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The Edge Of Innovation

by fatweb

Eco-systems, adapt or die, viruses, bugs. We’re talking nature right? Wrong. For Geraldine McBride it’s strictly business.
A kiwi born and bred, Geraldine McBride has worked her way through the business world from IBM New Zealand’s class of ‘95 to starting her own company while sitting on the board of various others.
From this you may assume that she studied business, economics perhaps. But you would be wrong. McBride’s career started in the world of zoology, or frogs to be exact, and she naturally progressed from there.
Her past roles include being former CEO and president of several regional divisions of SAP (North America, Asia Pacific, Australia, New Zealand), and senior vice president and global head of applications and BPO (cloud mobile and outsourcing services) for Dell.
Now, McBride heads up her own company called MyWave – a revolutionary digital technology company in the form of a pocket-sized intelligent personal assistant for your smartphone (or the web) called Frank.
Setting up in 2013 with her own seed funding, the company is now worth an estimated $50 million and is completing a well subscribed Series B round – a sure sign that she knows what she’s doing.
One of the many gifts that Geraldine’s time in zoology gave her was that of spotting patterns, not just in nature, but in business. Her previous years in the corporate environment exposed her to a world of CEOs and top-level executives, who all had the same four concerns about the digital world: the ‘consumerisation of devices’ (because “there was more power in the hands of the people than ever before”), the ‘millenials’ (the kids born post-1986 who are social digital natives), the economy as a ‘new normal’ (after the global financial crisis) and the ‘experience economy’, where people pay a premium for great experiences.
These all led to major questions. How do you connect with social-digital natives? How do you deliver experiences for people who are willing to pay a premium for them? How do you keep your company growing in double digits when everything is growing at much lower rates than before? These were questions Geraldine sought answers to and in many ways helped her create MyWave.
The CEOs Geraldine was spending time around were of course concerned about the impact of the digital world on their business – an impact that she calls the “tsunami of the digital revolution”, i.e. the wave of opportunity brought to business by technology which is picking up some and drowning others.
Here she talks about the digital revolution and how to thrive in it, or rather surfing the waves of digital disruption rather than being dumped by them.
Although MyWave was built for its own purposes – to bring the customer experience into the 21st century – Geraldine is using her position there to teach brands how to thrive in the digital world, and of course how MyWave can take them even further.
The digital age is all about ease, connection and growth, yet so many companies aren’t quite getting it, so it seems appropriate to ask first: why are so many companies failing?
“It’s 100 years of habit. And people are resistant to change… They wake up in the morning and think about themselves first. They polish their own rocks – their products and processes.”
The biggest problem Geraldine finds when looking at why businesses are sinking, is that many of them are still functioning under the same principles that founded the industrial revolution 150 years ago – principles that paint people as passive consumers.
“You’re supply-chain led (and supply-chain led means that you’re producing things and getting them out the door at the optimal possible cost, and there’s nothing in there about an empowered consumer) – there’s nothing in there about creating great experiences and there’s certainly nothing in there about personalising it.”
And the first step in turning it around?
“There needs to be a desire to change… start looking at the world through the customers’ eyes. Start looking at the jobs that they need done. Start looking at the data you’ve got that’s sitting in data mortuaries that is so old now because no one is maintaining it.”
But this isn’t news right? We know the consumer is no longer passive and we know that companies can certainly talk the talk about being customer centric in their approach to business. But are they really practising what they preach? According to Geraldine, the answer would be no.
“Half a century ago the average Fortune 500 company was living about 75 years – it could live that long. Today, the average Fortune 500 company is lasting about 14 years and declining… the world is not becoming faster — it is faster.”
The world is changing at a great rate and the companies that are toppling are the ones that simply cannot keep up and so are being outmanoeuvred. Their business focus is out of whack and their narrow or ‘siloed’ value chain does not reflect the needs of the customer, so they simply don’t offer an experience that people want anymore. And why would anyone pay for something they don’t want? People vote with their wallets and ratings.
The Norms of the Human Relationship
So how does a business thrive in this new technological world?
Geraldine has five pointers that she sets out when guiding brands through this exact terrain, and they go by the name of “The Norms of the Human Relationship”. These norms are true in both physical and digital relationships.
1. Permission
“The person is in control of the experience.” In regards to advertising, bursting into a consumer’s personal online space is intrusive and annoying. Those loud, in your face adverts that scream at the viewer to grab attention  — completely wrong!
Geraldine calls her approach to advertising with MyWave ‘Advertising 2.0’, which “is about permission. So I’ll tell you the things that I’m interested in so you can bring me ads that are not junk mail on digital steroids, but entertaining, informational and useful promotions of content on things that I want.”
Let the customer tell you what they want and deliver.
2. Respect
“I am not a product. I am an empowered person wanting to get something done or an outcome achieved.”
Respect is knowing your customer is not a product, they are in fact a human being who knows what they want and they want an end-toend outcome. For example the customer does not want a mortgage, but a home, not a drill bit but a hole.
Moving from a siloed set of commoditised products to creating end-to-end outcomes centered on the customer creates a sticky value-based relationship.
3. Transparency and Trust
“The person controls their data and what they share.” Geraldine has found that “people will share more about themselves if they know that their data is theirs, and in their control.” When they are getting benefit from it they are prepared to share more about themselves, so start to participate, not passively at the end of the value chain, but empowered, in control and at the centre of it.
4. Conversation
“A two-way interaction between peers, not a master and slave relationship.”
We have established now that consumers are not passive beings. The internet and digital technology have allowed people a space where they can search for what they want and create their own experiences because they have the
power to do so.
The relationship between the consumer and the supplier should therefore be a dialogue, not a monologue.
5. Mutual Value
“The need to add value to both sides.”
Building a relationship with your customer is important now more than ever. No longer does the narrow and siloed supply-chain process ofbusiness work.
People want end-to-end outcomes, hyperpersonalised experiences, and they won’t get that from mass production, static websites, or from companies making a quick commoditisedbuck. Give your customers what they want and
they will reciprocate.
Big data
Of course in the online space, data is king, because without it businesses go in blind. But not only should it be used as efficiently as possible, it should also be used responsibly.
Geraldine believes a big mistake older companies make is thinking that because they ‘own the customer data’, they control the relationship.
“They think that’s a relationship with the customer, but it’s not, because you’re effectively trying to hold your customer
hostage. Whereas what we try and teach them is that it’s not actually about kidnapping and capturing your customer, it’s about building relationships with them.
“Free-range customers are more valuable and there is no such thing as a captive customer anymore – today they have choice.”
She believes that understanding more about living, little data is key. “That is where the value is unlocked and that’s where you start to get the personal information economy.
“Living, little data is centered on the individual, their needs, their dreams, their preferences and what they want to do next, maintained by the customer and shared with the brands in a dynamic two-way relationship that creates
mutual value for everyone.”
A recent study in the UK by Ctrl-Shift has found that £16.5bn could be unlocked through what is called the Personal Information Economy (PIE); increasing productivity for enterprise brands and also for individual consumers.
Part of this includes giving the consumer utility and control of their data (how it is used and the outcomes of that use), while simultaneously unlocking billions in increased sales and productivity for the economy.
Geraldine believes it can be unlocked for New Zealand and the rest of the world too, we just have to nurture data and figure out how best we can utilise it to deliver the experience a customer wants. And she’s already doing that through MyWave and the “opt-in” attitude of Frank.
“If you look at what MyWave does, we’re at the intersection of the Personal Information Economy and also the rise of the intelligent assistant. There are lots of intelligent assistants being created now and the reason why, is that the static website on its own is no longer good enough.
“It’s not personalised and nobody wants to be stalked and tracked through cookies and having all their data sucked up into goodness knows where, where you’re siloed with no control or end-to-end outcome.
“So the world responded by saying ‘oh let’s create an app’ and now there are apps for everything. The problem is that you end up with something called ‘app fatigue’ and your life and data is siloed over many apps… so the Intelligent
Personal Assistant is something that actually rides across all of that.
“It creates these end-to-end experiences across any device. And our example with Frank is that he gets to know you and helps you get what you want, when you want it and in an easy and frictionless way.”
Be the facilitator
This is the most interesting thing about MyWave’s purpose: the fact that it brings together everything a customer needs under one virtual roof.
Say for example a customer is looking for a new car. They tell Frank what kind of car they are looking for and supply their preferences data. Frank delivers those options through a quick search or intent cast and presents them to the customer.
But not only does he deliver the cars, he delivers the insurance, the finance and the registration options too. He essentially streamlines the entire process of buying a car, making the car buying, financing, registering and servicing process easy.
By pulling all of these services together, MyWave is essentially facilitating a relationship between not only the consumer and the supplier, but between the suppliers themselves.
It allows car manufacturers to work alongside dealers; banks to work alongside insurance companies. This might come as a surprise, seeing businesses work so closely and willingly with one another, but Geraldine speaks as if it couldn’t be easier.
“CEOs are hungry for growth and they’re not getting the growth in old world verticals alone… so they know that, to keep the core alive and relevant, they need to actually start to do some things on the edge, or I call it on the
edge of innovation.”
Streamlining an experience for your customer is vital in today’s business environment, and Geraldine is tough at pushing the fact that businesses no longer need to be the owner of all the assets or services, giving examples like Airbnb and Uber.
“There is a digital chessboard emerging and some brands are becoming hubs, driving new ecosystems with Frank as the intelligent assistant platform, weaving the end-to-end experiences for their customers. Others will only be spokes in those hubs.
“The battleground is ‘be the hub’ and facilitate the end-to-end outcome for the customer.”

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