My friend Carey Perloff, the long-standing artistic director of ACT, begins the MFA program every year with a question. What do you give an audience that doesn’t cost you anything – it is free! A provocative question to start your masters program and a question that every service providers should ask themselves too. If we don’t ask technology disruptors will. Let's learn alongside ACT’s MFA students.
Carey Perloff is a legend in her field. Even if you don’t love live theater I would recommend reading or listening to Carey’s book Beautiful Chaos. It reads like an entrepreneurial journey with experiences and guidance that can benefit us all. In addition to the business similarities discussed in her book the training ACT provides actors can benefit anyone who needs help making presentations that will mesmerize and impact their audience. Several companies agree with me and have hired ACT’s trainers to help their professionals with presentation skills and improv. Don’t these firms have their own training programs? The answer is yes but the current in house and third party business training programs focus on sales and not heart. The question Carey asks acting students is worth considering too. She expands the question to what qualities make you unique and what is memorable about your hometown – both are feelings that neither paid to create. I admit these are not questions I think about everyday but I should.
The Gig Economy
Another area that can benefit our businesses is to study Gig Economy businesses. Companies like Uber and Airbnb have cut out the middleman and made services we all need easier to choose. By cutting out the middleman cost go down and we are in control not the dispatcher or reservation agent. What are the Gig Economy networks worth? Private capital thinks they are very valuable as both Uber and AirBnb are valued in the tens of billions of dollars. My favorite Gig Economy business model is Podcasts. Podcasts allow you to control what programs you listen to on your commute and they like radio and TV are free. The challenge with Gig Economy business models is their consumer friendly structure and pricing might not make enough money to survive. One of the podcasts I love is RadioLab and they shared that it costs them $100,000 to produce each episode. They need advertising and listener donations to survive. As a subscriber I was shocked to hear that only 0.79% of listeners contribute to this great show. Unfortunately I'm one of the freeloaders.
The final area that is worth examining is AI. AI is a tool that can help us make better decisions. Ray Dalio’s Ted Talk does a great job of explaining why his firm uses and loves AI. The message I took away is that AI and professionals need to collaborate to reap the rewards of the technology. It is not a zero sum game and AI is only as good as the people using it. Bridgewater’s incredible performance shows it can and does work. Most AI solutions focus on the technology instead of partnering with the business. A technology only solution will cost jobs like Elon Musk says AI will. Technolgy only solutions like Robo Advisors don’t make the Bridgewater grade either.
We are constantly looking for a Hack to make our lives better. Freemium is a component but not the ultimate answer. Heart and authenticity still rule the day.