By John San Filippo
“If you aren’t getting pushback, then you aren’t pioneering.”
– Erik Qualman
Finopotamus was onsite for the American Banker Digital Banking Conference, held June 12-15 in Austin, Tex. The opening keynote was presented by futurist, technologist, and author Erik Qualman. Qualman has presented in more than 55 countries and authored six bestselling books, including Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, which has been featured on 60 Minutes and in The Wall Street Journal, among other news outlets. His keynote at the Digital Banking Conference was titled, “Future-Proofing via Innovation and Transformation.”
Qualman opened with a question: “Knowing that technology changes every second, but human nature never does, what are the habits that you all practice each and every day to make sure that you're a year ahead of the competition, but never year ahead of your market or your customers or your partners?” He claimed there are only five such habits and that each one represents a “superpower.” The key for each individual, he noted, is to identify their superpower and build on that skillset.
These five habits are easily remembered with the acronym STAMP:
“A lot of innovation is actually subtraction, not addition,” Qualman told the audience. He claimed the innovation comes from doing less, better. And that requires simplification.
With this in mind, he challenged the idea that multitasking is a good thing. “There are plenty of reasons to multitask,” said Qualman. “We want to beat Father Time, even though Father Time's undefeated. We want to wring more out of our 24-hour day. We want to get ahead of the competition.” He added that while these are all valid concerns, the stress associated with multitasking is detrimental and actually results in getting less work done, not more. He claimed that by focusing on one task at a time, i.e., simplifying, people become more productive.
“I'm a recovering multitasker. I've known this now for 12 years,” he said. “And literally every day, I catch myself saying, ‘Stop multitasking and focus on one thing at a time.’”
“True means knowing who you are at your core. You have your true north and you stick with it,” said Qualman. “This is really important in this digital era because in the last 15 years, we now have something new, which is called a digital stamp.” He explained that your digital stamp is made up two parts: your digital footprint and your digital shadow. Your digital footprint consists of all the things you upload about yourself (or your credit union’s brand), while your digital shadow represents the things other people post about you.
Qualman added that 92% of children under the age of two already have a digital stamp and, furthermore, 25% of the children who will be born tomorrow already have a digital stamp today. He said that while you have less control over your digital shadow, your digital stamp will always be a more accurate representation if your work hard to stay true to yourself as you add to your digital footprint.
“There are a lot of reasons that teams don't take action, but by far, the number one reason is they're afraid to fail,” claimed Qualman. “But all of you in this room know that failure's actually part of the process to get to where you need to go.” He added that failure in itself doesn’t make you better, but evaluating failure does. The important thing is not being afraid of failure.
Qualman then played this video of NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon in disguise taking a used car salesman for the ride of his life. Qualman said he spoke with the woman who produced this video, asking her how she ever got approval for such a project. “I was told ‘no’ nine times,” she said. “I knew it was a no for now, not a no forever.” This, according to Qualman, speaks to the need to persevere.
Qualman admonished the attendees to be firm in their individual destinations, but flexible in the path you take to get there. He said that in traditional thinking, you set a goal and then embark on a linear progression to achieve that goal. “You can't do that in this hyperconnected world, because there will be challenges, both internal and external, that will come up.” He pointed to Steve Jobs as the classic example.
He briefly took the audience through Jobs’ professional biography – fired from Apple at 30, launched NeXT Computer at 31, took the reins at Pixar at 32, then was back at Apple at 42. “He had firm destination in mind: Put a dent in the universe,” said Qualman, noting that when Apple acquired NeXT (the deal that brought Jobs back), Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy.
“Apple says, let's roll the dice. Let's bring Steve back. We got nothing to lose,” added Qualman. “At the time of his death, he had reached his firm destination. Apple had the highest market cap of any company in the world and Jobs arguably changed our behavior more than anyone with the invention of the iPhone.”
“Pioneers always get pushback,” said Qualman. “A lot of you here today are getting pushback. That can be very frustrating in the moment.” He said it’s important to recognize that pushback from legacy mindsets is an inevitable part of innovation. The key is establishing yourself as a leader because “success doesn't happen alone.”
“You cannot replace the face to face, but when time, distance and safety are an issue, you can augment the face to face with digital,” explained Qualman, pointing to the need for constant communication. “It's a combination of those two things coming together. It's Flintstones and Jetsons.”