Get up close and personal with … Andrew Grill

Andrew Grill is a Futurist Keynote Speaker and former IBM Global Managing Partner, and a top-rated commentator and presenter on issues including social selling, digital disruption, the workplace of the future and emerging technologies.  An experienced corporate leader, he has launched and run technology companies across Europe and Australia. He has also worked with some of the world’s leading companies, and speaks and consults to organisations worldwide to develop their strategy in a world rife with digital disruption.

Notable Quote: “Invest some time to better understand and learn from new technologies.”

To watch the full interview, please click the play button below 👇

Release date: June 4, 2019

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We ‘r’ Future: Welcome to another We Are Future Series. Today we are talking to Andrew Grill all the way from the UK and we want to get straight into the conversation about what the future of work and what it looks like. So Andrew, who are you? What are you doing? And how did you get to where you are now? 

Andrew: Hi Petra, I'm Andrew Grill. I'm the Practical Futurist you can tell from my accent. I'm an Aussie in London. I've been here 13 years and it's an interesting journey to get here. I spent time in both Telstra and Optus and British Aerospace. I spent 12 years in startups. One of the startups got me here to London and then in four years of IBM as a partner in the Consulting practice, so I've worked both in large organizations, I've worked in small organizations. I know how the future of work is evolving. I'm an Engineer by trade, I'm a Technologist and I learned early in my career that I had a gift, a gift of translation where I could translate those very difficult technical concepts into something that Corporates could understand. And so what I'm doing now as a Practical Futurist, I'm a professional speaker, I travel the world advising Corporates generally at the C-suite level on what they need to do around the future of work, around digital transformation, around disruption and really trying to translate all the gobbledygook that they're hearing around Technology and what it means for them and their business.

We ‘r’ Future:  Excellent. Well, you're definitely right on the pulse when it comes to Innovation and disruption. What kind of changes or Innovations have you seen over the last 12 months? 

Andrew: Yes, things are moving at such a pace. I spend a lot of time thinking and looking about this nature of the future of work and I think it falls into a couple of categories. First of all is the Technology. When I started my career years ago, there was no social media. There was no LinkedIn. There was no Twitter. There was no way to get work done in a different way. It was all email and probably memos back then. Even the last 12-24 months I've seen the rise of collaboration tools where companies are saying we need to collaborate, we need to get together and work more effectively. But what the challenge is, is that I heard this great quote the other day from one of the guys and said, "A fool with a tool is still a fool." And so even though you might have the best tools you might have Slack, we might have Yammer or Facebook workplace, one of those great tools. Unless you know how to use it properly and the effect that your culture has to change on the use of that tool, it just isn't very, very useful. I think also we're now seeing the young leaders we often call the Millennials, they're getting more and more experienced there in their second or third role in their career and they are wanting to see the table. They are wanting to contribute and wanting their voices heard.

So I think we're seeing the emergence of these two tribes. You've got the going digital people that much like myself a grown up with technology and know how to influence decisions and get things done, and you've got the born digital. Born with the iPhone and now they absolutely have embraced digital. I think the two tribes are now realizing they need each other. And so what I'm seeing now is the question about diversity of thought, can we bring diversity of thinking from both tribes into the organization and how do we share that knowledge and ultimately share it so that customers can benefit.

We ‘r’ Future:  And how do you think can we go about sharing this knowledge and bringing those two generations together?

Andrew: It's hard and I spend most of my time on stage addressing the most senior leaders of organizations like Nike and DHL and a bunch of Banks, and I talked about something I did at IBM and this is the notion of working out loud. There's a great book by John Stepper that pioneered the concept where you basically tell the organization what you're working on. Now, I was lucky at IBM. I was in a new part of the group. I was new and fresh faced, and I was running a consulting team around collaboration. And so we practiced what we preached, and we told the rest of the organization what we're working on. So I would put on the internal collaboration platform, I'm going for a meeting with DHL tomorrow, who has dealt with it and what should I be aware of? Who are the key players there? And overnight I would get a rush of information from people I'd never met around the world that we're helping me do my job. 

Now when I explain that concept at a large conference on stage in front of a hundred and fifty middle aged managers, they generally go, well that's not going to work here Andrew because we keep information close to our chest. We don't want to share what we're doing. It's often confidential. But what I say is that your value to an organization isn't what you know, it's what you share, and I saw firsthand at IBM how by sharing information between the two tribes to really make sure that those customer engagements were very, very impactful, can actually not just make the job easier. I basically had a hundred million dollars of incremental Consulting Revenue at IBM because I was able to use these concepts to get the best person in front of the client to solve their business problems. 

We ‘r’ Future:  Wow, that's impressive. Definitely speaks for itself. And when we look at future skill sets, I mean when we're talking about that Technology is changing the way we work and live and act and interact and obviously jobs are getting replaced. What are the skill sets that are going to be in mind, especially when it comes to the collaboration and sharing knowledge and information. 

Andrew: I look at this in a different way. When I do my talks I do what's called a cold open. Rather than getting on stage and saying "Hi, it's great to be here. I'm looking forward to speaking to you." I open with a question. I ask how digitally curious the audience is and I asked them six different questions ranging from are you on LinkedIn? Have you Googled yourself? Have you bought some Bitcoin? And so while there are a bunch of skills that I could list now that are going to be needed.

I think what's needed in all levels of an organization is a curiosity about digital. I've had a mantra for about 30 years that to get digital. You need to be digital. You need to be inquisitive. You need to lean forward when someone talks about block chain, you need to know, What is it? What does it mean for my organization. Are those skills that I need? Do I need to understand what it really means when we're having an RFP and someone comes to us saying, "Do you do block chain?" which is actually the nonsensical question. But for example, I talked about Bitcoin the fact that when it was developed the global transaction speed, the processing speed for Bitcoin is just seven. Seven transactions a second. And when I say that to audiences they go, "Oh, we didn't know". And so by being digitally curious you understand the fact from the fiction. And so while I could say you need AI skills. You need data skills. I think fundamentally you need to be more curious. And so you need to know will my job be replaced. Will my job be enhanced and what do I need to know? Do I play with this new technology? Do I buy some Bitcoin to understand what it's like to hold, buy and sell cryptocurrency? I think managers of the future will be far more digitally curious. They may not be digital experts. They'll understand what the technology means and what it means for them personally, what it means for their organization and what it means for their clients.

We ‘r’ Future: Can we get any tips on how we can stay curious and stay up to date?

Andrew: Play with new technology. So I of course have got the latest iPhone. When IoT, Internet of Things started becoming more and more prevalent. I went and bought an IoT kit to play with it to see what it meant. When Bitcoin was a real Buzz a couple of years ago, I bought 20 pounds worth and then I realize it would take me four weeks and two banks to convert it into dollars and pounds.

So when a new technology comes out play with it. I was on LinkedIn in 2004. I've had a website since 1994. I've been playing with this stuff to see what it means. And so when a new technology comes out don't just allow someone else to tell you what they think it means. Go and buy it, make a small investment in time in equipment in understanding and read widely, don't just rely on the business press, don't just read what one Journalist's view of a new technology is. But actually, like I said before to get digital you need to be digital, you need to be playing with it. So when something new comes out, go and buy a kit. Go on a course. Go and understand it. 

I heard from a senior leader the other day, they had put themselves on a cyber security course. A six week course on local University. So they were saying look, I understand there's a threat from cyber security. What is it? I need to go and learn personally and I think when you actually involve yourself deeply in this new technology, you have the aha moment and you go, Ah-ha!.

This comes back to the nature of the way work is changing. The way work is going to get done. I think what we'll see more of a digital agents. Google started to Pioneer a thing called Google duplex where you can actually say to Google, "Book a restaurant tonight. And Google's AI will make the phone call on your behalf to the restaurant, negotiate via voice with the restaurant owner for a slot and make a booking.

And so when you see these things that are happening and you realize that your mobile phone knows everything about you, it knows your next meeting, it knows your next flight, it knows your bank balance. I think we're going to see the rise of the digital agent where an AI powered agent will take away the menial tasks and then allow us to focus on the high value tasks, and make work more fulfilling.

We ‘r’ Future: And when you say it's more fulfilling, and taking away those repetitive tasks, where do you see the future of roles and careers going to be like?

Andrew: I think finally humans will be allowed to think. We won't have to do those mundane tasks a number of times if you run a business someone has rung up and said, "What are you opening hours?" Well, it's on the website. You haven't looked at that. I need to replace those mundane queries with something that can answer that in an automated fashion. And then learn the fact that so many people are asking what our opening hours are. I must haven't made it very clear.

Before we had mobile phones to distract us, before we had laptops, before we had meeting requests. We would have to do things analog. My father ran a small business years ago in Adelaide Australia, and so I got to see firsthand how you ran an analog business. That you sent a letter and it took two days for a response, and in those two days you've got to do something else and you got to think. So, I think we will see the resurgence of humans being able to actually think deeply about a problem rather than having to respond instantly to all the things that are going on.

I think very soon we're going to start to see health warnings on wine bottles, and on mobile phones. Because I think we're addicted and we need to be allowed to think rather than be distracted at every moment. And in the work environment you think about how you get work done and look at a typical day and look at how many interruptions you have in 2019 versus how many interruptions you might have had in 1999. Very, very different environment.

We ‘r’ Future: Yes, totally. I love all those insights! And when it comes to disruption and change, so many people are still scared of what's next, especially when you don't know what's next. What would be your advice other than playing a little bit around and tapping your foot into the water slowly rather just jumping in, how can we adjust slowly to these changes, especially with organizations and larger teams?

Andrew: Well, I think the thing is you can't adjust slowly because it's happening very quickly. I spend a lot of my time in my talks and explaining what is disruption and why it happens. And let me give you a quick overview. Disruption happens because of three main forces. First of all, there are high profits. Organization see that there are very high profits to be made in the insurance industry, travel industry, media industry and disruptors see those profits and say we'd like some of that.

Secondly, you've got new technologies. The fact that you can order a pizza or a parcel and pay for it and have it delivered to where you are, we take for granted and so disruptors are using these new technologies to affect that change. And the third reason is consumer demands. I know Amazon is launching or has launched in Australia and it's being prevalent here in the UK for a long time. I can order something this morning and have it delivered tonight. Am I going to go anywhere? Go anywhere else? So this consumer demands the technology and the high profits have come together. So what I warned my clients is that, don't think about when you might be disrupted. Assume you are going to be disrupted and think like a disruptor and look away the friction points in your organization are, and if you see a young scrappy startup coming along to try and compete with you, rather than going and having Innovators dilemma going on, they are never going to disrupt us. Understand why they've decided to join the market. Have they seen the high profits? Can they use the new technology and have they seen the consumer demands are moving towards it. 

Let me give you a quick example. There's an insurance company called Treov. TREOV. They are live in Australia, the UK and other parts of Europe. They're on demand Insurance. You literally put all of your devices in your smartphone. And if you want to insure your bike for an hour or weekend you swipe right. And when you come back from the ride you swipe left and insurance stops. Now when I presented that to an insurance company, they said I we're not worried about them, but they should be worried because they remove the friction.

And so if you're in a traditional organization sitting there on great high profits, assume that someone is seeing those profits and said, I want a piece of that and then understand when they enter the market, why have they entered the market? Where do they think they can disrupt you and work out where your friction points are? An insurance example, the friction is buying and claiming insurance. It's really difficult. It's hard because we've always done it that way. So I say to my clients look at your business model, look at where it needs to be transformed and look at where competitors are transforming your own business model and then respond. And the tagline I leave them with is, “Disrupt before you're Disrupted.”

Petra: I love that. That's also when I work with my clients and the team is more on the career and the job upfront, I would say I want them to be made redundant by themselves before they are getting disrupted because then they are in control. So what can you do with their skill set and experience aligned with the future trends to make money for the company, but also to be in their personal flaws? So the same approach that you've got here for business. And finally most important and interesting question for me personally, looking at those changes and further Innovation, what are you most excited about for your personal or and professional life? 

Andrew: Well go back to the digital agent, I can't wait to have a digital agent organize my life for me. The fact that I have to remember when my insurance is due or when I've got to pay my rent all those sort of things, I would love to have a machine that did it for me. I think also will not ultimately change the way advertising works, and when I say this at advertising conferences, I get laughed off the stage. Advertising as we know is broken because it's interruption messaging. And so you think about it, if you've got an AI agent that is running your life for you and I think we're probably three to five years away from it really kicking in because the pieces are there. We're going to have to write ads for robots because your company is going to have to get your advertising message through my AI powered robot who knows all of my preferences and knows to block things and offers that I'm not interested in.

So I see a time where we will have a bit more thinking time, a bit more leisure time because these mundane tasks will be done by robots. I won't see stupid ads anymore, but I will have my AI powered digital assistant out there looking for deals and information that can make my life and my work better.

I think also we're going to see a massive change as Millennials step up and move into Middle and Senior Management. They're going to say, why are we doing it this way? Why don't we collaborate? Why don't we work out loud? This is the way it's going to work for now on and I look at companies like Atlassian who are working out loud. They put their whole playbook online because they want other companies to learn from their mistakes. And so I think the new mega multinationals like Atlassian are paving the way because they are working different and they are breaking boundaries and I think they're going to be successful. 

We ‘r’ Future: Totally. Oh my God, Andrew there was so much gold in there. Where can everyone connect with you and find more about what you do?

Andrew: Really simple. Futurist.London. Think of this crazy Futurist who lives in London. Everything is there you can read my blog. You can look at my speeches. You can send me a message and I'd love to connect with your readers also on LinkedIn and challenge my thinking maybe some of the things I've said on this broadcast you don't agree with me. That's okay. I can learn more from my audiences than they'll ever learn from me by listening and challenging the thinking and challenging the status quo. 

We ‘r’ Future:  Totally. Any plans to come to Australia anytime soon? 

Andrew: I'm in Australia quite a lot. I do a lot of speaking down there represented by a few agencies. So if anyone would like to hear me talk, I've done some talks for the CPA, The Certified Practicing Accounts of Australia here in London. I'd love to do their series in Australia. I'd love some more reason to come back to Oz but yes, if you like what you heard today, check out and see what I talk about and I'd love to present to an Australian audience sometime soon. 

We ‘r’ Future: Oh, we would love that. Thank you so much for all the insights that you shared. Really appreciate it, and we can't wait to see more of you. 

Andrew: Thanks very much. 

We ‘r’ Future:  Thank you 




Connect with Andrew to continue the conversation

Petra Zink interviews Andrew Grill on Australian Labour Day

Petra Zink interviews Andrew Grill on Australian Labour Day

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Andrew Grill in his element - educating about the future of work and businesses

Andrew Grill in his element - educating about the future of work and businesses

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