Did you know that 88% of the most prolific and successful companies that were on the Fortune 500 in 1995 actually CEASE TO EXIST today? This statistic alone shows how challenging it is to survive an increasingly disrupted marketplace. Today, Adam Markel talks to Terry Jones about market disruption and how your business can survive despite it. Best known for founding Travelocity.com and serving as Founding Chairman of Kayak.com, Terry has become a popular persona in the entrepreneurial world through his impactful speaking engagements and books such as ON Innovation and Disruption OFF. Tune in to this episode as Adam and Terry dive into what it takes to survive even the biggest disruptions.
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Turning Market Disruptions Into Your Advantage With Terry Jones
I am feeling incredibly blessed. I’ve had a wonderful start of the day. The way we begin our day is important for me as the years go on. There’s a good sign of whether I’m going to have a productive day by how I begin that day, and so I made sure that I had a little time for meditation. I spent some time cuddling with my wife. I’ve got to drink quite a bit of water, which is important that I’m hydrating, especially when I’m going to be doing a podcast or I’m out speaking or anything like that. Taking care of my body is very important. I did a good job of that for a morning which is what it is here at this moment. I know when you guys are reading this, it could be any day, anytime, anywhere in the world, which is fascinating.
Sometimes coming off the weekend, where the rituals will tend to slide a little bit or we might do some other things. As much as it’s a weekend to recover, that’s such an important aspect of us being able to show up as the best versions of ourselves in our businesses or any other area of our lives. We’ve got to take care of ourselves and recovery is such an important component of that. Sometimes when we burn the candle at all ends, we end up that much more exhausted in the morning. It feels good. My energy is great, my mind feels clear. I feel blessed that I’ve got an incredible and wonderful guest. I’m changing my language. I’m going to correct that incredible because he’s totally credible. Our daughter, Chelsea, pointed that out to me, “Dad, do you know how many times you say the word incredible or unbelievable?”
What’s the message there? What’s the message to the universe when you say something is not credible or not believable? Language makes a big difference. When we talk about pivots, for example, the reframe that you can do instantaneously even when you catch yourself saying something that maybe isn’t as accurate as you want it to be, is so powerful. This gentleman is truly special, wonderful. I’m going to read a little bit of his bio because it’s pretty remarkable. I have to share it with you all and then, of course, we’ll dig in and I’ll ask him some questions about exactly what’s going on under the surface there.
Terry Jones began his career as a travel agent. My mom, to this day, is a travel agent, so I know what it’s like to grow up in a house with a travel agent. He spent ten years in product marketing and American Airlines. He spent the next ten years in information technology and then became the Chief Information Officer for American Airlines. These experiences as a travel agent, product marketer, as a CEO, prepared him to become the CEO of Travelocity, which he led from a team of six to a $3 billion public company. He retired from Travelocity when it was taken private and then helped found Kayak.com. Many of you probably use Kayak every single day. I know a lot of us to do. He was the Chairman for seven years until it was sold to Priceline for $1.8 billion. He is the Managing Principal of ON, Inc., a consultancy he founded to help companies in their transition to the digital economy. He served on over seventeen boards and he is a board member with Boingo, SonicWall, Kenzie Academy and a number of others. He’s also an author of ON Innovation. He’s released his second book, Disruption OFF. Terry is a proven innovator and holder of several patents. He is here with us to share some innovation ideas about change. He’s the perfect guest. Terry, I want to say thank you. Thanks for taking the time and welcome. Thanks for being here.
It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Terry and I were in Panama together because we have the pleasure of being affiliated with a group called TLC. We were meeting down in Panama City and for a week of retreat, that was a blast. Did you have a good time?
I met a lot of great contacts, neat people and I got to see the Panama Canal, which I’ve always wanted to see. I read that book, The Path Between the Seas, years ago and it’s fascinating. The most interesting thing was, one of the guides said, “None of the technology to build the Panama Canal existed twenty years before.” Electricity had just come into the fore and the gates are driven electrically, the trains that pull the ships are electric. It’s all-electric. The diggers were all-electric and the steel in those locks is vanadium steel, which was popularized by Henry Ford is super-strong steel. They didn’t have that either. Twenty years before, they couldn’t have built it and they did it all with new tech, and it changed the world. It’s pretty amazing.Every story or mistake started as a great idea. Click To Tweet
It’s a marvel to look at it and to see it operationally, and we did. We got to see several ships that night. That blew my mind.
It’s amazing. We saw that they built new locks for bigger ships. The funny thing is that to build the new locks, which are only 0.5-mile long, the canal is 50 miles, it took them ten years. It only took ten years to build the whole canal the first time. We haven’t gotten a lot faster. That was also interesting.
The story of the Panama Canal is quite fascinating. It’s one that I recommend even if there’s a beautiful ten-minute video documentary of the canal’s origins and how it began with the French. They were stopped cold. It was brutal. They lost more than 20,000 men in the process. There were more obstacles than they could handle. It was remarkable that it became ours, that it became the United States’ project at that time. FDR’s brother, Teddy Roosevelt, that decided that this was a major initiative. They literally took three years in between where they realized that the mosquitoes were carrying malaria and other things and it was yellow fever that was killing.
That was a revolution to understand that diseases came from insects because before, it was always bad air. Malaria is French. Bad air, mal air. It’s not true. It was much a public health innovation as it was a technical innovation. That whole period, we went from kerosene lanterns to electric light. We went from the speed of a horse to an 8 MPH train. We went in communications from a letter that went by ship to the speed of light. Labor went from the power of a horse to steam. We think we’re in the time of most dramatic change, that’s what my book is about, but it’s happened before.
You don’t write about the Panama Canal disruption?
No, I don’t. I do write about the beginnings of the computer era. When I worked at American Airlines, big centralized steam-powered mainframe. The huge change now is connectivity. The telephone took 75 years to reach 100 million people. Pokémon GO took fifteen days.
Fortnite tripled that in half the time.
It’s the connectedness of innovation now that is driving the pace of change. The fact that computing has moved from these steam-powered centralized machines to the cloud, that tipped the balance because we now have two guys and a dog in Silicon Valley have the computing power of a Fortune 500 company. That has allowed startups to move quickly and is powering disruption.
This is a question I don’t get to ask that many people, but this is right up your alley. There’s a disruption statistic that I’ll sometimes quote, which is that I believe you made reference to it when you spoke at TLC. In 1955, they started the Fortune 500, which is always fun because I don’t mention this with every audience, but I’ll say, “How many companies were in the Fortune 500 when it began in 1955?” That gets a pause in the room to see if there’s a trick here. There were 500 and there’s a giggle. I go, “How many of those same companies are around now?” These are the 500 most prolific, most successful, most innovative and whatever accolades you want to provide. These were the best of the best.
88% of those companies don’t exist to this day. It wasn’t like we’re talking about the Fortune 500 were horseshoe companies. You go, “Why is that the case?” I’m thinking at this moment, with everything you just said about connectivity, do you think that’s going to alter the statistic? Right now, on average of Fortune 500 companies lasts about eighteen years. That’s more the current numbers. They’re not around forever.
It’s going to get shorter because so many of the new entrants are these large software-based companies. Software changes at such speed that it’s difficult to maintain the edge for a long time. You have to continuously adapt and change it and it’s difficult. You get to the point where you’re somebody like Oracle and you’re mostly acquiring companies and trying to adapt to the cloud. You can have a new leader like Satya Nadella who has completely revolutionized Microsoft and bet billions on AI. It brought that company back.
Sometimes people make it. IBM has had three rebirths on the wheel of life. Ginni Rometty left and we have a new team of two guys but it’s hard to pull that act off. You see Ford struggling and Mary Barra, making the statements to GM, “We’re going to be fully electric, we’re going to totally change. We’re going to revolutionize the company.” It’s hard to change all of that. There’s a great story about Reid Hoffman in Netflix, that when he went from mailing CDs to doing it online, he got to the point where he had to get the CD guys out of the weekly meetings because they were just talking about the past. It was still a good business but he said, “We don’t want to do that anymore. All you guys are like anchors.” If you don’t pivot and pivot people, you get stuck.
How would you define pivot? Not just the word pivot per se, but the places where that concept actually is a life skill for organizations and for their leaders now.
I’ll give you an example. My last company was an AI startup. I got a call from Ginni Rometty at IBM and she said, “Can you teach IBM Watson about travel?” We started this company and it was always risky because it was the technology looking for a problem. We built some marvelous products that dramatically increased the rate of purchase, online purchases in travel using natural language search and computer vision. We were selling to IT and IT wasn’t buying. They had their list of things to do and AI wasn’t high on that list. We should have been sold to the CFO. Eventually, near the end of the company, before it ran out of money, we said, “Why don’t we see if we can do the same thing in digital advertising?” We built a conversational chat into a standard double-click ad and it worked like crazy. Marketing guys take risks every day. They never know what works.
Constantly testing and changing. They started buying. We pivoted to a marketing company. Later, we got this graph from McKinsey, and it showed all the industries that deployed AI and travel is dead last of all industries. I wish I’d seen that graph before I started the company. I was like, “This is stupid,” but we did a pivot. We kept our core, we knew what we were about. We said, “It isn’t working in this way. Let’s transform that and sell it to people who want to buy.” That’s one kind of a pivot.
You used Netflix as an example. Your book is about disruption. I feel like these are such compatible topics because they’re such related things. The way I look at a pivot, we’ve got two types. In fact, our new book is more about micro pivots. There’s pivot by design and then what I was calling pivot by default. I’m thinking of it more like pivot by disruption, it’s pivot by self-disruption.
For example, A friend of mine was working for Polaroid. Do you remember Polaroid and Kodak? These are things that now Millennial age people don’t even know what Kodak is, never heard a Polaroid but yet they’re the patent holders. They were the creators of digital photography, but they wouldn’t cannibalize their existing instant photography business. Here I am, had a friend working there, I invested some money in the stock. Within a couple of years, the company’s bankrupt. It was their competitors that got to market first and were able to seize that opportunity for digital photography.
The day that Kodak went bankrupt, Instagram raised $1 billion. Photography didn’t go away, Kodak did. It just changed. The problem was they were surrounding a technology that got blown up not by another camera company, by the phone. The cell phone guys killed it in the end. Digital photography started it, but it was the cell phones that did them in. It’s hard to change your business model.
You can wait for the market to disrupt you. I used to do a lot of public speaking and you’re in front of people all the time. They’re still playing it safe. There’s this whole concept of, “How can we protect our turf?” like those guys at Netflix that had CDs or whatever.
Self-deception, not self-disruption, that’s what’s going on. I had to speak to the Yellow Pages. This is about several years ago. I come out of Travelocity, and they wanted me to talk to the Yellow Pages about innovation and I want to stand up and say, “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re toast.” End of speech, but they were paying me a lot of money so it took about an hour to weave it together for them.
They could have been Google. They were Google if they’d gone online. They had the data. It worked. You’ve got to take risks and you’ve got to experiment. That’s the number one lesson in my book is that every company is founded by a risk taker but when they grow up, they get rid of the risk because they’ve got to make the quarter and we can’t do that. They become operationally focused. The CEO of Panera Bread says, “Our delivery muscle gets way stronger than our discovery muscle,” but if you work out with a trainer, you don’t just work out one arm, you’re working both.
You have to keep discovering and you have to keep changing. Some companies are doing that. One of the things I talked about in the book, because they talk about ten disruptive technologies and five new business models. One of the business models that are quite interesting is called outcomes. Traditional companies are looking at outcomes. For example, Komatsu, who builds heavy construction equipment. Instead of selling equipment, they now have drone-based diggers. They come out to your construction site, they use drones to measure how much dirt you have to remove. Then they use these automated diggers to remove it. They moved from selling dirt removal equipment to selling dirt removal. That’s an outcome.
Philips went to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. They said, “We want to sell you light instead of lighting.” They signed a twenty-year contract to provide light at the airport. What did that cost them to do? They immediately put in bulbs that use half the energy because they’re paying the electric bill. They put in bulbs that last 75% longer because they pay for them. When the bulbs burn out, they take them back to the factory and they’re in the circular economy of recycling them because it’s now in their interest to do so because they’re not in the business of sell and throw away. They have a much more profitable, a larger business based around what they know, lighting, but they changed what they sold into the light.
It’s a new paradigm. Part of that disruption or that pivot is where is there a new paradigm that’s possible? Selling an outcome or selling a process, which is what it sounds, that’s a little different. There are lots of people reading and following this that have taken risks and gotten banged up doing it. There are those other ones who are still on the sidelines who’ve watched their friends year after year, the ones who took a risk and got banged up and go see, “I’m glad I didn’t do that.” Yet still, they don’t have that one thing. This was the word that came into my awareness when I was thinking of you, I was thinking of myself and all of us. That is Freedom. Where are we without freedom? I’m not saying this to say you can’t work within someone else’s organization or be an employee and not have freedom. There’s a certain freedom from our creative expression that I believe is stifled in a lot of people.
You can have freedom if you have safety.
You’ve got to share something about how to have both.
There’s something in corporations called the bozone layer. The bozone layer is the impenetrable layer of middle management that stops good ideas from moving upward. Because we don’t want to take risks. They don’t take risks because they’ve seen what happens to people who do. What’s incumbent upon leaders to do is to say, “Here’s Bob’s idea. It’s going great. It’s a new idea. Here’s John’s idea. It failed and we’re giving John another chance. In fact, I promoted him because the idea failed. John didn’t fail.” “Here’s Barbara’s idea, and it’s doing okay.” If people see that you kill projects and not people, then they’ll take a risk because they’re safe. In circuses, people get shot out of a canon but they do that because there’s a net.
Except for the Flying Wallendas.
That’s a different deal. Their motto is you fall, you die. That’s the case in many companies. You fall, you die and that’s stupid. Because, “If I do good, I might get a 5% raise and if I do bad, I’ll get fired,” is stupid. Big companies like Google, they celebrate failures. They have celebrations if somebody is strong enough to say, “This project is a zombie, we should kill it.” They say, “That’s great. We want to do that,” because they know that in the startup world, 75% of startups fail. Why would their little project succeed? They know 75% are going to fail, but Edison said, “I never failed. I found 10,000 things that didn’t work.”If you're a person who wants to change the world, then go out and change it and know that your nose is going to get bloody. Click To Tweet
Somebody said to me some years ago, compensation drives conduct, it drives behavior. You said there are organizations that are actually paying, giving bonuses to project managers to kill their own projects early enough in the process. Say a little bit about what that is because that blew my mind when I read that.
Google does that because I don’t want to keep spending the money on a zombie. That’s the other thing that happens because people say, “I can finish the marathon. It’s going to work.” If you use data, and we’re a database society, and you can do A/B tests. You can see if it’s going to work, “It’s not going to work.” Obviously, there are people who keep hammering their heads against the wall, and it finally works like the Post-it notes story and many others that probably wouldn’t have succeeded in corporations. Incorporations, if you say, “We’re going to do 100 experiments this year.” I only expect a small percentage of them to succeed and that’s okay. It’s going to be driven by what the customer says and does the customer want this? That’s what’s so important. It’s like what’s going on in Tesla is exciting because I have a Tesla and I see these tweets that go to Elon. He says, “That’s a good idea,” and two months later, it’s in the car. The customer is driving development. That’s because we have these new cloud-connected products where you get feedback so quickly. That’s what Microsoft has learned. That’s what online companies have learned and now offline companies are already at work. Caterpillar now has smart tractors where they actually learn what the farmer is doing, rather than getting anecdotes from the dealer a year later.
Completely different reconnaissance, if you will. They’re getting real-time information from the field. Terry, a few people that anybody runs into, frankly, that has started and exited to build multi-billion-dollar companies. You happen to be one of those individuals, but you said in between, and I want people to get this because I think this is important. With all that, there have been ventures you started, great ideas. Somebody once said again, “Every mistake I’ve ever made started out as a great idea.” You had a great idea, but it didn’t work out. There’s been things that haven’t worked out, failures, loss of investment capital, and etc. What’s the mindset component for someone who’s not yet exited a billion-dollar company for themselves and is having that, is going through that failure, that daily barrage of humiliation, of the feeling of just being humiliated.
Innovation is not the Olympics. In the Olympics, you get one chance. If you’re not in the top three, you’re probably out of it forever. I like to say innovation is like baseball. In baseball, if you fail 70% of the time, you are awesome.
You’re a Hall of Famer.
You are the best ever. That’s what happens in startups. You’ve got to move on. I have people who say to me, “I’m in a big company, I’ve got all these ideas in the company, my boss is never changed.” “Find another company,” if that’s what you want to do. If you want a reliable job, that’s fine. Nothing wrong with that, but if you’re a person who wants to change the world, then go ahead and change it. Know that your nose is going to get bloody.
In Silicon Valley, we look for people who’ve had successful failures, if you will. In other words, “We did everything right. We hired the right people. We thought we had a good idea. People gave us $1 million. It’s not that we didn’t execute well. It turns out that nobody wanted that product.” In the end, we couldn’t manufacture it. If that same person does that over and over again, makes the same stupid mistakes, obviously, maybe they’re not cut out for this.
You look for people who have experience in doing this. I’ve talked to two startups already before I talked to you. They were calling me asking for advice. This guy said, “I’m only one person, what do I do? I’ve got the idea, the software is ready.” I said, “You don’t have a CTO and you don’t have a marketing guy. You better get a great gal to be your CTO, a great marketing guy and go for it.” You’ve got to have people around you who can help you. Particularly people who’ve done it before, because you’re a first-time entrepreneur. We’ll look for that. Investors invest in two things, the idea and the person.
Is one more important than the other, Terry? The model versus management?
It’s probably the people.
More people than anything, right?
Yeah, because the model is going to be wrong. It’s going to pivot. It’s going to change. My last company, when I was chairman of this company, my partner was on the board. He said, “Let’s go out and raise money.” I said, “We don’t have a CEO yet.” He said, “Yeah, but we have a team and we’re working. We’re going to raise money.” I said, “I don’t think that’s going to work.” I have 30 meetings to tell you it doesn’t work. They said, “Terry, if you’ll be CEO, we’ll invest.” “I’m 70 years old. I don’t want to do that.” They said, “Too bad, come back when you have a leader because we invest in the leader. We want to make sure the person who is running the ship knows how to run the ship.” That’s important.
To go back to your previous question. If it fails, then you’ve got to move on. You also have to pivot and you have to listen. We’ve all seen those people in Shark Tank when all five sharks say, “This is a stupid idea,” The guy says, “I’m continuing just the way I was.” Maybe it should change a little bit. Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes all the sharks are wrong. If you’ve got enough money, you can hang on and do that but usually, it means you better change a little bit.
Jeff Bezos ended upright. Everything pointed to him being wrong for a long time. His model was not working and this is true of a lot of entrepreneurs. When they feel so strongly about something, they’re blind, they’re not objective any longer.
I would disagree. I think his model was working. He was just losing a lot of money but he was great because he just convinced Wall Street that losing money was good. We’re going to continue to do it.
That’s his vision.
You know Wall Street. The same thing is true with Musk. I gave a speech called Henry Ford versus Elon Musk, building car companies 100 years apart. They’re similar guys. It’s quite interesting. They both had a couple of bankrupt companies when they started. They both failed. They both wanted to build a car for the masses, but they had to start out selling expensive cars to get the money to build cheaper cars. They’re both irascible, difficult people. They both never give up. Steve Jobs is the same way.
Bezos too, never quit. There’s no quit there.
I was talking to somebody who wants to work with him on a charitable thing and I said, “He’s not there yet. He’s not a charitable guy yet.” Gates is but the Bezoses don’t change the world. Let’s think about it as a business and maybe he’ll respond to it that way. You have to be tough and you have to believe in yourself. How did Steve Jobs take Blackberry and turn them into phones? It’s clarity and focus. He absolutely knew what he wanted. He focused on the endpoint and he wouldn’t give up until he got there. People told him it couldn’t be done. He said, “It can be done,” but he was in the enviable position of having a pile of money to go do that.
I asked you about mindset and you brought up the people that Wall Street will invest in, or venture capitalists will invest in leadership, will invest in the CEO. What is it that makes for that CEO being investment-worthy? We’re in the election cycle, and it’s all about electability.
First of all, if there’s a great idea, they want somebody like this guy I just talked to starting a new kind of insurance business. He’s been in both tech and insurance. He has the subject matter expertise to do this. He knows the business well enough and he wants to blow it up, and he has passion. If he had a great education, that’ll be terrific, too. He’s been in business before and that’s great, but he hasn’t done a startup. They’re looking for passion and they’re looking for somebody who’s going to work 24 hours a day and is hungry. I hired a CEO for a company once, it was a startup and he’d already done a successful startup. He was too rich. He didn’t want to work hard enough anymore.
Not hungry enough.
I didn’t know that. He seemed hungry. He’s lean, he was a runner, looked hungry but he wasn’t. That’s important. You’ve got to be hungry but subject matter expertise and passion are important. You can have people who don’t know anything about the industry and are going to blow it up. Come at it laterally, but usually, those people better have a couple of startups under their belt, they got to have something. The CTO of KAYAK would never hire anybody with travel experience. He wanted none of them. I did it differently at Travelocity. I hired 50/50. I hired 50% of people who knew travel and 50% of people who didn’t. They fought like cats in a bag. It was crazy but I thought that was good.
Was it good?
Yeah, it was good to mix it up. I think that’s important. I encourage corporations to hire people from the outside, hire Millennials, hire people who aren’t like you, hire people who will argue with you. William Wrigley said, “If two people in business always agree, one of them is irrelevant.”
Who’s redundant in that conversation?
I don’t want somebody who says I’m right all the time. A lot of people tell me I’m full of baloney and that’s important. The end of my book is a whole series of things that you can do to avoid disruption as a traditional company, but it’s good for startups as well. One of them is losing Luddites. If you have people who just don’t believe in technology, won’t change, they’re the naysayers all the time, let me play devil’s advocate, get rid of them. They belong somewhere, but they don’t belong in a startup. They’re not there.
What do you do with the bozos?
As we say an American, “Put them on the bus.” They’re gone. You can’t wait. At KAYAK, the same CTO, he would go all over the world to hire the best programmers and engineers you can find. The last question he asked in the interview was, “Who’s the smartest person you know?” He then would go hire them. We had a team of World Series champs and we went public with 200 people because we had such a good team. B-level engineers are way worse than A-level engineers. There’s a huge difference. If you’re going to do a startup, don’t hire your best friend, unless they’re a genius. You hire the best person you can find, you’ve got to build a super team and spend a lot of time at it. Getting those super people together is going to make all the difference in getting to success.
Did you read Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs?
What do you think of his philosophy or the philosophy Isaacson had attributed to him about A and B players especially?
It’s absolutely true.
It rang true for me as well. It’s harsh.
In the whole world, there are a lot of B players and you have a big company. That’s okay because they can do a lot of good work, but it’s hard to have them in a company that’s moving at light speed. You got to look for the best people you can find. It makes a huge difference because there is no perpetual motion machine. You have to keep changing. That’s important.
Has that always been the case do you think, Terry? You’ve got to keep changing, is it the case now? We used this word earlier, paradigm. The paradigm has changed. The future of work is now.
We feel that but let’s go back to 1850 to 1900. 90% of people worked on the farm. Now, 3% do. We’ve gone through these huge changes before. The big corporation didn’t exist in the 1800s. That existed in the 1900s. That’s when they started. We had trust-busting and these huge companies built up, and then there were theories of management and how to do it. That’s changing again. We continually evolve. The pace of innovation has always come from small companies. It always comes from startups. It has forever. I listened to Edison’s biography and it’s fascinating, the number of things that were invented in that period. Connectivity is driving it much faster. I talk a lot about AI in the book. It’s going to move things quickly and the combination of AI and drones, AI and robotics, AI and the Internet of Things is going to change business profoundly in a short period of time.
Those businesses that aren’t investing will have a problem. One of the most critical things to remember about AI is this is a learning system. These systems learn 24x7x365. Look at Tesla, they have 10 billion miles of learning. Ford has none. When it comes to rolling it out, Ford has the expertise to build things, but they’re not going to have 10 billion miles of software learning and a single software platform to put it. That’s a big detriment. The financial companies that are into AI are moving fast. AI is being deployed in many businesses, and as these models learn, businesses get smarter and can make faster decisions. The people who don’t bother with that are going to get left behind.
I’ve got two questions left for you. First of all, with disruption off, what’s your highest aspiration for this book? I didn’t read the subtitle. I want to put that out there as well. The technical disruption coming for your company and what to do about it. This is an incredible resource, a great book. What’s your highest aspiration for the book and why you wrote it?
Is this part of my career? I didn’t have to write a book. I don’t have to be a speaker, but I do it. I do it not only professionally, but for the State Department all over the world. Talking to startups, I did eight countries now, doing outreach to startups. It’s important that traditional companies in the United States get with it. Get with the program and realize that we’re not the center of the Earth anymore. The Chinese are generating way more PhDs than we are. They’re iterating their government policy around research and development. A lot of government policies they have that are terrible, but they’re investing a lot of research and development. We’re not. Our retraining of people here in the US is going down, not up.
US companies have to wake up, and they have to realize that they went through this hell of outsourcing. They outsourced all the business and all the workers away. That’s been that’s been devastating. Also, we lost all the industries, we lost steel, we lost furniture, we lost electronic manufacturing. We don’t have to lose everything, but we just have to look at these new technologies and say, “The Internet of Things. 3D printing, we can bring things back to the United States. We can be the leaders in drones and blockchain and all this stuff if we take risks.”
What’s the wakeup call?
If we have fearlessness if we fixed the odds. I talked about don’t play pinball. You saw the video in my speech of the pinball of decision making where every department has a flipper that can say no. We’re used to saying no and not yes. I go out and make these speeches to big trade associations. Hopefully, some of the people when I get feedback from them will say, “This helped me think about my business in a new way. I need to apply these new technologies and maybe, more importantly, new business models, so that I’m not in disrupt. I don’t want to have a historical marker in my town that said, ‘Here lies the Jones company.’” They missed the zig, they zagged. That’s my goal for the book.
I’m personally happy that’s your goal. This is a message that must be repeated. There’s a redundancy to the message that we have to be okay with cascading. As Patrick Lencioni would say, “Cascading these redundant messages because they’re important. They have to get in.” We’re hardwired for safety. We know that. In the case study of the brain, we’ve got these default mode networks that want to keep ourselves from too much harm.
The guy who wrote the book at Pixar says they call it Plus. You have to say, “Yes and,” and not, “But.”
Don’t say “but” immediately. It negates everything. “I love you, but,” “I respect you, but.” It’s feedback. I like the plus that you’re saying. Everything is feedback. If we took the money aside if we took this the idea of success and failure and what that meant to our self-esteem aside. All of it, strip it all away. What are we talking about? We’re creating solutions for things that we’re iterating, we’re evolving as human beings, and just take the judgment out and have nothing but pure feedback. We iterate that much more quickly, we get to solutions that much more quickly.
Take criticism seriously and not personally. Take it seriously but don’t let it hurt you. It’s just, “I’ve got to change.”
This is a great lead into the final question, which is about a topic that I’m fascinated by. I did a lot of research on it and speak about it, which is resilience. How would you define resilience and it can be personal or it could be in the context we’ve been speaking about in business because organizational resilience is an important thing? What’s your take on that?
Let’s go back to the topic we’ve been on, which is a failure. It’s getting up and dusting yourself off and going out again. I’m the chairman of a boy’s and girl’s camp in Canada. For a month, these kids are out in the woods taking canoe trips. I did this when I was a kid. I remember having to carry my load across the first portage between two legs and fall on my butt in a giant mud puddle. I was nine. My counselor said, “Get up. Let’s go. Come on.” I got up, soaking wet and covered in mud. I staggered across this quarter-mile portage. I was thrilled, I succeeded. I went back and did that for twelve more years. I loved the challenge of being out in the woods and succeeding with a group of people. It had a lot to do with my later life, is that I look for the challenge. You’re always scared. You always feel a little bit weird in your gut when you’re out there on the edge but if you don’t feel that way, you’re not changing the world. if you’re just comfortable, it’s not good enough.We're evolving as human beings; just take the judgment out and have nothing but pure feedback. Click To Tweet
Comfort is highly-overrated on some level.
The guy who started Google said, “Always do something uncomfortably exciting.” You have to be a little uncomfortable to be resilient. You’re uncomfortable and it doesn’t work. You say, “It didn’t work. Now, why didn’t that work and what else can I do?” What else can I do come from the most important quality for entrepreneurs is curiosity. You have to be curious about what didn’t happen. What did happen? How can I change it? What technology can I apply? I’m curious. If you’re curious about things, you don’t sit back and say, “Oh, well.”
You were a CIO, you had everything going for you. You could have stayed on that track but you stepped out into this world. This is before Travelocity, and it was an insane decision from a career standpoint by some people’s estimation, right?
It was, a big mortgage, big salary, wife and two kids and I said, “I’ve got to run this little thing. It’ll work and let’s see what happens.” I figured I could get another job if it didn’t work as a CIO, but I was bored. It wasn’t interesting to me. I was like orchestrating cats and I didn’t want to do it. I lost all my hair running the biggest computer system in the world.
I lost all my hair being a lawyer.
The heck with it. It grew like a weed in the spring, so much fun. The nice part was that I knew enough about running a big company that as it grew, I didn’t have to leave, which happens to a lot of entrepreneurs, it gets too big. I had multi-hundred-million-dollar budgets and thousands of people worked with me before. I was lucky in that regard. My first book on innovation talks about building something like Travelocity inside a big company. There are a lot of interesting lessons from that we can talk about another time. Intrapreneurship is different than entrepreneurs.
Terry, what’s one thing you do daily to maintain resilience? You seem like a harmonious guy. Some people might say balanced, but I’ve met you, spent time with you. You just seem like your feet are grounded, which is good. You’re coming off of a business that didn’t work as well, but you’re back in the game again.
One thing I started, I had two goals, one was to write another book and the other was to lose a lot of weight. I got way too heavy. My first grandkid comes along, and I went off to a spa in Spain. They taught me some things and I’ve lost 45 pounds since then. One of the things they said to me, the longevity people, “If you want to have a long life, start the morning with miso soup.” Every morning now I sit down quietly. I live out in the woods in Lake Tahoe. I look out at the river running by my house and I have a cup of miso soup. It’s a nice way to start the day. I used to start with caffeine, which is like stepping on the accelerator. Now I just start with miso. I don’t recite haikus or anything but it’s a nice way for me to start the day.
Are you a meditator?
Are you a prayer?
I’m not a prayer but I did start the meditations with Dawson Church down at TLC and I like that. We’re going to do some of that. My brother is much more into that side of Life. We lecture together. He lectures on creativity. I lecture on innovation. He’s the creative side.
He’s a special guy too. Just the two of you, just two brothers?
Yes and different.
Just like my brother and I, different yet similar.
We both have been blessed with success. I don’t meditate yet, but I may after learning from Dawson and try to do some more of it.
Miso soup is a good way to begin. I have enjoyed this conversation. I know there are just people out there who read carefully and took notes. I will say get this book. This is an incredible book, Disruption OFF.
It’s on Amazon and I’ve got an audiobook as well that I narrated. Get it on Kindle. Enjoy. It’s a quick read. My first book was 72 three-page chapters. It’s a cookbook. You can read it front to back, back to front, any way you want. Open it up to teams or risk or whatever. Use it when you need it. It’s a tool. Everybody’s into short-form media. That’s what it is.
When it comes to short-form, tools, and resources, I’m going to leave everybody with the ritual that I’ve had for more than ten years. A waking ritual, I believe fundamentally that the first input. I’m not so much tech. That’s not my paradigm. I was an English major, I’ve always gone down that road, even as a lawyer. I was more around ideas, language and things, but I’m more comfortable with tech now than I’ve ever been before. I’ll say that it’s the first keystroke of the day for me is this concept of waking up. Imagining that as I’m waking up and as we all wake up, it’s as if we’re given a brand-new opportunity, a brand-new shot each day to the program. To use that tool of programming right out of the gate to create what that day is going to be for us.
If you get up as I used to get up feeling a sense of dread or anxiety about the day or rush to get that cup of coffee, get my heart racing. Even sometimes feeling some other emotions, just anger, disappointment, or whatever the things are, my day would tend to go sideways quickly. I remember commuting into the city, I was coming from New Jersey to get to my office in Manhattan. I could get so angered in traffic within half an hour. I’m not alone. I know there are a lot of people out there like that. The way we begin, that first keystroke, if you will to start the day is incredibly important. Let’s wake up, that’s the first thing. Terry, wake up tomorrow?
Yeah, I’d like to wake up tomorrow.
No guarantee for any of us. It is something when we realize in that moment tomorrow that we are waking up, you just go, “I remember Terry saying, ‘No guarantee.’ I’ve got another day. It’s something to be grateful.”
Tell Alexa to turn on your miso soup.
I know your brother did a wonderful TED Talk about seeing what’s right with the world.
Celebrating what’s right with the world.
My version of that is these four simple words. It takes ten seconds. You start the day with that gratitude. That feeling that it’s a blessing and then say out loud, “I love my life.” Terry, do you love your life?
I do indeed.
I can tell. Thank you.
Thanks for having me on.
You’re a wonderful guest. Thanks so much. I appreciate it. We’ll see you all soon. Ciao for now.
- Terry Jones
- ON, Inc.
- ON Innovation
- Disruption OFF
- The Path Between the Seas
About Terry Jones
Best known for founding Travelocity.com and serving as founding Chairman of Kayak.com, Terry Jones has become a powerful voice in the world of entrepreneurship through his numerous speaking engagements and the publication of his books, ON Innovation and Disruption OFF. His career path has established him as a thought leader on innovation in our
the increasingly digital world.
A graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio, Jones, began his career as a travel agent, spent 24 years at American Airlines in marketing and information technology, capping his career as Chief Information Officer of its SABRE division. While at SABRE he led a team of six working on a project that became Travelocity.com. Jones served as CEO of Travelocity for seven years transforming it to a public company with three billion dollars in travel sales.
He left Travelocity when the company was taken private and became part of the founding team at Kayak.com, a company that yet again revolutionized how travel was purchased. He served as Chairman of the company from its founding until it was sold to Priceline for $1.8 billion dollars in 2013.
Today he is the managing principal of ON Inc. a consultancy he founded to help companies in their transition to the digital economy.
He has served on over 17 boards and currently serves on the boards of Boingo, Sonicwall, Kinzie Academy, Crytica and Camping and Education Foundation.
Terry is the author of the best-selling books, ON Innovationa and Disruption OFF, and is the holder of several patents.