Interview with Jonathan MacDonald
What are some of the organizations you have recently worked with and what did you achieve?
I’ve recently been involved with Nestlé, Bacardi and Unilever, enabling them to understand the ever-changing landscape and structure their way forward accordingly. The time has passed when general inspiration was required, now many companies are asking for business innovation which is exactly what’s needed in a world where business isn’t as it used to be.
What type of audience benefits most from your keynotes?
Any organisation that has the intention of being around in future years. Audiences that want to hear about the cutting edge of new opportunities and gaining competitive advantage seem to value that. Here’s some sample feedback from Khurram Hamid, the Digital Innovation Leader at Proctor & Gamble: “There are not many digital evangelists out there that have the same vision passion and amazing ideas like Jonathan has. He see’s things that other’s cant see, a true digital change agent.”
How do you work with clients when preparing for a keynote?
I really enjoy receiving specific briefs that properly outline the required objectives. I tailor my talks to achieving those and spend as much time as required ensuring that the work that goes in adds huge value. From liaison with clients I ensure that the very latest case studies that are most relevant can be included. Here’s what Christopher Billich the Senior Strategy expert at Deutsche Telekom had to say: ”
Jonathan is one of those rare people who are so good at what they do that to judge others by the same standard borders on being unreasonable. Some people think outside the box, Jonathan thinks outside the warehouse. He is an outstanding strategic thinker, able to zero in on what matters immediately, inspiring presenter, highly gifted business man and negiotiator. Doing business with him is uncomplicated, fast and delightfully devoid of everything that doesn’t really matter – the way it should be.”
How does humor factor into your talks?
I try and ensure people feel at ease so I admit I may make a few jokes now and then. I’m a big fan of people and I find that humor breaks down personal barriers – but not at the expense of making serious points!
What are some unique experiences you have had as a keynote speaker?
At a conference in Budapest a packed audience sat in silence whilst industry analysts showed chart after chart with vivid lines cascading from top left to bottom right. Speaker after speaker showed their own versions but every chart had the same sloping lines. This industry was in big trouble. The singular revenue stream had done nothing but fall by double digit percentages each year since the industry formed. The model had been created without the ability to scale and reality was brutally displayed for all to see.
I sat amongst the delegates in shock. I was shocked by the severity of the situation (this was an industry new to me) and more shocked by the fact that only once did someone ask the inevitable question. When the question arose it was answered in less than half a minute by one of the ‘industry experts’ – the entire dialogue went something like this:
“Given the fact that our revenues are dropping through the floor whilst costs increase, what ways can we address the situation?”
“I am sure its something we are all thinking about. At some point we will need to look at alternative revenue streams but we don’t need to rush into anything just yet, we are years away from anything critical happening”
I guess it’s down to what you class as critical…
Several hours and several speakers later I went onstage to deliver the keynote presentation and rather than start with the planned approach I stopped on slide 1 and covered what I had seen throughout the conference and gently suggested that now would seem to be the time to change, the time to innovate – the time to disrupt.
I mused on the process of trying new approaches – seeking advice from other companies to collectively find a new path. Following the keynote I offered to be on a breakout panel to discuss alternative revenue streams with anyone who wanted to investigate options and feasibilities.
Out of a delegate attendance of 200+ people, exactly 19 people showed up. 3 of the conference organizers also attended and sat quietly watching. The remaining delegates attended a panel discussing the differences in technical design. Technical design of a product whose unit retail price had fallen by 90% in 5 years whilst cost of production had risen by the same percentage. Technical design that would make absolutely no difference whatsoever to the inconvenient truth.
Undeterred, the curious 19 seemed more alive than anyone in the speaker hall. Everyone contributed in a brilliant discussion whilst I frantically sketched out new business models on conference notepaper. I set a premise that we should look at the situation as if we were starting from scratch with no revenue, no cost and no rules.
We felt good – we felt we were in an inner sanctum of thought change. For an hour the 19 were living on the edge – peeking over a cliff that nobody had dared to do until then. We were thinking disruptively.
The outcome? That particular industry has 2 main players today, both of which were amongst the 19. We collaboratively designed the re-birth of an industry vertical.
I love my job!