CMO Insights: Steven Cook, Contributing Editor, CMO.com by Adobe

CMO Insights: Steven Cook, Contributing Editor, CMO.com by Adobe

December 26, 2018

CMO Insights: Steven Cook, Contributing Editor, CMO.com by Adobe

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Steven Cook, Contributing Editor, CMO.com by Adobe.

In this video, Steven talks about:

  • His inspiration behind his book, Insights on Impact Innovators, and how it has developed over time
  • The absolutely essential nature of culture when it comes to building a company
  • The consumer as the ultimate disruptor in the marketplace

Learn more about Steven from his LinkedIn profile and follow him on twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our other CMO Insights Videos or our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Series. I’m your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. I’m really excited to present Steven Cook, who for the last 25 years has been a hybrid. He’s done a little bit of everything. He’s been a CMO of both big and small companies. He’s worked at incubators. He’s advised companies both here and in Israel. He’s an author. He’s a contributor. He’s ran digital marketing, digital transformation, and right now he’s even been working on a book insights on impact innovators. Pleasure to have you on the show, Stephen. Welcome.

Steven Cook:

Thanks Jeff. Great to be here.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet. So I was trying to think of the best place to start. Got to start with a book. What was your inspiration behind deciding to start a book on innovation?

Steven Cook:

Well, as you said in the intro, I’ve worked on the corporate side at P and G Coke and Samsung on a brand marketing business, but a lot of time on product innovation. In fact, I started the first innovation group of Coca Cola company in the mid nineties, but the last 10 years I’ve been working with startups in a variety of capacities and working with other parts of the what I call the innovation ecosystem VCs, private equity angels and accelerators and incubators, and what I’ve seen through my experiences assume that all the other components needed for success in any innovation effort, whether it’s on the entrepreneur side or on a corporate innovation side, assume you’ve got everything you got IP, right? You’ve got capital, you’ve got every, you know, you’ve got market timing, right? The most important agreed ingredient which is it’s hard to argue with, but I’m not seeing any research on it is the people, right? You’ve got to have people, not only the founder, but everybody involved in that initiative that have the right stuff.

 And I’ve just been frustrated living through more failures than successes, particularly on the entrepreneur side, which is pretty difficult. Cause you know, only a fraction, a few percentage points of, of entrepreneurs are successful at the end of the day. But I’ve found that through trial and error, I’ve personally developed my own list of what I think the most important ingredients are for a founder and for a founding team. And I got curious about what others think. And so I’ve been reaching out the last month. I haven’t started writing the book, I’m collecting insights now from around the world and around the corporate innovation and the entrepreneurial ecosystem to find out what people think. And you took a survey yesterday but I’ve gotten 70 or so responses so far. It’s not projectable, but it’s just fascinating to see what others think where there’s similarity and where there’s differences. Yeah. I really enjoyed taking a survey and there was a list about 20, 30

Jeff Pedowitz:

Adjectives in it ranged from interpersonal skills to just leadership and vision and you know, certainly working in a field as an entrepreneur. I I’ve, we’ve had things that have been great success. And then of course we’ve got other things that have failed miserably, but you know, we keep learning. So in your opinion, I mean I noticed earlier you’ve only got 70 responses, but what do you think the top quality is for driving innovation?

Steven Cook:

Well, you know what, I, I I’m, I’m intentionally not going to give you what my perspective is because that’s

Jeff Pedowitz:

During the block

Steven Cook:

I wanted to crowd source the answer. And so from the first 70 responses that I’ve gotten, again, these are from all parts of the innovation ecosystem, the number one choice. And for those, for those people who haven’t taken the survey, the question I ask is pick 10 amongst this list of 20 or 30 different attributes pick the 10, you think are most important and they were randomly presented. So, you know, it’s, this is a research done the right way. The number one choice by far is a leader and a team that has a vision for the future. And before the call, you and I were talking about Steve Jobs and that he didn’t have the best people skills.

He was pretty rough on people you know, based on what we’ve been reading about him. But he certainly had a vision for the future. I thought it was probably a strongest attribute. He could see around corners. He could inspire people on the vision that he was seeing. I mean, he was very forceful with it in some cases, but that’s critical. That’s critically important. If you don’t have a vision for the future, how are you going to invent something that doesn’t exist? Now, you can’t, and you can’t inspire people. You can’t attract capital and you can’t attract the team. You certainly can’t attract customers. If you don’t have a vision for the future, that’s compelling and turns out to be correct.

Jeff Pedowitz:

I mean, I think about all the many innovations in my lifetime, but I think, you know, it’s a home run when you didn’t know you need it until you have it. And then now it’s indispensable, right? So there were, it’s a smart phone. And I remember when I first came out 10 years ago, I probably like many business executives was addicted to the Blackberry, could not see or using a smart phone for any reason. Uber or Netflix or Amazon. There’s so many examples of where, what would life be like you can’t, I almost can’t even imagine it, what it would be like without these services there.

Steven Cook:

I’ll give you one example, LinkedIn, I was an early adopter and I used it for a few months, but in the very early days and I stopped using it because there was nobody there, there were very few people until they hit that tipping point and it started to scale. And for writing this book right now, I mean, quite frankly, if I didn’t have LinkedIn, I would not be able to reach out. I would not be able to find the people, let alone reach out to them and have conversations with them in as frictionless away as I am doing with this book. I mean, it’s just amazing, you know, I’ll, I’ll find a, just this morning. And I’m, and I’m cross tab in different pieces of research that I find.

I found one of the most prominent groups in the world that has attracted people from around the world called startup Chile. And it’s a government supported incubator in Chile that has people mentoring and participating literally from around the world. And I’ve been going through their list of mentors, reaching out to people and they have people literally mentoring. I don’t know if they physically come to Santiago, but mentoring from around the world, all four corners of the world. If I didn’t have LinkedIn, I never would have known that. And I never would have been able to reach out to these people to get their perspectives.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, I can relate. I use LinkedIn for these, for this interview series. It’s been very effective way of reaching people. So I want to go back to a people cause you did talk about having the right people, I guess that correlates very closely with culture, right? I mean, just in terms of building a winning culture because there are stories of a lot of entrepreneurs that attract great people, but then just as quickly lose them. If the culture is not there,

Steven Cook:

You know, I, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve seen, and I’ve been part of more startups that have failed because a culture was never built. It was assumed that it would happen organically or a coach culture was built. And it was a, it was a flawed culture, or it was a, a guru culture or the CEO thought they knew all the answers and the rest of the team was brought on just to do work and to listen to that, that CEO culture is the glue. And, you know, as Peter Drucker said, culture eats strategy for breakfast. I’ve seen it so many times. I think anybody who’s been in any kind of business world for any number of years knows that or that without without a culture you’re basically just doing things and you’re, you’re hoping that the team collaborates respects each other, that you’ve got all the right components to create the solution to whatever problems you’re trying to solve. 

And we’re in the market. I mean, we, you and I could talk about culture for the rest of this call, but it’s, it’s absolutely essential and it can’t be taken for granted that it’s just going to appear miraculously. It has to be nurtured. And you need people on the team, particularly the leader that has emotional intelligence, which is another one of the highly rated attributes that, that com that’s coming up in the research so far, having EKU, having emotional intelligence IQ is not sufficient. You’ve really got to understand people and be able to look in their eyes and understand what’s going on, or at least tease it out and having to have an appreciation for that.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, I think it’s definitely very important and probably even more so today because I say so much striation with the millennial generation and older, it’s just in terms of how to interact with them, how to motivate them. They have a whole completely different set of attitudes Leafs that, of course they’re great people. They’re good people. It’s just treating them and working with them is different than, than working with people’s day from, from our generation. And I seen, it’s been an adjustment for a lot of marketing leaders to be able to drive performance.

Steven Cook:

Most teams these days are distributed. Even if people, you know, use the hoteling concept and work out of an office. So they’re probably on the road most of the time, I, I know you are cause I’ve trouble getting you a lot of times because you’re traveling so much, but you know my, my specific situation, I work virtually with teams in Israel. In most cases, I never meet people, physically. I’m doing business development and marketing work for them in the United States. And most of the team is based in Israel. So, you know, culture, culture gets even more difficult to build when people are remote. How do you build that culture? When people aren’t there to have a cup of coffee or to go you know, you know, go out and have dinner. It’s, it’s much trickier and I don’t have all the answers. You just need to be tuned in. And to your point about differences in generations, that’s another tricky aspect. And frankly, I’m learning something new every day. I don’t have all the answers either. But you need to I think we all need to listen more than ever and watch more than ever and just be more perceptive.

Jeff Pedowitz:

No, I, I agree. At the same time, it’s also exciting because with technology playing more of a prominent role bringing the world closer together the younger generation just has an innate skill to handle this in a, in a way that people in our generation, we have to wait, well, we can do it, but we have to work at it. Whereas it seems it’s more natural with them. And then, so it’s balancing out the business document, the financial skills, the management skills combined with the technical you know, cause I, I have seen a lot of that young people get promoted very quickly because they were a social media guru or a web expert, or they’re awesome. I’m working on nation, but then they lost the job for six months later because they didn’t know how to manage people. They didn’t know how to run a department. They didn’t know how to drive towards business results. Absolutely. So yes, it’s fasting

Steven Cook:

There aren’t, there are natural components to being a born leader, so to speak of, of people, but there’s lot to learn along the way.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah. I’m still learning. As he said, I think I’m probably being a good leader is still being humble. Right. And, and being open to constantly learning and having an innate curiosity about,

Steven Cook:

No you don’t, you don’t have the results of the first 70 responses. But you’re, you’ve been around the block a few times. You just sit on two aspects, the second most important attribute. And again, think of this in terms of these are the attributes that a variety of people, a variety of,

You know, places in the innovation value chain think are essential. Second after vision for a future the second, most or second, most highly voted attribute is a continuous learner. You just said that the third highest rated attribute, somebody who listens. So these are, you know, this is why I’m, I’m, I’m really getting a lot of I’m getting more energized as I get more responses in because most of these answers are not what you would have expected. I would have expected, frankly, that being proficient in

Jeff Pedowitz:

The technology, in the verticals that you’re in would have been the most important or one of the highest rated attributes. Yeah. Yeah. I was just reading an article and 11 year old girl just invented as far as a responding to the Parkland shootings, Sherry. They had a couple of dimensions already, but she built like a bulletin board. That’s that’s bullet proof. So that in case of the attack, the kids can hide behind it. And then it doubles, I guess, as a lesson board, then put things on top. So it looks natural within the classroom. But then in the event of an emergency acts as a shield. So I know this is an 11 year old, right? What does an 11 year old girl she doesn’t have a lifetime of their experience with technology and all these things. She saw an age patient, right.

And then she had the persistence and well, so one of the things I love about innovation and I have always tried to encourage this and my company is like, it’s not a top down affair, right? I mean, you can create, anybody can be, anybody can create, anybody can come up with ideas. So if you empower them to do so and give them a chance about that idea to grow.

Steven Cook:

Absolutely. And Jeff, I love how this conversation is flowing. You’re gonna laugh at this.

Steven Cook:

The fourth highest rated attribute was being passionate about a problem, you know, and that, that, that 11 year old girl, unfortunately, you know, her generation is in the thick of these tragedies at school. I can’t, I can’t even imagine being in her position going to school, it might not have been fun. We never had a worry about that. You know, these kids, when they go to school every day, it’s something that’s, you know, on their forehead, you know, thinking about what could happen today and, and being, being hyper aware of, of those kinds of situations and doing drills. We used to do fireworks.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Now they’re doing active shooter drills. I can’t imagine. So she,

Steven Cook:

She had firsthand knowledge and appreciation of a problem and she was obviously passionate about it enough, so to create a solution and, and to bring that to the world, I don’t know what commercial state it’s in, but I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody is reaching out to her to bring it to market,

Jeff Pedowitz:

You know, throughout your career, technology certainly has been a disruptor. It’s been a disruptor. I seen. What do you think are some of the things, if, if you look strategically across the realm of technology, what do you think has been one of the bigger disruptors to the way that we do marketing?

Steven Cook:

I always, I was trying to Proctor and gamble in consumer centricity, always start with the consumer, the consumer or customer is the boss. And I think what we’ve seen, you know, if you go up to 80,000 feet, all of the technology that, that we as individuals and business people have seen you have to start with the behavior, changes that technology is enabling in the consumer and then go back from that. So, you know, I don’t even think about enterprise wide software or, or you know, big data platforms. I don’t start there. I start with the consumer what’s changed. And again, you and I were talking about the advent of smartphones earlier, right? Our behavior has changed. We all have a computer in our hands that has more processing power memory than the Apollo 11 had. That’s an amazing fact. And we really, you know, a few years from now, we won’t even need the laptops that you and I are on right now.

We will be connected with either a virtual screen. And that will be projected from a phone or from a smartwatch or from something else in the IOT or just voice activation with a screen that shows up somehow somewhere. And so consumer’s behavior has changed that causes marketers in every business, B to C or B to B to need to figure out. So how do I change? How do I engage them and how are they going to engage with me and what are all of the tools and platforms and, and ways of interacting with them and types of content, you know, think about voice right now with Siri and Alexa, everyone’s moving to voice now, right? That’s going to become the new user interface.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Twenty percent of search this past year was voice activated. It’s amazing. I mean, I saw, I agree with you, whether it’s marketing look like when there’s no screen, there’s no banner ad. There’s no image. There’s no copy. There’s no text, there’s no inner graphic. There’s, there’s no white paper. Have you reached your, your customer? I mean, really it’s like minority report. Right. But, but in a whole new way.

Steven Cook:

Absolutely. So, you know, taking your business in a few years from now, you’re going to have B2B C suite people talking to a voice activated device saying who are the top providers in revenue management. And if the Pedowitz group doesn’t show up, you’re not in the considered set. So even for a B2B business, how do you become visible and find-able, and it goes well beyond SEO, how do you, how do you have the right content? So when people speak key words, your content pops up and, you know, it’s probably one of the reasons why you’re doing a series. It’s one of the reasons why I write for cmo.com. I want to have relevant, consumable content on the net so that people are looking for find that content and ultimately work their way to find me if I am relevant for what they’re looking for. Can you imagine that? I mean, today on the first page right now, we gotta be in top three and you’re not gonna want to sit there listening to Alexa, give me page to scroll down to number seven and no one’s going to have a conversation like that. You’re going to say, yeah, give me the top two or three.

So Jeff, Jeff, on the core, if I can just jump in, I was at a marketing research conference a few years ago. I met a gentleman who has he’s whole careers in marketing research. And he gave a talk on the world of science fiction and how science fiction writers are generally pretty good at predicting the future. I mean, look how accurate gene Roddenberry was with star Trek, right? And what Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are now trying to bring to the world and Richard Branson in terms of space travel for the general population. But he talked about voice activation. And he said, if I were a brand manager at Coca Cola or any CPG company right now, I would be spending a lot of time trying to figure out how do I get into series database so that when consumers have a replenishment purchase of something that they buy on a high frequency basis, like soft drinks, that, and, and if I am not in the top two or three choices, I’m out of the game, I’m literally out of the game because your refrigerator is going to reorder, or you’re going to say, I’ll need some beverages for my teenage daughters party this weekend.

Siri, what should I order for 20 girls and boys? And if you’re not in that considered set, if Sprite and Fanta doesn’t come up, guess what? Siri is not going to order Sprite and Fanta. It’s just, it’s not going to happen. And that’s, that’s pretty darn sober. Now, already Amazon can order for you. It’s not, Hey honey,

Jeff Pedowitz:

We should go with a grade of groceries. The doorbell rings, Amazon’s already there with your weather. I don’t think it’s that far fetched. I think that they’re going to be actually be able to do that.

Steven Cook:

It’s, you know, we’re, I was having a conversation with somebody about this the other day. You know, we’ve all been chasing real time, real time in every business, right? With, you know, mining, big data. I want to be on your computer screen in real time when you’re searching for a hotel room right now, now we’re moving to predictive, right? I want to be able to predict based on what you’re searching for, as you said earlier, that you’re looking for a new car. I need to be able to predict that. So that with behavioral retargeting, my Lexus ad shows up on your screen.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah. Or you’re walking through the mall and it shows up, and it’s an ad because it knows that you’re in a foreign market. So in a lot of ways that the retargeting ads follow you around the web, now those ads are gonna follow you around IOT, right. I just, just in terms of all the engagement

Steven Cook:

IOT, and that’s where artificial intelligence is going to be faster and more helpful than any group of human beings could be. And where you know, augmented reality or mixed reality glasses or contact lenses are going to be able to show up con or show you content as you are approaching that content or that provider, or you’re thinking about it. And that’s where we’re moving. And it’s it’s exciting, but it’s, it’s an awful lot to digest.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It is when marketers are still just trying to get through the day, right? With everything that they’ve got going on. But wow. Just great, great interview today Steve, very insightful. And can’t wait to hear more about the book. So we’ll have to do a part two soon.

Steven Cook:

Well, Jeff, I’ll, I’ll give you the the link. So you can post this to your readers. I’d love to have everybody who works in any capacity innovating which is most executives these days. If you’re not innovating, you’re, you’re probably not long for that job. So I’d love to have all of your listeners participate and share their thoughts.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That sounds great. And I’d be more than happy to do that. So thank you again.

Steven Cook:

You’re welcome. Thank you.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet.

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