Inside Outside Innovation
2 days ago
Big Companies Navigating Innovation with Tom Daly, Founder of Relevant Ventures
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Tom Daly, founder of Relevant Ventures. Tom and I talk about the challenges big companies have when trying to navigate technology and market changes. And what you can do to avoid some of the common obstacles and barriers to innovation and transformation. Let's get started.
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Interview Transcript with Tom Daly, Founder of Relevant Ventures
Brian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host Brian Ardinger, and as always, we have another amazing guest. Today we have Tom Daly. He is the founder of Relevant Ventures. Welcome Tom.
Tom Daly: Thank you very much, Brian. Pleasure to be here, speaking with you.
Brian Ardinger: I'm excited to have you on the show. You have had a lot of experience in this innovation space. You worked with companies like UPS and ING and I think most recently, Coca-Cola and a lot of the innovation efforts around that world. So I am excited to have you on the show to talk about some of the new things you're doing and I think more importantly, some of the things you've learned over the years.
Tom Daly: I started doing this work before people called it digital transformation or innovation. The Earth cooled, at about the same time I began getting my head around this. I'm an advertising guy to begin with, and I can't prove it, but I think I created the world's first dedicated 30 sec TV commercial to a website. UPS.
In that process, I picked up some vocabulary and I learned some things about how websites, quote unquote work, so that when people started calling, you know, back in the mid-nineties wanting to talk to somebody about the web or the internet, the calls came to me. And it was during that process where I started to build new networks within UPS, learn about new things going on at UPS and discover some of the opportunities. It's been a while.
Brian Ardinger: You talk a lot about this ability to turn big ships in small spaces. Talk a little bit about what that means to you and, and what the challenges really are for corporations in, in this whole innovation space.
Tom Daly: The idea of turning big ships in small spaces actually goes back to my boss's boss at UPS who noticed I was toiling. UPS has a reputation as a conservative company. A little bit unfair, there's some truth to that, but not quite what people think.
It's actually a very, very innovative company and has been for its entire history, but it is collaborative. There's a lot of debate and a lot of discussion. So getting new things done, driving new ideas that my boss to encourage me, you'll get there, Tom, but it's like turning a battleship in the Chattahoochee.
So, I don't know where listeners are, but imagine a pretty darn small body of water and a really big ship that you're trying to turn. So, a lot of back and forth, a lot of kissing babies, shaking hands, and just getting, you know politics, but in a good positive way to kind of really understand interests and concerns and build a better program, a better idea.
So that's the idea, and it was encouraging to me. So, this notion of turning big ships in small spaces, it seems to be, to the degree I have any superpowers, that's the one I'm able to kind of figure out how to help larger organizations figure out how to extract value from, you know, kind of what's coming up around the corner.
Brian Ardinger: Obviously you've seen a lot of changes, whether they're technology changes or business model changes that have happened over the years. Where do companies typically run into the problems when they see something on the emerging horizon and they're saying, we've gotta do something about this. What goes through their mind and what can they do to better prepare for some of these drastic changes?
Tom Daly: The thing companies can do to help themselves most be prepared for big ships in the world that we all live and compete in, is, you know, the twin keys of openness and acceptance. Being open to an idea is really important, but it is only half the battle.
Being accepting of the implications of those ideas is really key and the classic example would be Kodak. You know, Kodak early in, open to the idea of digital photography. But equally unaccepting of its implications. So they didn't jump in, they didn't do the things they needed to do, and as a result, very different company Blockbuster would fit in that category.
Certainly, they understood the implications of streaming technologies and the web and the ability to distribute content. Given the retail heavy business, the land heavy business, they just weren't accepting, or at least not accepting fast enough to be able to secure position in the next evolution of how people consumed content. So those two ideas, being open and accepting both in equal measures is critical to getting yourself in a good spot.
Brian Ardinger: Well, you touched on an interesting point. You read about the stories of companies failing or being disrupted, and from the outside it looks like, well, they didn't pay attention, or they didn't know what was going on.
But it seems like, from the stories and the people that I've talked to, it's not that they weren't aware of what was going on. Or the fact that it was going to have a major impact or that they should do something about it. It was more to that line of it, like you said, acceptance of, well, how do we actually do this knowing that we're going to have to change our business models, change the way we make money, change everything about what we currently do to make this radical shift. And it's that classic innovator's dilemma.
Are you seeing that changing nowadays, now that people are kind of more familiar with the concept of this and, and as more and more changes hit corporations, so you're getting faster at having to adapt to this. Are you seeing the world changing or are you still seeing the same problems exist?
Tom Daly: You know, anybody in this space, Brian, doing what I've been doing for as long as I've been doing it, you need to be an optimist. You need to believe that, you know it's all going to happen. That said, the conversations I'm having today in 2023 are pretty darn close to the conversations I was having in the middle, you know, of the nineties, right?
So, whether it was the dawn of, you know, this graphical overlay on the internet, the web, and when browsers enabled, or the introduction of now advertising and marketing opportunities on the web, which didn't really happen at the beginning of the browser era, that followed a little bit later. Or the introduction of mobile phones and then smartphones and all the, it's the same conversations. And they all come from a place of gaps.
I won't say a lack because in some places there is confidence and acceptance and alignment with what's going on. But it's not uniform within organizations. Right. Then there are pockets of people within departments, IT people, marketing people, salespeople. They see the same opportunities. But there are also folks who do not see the future in the same way. And that's where that acceptance problem comes in.
So I ask questions, I do a little survey. And I ask people really fundamental questions, one of them having to do with innovation. Now, where do you put your company in terms of new technologies and how quickly they would be used. Like you see yourself among the first to use emerging technologies?
I'm asked almost around 2000 people this question. And interestingly, overall, 16% of people would say, yes, our company is among the first. But if you d…