility and adapting to rapidly changing circumstances. You have a lot of time to get it right. - Don’t worry if you haven’t ‘made it’ by 25. Remember where you started and be grateful for how far you’ve come.
Herd mentality won’t get you any further than the rest of the herd. Be kind and compassionate to others Especially to those whom you don’t think can help you get ahead.
If you had $10M (or $100M, or $1BN) of your wealth to bet/invest in one future technology, what would it be and why?
Artificial intelligence (AI) - I’m often asked what AI can do. AI is the new electricity! When you think about how electricity has changed how we live, it pervades almost every aspect of our lives in profound ways. AI is a technology that will change and drastically shape every industry. I don’t think we’ve begun to fully understand how we will “level up” and our lives will change with AI.
AI will also teach us more about ourselves as the human race. We need to think mindfully about our values and the impact of this technology as it will mirror and amplify our designers and societies.
Hard work & having a toolbox of strategies for dealing with failure beats raw talent. This book made me realize that the brain is like a muscle that needs training and to be constantly worked out. It’s helped me overcome obstacles, challenges life hands you, and take bold risks. It inspired me to found an education company, Squishybotz, and write a children’s book on the topic called “Making a Splash” because at the time there were none. I felt this was such an important concept, particularly for those that grew up in the trophy generation.
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