Three things I learned about disruptive innovation as an UberX driver | Ted Graham | TEDxQueensU



so let me start off by asking you a question is it better to innovate in a large enterprise or in a small startup so while you consider that let me tell you a little bit about my own career I started off as an entrepreneur I published a small volleyball magazine which grew and grew and was eventually on newsstands across the country I actually use that magazine to get into the MBA program as you heard a philosophy undergraduate wasn't what a typical way of getting into the system I also worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation I'd come up with an innovative way to try to bridge the gap between the Intelligence Division and the criminal division in the hopes of avoiding another 9/11 I also figured out how to play rock-paper-scissors strategically and consistently enough that I was ranked worldwide two years in a row you can challenge me during the break so now I'm a senior executive at 150 year old accounting and consulting firm so these guys are Korean McDonald they founded a innovative startup in Montreal that later became Coopers and Lybrand which is now PricewaterhouseCoopers it's a well-respected brand we're in 155 territories and we employ 200,000 people many of them from University is just like Queens so why then did I think I could help this esteemed company by driving drunk people around at 2:00 a.m. so let me back up for a second so I had this great title last year innovation leader and it basically means I take ideas and I try to turn them into cash but it also means that I get to invited to speak at conferences because of my title and sometimes these are conferences I have no business even attending one of these conferences was about credit unions and disruptions and financial services so I could have dusted off some analyst reports I might have even talked about the Kodak case study in their demise I could have gone on social media and surprise them with some tweaks about their their brands but that's not me that's not the type of behavior that I'm trying to inspire you see I'm an entrepreneur who happens to work in a large organization and I think this kind of intrapreneurship deserves a second look but it really requires you to go outside of your context and outside of your company and that's why last October I signed up to be an uber X driver so for those of you don't know it's a ride-sharing service and for people who have a GPS enabled smartphone who are looking for rides it matches people with their own cars drivers with their own cars we're willing to offer rides so if you combine that with the fact that it's usually thirty to forty percent cheaper than the cost of a typical taxi cab and that you pay seamlessly with your mobile phone and you just get out of the car this has become a taxi industry nightmare it's also created a start-up with 2,000 people that's valued at 40 billion dollars so a lot of times people used to think that these regulated industries like transportation were invincible but I'm here to tell you even my own accounting industry is vulnerable with the rise of software automation you can finish a personal tax return in seconds we can go through millions of lines of transactions through this automated computer software and be able to detect fraud so we like uber are trying to innovate ourselves we're trying to create a flexible Talent Network of people who can come work for us on new ideas new opportunities but only apply their skills during the most valuable times and the most needed times so we're going to be looking for those entrepreneurs who want to work for us part of the year but for the rest of the time maybe they want to travel the world maybe they want to make an impact in their community maybe they want to create a startup so what did I piece together as I drove around at 2:00 a.m. well one thing is that if this corporate profile picture of mine shows up on your mobile phone as a passenger you can be very surprised my very first fare was a hotel executive who saw this picture show up and when I came to pick him up he said I thought my boss was coming to get me let me share with you the three lessons that I learned and what we're trying to apply back to my own company so recruiting partners in the same way that you try to recruit customers so spending that sort of energy is somewhat new to companies out there my own experience as a driver was that actually all I had to do was take pictures of my car with my mobile phone the inside of my car the exterior my car my driver's license my insurance and after about thirty minutes I finished that procedure and they sent a limo to come pick me up take me to the hotel and finish the background check where I provided my proof of identification I watch the short video went through a seminar and I learned a little bit more about how to deliver what they termed their five-star service I left there feeling like I knew more about what they expected of me what the work was like even though I just been a customer previously and interestingly enough I had a passenger with me a couple weeks ago in Toronto she was a master student here at Queen's and she was telling me that she was considering ride-sharing herself because she had done some investigation and realized that her and her PhD boyfriend could actually work fewer but more lucrative hours so we're thinking of applying this back to our own business we know that to be able to find this flexible work force we need to incentivize them to work this busy January to June period for us and maybe we need to figure out our own equivalent of surge pricing the next point is around feedback with consequences now this may seem like a trite recommendation but I can assure you that feedback typically works one way with the customer being always right and in fact every every single Drive I was rated from one to five stars and if my average rating fell below four stars I'd be asked to come back into the office to actually work on the areas of customer service where I was deficient if I didn't improve they would take me off the system altogether but did you know that as a driver that I was also rating every single passenger so if I showed up in front of your house and you took that extra five 10 minutes to draw your hair or you and your friends got in the back of my family minivan and spilled a beer back there that seriously affected my ability to earn money I was going to rate you accordingly so I want to show you just to make it real for you but the consequences this is what I see as a driver I've got this blue countdown clock that circle and I see where you are but I also this other piece of information I have your passenger rating on the bottom there and on a busy rainy night if that rating falls below four I'm probably going to leave you on a street corner because I'm going to find somebody who's got a better passenger rating to pick up feedback with consequences and the great thing is that the company had my back they will support those choices because they know that individual drivers are more important than any misbehaving passenger we also know that we want to apply that thinking in our own world we have two hundred thousand employees who we hire for their ingenuity if a client would be to consistently mistreat them we need to be brave and fire those clients sometimes the last lesson is about balancing risk and reward in a regulated world for years no startup would touch healthcare transportation education largely because of a myriad of rules and regulations that were sometimes just bizarre in nature my own experience was that I faced a number of risks everything from a aggressive taxi driver who shook his fist at me when he realized that I was letting people to the back seat of my car but nobody was in the front seat he felt that he had been granted a monopoly on transportation in the city and I don't blame him he had that perception I also face risk with my insurance company who wanted to charge me five times the amount versus of my personal insurance even though I was only driving once or twice every month I had the municipality threatening to impound my car for offering illegal rides in the city but on the other side of the balance sheet are the rewards some of you may know that when ride-sharing has been introduced in cities around the world the drunk driving rates have fallen by an average 10% largely because of the availability of a cheaper alternative it also has meant that these cars which typically sit 90% of the time in parking lots and driveways are actually getting utilized more efficiently and when more people use services like this complemented with public transit bicycles will take more cars off the road reduce congestion and reduce emissions that's why we're working together with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce with regulators to actually try to find this balance between risk and reward and see if we can innovate so let me close with a word about intrapreneurs so I gave you a false alternative at the start it's not about innovating in a big company or a small company it's about piecing together all of these experiences in your life and applying it so you can have massive impact on the world so I invite you to join me take the wheel let's be the driver thank you

9 Comments

  1. john rey liwaliw said:

    it hits me! thanks!

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  2. David Wilkie said:

    Good to see points of view on the necessity for change.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  3. Robert Leary said:

    Saw Ted speak at Driving Sales Canada in Calgary.  Excellent speaker that keeps you engaged and makes you think nothing is out of the realm of possibilities.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  4. Devon Wright said:

    Ted. Incredible. You're an inspiration. Thanks for investing your time into this to shed light on the rapidly changing world we all live in.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  5. Cory Rosenfield said:

    Really cool insight! Loved your 3 learnings! Thanks for sharing your perspective and experiences.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  6. Edward Nevraumont said:

    Nice job Ted!

    It's hilarious that taxi drivers are calling you "stupid" and threatening to boycott PWC. Do you think your employer is worried about the the risk that brings to your business?

    You need to do a sequel on how a regulated industry can respond to the innovators that are coming after them. Maybe that spin will make the taxi drivers happier?

    Take the wheel!

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  7. Boyd Neil said:

    Awesome job . . . and thanks for providing this perspective on Uber.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  8. Laura Simpson said:

    We cannot know about the new economy unless we explore it from the inside out. I commend Ted for his hands-on approach to understanding a new form of business that's been the talk of the business world. You can fear change or you can understand its values and downfalls and help develop into best practices for the future. At the very least, empathy is gained.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  9. Erin Graham said:

    This is a fresh take on considering how we can create new kinds of value exchange in an environment where both buyers and suppliers have a voice. People are actively choosing Uber because it's better for consumers. People are using AirBnB because it has become a more interesting way to travel and puts the power in the hands of both buyers and suppliers. Rather than consider Uber to be the outcome or end-state of the new 'freed market economy', I think it is demonstrating a moment in time, that will no doubt change and evolve once again to something we can't yet predict. In the mean time, learning from its success is a great way for older businesses to consider their next moves in an evolving world.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply

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