By @. Interesting interview with polymath Minter Dial Keynote Speaker
@AdobeSummit | Contributor to @CMO_com @FRANCE24 | Author & Filmmaker: @lastringhome featured on @PBS @History | NED @lastminute_com
What’s your background?
I have what you might call a rather mixed background having worked in Investment Banking, a Zoo, an Aquarium, having been a three-time entrepreneur (two failures), then doing a 16-year stint as a senior executive at L’Oreal before starting my own boutique company, The Myndset Co., speaking and consulting on branding, digital and new tech. Most recently, I wrote and produced an award-winning WWII documentary film and book, The Last Ring Home. And I’m working on my second book, Ready for Disruption, co-written with Caleb Storkey, that will come out later this year, published by Pearson.
How do you tie it all together?
If my career has been rather circuitous, the common thread has always been about storytelling. For example, at DLJ (the investment bank), I used to turn analysts’ stock recommendations into more readable stories for our brokers. I enjoy listening to and telling stories. And, thanks in large part to my experience running Redken, I am very comfortable with talking about branding via stories. Or talking about new technology via the usages. It’s one of the reasons I consider SXSW the most inspiring (and necessary) event to attend as it assembles filmmakers, musicians and digital teams. Brands and artists are all faced with similar challenges of creating a differentiated product, building a reputation, putting it out there… There’s so much each can learn from the other: How to create. How to foster engagement. How to build a community. How to write stories. How to use social to build an audience… By doing my own documentary and book, I feel I am practicing what I preach. On top of that, as a long-time guitarist, I truly feel right at home at SXSW.
— Minter Dial (@mdial) February 14, 2017
There’s so much “new” tech out there how do you prioritise for business?
There are indeed many technologies from which to choose. In many ways, the funny word in the phrase is “new.” Especially if you’re in the business of analysing new tech, it can feel like much of it has been around for a long time. Some technologies have been around for decades but have never gone mainstream (e.g. Artificial Intelligence). Others are heavily hyped but are still embryonic (e.g. 3D printing, blockchain, VR…). Some ebb and flow in waves (the web, social media, mobile phones…). As a business leader, as one explores the different technological solutions out there, one needs to balance the taste for new and the need for real. In other words, it’s about being willing to explore, and yet focusing on the solutions that will serve the business purpose. As my friend Adrian Swinscoe likes to say: “Don’t sell the technology, sell the outcome.” It’s about using the right technology (or a combination of technologies) that helps to solve your strategic imperatives. Let “new” be in the new way you use the technology to better serve your customer.
— Minter Dial (@mdial) February 6, 2017
Which technologies are you excited about?
What’s exciting for me is that we are now at the cusp of real breakthroughs in three specific areas, AI, Genomics and Energy Storage. This surge is happening as a result of advancements in science, but also because of the powerful cocktail of greater processing power, the Cloud, miniaturisation and massive inter-connectivity. It’s important to realise that the force of these technologies is leveraged when exercised in combination with others. They can’t live in isolation. For example, the future of the autonomous car is intimately tied into the optimisation of AI and processing power as well as energy storage (in the case of Tesla, in any event). Near-term, there is no doubt that AI is in breakout mode, where the application is evermore diverse and becoming increasingly sophisticated. Dave Schubmehl, research director at IDC, predicts that that the revenues of companies building AI software (excluding the likes of GAFA) will grow to exceed $10 billion by 2020. Energy storage is a second technology closing in on breakout mode as companies race to find solutions to bring battery costs down below $100 per kWh. The third tech that is on the cusp of breaking out is Genomics, where we have taken the cost of decoding one genome from $100 million to around $100. With such accessibility, we’re bound to see a whole slew of new usages and services.
It goes without saying the growth in these technologies is also being aided by access to funding and the we-can-do-anything attitude at many powerful entrepreneurially minded companies (eg GAFA, Tesla…).
What’s the key to onboarding these new technologies into business?
If being practical and pragmatic remain true business principles, I believe that the new world requires an over-weighting in terms of three qualities: meaningfulness, responsibility and collaboration. These may not be new terms, but they are taking on a new level of importance especially when faced with new technologies that are pushing the frontiers in terms of ethics and human potential. With many of these technologies, it’s not just about change. There are several of them (e.g. AI, Big Data, Genomics) that, by their very nature, instill a level of fear.
What can brands do to make themselves get better known and cut through the noise?
There’s no magic recipe. But as businesses try to rise above the noise, it’s important to have a solid North Star that helps them to navigate through all the changes and options. Inserting emotion into their brand story is necessary, but not enough by itself. Nonetheless, providing useful content, powerful entertainment and engaging stories are great ways to have one’s brand standout. I’m a big fan of encouraging engaged employees to contribute to spread the word, providing (a) the employees are genuinely passionate and (b) it’s entirely voluntary.
You have made a film and book, The Last Ring Home. What’s that taught you about storytelling in today’s world?
I believe that it’s important to practice what you preach. I like to get on stage and tell stories about new tech and how they are helping to change the world. In the case of my documentary film, my own challenge was figuring out how to distill a 25-year journey into a 26-minute film. It’s a deeply personal story that explores an unknown part of WWII, the impact of war on those left behind, exploring the father-son relationship and the quest for identity. In parallel, I endeavored to craft and adapt the same story into different media, including a hardcover book, an ebook, an audio book (Audible) and a storygraphic (as they might say in Hollywood: where an infographic meets a real story). The keys to a great story include being original, having a well-told storyline, strong emotions, and last but not least, a meaningfulness for the consumer of that story. I often think about how actors spend their lives playing other roles, and to what extent those roles have an impact on their daily lives. Jemima Kirke, star of Girls, admitted that her acting constantly made her rethink her life. “In acting you are always asking yourself why you do things, why you make the choices you make. Everything means something.” Indeed, we should make sure that the signals we read, the stories we tell and the roles we play mean something, at the very least, to ourselves.
How can people find out more about you?