Welcome to Episode #208 of CXOTalk. CXOTalk brings together the most interesting,
innovative executives [and] business leaders in the world, talking about leadership, technology,
[and] disruption. I’m Michael Krigsman, industry analyst and
host of CXOTalk, and you know, I have a great job doing this, talking with these amazing
folks. And today, we are speaking with Anurag Harsh,
who is the Senior Vice President and Founding Executive of Ziff Davis. And that hardly scratches the surface on the
things that he has done. He has a music video, a performance from Carnegie
Hall, that is one of the most viewed music videos online anyplace, with millions of millions
of views. He’s written two books, he’s one of the
top LinkedIn technology bloggers, so really an extraordinary person. Anurag Harsh, how are you, and thanks for
joining us today. Hi Michael, hello everybody. Thank you for the opportunity! Excited to share my thoughts. And you were even a radio announcer for the
BBC earlier in your career. Yeah, that was in a past life. I was a newsreader and a broadcast journalist. I produced programs in science and development
for the BBC World Service when I was back in college, in the University of Sheffield
in England. And I would take a four-hour bus down to London,
and then broadcast a six hour shift. And it was fascinating and I did that for
many years. Well, you’ve done amazing things. So, tell us about Ziff Davis, and tell us
about your role. What do you do? Well, Ziff Davis is one of the world’s largest
digital media companies. We operate properties in the technology, gaming,
entertainment, health, and men’s lifestyle verticals with iconic brands such as PC Mag,
IGN, Everyday Health, What to Expect, MedPage Today, AskMen, and Speedtest. The Wall Street Journal describes us as, and
I quote, “The epitome of modern innovative digital publishing.” Each month, our Ziff Sites lead to a third
of US internet audiences, and 110 million worldwide consumers in over 100 countries,
over 50 international editions, in over 24 languages. I joined Ziff about 7 years ago ─ it’s
almost seven years; and as it’s first and founding hire, and the first executive when
our CEO, Vivek Shah, took over the company. Being involved in its complete digital transformation
all the way from when it was a small, privately-held media company to now, when it’s a thriving
nearly $4 billion market cap. It’s an all public digital enterprise with
1,400+ employees. We are part of j2 Global, and we trade under
the stock symbol JCOM. I’ve been involved in the last fix of the
company, including internal- and external-facing web, digital assets, and focused on harmonizing
efforts across all sales channels, social media, internet, intranet. We’ve done over 20 M&A transactions. I’ve been involved in strategy and partnerships,
and new business ventures, sales, marketing, revenue generation, and our actual expansion. So it’s really all the way from the beginning
to where the company is right now, from sort of technically Employee #1 to, you know, we
might be 1,600 people. I don’t know, but the official number is
1,400 employees. And, you’ve written a couple books, and
your most recent book is, and I’ll hold this so you can see. Your most recent book is “Going Digital,”
which is all about digital transformation. It’s a really good book, and please share
with us some of the key points. Why did you write the book, and what are some
of the key themes? Well look, we live in a crucial period in
time. The rate of technological innovation has,
you know, outpaced our ability to see into the future with a reliable degree of accuracy. Yes, we’re able to cope with the vagaries
of the world, yet no one can precisely say where we’re going to be five or ten years
from now. The 21st century and its people are marked
by great change, staggering accomplishment, and unprecedented uncertainty, right? So for all this, we’ve managed to change
the course of humanity in ways our ancestors never dreamed. We’ve prolonged human life well beyond what
was typical. We’ve engineered machinery and digital technology
that reduced the need for human involvement, putting more time and energy at our disposal
to pursue happiness inside and outside of work. We’ve deconstructed command and control
corporate hierarchy, and created this concept that we now know as “work-life balance”
─ an antidote to the pernicious absorption customary of the workplace. So, perhaps in equal measure, we’ve opened
gaping divides of global proportions, you know? This is a natural fluctuation in human affairs. I don’t think that there’s ever been,
and maybe there will never be, a perfect society. We’re flawed in all-too-human ways, and
yet, in all those very flaws, when looked at dispassionately and honestly, that can
reveal the doorways to a better world for ourselves. So, when you think about it, the last fifteen
or sixteen years, more than half all the Fortune 500 companies have either become insolvent,
been acquired by another company, or stopped doing business altogether. And if you just look at last year, 50% of
Fortune 500 companies declared a loss. So the stride of transformation has become
a revolution. Rivalries have deepened, and business models
have been dislocated. So the only constant is the growing severity
of digital disruption. That’s why I wrote this book. You know, aggregated many years of experience
on the subject of digital, and digitalization, and digitization, and transformation at the
corporate, individual, and global level. So, the topic of digitalization: it’s an
incomplete one. To speak on the effects of digitalization
will inevitably leave questions [un]answered, and perspectives unrecognized. So, what I did in the book, that you’ve
been so kind to show to the audiences here, is to cover these topics from as many perspectives
as possible as they relate to the subjects of business, economics – and very important
– psychology. My goal with the book was to present the leader
with a comprehensive understanding of the myriad ways that digital technology, and the
mentality it’s engendered, has changed the course of human history ─ changed the way
that people view each other ─ and has affected business practices. And, you know, provided practical measures
for people and business owners alike to create a closer innovation that acknowledges individual
differences; and then seeks to harness that, while contextualizing the culture in a broader
discourse about the government’s role in digital divides that we see opening with the
people today. So, when you look over the table of contents
of this book, and it’s there on Amazon, you can decide where you want to start, based
on your interests. You don’t have to read it cover-to-cover. After all, customizability is a hallmark of
digitalization, so when a company or a person has truly crafted a digital journey, it matters
not where on the path you enter, you will always see repeated, endlessly, every element
of the journey; and that really is the guiding spirit of what I think is the next frontier
of digital thinking. And that’s what the book is all about. Anurag, you mentioned two things that I find
particularly intriguing. Number one is you spoke about “the growing
severity of digital transformation,” and then you talk about the psychological dimension
of this. And I find that fascinating because, as I
have spoken with many leaders on this show, the issue of culture is a very, maybe the
strongest common denominator when people are talking about digital transformation. So when you talk about psychology, maybe you
can elaborate on that for us please. Well, culture is very important. Look, there’s two aspects of culture when
it comes to culture: the mindset and the method. And, let me qualify that a little bit. You know, as I was writing my book, reflecting
on my years digitally transforming some of the companies I’ve worked for including
Ziff, a peculiar allegory occurred to me and some of you may know it. I’m not a Buddhist, but I’m intrigued
by world religions, and in Buddhism there is this belief that all of reality is as one. Everything is anything and nothing. Buddhist philosophers will sometimes illustrate
this point with the allegory of what they call as “Indra’s net.” As it goes, the universe is a net held together
by radiant, bejeweled knots – just follow my thought here. It’s kind of interesting and I think there’s
a learning from this. The universe is a net, which is held together
by radiant, bejeweled knots. At each knot in Indra’s net, there is a
multifaceted reflective gem. You pick any jewel in the net, and then you
stare into it; and what you will see is a reflection of all the other jewels in the
net. You would see the universe over and over again
– it’s sort of like a mirror. So, the edicts of digital transformation are
not unlike Indra’s net. The pervading notion is that no matter where
in the business, or in the supply chain you look, you know, you should be able to bring
everything about the digital journey – the digital journey being the aggregate of the
operational, strategic elements in your digital process. So, that includes your architecture, infrastructure,
your management technology, your logistics, your planning, your governance, and everything
else. So, the jewels in our net are data. And, the world is all the technology you use
to connect. So, you know, at this moment, data is all
about information. It’s the blueprint of the physical world,
the interactivities, and the lines of causality. So you know, that’s the culture we’re
trying to create, which is the culture that unifies, technologically as well as from a
mindset perspective, everything in the network of this invariable communication that can
automate, interpret, predict, store, self-adjust, increase the agility, increase innovation
and foster collaboration from end-to-end. Right? Now go back to the allegory of Indra’s net. When a company is fully digital, and the culture
is fully digital, every element is networked such that a single glimpse at one portion
reveals the whole. So, at an abstract level, it’s relatively
simple to understand, but in practice, it’s a very different story. And we’ve tried to do that a little bit
at Ziff here. And so, you know, many digital transformation
experts I’ve spoken to, they leave a lot to be desired. They don’t provide concrete, implementable
solutions from … So for me, digital transformation is really about getting all of those pieces
together from a cultural perspective ─ to get the employees and the customers, who are
really the building blocks, to digital strategy. So, the culture and the psychological dimension
of connecting all the pieces of the company together, through data, through shared experience
… On one level, it’s easy to talk about, but as you said, very difficult to do in practice. And so, what are some of the practical steps
that an organization can take, in order to execute a program or initiative of digital
transformation? Well that’s a fantastic question, and let
me try to think about this a little bit. Look, companies are spending a lot of money,
and why? Because of disruption, there’s despondency,
and that’s compelling companies to want these digital initiatives. And they are investing a lot of money, which
mostly results in disappointment due to the absence of concrete, components strategy,
right? As the markets are shifting downward, many
companies try to counter the spiral by initiating these frantic investments and digital initiatives. Some of them are hiring Chief Digital Officers
and some of them are looking at their CIOs and CMOs to counter some of these disruptive
effects. From my perspective, there are five things,
strategically speaking, at the very high level, that companies need to think about, and let
me tell you what they are. They’re these buzzwords I’ve created. Well we’ve sort of followed them a little
bit here at Ziff, and we seem to be hitting some success with it. The first one is called “the structural
swivel.” The second one is “the inverse acquisition.” The third is “the offshoot” and I’ll
explain what these are. The fourth is “the coattail rider,” and
the fifth is “oiling the hinges.” So, let me start with the first one, “the
structural swivel.” So, when you think about the role of speed,
it’s crucial for digital disruption, right? And companies have these legacies. If you talk to any CTO, or CIO, they have
all these legacy systems and these techniques that can impede my ability to execute. So, by altering the company’s configuration
to spotlight digital initiatives, you know, executives can swiftly escalate the speed
of transformation. So that’s a tactic that necessitates earmarking
funds, and human resources to digital initiatives, and placing digital executives in command
of existing business processes. I’ll give you an example. I can’t give you specific names, for confidentiality
reasons, but a lot of these over the course of writing my book, and you know, some of
our clients. This is a bank; it’s a local bank that started
to actively swivel. Remember, this is the structural swivel; that’s
what we’re talking about here. It swiveled out of a conventional High-Street,
branch-driven model by venturing outside by recruiting a CDO (Chief Digital Officer). In fact, the bank empowered this guy with
complete corporate supervision, comprising all the High Street branches that were still
the lion’s share of the bank’s income. All product, tech, sales outlets, and marketing
units started reporting to the new CDO. To push for digital transformation, each regional
division also hired a committed CDO at the same level as the local bank president. These changes were then intended to assist
the bank in obviously speedening and hastening its conversion to a soup-to-nuts digital enterprise
and organizing a pure digital experience across all the business conduits, which echoes everything
in consumer and market development. That’s what I call a structural swivel. The second component of digital transformation
is what I call “the inverse acquisition,” when you think about it strategically. Strategically, if you’re not in the right
place, tactically you can’t implement it. What is the inverse acquisition? Well, there are a lot of businesses that have
unearthed what I call “quick wins” ─ you know, quick triumphs ─ by placing boundaries
around the digital products so, they can function autonomously and uninhibited by traditional
processes. Just put them in a corner somewhere. It’s like, “Off you guys go!” However, the moment the digital project demonstrates
its usefulness, you know, shouldn’t subsequent tasks follow suit? Persevering or preserving the project’s
autonomy restricts its influence on other businesses. Furthermore, an individualized gig, as I call
it, is not hard for, you know, the traditional business to disregard. So, one possibility is to absorb the traditional
businesses into the new digital unit, spreading the transformation business-wide, and then
compelling the rest of the company to abandon its archaic approaches. This is what I call “the inverse acquisition. “
This tactic is hard work. It comprises the comprehensive moving and
resettlement of technology manifestos, company structures and processes, and ultimately consumers
from the traditional business to the new model. Right? Cautious ranking in faith [?] methodology
that would guarantee that the company doesn’t collapse into the disorder [while] doing the
changeover. I’ll give you an example. You know, this is a British retail store I
can name this time; it’s called John Lewis. It acquired a very long time ago buy.com.uk
in 2001. And it inherited vital technology and talent
that it used to quickly erect its only e-commerce business in the year shortly after. John Lewis commenced a gigantic undertaking
a few years later to reconstruct its web and e-commerce framework, which involved assimilating
over 30 prevailing tech systems. And then they had the e-commerce site which
lands…which launches like in 2013, and it’s connected with the retailer, soup-to-nuts,
supply chain, and the delivery conduits, and the physical stores. Here’s the thing. The 10-year long dedicated effort increased
its online sales by close to 30%. So, inverse acquisition. That works. The third is what I call “the offshoot.” And there are five of them. And I’ll try to be as quick as possible
to explain these digital mindsets, and the companies. Depending on what kind of companies they are,
they can sort of decide. The offshoot is … It’s unrealistic to
always expect to be absorbing a traditional business into a new digital operation, especially
if the digital business is not yet sufficiently developed to absorb a larger unit, or if it
focuses on too dissimilar a fragment of the value chain. So, in these cases, what the businesses can
do is they can discover that an optimal way to grow those ventures is to segment the separate
fragments into distinct businesses that can then develop outside the principal trade or
business. There’s an example here as well. It’s BBVA Compass, which is a Spanish bank. It’s safe to talk about non-US companies
in this context. They had a software development division called
“Globalnet” for over a decade, and they used that to fuel their technology initiatives. A couple years back, Globalnet, this little
software development division, transformed into a BEEVA, which is an offshoot for creating
and marketing business web services. Now, although BEEVA powered the base technology
for BBBA ─ the Spanish bank’s transition into digital banking ─ the bank’s executives
realized the software division’s innate potential. So as an independent services business, BEEVA
helps other banks do what BBBA has done using BEEVA’s groundbreaking cloud technology
platform. So in this instance, a structural swivel or
inverse acquisition we just talked about would not have worked. Why? Because the bank was ultimately a financial
services company, and its software division BEEVA was a web services unit, with functionality
that was different from the bank’s core business. So, that’s what I call “the offshoot.” Okay. And finally ….
I don’t want to interrupt, but we actually have a question from Twitter, and this one’s
more prosaic but everybody’s asking this question. This is from Arsalan Khan, and he’s wondering
where does the CIO fit into all this, because we think about digital transformation as involving
technology, but as you’re clearly demonstrating, the technology is … it’s a piece, but
it’s not the biggest piece. So, address the technology aspect; but where
does the CIO fit? Well, the CIO fits in the middle of all of
this, right? But the CIO is responsible for a lot of the
traditional legacy systems and technologies, and to be able to maintain the current, sort
of, modus operandi ─ the order of business within the company. A lot companies like Fortune 500 and other
companies, and larger companies, are actually going through transformations whilst maintaining
their KPIs and their stock price and making sure … because the Street is very unforgiving. So if you actually start to slip your stock
price, it’s really going to tank. So, the CIO’s job is to make sure that both
sides of the equation are well-balanced. So the CIO sits right in the middle of this,
because obviously technology is paramount and it’s sort of at the center of this. But, at the same time, it’s also about thinking
strategically outside of the confines of the CIO’s office, or the CMO’s office, or
even the CEO’s office. This is about …. That’s why oftentimes
you have Chief Digital Officers, which are thinking very strategically about not necessarily
technology, or information, or data, but they’re thinking, “Well, how the hell do I just
completely change the way that we reach consumers, and change the way that the company is structured
so that there is a coherent transformative strategy that the customer sees, and interacts
with the company in a coherent and concise manner?” So, the CIO is one aspect of everything, but
I think that this is a kind of process ─ transformation in digital ─ that requires skills from a
variety of different parts of the organization: operations, information, data, executive strategy
as well as of course marketing. So, the key part of this, then, is the fact
that the digital transformation is not just about marketing. We tend to think, or often people talk about
digital transformation as essentially a marketing activity, but it’s not at all. Doesn’t have to be. I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s not at all. Obviously, digital sits within marketing oftentimes,
but, you know, digital is way beyond marketing. It’s not just about likes and social media,
you know? There’s an old Beatles song, “Money can’t
buy you love,” and I would like to add onto that, “It don’t even buy you a Like.” And that’s what marketing has become. I love that, by the way. Yeah, money don’t buy you love. You know, it don’t even buy you a Like. That, by the way, is “doesn’t;” it’s
incorrect grammar but I’m going by the actual song. But what about Facebook, you know? You can buy Likes on Facebook. I’ll give you an example. Customers are not what they used to be, right? The internet has given them wings, and you
know, given us the power to express ourselves. Marketing is not … Long gone are the days
of … Look, we run one of the largest, you know, we’re one of the largest publishers
in technology, and health, and men’s lifestyle. Advertising and licensing are huge, huge aspects
of the business, right? We stay away from gimmicks, from clever phrasing
and seduction, right? The well of false enchantment can run dry. So, consumers are staring down now at attempts
at persuasion and flashy advertising because they expect authenticity from corporations
and individuals alike, right? The shift in consumer expectation, it comes
on the back of what? It comes on the back of digital revolution,
right? And unilateral skepticism towards companies
and their products. So as consumer psychology changes, then digital
and marketing is entering a new era where human needs, the values, and connections are
defining success and failure, right? So, it’s a call to action to marketers and
advertising executives, and departments who typically have had digital functions to think
about how do they change the perspective towards consumers? You know, companies cannot see consumers as
gullible moneybags, or as conquests, right? They have to see consumers as community members,
as human beings who crave trust. You see the theme here? We’re talking about technology and digital,
but what I’m getting at is the ability. I call it the “relationship era.” This is great! This is… Yeah. This is … When I started out, I must have
spoken to over 100 companies in the course of writing this book, and it fundamentally
came down to … Consumers crave trust; predictability; transparency; respect. And so, this is the basis [garbled word] of
the relationship era. In this era, the company’s corporate value
when it comes to digital: “Why do you want to transform digitally?’ Your corporate value must resonate at every
level [of] that infrastructure. It has to emanate outwards to the company’s
employees, the customers, the suppliers, the stakeholders, you know, neighbors, and your
relationship towards Earth! So, merely projecting an image is akin to
falsity. The companies have to genuinely and steadfastly
practice what they preach. So, the ascendant paradigm in marketing and
digital is completely natural. It’s almost expected, you know? You look at the history of marketing. It becomes patently clear why this new era
with digital came about, right? And, there’s lots of uber-trends in terms
of how marketing has shifted, and why digital doesn’t necessarily have to just fit within
marketing, but also spread into operations and supply chain, [and} obviously in technology
itself. So, there’s a reason for that: The first
reason is that the unsustainability of mass media, and advertising both economically and
socially. Look, the cost of advertising continues to
increase. Why? Technology allows marketers to reach highly
targeted groups of people, and yet consumers are conspicuously opposed to advertisements. Right? They’re perceived as an encumbrance and
in some cases, frankly, they’re perceived as invasive. Look at the ad blocking. So, the second thing is that the internet
has dissipated the curtain of shadows that once hid corporate activity. No longer are corporations impregnable fortresses. What remains of corporations is transparent. And it must be, if companies are to win the
confidence of their customer bases. You know, these are the underlying psychology
and traits that digital has to harness. Then you have the rise of social media channels,
right? These are news outlets. People are sharing current events. Look at our President-Elect; the guy’s tweeting
all the time. So, people are sharing current events as they
happen as opposed to retrospectively. Daily events are like conversations. Finally, the uber-trend is about the overturn
of the morality of consumerism. What do I mean by that? Well, the public cares not only about the
cost and quality of the products and services. Look at the Millennials. I mean, people also care about the values,
and the conduct of the providers, right? Trust, reliability, ethics often supersede
quality and affordability. And so, you have to take all of these things
into account when you devise and place your digital department: Should we sit in the marketing? Should we sit under operations? Or should we think strategically, so that
the company has a profoundly altered the status quo ─ the strategy and the very sociology
of marketing? So the question, really, before us and everybody
out there is this: what can we do to adapt while preserving our bottom line, right? And so, you’ve got to figure out some kind
of a middle way, and that’s really where digital comes in and where it really needs
to be sitting. You’ve got to think about it as a consumer
era, you know? An era where it’s relationships and it’s
change and values and how do you build that story ─ you know, do things. And that’s what it’s all about. I mean, let me give you an example. I’m fascinated by this, okay? I did this last week. Type this in Google. Type “I love Apple” into your search bar
and you don’t need to do it right now, but if you type “I love Apple” in your search
bar, you’re going to get 400 million hits in about 42 seconds, right? Type “I love Starbucks” in your search
bar. You’re going to get like 36-37 million hits,
an order of magnitude less. And that’s in about just under a minute. So, where am I going with this? Some companies spend billions of dollars every
year, right. They’re getting the attention from customers
and they don’t boast nearly as many hits, likes, or love. Companies like Exxon, right? Rex Tillerson is in the news. Citibank, Dow Chemical, I mean… So what’s the key? You do the same thing with these companies,
and it’ll tell you exactly what I told you, which is money don’t buy you love. It don’t even buy you Likes. So, type “I love Citibank,” and it’s
not a potshot at any of these companies … How about I love Comcast? It’s a point I’m trying to make. You’re going to get like 12 million hits
in 30 seconds, you know? A lot of these companies don’t fare any
better. Where am I going with this? And they’re spending about $1 billion, over
$2 billion … So what’s the key? How does a company that is in business, that
has operations, that maybe has had an adversarial relationship with consumers … I mean use
the term “gullible moneybags.” How can a traditional company, a traditional
mindset make this change? There’s three realities of today’s market. People talk providence and transparency, alright? If you’re in marketing, and you don’t
understand this, then this is something that … this is the digital speak in terms of
marketing. There are billions of people online, right? Millions of them are talking about brands,
experiences, and posting reviews, and they’re reading consumer feedback. So, when customers like your brand, trust
me, they will express affection for it, right? People will care about you. That’s how it works. Look at the Apple Fan Club, or look at the
Beyhive, after Beyoncé’s whole marketing empire. Right? The second is providence, you know? These are relationships. And what people say about you online does,
in fact, dictate your success. You might not want to accept it, but that
doesn’t make it untrue. The third is transparency. This is both an edict and an admonishment,
you know? Be transparent, and should be. What happens in the boardroom is no longer
a secret and any discussions can be had, and they’ll probably find a way to a public
forum. So it’s not business as usual, and I would
rather call it “business unusual.” So, what can companies do to understand these
things? The fact that people talk, the fact that there’s
relationships that you might not want to accept for this providence, the fact that this transparency
matters, you know? You have to figure out digital strategies
that take these into account and stitch them together in a way that can really establish
that permanent relationship. The company needs to build with its customers,
you know, especially the ones that are detached from it. You’ve got to lubricate the relationship. But how? Because the reason I ask is because what you’re
saying is just so much in tune with what is taking place in the market, but companies
very often, they struggle with this, they want to do it, they’ll spend millions and
millions of dollars trying to do this, trying to buy these “likes” and this relationship,
and it doesn’t work. So how do you do it? In many ways. Look, relationships are built on social media
nowadays, right? I mean, always be connected. It’s a boon. It’s a curse and consumers have perpetual
access. And so, there’s no relationship we can take
for granted. So, consumers are connected to their friends,
their families, coworkers, everyone else. So, what companies need to do is understand
how social media works, especially Facebook actually, and use them in a way that can establish
these relationships with these customers. Understand the observations, the ideas, their
concerns, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, and their opportunities and their failures. And connect with them in a way that can establish
the genuine relationship. You know a consumer complains about a product
or a company somewhere on the internet. There are bots available now where you can
actually go and harness that conversation and engage with that customer. Companies don’t do that! And if you were to do that, and just channel
the customer’s complaint, and address it, you might have the customer for a very long
time. I wouldn’t say for life, but for a very
long time. And so, you know, you don’t have to spend
billions of dollars in marketing in order to do that. So, you have to establish trust. And, it’s important that you have to humanize
the institution. Digital is about humanizing your institution. It’s about humanizing the corporation, right? Making it predictable, reliable, you know,
honest. Loyal, respect, and shared values and empathy
─ that’s what this is all about. It’s about establishing credibility. And then you’re asking me, “Well, how
do I establish credibility? How do I establish congruency and care?” Well, you know, these are not very hard things
to do. It’s just that you need to use social media
channels, and you need to use technology to figure out (and marketing) to figure out how
to create the credibility. You know, the presumption of reliability and
dependence must take primacy. You know, and care, which is about caring
for your customer ─ you know, engaging with your customers. Their lives matter! It’s about constructing your business around
their needs and addressing them happily, you know? And then congruence, which is, consumers are
consistently reading into the actions of corporations, you know? You’re trying to define true motivations
─ the beliefs, values, and purposes. That’s what this is about. So, how do you create this? You use technologies and social media, and
the tools that are available ─ apps and whatnot ─ in order to create a brand, which
is relationship-driven, and which is all-encompassing. That is the only way that Fortune 500 companies,
and even smaller companies which are trying to disrupt them, can be around, because you
know … Look, Satya Nadella, who was there [with the] President-Elect on Wednesday; he
wrote a blog on LinkedIn a couple of months ago that basically said that if you lose 30%
of your customers, you’re done. And, 50% of the Fortune 500 companies are
done, you know, because they didn’t see it coming. You had a new kid on the block that just came
and swept the entire industry away. This is happening more and more. Back in the day, we had the industrial revolution,
which was 20 years, 25 years, and you had the textile revolution. Now you have the digital revolution, which
is 5-7 years. So, it’s evolving. It’s changing. It’s fast. It’s in your face. People are there; they’re always connected. How do you actually do it? Well you get in front of them, and you basically,
you’re transparent. And, you’ve got to live your life in front
of your consumer, and you can’t have the shadow of this veil in the back. And you’ve got to establish this relationship,
and once you have that circle of trust, it’s about establishing that. Once you have that circle of trust, that is
what digital is about. It’s about establishing a circle of trust,
and money will flow. Everything else flows. And so, that’s how you’ve got to look
at it. So it begins with the strong intention to
do the right thing. But, we have only about five minutes left,
and there’s something else that I wanted to [ask]. This conversation is very important, we could
go on for another hour, but we’ve got just a few minutes left, and there’s one other
thing that I wanted to talk with you about, which is, and you have to explain this: You
are in the star of one of the most highly-viewed music videos of all time. It’s gotten millions and millions of views
from a concert you recorded at Carnegie Hall. So, very briefly, tell us about that and are
there leadership lessons that can be learned from the musical experience? Well, I’m going to answer this question
using the form of music that I have personally known, and this is Indian classical music,
the music of North India ─ the classical music of North India. It’s also called Hindustani music. By the way, this is not the … You’ve been
very kind, Michael, this is not the most-watched video of all time. In the genre of world music, this is among
the most watched. It’s got about 2.5 million views over the
last eight months, so … I happen to love world music, and I love Indian
music, so that’s my frame of reference, and millions of views for that kind of music
is pretty darn extraordinary. Yeah. Normally the template is a few thousand over
the course of years. Look, let me start by saying what Indian classical
music is, and how my … And then I’ll give you my sense of leadership and management. Okay, we’ve only got about three minutes. [Laughter]
Okay, okay. I’m going to be very, very quick. Leadership is about the ability to change
the central core from which an organization functions, right? Efficient leaders, they redeploy the make
up of shared focus. So, you’re altering personal space where
individuals and organization center on the ecosystem in themselves. So, there’s three things that leadership
comprises: feeling, enthusing, and inventing, right? You’re exposing oneself to the outer ecosystem. You’re embracing the world within, and you’re
nurturing and developing potential into existence. So, you know what’s interesting when I performed
at Carnegie Hall is it’s about a shared system of performance that in many ways can
be equated with building and playing a musical instrument. Leadership. Three things need to happen for a musical
instrument to create its best music: the frame of consonance; the motivation of the music;
and lastly, you’ve got to play with the macro voice. So, when I gave my first concert at Carnegie
Hall – I did two there (solo concerts). The first one was in 2007. I felt the hall kick me out, for I was young
and I tried to perform as I always did. You know, I was just singing. But then I came to realize that at Carnegie,
you actually have to use not only your micro-vocals, you’ve got to use use your macro-voice,
which is the small voice ─ the instrument that’s inside of your vocal chords. The macro, and this is my point, the macro-voice
is the whole Carnegie Hall that surrounds you. The Hall is entirely built according to musical
principles, so playing the macro-voice requires you to listen, and to play from another place,
which is to think about your audience ─ in other words your customers. You’ve got to move your listening and your
playing from within to beyond yourself. Right? And that is when the music, in other words,
the leadership … It’s not about inverted. It’s not about leadership. It’s not command and control. It’s about thinking about your audience,
you know? It’s thinking about how do I move from micro
to macro, and how do I form this frame of consonance, and play from a macro voice? So when this occurs in an organization ─ and
Ben Zander actually, Boston Philharmonic, has done some phenomenal speeches on this,
and discussions ─ but when this occurs in an organizational society, concrete changes
can be witnessed. There’s a decentralization of societal space. There’s a reduction in societal time to
be motionless. And there’s a breaking down of the precincts
of ego. Right? The visible results of this practice include
an amplified understanding of self, of vigor, of beauty, of continuing authenticity that
can be recruited and galvanized in the future, and of course, very long, deep changes – long-term
changes. So, that’s the core of leadership. And so, when I do music, when I perform, that’s
how I’m thinking about it from the point of view of onstage, and how do I actually
recruit the audience in order to participate with me in a way that it becomes a macro ─ the
frame of consonance. And that’s musical leadership. We’ve had guests on CXOTalk who have spoken
about the concept of servant leadership, and it sounds very harmonious with what you just
described. Yes. Thank you. And with that, I’m afraid this very interesting
and engaging conversation … It’s time for this episode, Episode #208 of CXOTalk,
to draw to a close. We’ve been speaking with Anurag Harsh, who
is Senior Vice President and Founding Executive at Ziff Davis. Anurag, thank you so much for being here today. Thank you very much. I really appreciate the opportunity. And I hope you come back, and we’ll have
to continue this conversation another time. Absolutely! Everybody, thank you for watching. Next week, we have a show; and we have a show
the last Friday of December as well, because CXOTalk never rests! Thanks everybody for watching, thanks for
your support, and we look forward to seeing you soon. Bye-bye!