Amber (Mac) MacArthur

Relentless Adaptation

TBOP2017 ⋅ 24:08 ⋅ Filmed May 10, 2017

How many internet-connected devices do you have in your home? Five? 10? Imagine 50. By 2022, that will be the average in Canadian households. What will life look like? How will working, commuting, and other activities change in just a few short years?

More importantly, are you ready?

In “Relentless Adaptation: 3 Steps to Thrive in 2017 and Beyond”, TV host and tech entrepreneur Amber Mac takes the audience on a journey, imagining how the rapid rate at which technology changes will affect us — and how we need to maneuver in this fast-paced economy. From Artificial Intelligence to Social Media, Virtual Reality to the Internet of Things, the digital space is ever-evolving — and laying waste to those who can’t keep up.

But there’s nothing to fear; Canada is an epicenter for technological research and development, so the future is bright — if we can keep pace with the rate of change. Adaptability, Amber argues, is the heart of survival. So how can businesses, professionals, and people avoid being a Blockbuster or a Kodak? Amber walks through insightful and provocative anecdotes to teach us how to fight “Digital Darwinism” by channeling our frustration and discomfort to rethink our missions and adapt to the future — before it’s too late.


[00:01] Thank you so much. How is everybody doing tonight?

[00:05] I have been speaking at conferences for more than a decade. I’ve probably spoken at 300 different events, all over the world, in South America, in Australia, in Europe. I have never spoken at a venue like this and at a conference like this, so I think we need to give a big round of applause to the organizers. This is incredible, and I’m proud to be a part of it.


[0:29] I only have 20 minutes with you, so that’s really not that long. I want to start here, I want to talk about ‘Relentless Adaptation: 3 Steps to Thrive in 2017 and Beyond’.

[0:42] The first thing I want to talk about is the rate at which technology changes, because the truth is, humans are really good at adapting to new technology. In fact, we forget how quickly technology changes and I want to show you an example of this. Here, we have a photo at St. Peter’s Square in 2005. As you can see at this gathering, there’s no technology in this photo except for one tiny little flip phone in the bottom right hand corner. I think I had this exact same phone, incidentally.

[01:15] Now, I want you to come with me on a journey as we fast forward to just 8 years and we see how much technology has come into our lives in such a short span. By 2013, the exact same venue. Every single person in the crowd has some piece of technology in their hand, whether it’s a phone or a tablet. I show you these photos so we can think about the next 8 years.

[01:46] As we are gathered here today, I want you to think about 2025, what’s going to happen in 2025 as far as the impact of the technology that is growing today like Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, what will happen over the next 8 years? Because as much as you want to stand there and say to yourself, ‘I don’t believe this stuff is happening this quickly, that it’s going to change things’, if we look at these photos and we see how much things changed in just 8 years and how quickly the Smartphone Revolution changed the way we all communicated, you can imagine how over the next 8 years are going to change, some pretty incredible things.

[02:23] Now, couple this with the fact that by the year 2020 there will be 26 billion devices connected to the internet. 26 billion devices. And when I say this number when I speak at events, I see people looking at me, it’s such a massive number. How could you possibly put this number into context? How can you even imagine what that means? And what are these connected devices? Those are things like your garage door, smart locks, refrigerators, smart televisions, and of course the tablets and smartphones. And to put this into context, by 2022, the average household with two teenage kids, will have roughly 50 internet connected devices in the home. 50 internet connected devices in the home!

[03:09] I have an 8 year old at home and I can imagine how things will go over the next few years. As you stand there and you think about this, how could we ever get to the number 50? As I go through the presentation just think in your mind and maybe count on your hands. How many connected devices do you have in the home today? All of a sudden, I’m sure you’ll get to a dozen very quickly, maybe two dozen pretty quickly, and you’ll realize that by 2022, 50 will be absolutely no problem at all.

[03:36] And by 2025, when we’re talking about Artificial Intelligence, which is a 36.8 billion dollar market. 36.8 billion dollars. Artificial Intelligence is going to change the way that we do pretty much everything. It’s also going to affect our jobs. The wonderful thing about this, in terms of a positive thing is that right now, Canada is the epicenter as far as Artificial Intelligence research. You’ve heard the stories coming out of Toronto and out of Montreal, as far as hubs coming out of there. Uber just announced this week that they are starting up a hub in Toronto as far as researching Artificial Intelligence for autonomous cars. So we can see that the future is bright in Canada, there’s never been a better time to be a Canadian, working to build your own business and working in the technology space.

[04:25] I think, in contrast to 1999. I graduated from school at the University of King’s College and I moved out to San Francisco to pursue a job in the technology world, working at a company called RazorFish. At that time, we saw massive brain drain from Canada, remember those days? And what we’re seeing now is the exact opposite.

[04:45] Perhaps, over the years we’ll have an influx of people who are coming to Canada, and to work here in these different industries. It’s really important today in 2017 if you run a business I don’t care if it’s a small business, a medium business, or a large business to fight Digital Darwinism. Many of us resist change and that’s why I want to talk to you about some of the steps to adapt to this new technology and to change the way that we all do things. Because the truth is remember the photos that I showed you, right? in just 8 short years, how quickly things are going to change.

[05:18] And if you don’t adapt quickly, no matter what industry you’re in, what happens to those companies that don’t adapt quickly? If you think about the list of companies in your head, we’re thinking about the Kodaks, the Blockbusters, the Borders, we’ve seen those companies over and over, rise and then fall quickly. I would argue that every single one of these companies that I have on a list wasn’t able to thrive because the truth is they weren’t able to adapt to the new way that people were using technology and to adapt to technology in their own businesses. We’re seeing it with many companies today.

[05:55] The truth is, as we look forward to the next 8 years and we think about this shift, and we think about the changes that we’re facing and how so much is going to happen and how the working world is going to change, the one quote I want you to keep in your mind for the next 20 minutes while I talk, is this quote by Mario Andretti, “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough”. (repeats quote again); The truth is, we all have to get a little uncomfortable in this world because of the rate at which things are going to change within technology.

[06:30] What are 3 steps to grow in 2017 and beyond?

Rethink: Mission

[06:35] Well, the first one, and one of the most important, is this idea of rethinking your mission. Right now, if you work at a business, think in your head what is the mission of that business? What is your purpose? What are you trying to do? Are you trying to change the world? Are you trying to help people? What is that mission? You should be able to articulate this pretty clearly.

[06:57] I want to talk about an example of a company that has a very clear mission. One that’s articulated in every single thing that they do. Oe that I would argue is a mission that would change the world, and change the way kids play, particularly young girls.

[07:14] This is a story about a woman named Debbie Stirling. Debbie Stirling was a student at Stanford University. She was a little bit frustrated, she was the only girl in her class, and she wanted to get her niece a toy. She walked into the store, she walked down the aisle and all she saw was an aisle of blue and an aisle of pink. She wanted to buy a toy to help her niece learn how to build things, but all of those toys were for boys. So she came up with this idea of Goldie Blox, which are engineering toys that are built just for girls. She went online with a crowdfunding idea, she came up with this phenomenal idea and raised a ton of money very quickly. I would argue that she did that because she had a mission in mind, and her mission was to disrupt all things pink. Everything that she did on social media reinforced this mission, including one of the first videos that they had that hit the web.

[08:09 - 09:23] Plays Goldie Box video

[09:24] When I first watched this video I got chills up my spine, because I understood what Goldie Blox was all about. I understood their mission and their purpose. I will tell you again as a mother of an 8 year old at home, I know as that generation grows up, Generation Z, they absolutely care about doing business with companies, with organizations that want to make the world a better place.

[09:47] We talk about mission, we can talk about another company. Who here hates email, just out of curiosity? Pretty much everyone is raising their hand right now. There was a company that started, not that long ago, called Slack. The idea behind Slack was to help people, just like you, who hated email. They had a really clear mission in mind as well, and their mission was to go out there to sell to organizational transformation. They wanted to transform the way people communicated online, and they did exactly that.

[10:19] The last example I wanted to talk about, as far as rethinking your mission, I want to talk, for a second, about a company you all know as Netflix. I want to go back when I mentioned the companies that didn’t succeed and that weren’t able to adapt, and I want you to think about Netflix for a second. Netflix today is probably one of the most successful digital companies that I know. I also remember the Netflix of many years ago. I remember the Netflix that started when I lived in San Francisco. This was a company that actually mailed DVDs to your door. Think about this business, they physically mailed DVDs to your door.

[10:58] This is a business that for all intents and purposes should have failed. It should have failed within a few years when the internet became popular, but because they had such a strong leader in Reed Hastings, they were able to thrive, because they were able to adapt and they were able to change. If there’s one takeaway that I want you to walk away with from my presentation, and one thing that you can do, is go on and search for the Netflix Culture Deck. It’s a 200 slide presentation that’s available online that talks about the Netflix culture and this idea about their brand promise, which is really just a quest. This is their mission and it’s something that they share everywhere online.

[11:35] The key takeaways as far as this first item, rethinking your mission, is to define your mission, articulate your purpose, start your quest to change the world. I believe this is absolutely critical.

[11:46] Years ago when I got into the technology space, I believed that many of the startups I was going to work with were going to change the world. What I realized very quickly was that the world was not ready for these startups, and these startups were not ready for the world.

[12:00] Today in 2017, I think these are different times. I think we need these companies to go out there and make the world a better place because the world needs it as well.

Rethink: Platforms  

[12:09] The second thing I want to talk about is rethinking platforms. How the platforms of yesterday are not necessarily the platforms that you want to use today. We’re seeing trends out there like the rise of ephemeral messaging, but again, talking about adaptation, we need to be nimble. We need to be quick on our feet and we need to be able to change really instantly. Because the truth is, 6 months ago if I came to talk to you I would tell you that every single company needs to be on Snapchat, you have to be on Snapchat. The truth is today, Snapchat is important, but you need to be on Instagram Stories, Instagram Stories has many of the same features, and in fact, they have just surpassed Snapchat as far as the number of users. That’s one example of a new trend, and if you’re able to adapt and be nimble, you’ll be able to leverage those trends as well.

[12:57] We also see out there the rise of livestreaming. When we look at something like Facebook, and if you use Facebook for any type of Marketing, the reality is that livestreaming allows you to get better engagement than any other type of video you would put onto Facebook. In fact, it’s about 3 times the engagement you would get compared to just a traditional video that you would upload there. And more and more we are seeing those platforms that exist.

[13:20] I’ll tell you one thing about someone who works with small businesses. It’s that small businesses aren’t the best at being able to adapt and use these new tools. It’s frustrates me a little bit, because I have worked in television on and off over the past decade, and if I had told you that 10 years ago that all of a sudden there was a tool that was completely free that would allow you to broadcast video content to the world, we all would have rejoiced. This would have been absolutely incredible. Today we have these tools out there and we’re not maximizing them as far as being able to leverage them and being able to reach new audiences.

[13:55] Another thing I wanted to talk about as far as new platforms, is the rise of the Internet of Things. You see many products out there that are connected to the internet like smart thermostats, for example. This is probably one of the most popular items out there when it comes to the Internet of Things. There’s a Canadian company called EcoBee that also has a similar thermostat and we’re seeing these changes again, these hubs that are springing up all across the country that are really focusing on these things. The Smart Home Revolution is here today. Again, think back to that photo that I showed you where it was pre-smartphone and post-smartphone and in 8 years we saw those changes. We’re going to see the same thing when it comes to Smart Homes as well.

[14:38] As far as another platform and one of the lasts I want to talk about in this section, it’s the rise of Virtual Reality. This is another big trend. I will stand here and talk to you today, I’ve done shows on Bloomberg, I’ve been on CNN, I’ve done lots of media, and this is Canada’s time. This is Canada’s time to thrive. Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Virtual Realities, we have hubs all across this country.

[15:02] I am not from Toronto, although I live there. I’m from a small town in the country, in Prince Edward Island. I grew up with no technology. I went to a two room schoolhouse. I’m excited to finally see a time when small towns across this country can leverage technology and we can really make a name for ourselves.

[15:19] When you hear Virtual Reality, you think to yourself ‘ oh well, why would I care about this, how can it change my world?’

[15:26] I want to talk quickly about two things. One to go back to the example of Artificial Intelligence. If you think talking about Artificial Intelligence sounds boring, let me put it in context here. Researchers have just found out that using Artificial Intelligence in the healthcare industry, allows them to detect if someone has breast cancer 30 times faster than a doctor can detect it. I have just had a good friend, 42 years old who passed away a few weeks ago in Toronto from breast cancer, and to know that Artificial Intelligence could have changed her life with early detection, we see that everywhere. Not only can it detect breast cancer 30 times faster, but it can do it with 99% accuracy.

[16:10] This is the promise of this technology. Virtual Reality can also change our world in incredible ways. Let’s think, for example, of doing something like I’m doing right now. Public speaking, it’s the number one fear for most people across the world. The truth is, imagine if virtual reality could change your experience with public speaking and it could make it easier, because we’re seeing virtual reality today being used for training and to help people getting through these things, whether it’s training to fly a plane, or training to go out there and speak.

[16:41 - 17:42] Plays video called Be Fearless

[17:43] As much as you’re inundated with the headlines about technology being able to help people create random little widgets and useless things, the truth is there’s more potential to technology than just that, and we’re seeing it finally coming to fruition.

[17:58] Let’s just recap here as far as the key takeaway from Rethinking Platforms. You want to encourage people to use new platforms to engage in new ways, because as much as we think that this technology is far off it is right around the corner, if not here today.

Rethink: Communication

[18:11] And the third and final thing that I want to talk about is Rethinking Communication and being able to adapt in new ways to be able to communicate with people. I don’t care what you do as far as all the people that are here today, the truth is you’re communicating for your job in one way or another. Whether it’s being on LinkedIn, or you’re communicating for your business on social media, you are probably in some way in the business of communication.

[18:34] What you need to know about that, as far as rethinking the way you currently do things? We’ve talked a little bit about culture, as far as your mission. We’ve talked about community, but what about conversation. How can you change the conversation? And we’re seeing that already in the digital space as far as conversation, things like having accessible content, having lower thirds on content when you’re creating videos and putting them out there in the space so people can actually read the video content just by the subtitles below. It’s really easy to do that. In fact, there’s a service out there called Rev that will do this for you very inexpensively, under 10 dollars for a short little video. They’ll add the captions to the video. And this all becomes part of this trend that we’re seeing towards accessible content, knowing that people are watching more and more content on their mobile devices.

[19:22] The second thing I want to talk about is the Rise of Bots, and we’re seeing this everywhere. If you’ve ever gone onto Facebook and used Messenger. This might blow your mind, but Messenger just started allowing people to add bots to Messenger. This essentially means that using some type of machine learning, which is basically a category of Artificial Intelligence, a bot is like a robot online, it’s software that guesses and communicates with you and answers questions, based on data that it’s putting together, to answer you. This is one example of a company called Snap Travel, which is based in Toronto. If you want to book a hotel you can talk to Snap Travel through Messenger, it will help you book a hotel and it will even book the hotel for you.

[20:04] There are a couple things that you should keep in mind with the rise of bots. One is the elimination of jobs, because all of a sudden if a bot can do your job, you’re in trouble if you work in customer service, because the way that things are going is towards bots. And again, you may think ‘well, there are just a few bots out there’, but the truth is today, on Facebook within Messenger, there are 100,000 bots. This is a technology that just went mainstream a few months ago and already 100,000 bots.

[20:35] One of the last things that I want to talk about as far as rethinking communication is to think about what I’ve talked to you as far as the changes over the next 8 years and I want to kind of, look to 2025, because it’s a nice span to understand. I talked about the changes as far as the rise in terms of the number of connected devices, the rise of Artificial Intelligence as well as Virtual Reality, and I only got a chance to touch for a second on this next generation, which is Generation Z.

[21:03] As I mentioned, my son is on the young end of Generation Z, but I believe that this generation is truly going to be the one to change the world and I’m not the only one to think that. The truth is, they want to change the world, much more so even then Millennials. And we’re seeing with this generation, not only do they want to change the world, but this is the first generation that perhaps has the tools in place to change the world.

[21:25] This is the generation that is hard wired to understand technology. Think about them. Anyone born in, say 2009, 2010 and beyond, what’s the first thing they saw when they were born? Probably a smartphone or a tablet that was recording the birth. One of the first things they ever did was touch a tablet to experience it. This is a generation that walks up to a television set, and they all do this, they try to press on it and try to get it to interact like a tablet.

[21:54] It’s the ‘Touch Generation’ and this generation is going to have the biggest impact, not only the impact as far as changing the world, but also they’re going to impact all of us to be quicker, to be more agile, to be able to adapt, because it’s nothing for them to adapt to new ways of doing things.

[22:10] Think about the changes that they’ve seen in their lifetime. I can look at my son who’s 8, just as an example. There have been many, many changes in the technology space already. You want to make sure your content is accessible, you’re using new tech to communicate, and you want to prepare for Generation Z.

[22:26] We’ve talked about Millennials over the past couple years, but trust me this is the next generation that you’re going to hear about. This is generation, I was just talking to a friend of mine that was mentioning that his son likes to tinker in the garage. He eventually hacked his lawnmower to be able to mow the lawn itself. He hacked his own lawnmower!

[22:45] This is the generation that’s going to go out there. If something doesn’t exist, they’re going to go out there, and they’re going to tinker with it, they’re going to hack it, they’re going to build some software, and they’re going to change the way things are done. They’re going to change things like we’re trying to do at The Breakout Project today and this weekend.

[23:00] So again, just to recap, 8 years, an 8 year span, where are we today in 2017? Where are we going to be in 2025? Where does your mind go when I say this, after talking about some of this technology? Some incredible possibilities. We do need to move quickly, because if you remember just the 8 year span, and the smartphones, and we’re talking simply about smartphones and tablets, we’re talking about a lot more now over the next 8 years. It’s not just about gadgets, it’s about software, it’s about artificial intelligence, and all these new technologies that are going to have a massive impact on all of us.

[23:33] Just to recap, are you ready for 2025? Are you ready for the next 8 years? Are you ready for, potentially, new job opportunities? Are you ready for, maybe, new training? Are you ready to change the way that you do business, but most importantly, are you ready to change the world?

[23:49] Thank you very much!


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