Cleve Gibbon

content management, content modelling, digital ecosystems, technology evangelist.

Healthy Curiosity

My wife is a writer.  Last week she shared an interesting piece of advice for dealing with writer’s block. Cleve, you need a good dose of healthy curiosity Cleve. Of course, I asked for more details and I got this:

   Every week research something that you’re curious about.  

Something I’m curious about? Well, I’ve always wanted to learn how to code in Python. It’s a playful yet powerful programming language that I’ve never used in anger. Why not?

So on Sunday, I signed up for an online self-service python course. The University of Michigan module on Coursera looked perfect. From there I downloaded the Python for Everybody kindle book for a dollar and got to work. Six days later and I’m wrapping up the course and finished with the book. It was super fun and lived up to being playful yet powerful. I highly recommend it as a first programming language for anyone wanting to get into coding. I wish it was around when I was a boy. For parents, consider it for your kids.

Now, I hate snakes by the way (but love the movie Snakes on a Plane).  Python was NOT named after the snake.  No. It was named after the Monty Python Flying Circus comic strip.  Remember the playful part of python.

Back to Healthy Curiosity

I’ll let you into a little secret.  I don’t have writer’s block.  My writing efforts are far too short and sweet for that.  However, it did supercharge my curiosity in all other areas. It was as if my eyes and ears were temporarily supercharged.  I put all the energy derived from a dose of healthy curiosity into listening more intently and paying attention longer in my day-to-day. I’m hoping it continues into next week. I’ll let you know.

So healthy curiosity appears to be a good thing. Try it.  Pick something small and lean in on it. I’d love to know where it takes you

Cannes Lions Innovation 2021

Cannes Lions Innovation happens every year. This year it’s fully digital. The best of best submit their creative works in the hope of winning. Sadly, Cannes was canned in 2020 due to COVID. So in 2021, there’s two years’ worth of innovative work to judge. I had the honor of joining 9 other judges that reviewed 161 entries in the innovation category.

It was hard. So many great entries spanning the 6 innovation sub-categories of early-stage, applied, scalable, product, brand strategy & experience, and innovative technology. We shortlisted 17 entries. This week the shortlisted teams will present their work to the judging panel. By the end of the week, they’ll be winners.

Well done to everyone that entered. Good luck to the shortlisted. If you know any of the judges, next week they will have a singular focus. So wish ’em look.

Cannes Lions Innovation Judging in Progress

Devyce

I’m a Londoner living in America.  However, I still need a UK number primarily for banking purposes.  Security is real. However, mobile provider tariff plans are both complicated and costly.  So how do you get a reliable UK number with the least amount of pain? 

My brother introduced me to Devyce. One phone. Two numbers.  Devyce is a regular mobile app.  Once installed, you pay a monthly subscription fee for unlimited UK texts and calls. Devyce sits on your phone with no additional SIM card required. Just like WhatsApp using the UK number that comes with your subscription. All you need is an internet connection. Problem solved.

So how much?  My personal plan is less $8 per month people. Devyce is a smart, simple and scaleable solution. It also offers plans for teams and businesses. I think everyone should know about Devyce. Consider yourself told!

Black Leadership

I’m black. Born in England and live in Seattle, Washington.  I turned fifty in 2021.  I’ve three careers – so far – an academic (5 years), a software architect (6 years), and currently a chief technology officer (16 years).  For the last twenty years I’ve head leadership positions where I created and/or part owned those companies I worked within.  Now, given the renewed racial tension and events taking place across America, and building a family, I’ve been asking myself what it means to be a black leader today.

Black Leadership Academy

Enter McKinsey who run a Black Leadership Academy program.  I was fortunate to get a place on it in November 2020 through work. And so, six months I’ve graduated and got my badge. But short story short; it was life changing. 

How so?  After speaking with a few of female colleagues attending women only events, like them, these environments are a welcome space to share and care with peers. Less interruptions, no mansplaining. Similarly, the everyday biases and barriers invisible to the majority, yet ever present to the minority, gone! Instead, we were free to openly discuss key leadership topics around networking, managing personal energy levels, psychological trust, the power of storytelling, and the rising importance of non-executive board directorships.  The focus was resolutely on the work. But don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of occasions of group therapy, bonding, and camaraderie. It that was fun. This added to the sense of freedom we strive to feel within a less diverse environments, or put another way, the world we live in today. 

Back to the work

I graduated from the McKinsey Black Leadership Execution Program – BELP – and made many new friends.  The storytelling session was off the charts, equipping the attendees with essential communication tools.  The importance of networking was brought forward and the need to continuously grow and nurture your personal board of directors focussed on you.  Common sense and extremely powerful when applied in the right way.  

The sessions were human. Highly engaging, and deeply personal at times.  The content is proprietary to McKinsey and private.  Unfortunately, I cannot share it with you.  However, I would highly recommend you sign up for the program.  As I said, life changing!

From Cash Wallets to Digital Wallets

Digital wallets are on the rise.  In year COVID – 2020 – digital wallets surpassed cash as the number one payment at all point-of-sales globally.  That’s a big deal. But what are you and I using now instead of cash?

Cash was King

I’ve got a baby on the way. So my wife and I are changing things up at home.  We’re buying and selling furniture. Nesting if you will.  My wife posted a sofa on Facebook Marketplaces for $3000 and Brian said he wanted it.  

Brian> Cleve, do you mind if I come over at 10:30 am to take a look 

Cleve> Sure, no problem Brian

Brian> Awesome, I’ll see you then!

11:30am and Brian rocks up at all flustered and wet.  It’s raining.  Wife and U-haul in tow.  

Brian> Had an absolute nightmare withdrawing $1,500 from a Bank of America ATM

Cleve> How come?

Brian> Typically, we don’t withdraw this amount of cash.  Fraud checks and all.  Took me an hour on the phone to get the cash.  But here it is.

This was literally my first cash transaction since moving to America back in October 2019.  I was happy for Brian but confused as to why he was using cash. I said nothing.  My wife and I showed them our sofa and they agreed to buy it.  

Brian> Right, the downpayment.  Please count it, I’ll feel better that you do.

Brian stuffed the dollars into my hands and asked me to count them. I did as instructed.

Cleve> Okay, all good!

Brian> Super, where’s the nearest ATM so I can get the remaining cash.

Towards digital wallets

I pointed Brian towards the nearest ATM five minutes up the road, and they were gone!  45 minutes later and still no sign of Brian.  In the meantime, we sold another sofa, paid using Venmo (a digital wallet), the buyers had collected and gone.  Okay, Brian’s back!

Brian> That was a nightmare. We couldn’t get any more cash out.  We’re at the limit for today.

Cleve> Yeah, it doesn’t matter what ATM you go to, the limit is the limit!

Brian> However Cleve, I can use Zelle.  It’s a digital wallet I never knew I had on my phone.

Cleve: Interesting. Zelle works for me.  Do you want my cell number?

Brian> Yeah, that’s it, all you need to give me is your cell number.

So Brian and I stand side by side – we didn’t need to do this but did – and in 60 seconds we’re done.  

Brian> I had no idea I had a digital wallet, literally on me all the time.  Why would anyone go to an ATM?

Why indeed?

The Cashless Future

So going forwards Brian will double down on his new digital wallet.  For me, I have the added challenge of going into the bank branch to deposit Brian’s first cash payment of $1,500.   Today, cash is hard to work with.  However, as more and more people with mobiles unlock their digital wallets, increase the number of transactions through them, the future of banking will truly become decentralized. 

Imagine that. Imagine.  That!

It’s not just about the tech

Have you ever heard someone say, “it’s not just about the tech“?  Yes, you have.  In fact, it’s more like, how many times?  Now think back to the context in which technology was presented in that way.  This isn’t a magic trick, but I already know. Technology was put down to better position something else. To sell something.  Raise something up an agenda. To make a point.  To change a mind. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Technology “versus” mindset is a common tactic to advocate for something that isn’t technology.

I’m a technologist.  And technologists know that technology enables something.  It’s seldom a versus situation.  More a “plus” mindset.   So technologists tend to roll their eyes when we hear technology pitted against something.  Frankly, it’s a dated, naive (verging on silly), and uncompetitive way to position technology in the world today. However, things are changing.

What’s changed?

Technology enables so many things that we rely upon everyday to get stuff done.  Ordering groceries.  Buying clothes.  Texting.  Playing music.  Watching movies.  Gaming.  Video chatting.  Table stakes!  And when COVID hit in 2020 our reliance on technology reached all time highs. Onwards and upwards. 

The value of technology is no longer in question.  Technology kept the human race connected through a pandemic.  

What needs to change?  

Whether you’re a technologist or not, think of technology with a plus not a versus mindset.  Technology enables something. It strives to adds more, not takeaway. Yes, we have to adapt. And no, it’s not gong to be easy. But in which mindset do sit?

Versus: It’s not just about the technology, we have to consider the people and processes to deliver better customer experience.

Or

Plus: Technology makes our people and processes smarter to deliver better customer experiences. 

I urge you to favour plus over versus.

Summary

When you hear the versus narrative for technology, please call it out.  I do.  Change the story.  Be inclusive. Make technology a tool for good whether you’re a technologist or not. Why? Because collectively we have a bigger challenge now demystifying technology. The world sees its true value.   Closing that gap requires technologists and non-technologists alike to adopt a plus mindset to help technology make a better world for us all. 

Technology Cost Declines

What is the best way to forecast technology cost declines? And why is that important?

Well if you can accurately predict cost, you can better plot growth. Moreover, if that cost is technology – a massive engine for exponential growth – we can make smaller and smarter investments, earlier and more often, to maximise future returns.

Forecasting technology cost declines is important. Wright’s Law and Moore’s Law have guided our technology industry here. So meet the minds behind them. Who are they and what did they say?

Theodore Wright

In 1936, whilst studying airplane manufacturing, Theodore Wright (on the left) discovered that:

For every doubling of airplane production the labor requirement was reduced by 10-15%

He stood on that observation for Wright’s Law, that states:

For every cumulative doubling of units produced, costs will fall by a constant percentage

Now units can be anything. Cars, pizzas, batteries, phones, transistors. Anything! Now hold that thought and let’s step over to Moore’s Law.

Gordon Moore

In 1965, whilst working at Fairchild Semiconductor, Gordon Moore came straight out and said:

Every two years, doubling transistor density would consequently result in halving of computation costs

And so the great race to cram as many components onto circuits began. And it has served the technology industry well, particularly Intel, for many years. Not any more?

What changed?

Transistor production declined. Costs plateaued. Consumer demand is changing. So research units started to question Moore’s Law. One of those units was ARK, a leading hedge fund. ARK found that a priced based on Wright’s Law is 40% more accurate than one based on Moore’s Law. Take a look at their data:

So, what are you looking at? We’re going back and re-applying both laws to semiconductor production. We see that Wright’s Law (above the line) is more accurate most of the time than Moore’s Law (below the line). But why?

Comparing the Laws

Moore’s Law is cost as a function time. Wright’s Law is cost as a function of units produced. Put another way, Wright’s Law forecasts technology costs declines based on tangible outputs. Not time. So, the more things you produce, the more you understand, the lower yours costs. And it’s proving to be a better way to forecast technology cost declines.

Closing out

We are all looking for exponential growth. 10% growth is good, but 10x growth great. Knowing where and how to apply technology to execute disruptive ideas is critical. However, demonetisation (make cheaper), dematerialisation (make smaller), and democratisation (make accessible) of technology requires that we get a firm handle on our costs, and where the future declines lay. In doing so, you are not predicting the future, you are helping to shape it.

Luvvie Ajayi

Have you heard of Luvvie Ajayi Jones? I had the pleasure of joining a zoom call with her at a company summit. She was awesome. A comedian. Writer. Truth teller. So, that is Luvvie.

Instead of me telling you about her, I highly recommend you watch her in action. She killed it in a ten minute TED talk. If you want more, read her books. So:

  1. Watch her TED talk
  2. Read her book on I’m Judging You
  3. Read her new book on being a Professional Trouble Maker

Enjoy!

Business agility

Twenty years ago technical agility unlocked smarter ways to ship software faster. Did you that Amazon.Com releases code changes to meet customer needs every 12 seconds? Now, after a year of living with COVID, business agility is now the next mountain to climb.

Business Agility picture of teamwork

Growth is the term of the day. It’s important. But let’s not get distracted. Long-term, sustainable growth depends up a business that changes to meet new challenges. Now that’s business agility.

So, there are five ways to grow a business:

•   Increase revenue
•   Increase new business
•   Increase existing business
•   Increase shareholder value
•   Decrease cost

Surviving a pandemic has taught everyone to do more with less. And so decreasing costs is table stakes for ongoing business success. Moreover, a healthy mix of everything drives additional value for shareholders. So, sustainable business growth really relies on increasing revenue through new and existing business. This leads us to sales and the four key ways to sell:

•   New Products/Services to New Customers
•   New Product/Services to Existing Customers
•   Existing Product/Services to New Customers
•   Existing Product/Services to Existing Customers

So that means there are only two important considerations for the business:

•   Customers
•   Product and Services 

We know customers are constantly changing. Knowing your customer requires every business to continuously invest to understand them. Next, products and services must always meet the ongoing needs of the customer. Simple!

Business agility delivers the right products and services to customers. Hard! But, it is a critical differentiator in today’s competitive landscape. If you cannot adapt your products and services to match customer needs, the market is unforgiving. And COVID has made the market even flatter. Products and services are borderless. Increasingly digital. And accessible from anywhere, by anyone, at any time.

Please Keep It Simple

It’s hard to keep things simple. However, simple things get things done.

I was a long term user of Evernote. I used it for one thing; to take notes. On my desktop. Through the web. When traveling with my phone. Seamlessly syncing between my all devices. Simple note-taking was bliss.

But Evernote grew beyond my comfort zone. It added new features. Tagging. Presentations. Chat. Imports. Attachments. Exports. Reminders. Smart editing. Weblinks. All important things that helped organize, scale and make note-taking better.

But here’s the thing. Collectively, they didn’t keep note taking simple. Evernote pushed up against OneNote and Word. It made me stop and think, why Evernote? I could the same thing with Word and Dropbox. Overnight I just stopped using Evernote and fell back to notes on Apple. Why? Because I didn’t want reminders, or slideshows, and advanced editing. Simple note taking is still bliss.

So therein lies the dilemma with (productivity) tools that extend in perceived areas of growth. As soon as remove choice by going all-in, you risk customers going all-out! Personal productivity is predicated on keeping choice firmly within the hands of the consumer.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying Evernote is a bad tool – far from it – but it doesn’t serve the same simple purpose I bought into nearly ten years ago; simple note-taking.

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About Cleve Gibbon



I'm Cleve Gibbon, CTO at Wunderman Thompson where we are passionate about digital content.

My sort of up-to-date cv tells you my past, linked in shows you my professional network and on twitter you can find out what I'm currently up to.