Digitisation is a massive and massively important trend – one accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. But despite fervent preaching from the Silicon Valley faithful, it’s not the only kind of competency that matters. Silicon Valley veteran and Stanford lecturer Robert E. Siegel argues that amid the incessant drumbeat of digital transformation, too many leaders overlook and under-appreciate the traditional competencies of physical incumbents – things like logistics, manufacturing, customer service, and quality control. The rigid dichotomy between digital and physical is not only over-done, but dangerous to companies trying to succeed. Siegel bridges the gulf in his new book THE BRAINS AND BRAWN COMPANY: How Leading Organisations Blend the Best of Digital and Physical. In this interview, I speak to Robert E. Siegel about how companies that bridge the digital (brain) and physical (brawn) domains will develop huge competitive advantages. We discuss his ten-point framework for the digital and physical realms and look practically at how to put the framework into action by becoming a systems leader, skilled at blending the best of digital and physical, recognising emerging patterns, and making key decisions in a rapidly changing landscape.

Thought Economics

The challenges societies face today, from inequality to climate change to systemic racism, cannot be solved with yesterday’s toolkit. Solving Public Problems shows how readers can take advantage of digital technology, data, and the collective wisdom of our communities to design and deliver powerful solutions to contemporary problems. In Solving Public Problems: How to Fix Our Government and Change Our World, Beth Simone Noveck offers a radical rethinking of the role of the public servant and the skills of the public workforce, this book is about the vast gap between failing public institutions and the huge number of public entrepreneurs doing extraordinary things—and how to close that gap.
In this interview, I speak to about how we, as public servants, community leaders, students, activists and citizens, can become more effective, equitable and inclusive leaders to repair our troubled, twenty-first century world.

Thought Economics

In 2009, a St. Louis glassblowing artist and recovering computer scientist named Jim McKelvey lost a sale because he couldn’t accept American Express cards. Frustrated by the high costs and difficulty of accepting credit card payments, McKelvey joined his friend Jack Dorsey (the cofounder of Twitter) to launch Square, a start-up that would enable small merchants to accept credit card payments on their mobile phones. With no expertise or experience in the world of payments, they approached the problem of credit cards with a new perspective, questioning the industry’s assumptions, experimenting and innovating their way through early challenges, and achieving widespread adoption from merchants small and large. But just as Square was taking off, Amazon launched a similar product, marketed it aggressively, and undercut Square on price. For most ordinary start-ups, this would have spelled the end. Instead, less than a year later, Amazon was in retreat and soon discontinued its service. How did Square beat the most dangerous company on the planet? Was it just luck? These questions motivated McKelvey to study what Square had done differently from all the other companies Amazon had killed. He eventually found the key: a strategy he calls the Innovation Stack. In this interview I speak to Jim McKelvey, Co-Founder of Square and author of The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time. We talk about how to build a pattern of ground-breaking, competition-proof entrepreneurship that is rare but repeatable. And how we can find the entrepreneur within ourselves and identify and fix unsolved problems–one crazy idea at a time.

Thought Economics

It is in Bertrand Piccard’s DNA to go beyond the obvious and achieve the impossible. From a legendary lineage of explorers who conquered the stratosphere and the abysses, he made history by accomplishing two aeronautical firsts, around the world non-stop in a balloon, and more recently in a solar plane without fuel. Pioneer in his way to consider ecology through the lens of profitability, he began working in the early 2000s to promote renewable energies and clean technologies. Solar Impulse was born to carry this message around the world. His dual identity as a psychiatrist and explorer makes him an influential voice heard by the largest institutions which today consider him as a forward-thinking leader on the themes of innovation and sustainability. Founder and Chairman of the Solar Impulse Foundation, he has succeeded with his team to identify 1000 efficient solutions to protect the environment in a profitable way. In a third round-the-world tour, he will bring them to decision-makers in order to help them meet their environmental targets while ensuring clean economic growth. In this exclusive interview I spoke to Bertrand Piccard about his journey as an explorer, and how he’s bringing together the worlds of ecology, technology and the economy to solve the most pressing challenge of our time – climate change – and to ensure the quality of life on Earth.

Thought Economics

Philippe Starck, world famous creator with multifaceted inventiveness, is always focused on the essential, his vision: that creation, whatever form it takes, must improve the lives of as many people as possible. This philosophy has made him one of the pioneers and central figures of the concept of “democratic design”. By employing his prolific work across all domains, from everyday products (furniture, a citrus squeezer, electric bikes, an individual wind turbine), to architecture (hotels, restaurants that aspire to be stimulating places) and naval and spatial engineering (mega yachts, habitation module for private space tourism), he continually pushes the boundaries and requirements of design, becoming one of the most visionary and renowned creators of the international contemporary scene. In this interview, I speak to Philippe Starck about art, design, the human body, technology, beauty, legacy and the very essence of human civilisation.

Thought Economics

Justin Sun is the founder of TRON, one of the world’s largest decentralized blockchain ecosystems and CEO of BitTorrent, the leader in peer-to-peer software and services. A protege of Alibaba’s Jack Ma, Sun in 2017 was named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list for China and 30 under 30 Asia in the Consumer Technology category. Sun is an avid gamer, investor, and philanthropist. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Justin Sun about why we need a decentralised web, how blockchain and crypto currencies will transform our world and the future of digital identity.

Thought Economics

Nitin Sawhney CBE, recipient of the Ivor Novello 2017 Lifetime Achievement award, is one the most distinctive and versatile musical voices around today. Sawhney has recorded multiple albums, film soundtracks and compilations, encompassing over 60 film and TV scores and is established as a world-class producer, songwriter, touring artist, BBC Radio 2 and club DJ, multi-instrumentalist, theatrical, dance, videogame and orchestral composer and cultural/ political commentator.  He holds 6 honorary doctorates from various UK universities along with 2 fellowships and works as Ambassador for/sits on the board of multiple charities. He has received over 20 major national and international awards for his work and is a member of the academy of motion picture sciences (Oscars), BAFTA and the US recording academy (Grammys). Sawhney is also the new Chair of the PRS Foundation, the UK’s funding body for new music and talent development. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Nitin Sawhney CBE on the fundamentals of why we make music.

Thought Economics

Brian Eno is a remarkable man. He is a musician, producer, visual artist, theorist, activist and philosopher, a polymath who has become one of our world’s most significant artists. In this first of a new series of conversations around our biggest unanswered questions, I spoke to Brian and asked: Why do we make art?

Thought Economics

Seth Godin is the author of 20 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He’s also the founder of the altMBA and The Akimbo Workshops, online seminars that have transformed the work of thousands of people. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip and Purple Cow. His book, This Is Marketing, was an instant bestseller around the world. His latest book, The Practice, is already a bestseller. In addition to his writing and speaking, Seth has founded several companies, including Yoyodyne and Squidoo. His blog (which you can find by typing “seth” into Google) is one of the most popular in the world. His podcast is in the top 1% of all podcasts worldwide. In 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame. More than 20,000 people have taken the powerful Akimbo workshops he founded, including thealtMBA and The Marketing Seminar. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Seth Godin about what it means to be creative, and how we can use the skills of creativity.

Thought Economics

By deploying capital and talent, guided by the vision that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has achieved some incredible successes.  Over 500 million children have been vaccinated, with over 7 million lives saved… 3 million households have received access to drought-tolerant crops…. 99% fewer Polio cases are now reported worldwide… 8 million people have received access to anti-retroviral drugs, guinea worm disease is close to being eradicated, and almost 500 million mosquito nets have been distributed.   Melinda French Gates is a philanthropist, businesswoman, and global advocate for women and girls. As the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda sets the direction and priorities of the world’s largest philanthropy. She is also the founder of Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company working to drive social progress for women and families in the United States. I had the pleasure of catching-up with Melinda Gates to speak to her about her learnings in philanthropy, and creating lasting global change.

Thought Economics

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