Who Owns Who?

President Trump has recently created a(nother) media stir by expressing his concern about the selling power of the on-line retail giant we call Amazon. While personal opinions about this matter will vary, it signals a quiet but important industry trend – the consolidation of companies. We cannot assume that a business’s name is synonymous with ownership.

For example, did you know that Amazon owns IMDB, Twitch and Whole Foods? Or that eBay owns Craigslist and StubHub? Or that Apple owns Shazam (yes, that’s why ‘OK Google’ can’t tell you song titles like Siri can!). The chart below is one helpful way to understand the complex web of brand ownership

While you may (or may not) find this chart interesting, it contains an important lesson. In an increasingly connected society we need to do our homework. If you are selective about who you do business with, you need to spend time researching who owns who!

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com


Chart Source


Google’s Perfect Employee – Skills for Today’s Marketplace

A significant amount of my consulting work is spent improving organizational performance by developing people. Sometimes employee development is done proactively – like taking vitamins before you get sick. More frequently, employee development is a reactive approach to problematic performance. Like setting a broken leg or providing an antibiotic, this approach can still be successful. However, like a physical ailment, it typically involves some organizational headaches and pain.

Negative employee performance often leads to discussions about hiring practices. How can employers screen potential employees in ways which maximize organizational health and minimize organizational ailments?

Traditional hiring methods focus heavily on technical or hard skills. This approach believes that an educated and skilled workforce will bring beneficial competencies into our businesses. In other words, a bevy of technical skills will equip an individual to succeed. However, this model breaks down and we’ve all worked with gifted (aka – skilled) people that no one can work with. So how do we find the right employee?

Recent research from Google provides helpful insights into this important question. Their study about workplace success contradicts the conventional ‘hard skill’ approach. Google, a company founded by techies (and, one that has historically relied on hiring hard skills) analyzed their own data to find their success recipe. In short, they discovered that it takes more than a knowledge of technology to be a technology company. By crunching their own data, Google discovered the following skills were most important:

  1. Being a good coach;
  2. Communicating and listening well;
  3. Possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view);
  4. Having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues;
  5. Being a good critical thinker;
  6. Having effective problem-solving skills; and,
  7. Being able to make connections across complex ideas.

The most fascinating insights is that, direct technical skills, sits at number 8 on this list! While technical skills are needed, they follow (not lead!) the list of high performing employee attributes.

“Google’s Project Aristotle shows that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard” (Strauss).

These conclusions align with the triadic leadership model I use with clients. This diagram is a visual reminder that effective employees (and leaders) are a composite of three equally important ingredients:

  1. Skills – what a leader does.
  2. Self-awareness – who a leader is.
  3. Morals/values – why a leader leads.

Over-focusing on any single part of this model (e.g. – hard skills only focus on ‘what a leader does’) will lead to performance gaps.

There is no perfect system to hire or develop an ideal employee. But research is revealing that hard skills are not enough. Soft skills will play an important role in our modern workforce (and increasingly so as automation and robots are equipped to undertake traditional hard-skill tasks).

So, what does this practically mean for you and your organization? Here are a few concluding ideas for business leaders to consider as they seek to implement Google’s conclusions. Please add your own insights to this list!

  • Does your resume review focus on hard skills or soft skills?
  • How do your interview questions assess soft skills?
  • Many of the skills in Google’s list require strong moral development (e.g. – listening skills. empathy or generosity). How do you develop ethical behavior in employees? How do your interview questions reveal a candidate’s moral norms?

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com


Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

[Infographic] Anticipating the Ripple Effects of Change (Part 2): Driverless Cars

Last week I posted a fascinating video which illustrated the need to anticipate the ripple effects of change (see Cats in Borneo). The sidebar below provides you with a quick summary of the video. It reminds us how our decisions impact, and are impacted by, the complex systems that we live within.

Systems Thinking Summary

Today we are continuing that theme by illustrating some of the anticipated ripple effects of future change from driverless cars. As a futurist, I am wired to look to the future in order to help businesses anticipate changes which will impact their organizations. The impending changes that driverless cars will bring reveal significant changes in the next decade.

Graham Winfrey provides an insightful list of five industries which will change as a result of driverless cars:

  1. Fast Food. Believe it or not, 70 percent of sales at McDonald’s come from drive-thru customers (Bloomberg). When people enter their destination into a driverless car and press “go,” they’ll be less likely to change course mid-route to grab fast food. Why? When it’s just as convenient to go anywhere for food as it is to go to McDonald’s or Burger King, people will likely choose fast food less (CB Insights). On top of this change, fast food locations near gas stations are also likely to attract fewer customers, as driverless cars will probably refuel when they’re not transporting passengers.
  2. Entertainment. Freeing up people from operating motor vehicles will present consumers with new blocks of time to read the news or enjoy entertainment. This will create opportunities for broadcasters to send video content to screens inside driverless cars and for advertisers to serve location-specific ads about products and services passengers will be near on their trip.
  3. Hotels that derive a significant amount of business from single-night customers during road trips are set to lose a lot of business. Why? It’s likely that many travelers will simply decide to sleep in their cars rather pay for an overnight stay. To be sure, it may take 20 years or more for this to become commonplace, but the roadside motel seems like a less viable business proposition as driverless cars take over.
  4. Property Values. When commuting substantial distances to work in a car becomes less of an inconvenience, property values will likely shift. Instead of the highest values concentrated in urban areas, home values will likely spread out more evenly across cities and into suburban areas. Parking garages and other spaces built around human drivers may also be converted to serve other purposes, as autonomous driving technology gradually reshapes city planning.
  5. Short-haul flights: Though most people prefer flying to driving due to the quicker travel time, shorter flights will likely see a drop in customers. The convenience and lower cost of sitting in a driverless car will begin to appeal more to people who don’t want to go through the hassle of waiting in line at the airport, going through security, and paying for ground transportation once they’ve arrived at their destination (Winfrey).

The following infographic addresses the same topic but provides some fresh insights (Owyang).














While there are many news stories which focus on driverless cars we are still in the early changes of thinking about the ripple effects of the changes they will cause in other industries. Successful companies and leaders will learn to anticipate changes such as the ones noted above. The ability to move more quickly than your competition is a key ingredient to strategic agility and  future-readiness.

In the past month our oldest child received his drivers license. I cannot help but wonder if this traditional adulthood right-of-passage is on the verge of becoming obsolete. Perhaps the DMV is yet another ripple in the pond of changes that driverless cars will bring.

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com


Jeremiah Owyang (Feb. 10, 2016). Chart: Autonomous Cars Change Every Industry, Even Yours.

Graham Winfrey (Feb. 2, 2016). 5 Surprising Industries That Will Be Transformed By Driverless Cars. Inc. on-line.

Image Credit: PBS

The Pichette Scale: Assessing Work/Life Balance

“After nearly seven years as CFO, I will be retiring from Google to spend more time with my family”.

This was how Patrick Pichette, one of America’s highest ranking executives, publicly announced his departure from Google a few weeks ago. In his full message on his Google+ page, he candidly spoke about the tough decision to leave a great job. One of the tipping points occurred during a trip to Africa with his wife. They were having such a great time that she asked him why they didn’t just extend their vacation. His reply was the one most of us would use – there just isn’t enough time…we have commitments…people are counting on me. She challenged him deeply when she asked, “So when is it going to be time? Our time? My time?” You can read the full letter here.

Pichette notes, “In the end, life is wonderful, but nonetheless a series of tradeoffs, especially between business/professional endeavors and family/community”. His decision means that he felt that his balance needed to shift. Furthermore, he did something about the gap and made the difficult decision to resign.

The purpose of today’s blog is simple. I am asking you to consider three questions that only you can answer. Review the graphic below (I call it the ‘Pichette Scale‘) and answer the following:

  1. Place a dot on this line based on your life to date. Where do you sit on this spectrum? If you are brave, show your spouse or close friends to see if they agree.
  2. Where do you want your dot to sit when you turn ___ years of age (pick a number)? Today?
  3. What do you need to do about it?

Pichette Scale

I reside in a city full of retirees and snowbirds. It is not unusual to watch 70-somethings struggle to climb out of shiny new Corvette’s and Porsche’s. I cannot help but wonder if they moved the dot a bit late. Pichette made the bold move to move his dot at a time where many would say he is ‘in his prime’.

I cannot help but wonder if Patrick ever wishes he had moved the dot earlier! If you ever bump into him, why don’t you ask him for me!


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman


What Happens in an Internet Minute?

Most of us acknowledge that the internet has become the hub of our lives. But have you considered what actually happens in an average internet minute? TechSpartan recently answered that question and compared our activities between 2013 and 2014. Here’s what our play (and work!) looks like in 60 seconds:

Internet Minute3



The March issue of WIRED magazine presented another interesting phenomenon that we are not tracking yet – Internet Minute2screenshots. You have likely observed many conference attendees raise their phones above their head and take screenshots of slides. We also snap photo’s of events, of notes, of texts or things we want to remember later. These screenshots can be both humorous and incriminating and their use is also increasing. This trend is demonstrated by Evernote users who saved 45% more screenshot in their notes than they did a year ago (WIRED).

Some believe that screenshots will help improve productivity and group learning. For example, an individual recently tweeted an article link and received 109 retweets. When he reposted it as a readable screenshot he received over 4,200 tweets (WIRED). So far, the screenshot trend is not occurring through a centralized app but it is plausible that we will see an app claim this market in the upcoming months!

Years ago The Eagles wrote a song about A New York Minute. It appears that even the city that never sleeps can’t even keep up with the internet anymore!


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Clive Thompson (March 2015). Screenshot effect: Display your display. Wired Magazine.



Unlearning: The new leadership skill

In order to thrive in the future we are going to need to learn how to unlearn. Amidst unparalleled change, leaders can no longer rely on ‘what they know’. Instead, effective leaders will be defined by the capacity to unlearn outdated and ineffective ways of doing things. More importantly, they will also have the capacity to help their organizations do the same.

A recent article in The Futurist defined this as unlearning and uplearning. The authors note, “one of the most important skills in a time of immense change is to develop the capacity to unlearn old ideas that are increasingly obsolete and learn how to reason, adapt, and act at a higher level of complexity”. Here is what this looks like:

Unlearning: This skill requires us to be able to identify and unlearn ideas and activities that have worked in the past but do not work in today or will not in the future. For example, teachers are no longer sole content providers/experts as a result of the internet. This week, I have observed my children being taught in classrooms (bricks-and-morter as well as on-line) as well as through gamification, Kahn Academy, Wikipedia and Google Translate. Their learning comes from many content providers and experts! However, the teacher as the expert is a longstanding tradition that drives our educational system. We need to unlearn how we teach in order to improve education.

Uplearning: The ability to be comfortable working with complex problems, not because you know the answers, but because you are equipped with critical thinking skills . These skills – such as synthesis, adaptability, systems-thinking and a multidisciplinary approach- enables individuals to ‘pull’ themselves into the unknown. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors, demonstrates uplearning in his proposed ‘Hyperloop’, a solar-powered transportation system designed to move people between LA and San Francisco in about 30 minutes. There is currently no way to accomplish this dream. However, he believes that a group of people committed to uplearning can learn how to do so.

This change will be challenging if we rely on historic models of education. Richard Ogle highlighted this in his book Smart World when he noted, “Western education is based on two fundamental principles…rational thinking and content of knowledge that already exists … and, by definition, traditional learning looks backward. In a world of radical change, imagination, intuition, insight and innovation are required …and, by definition, learning looks forward”. Education itself must transform by applying unlearning and uplearning principles.

Alvin Toffler once said, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. While the terms unlearning and uplearning may not be common, you can expect them to become cornerstones of effective education and leadership in the decades ahead.

What are the common barriers you encounter that inhibit uplearning and unlearning?

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Ogle, R. (2007). Smart world: Breakthrough creativity and the new science of ideas. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, p. 113.

Budd, B., de la Tega, M., Grove, B., & Smyre, R. (July-August 2014). Creating a future forward college: What if…Collaborations in transformational learning. The Futurist (Vol. 48, No. 4). Retrieved Octtober 21 from http://www.wfs.org/futurist/2014-issues-futurist/july-august-2014-vol-48-no-4/creating-future-forward-college-what-if-c