Highlights from our interview with Anthony Stevens
Before you look at digital transformation, ask two questions. “What market am I in?” and “How will I make money in the future?” Perhaps you can shift where you extract profits from the value chain. Taxis made money out of owning vehicles and licence plates. Uber extracts money out of a different part of the value chain, the part dealing with customers and drivers.
Use Warren Buffet’s castle and moat analogy. In a letter to shareholders in the 90s, Buffet explained that he assessed potential investments on their castles and moats. Castles are the economic engines, and moats are their competitive differentiators. Anthony says companies need to think more about the demand side of their business, using DATA and Artificial Intelligence (AI), to create a barrier to entry (a deep moat).
Data is the new oil. Oil has been termed liquid gold. Chasing Digital says the equivalent today is data on interactions with customers (and it must be used responsibly, he adds).
Thick data is important. Anthony says that when they’ve thought about data, a lot of people think about ones and zeros, just numbers, and the more the merrier. What get overlooked are the human, conversational, insightful stories that indicate particular trends, patterns or observations.
Try Engine A and Engine B. Companies know they’ve got to change, but changing within an existing machine (Engine A) is really hard. So set up a separate system (Engine B). It’s like having an oil tanker and a skidoo or fast motor boat alongside, says Anthony.
Tips from Anthony for setting up Engine B. Remove constraints. Don’t overlay existing procedures and policies, and don’t expect Engine B to rely on shared services within Engine A. Don’t say we’ve already got a finance team, we’ve got IT, we’ve got HR. Allow Engine B to focus on a problem autonomously so you get a creative approach that starts to kick into the way that you engage with customers.
The boss needs to be Jekyll and Hyde. Two mindsets are needed to oversee both engines. Engine A is about driving and maintaining the existing customer base and improving the product or service, focusing on the long term. Engine B is more experimental, thinking about new business models.
Do you join an existing platform, or do you build one yourself? A platform is any environment where you are connecting lots of buyers and lots of suppliers effectively in a marketplace, and once you have information about those interactions, you can sell other services on top of that. Anthony says there are a lot of industries where there are no platforms. If you have enough scale or dominance in your industry, then you should consider building a platform or something with those characteristics to get your product or service out to market.
- Recommended book: Zero to One by Peter Teal. Challenges that start-ups go through, starting with a concept and the mindset that’s required, the entrepreneurial flair needed.
- If you could co-author a book with anyone, who would it be? And what is the title? Bill Gates, amazing entrepreneur and interested in what impacts society. It would be about what would happen to society and ethics around Artificial Intelligence.
- Great bit of advice you could share? Move quickly in today’s day and age. Learn from lots of different industries and different domains of expertise. The skills valued into the future will be creative ones. I’m a learning and education junkie.
- What’s been your lowest moment, and how did you recover from it? Pushing through an environment where my skills haven’t resonated. Trying and trying again, and making changes.
- How do you relax? Listen to music, exercise, trying to get outdoors, go for a run.
- What’s something about you we don’t know? I enjoy playing music. I used to be a cellist earlier on in my life.
- What’s the secret to success? Tenacity, pushing through, having vision, thinking about the world two or three years out. I suppose visualisation.
- What’s a prediction for 2025? A significant shift in economy in terms of the nature of the leadership. People currently in their early 30s will be in major leadership roles, and they’ve been brought up around Facebook and Google etc, so big shifts in power and trust in the marketplace. There will be tension around what we trust, why we trust it, and how we think about power and dominance in the market.
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