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Posts by Mike Walsh

Netflix's Algorithmic Leadership

By Mike Walsh | Aug 20, 2019 | Comments Off


As a futurist, I’m often asked what it takes to takes for a large, traditional organization to embrace AI or make digital transformation work. Algorithmic-leader

If only the challenge was just technology! Disruptive technology changes the hardware of your business; to truly become a successful 21st organization you first have to accept that culture is your operating system.

Take Netflix as an example. I have often wondered how an old-school media mogul like Rupert Murdoch, John Malone, or Ted Turner might have run that business. What made the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, so effective? How was he able to achieve such rapid global growth at Netflix while navigating difficult transitions, such as when the company switched from sending physical DVDs in the mail to embracing broadband streaming? Is Netflix successful because it runs on algorithms, or because it is run by algorithmic leaders?


I had an interesting insight into that question when I met Andy Harries, the CEO and co-founder of Left Bank Pictures. Harries is one of the world’s top drama creators, including Cold Feet, Prime Suspect, Wallander, Outlander, and The Queen, which saw Helen Mirren win, among other awards, an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

Hear my take on it in this video below.



The Algorithmic Leader Behind Netflix’s Insights

Harries wanted to pitch a TV show about the British royal family, based on themes explored in The Queen. He met with all the major US TV networks, who liked the idea but, after lots of consideration and debate, couldn’t commit to moving forward. Finally, Harries decided to meet with Reed Hastings and Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos.

It was the strangest meeting, Harries explained, as he handed me a cup of a coffee at his office in London. As soon as he walked into the conference room with Hastings and Sarandos, and before he had a chance to pitch the show, they told him that they were ready to move ahead. And not just with a pilot, but with a full season.

Unlike the other networks, the team at Netflix had already analyzed their audience data and had used algorithms to predict the show’s likely performance. They knew their audience and precisely the kinds of shows that would work. Furthermore, with an upcoming launch in the UK market, they believed that the proposed show would be a hit. And they were right. The Crown’s third season is now in production, and it has twice been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.

Algorithmic leaders reveal themselves in the way they make decisions and solve problems. How Reed Hastings and his team think about content, its relationship to their audience and their platform, and even how it should be presented and released is radically different from the way traditional leaders in media companies act and behave.

When you are capable of knowing precisely what any of your millions of global customers are doing or desiring at any point in time, how can you not see the world differently? How can you not seek to leverage machine learning, algorithms, and automation to fulfill those needs in a highly personalized way?

How Algorithmic Leaders Are Made

Of course, leaders like Hastings didn’t always have that kind of perspective. Most of us who are currently in leadership positions started out as analogue leaders. We need to make a conscious decision to adapt and evolve and to recognize that the availability of data and algorithms should change our viewpoint.

Being an algorithmic leader means more than just being able to share a few rehearsed anecdotes about artificial intelligence and big data. It means learning to tamp down your own ego, willingly tearing down the corporate structures that support your status, letting go of the idea that you need to make all the decisions, letting your teams self-organize and self-manage, not worrying about being seen to be right all the time, being open to more open forms of partnerships and work arrangements, and embracing a new, uncertain future.

Mike Walsh is the author of ‘The Algorithmic Leader: How to Be Smart When Machines Are Smarter Than You’,from which this article is excerpted. Walsh is the CEO of Tomorrow, a global consultancy on designing companies for the 21st century.



How Netflix makes smart decisions

By Mike Walsh | Aug 13, 2019 | Comments Off



Learn more about Mike Walsh

What Marvel can teach us about digital transformation - Mike Walsh

By Mike Walsh | Sep 25, 2018 | Comments Off

Catching up in LA, we spoke about the lessons that studios like Marvel can teach other organizations about digital transformation, and how we are just at the beginning of a new renaissance in AI-powered creativity.

Learn more about Mike Walsh here!

Will AI be the end of the radiologist?

By Mike Walsh | Aug 14, 2018 | Comments Off

Geoffrey Hinton, one of the world’s most renowned computer scientists has argued that ‘we should stop training radiologists right now’, and that as a result of AI, most would be out of a job within 5 years. But is this really true? Dr Hugh Harvey has a unique perspective on this question, having worked both sides of the fence - both as consultant radiologist, and also as leader in the AI space first at Babylon Health, and currently as the Clinical Lead at Kheiron Medical. Catching up with Hugh in London, I was keen to find out about the impact of algorithms on employment in the healthcare, and what it might mean to be a radiologist in the 21st century.

Learn more about Mike Walsh and futurism here.

Augmenting Human Beings - Mike Walsh

By Mike Walsh | May 29, 2018 | Comments Off

The real threat of AI is not killer robots or rogue star destroyers, but rather systems that lack accountability, or consideration of their economic impact on job replacement. Listen to Mike's newest podcast episode here.

Learn more about Mike Walsh here.

Welcome to the Age of the Algorithm - Mike Walsh

By Mike Walsh | May 22, 2018 | Comments Off

What leaders can learn from great gamblers - Mike Walsh

By Mike Walsh | May 15, 2018 | Comments Off

Applying the logic of professional gambling to leadership might not strike you as obvious, but Rasmus Andersen is no ordinary thinker. Currently running two football teams with the assistance of data and machine learning, he is also a provocative thinker on human performance. When he became curious about why certain towns and cities produced so many top athletes, he decided to find out himself, venturing from Africa to Korea, in search of the secrets of talent clusters... Listen to Mike's latest podcast episode here!

Read more about Mike Walsh here.

The Magic of Getting Lost - Mike Walsh and Yossi Ghinsberg

By Mike Walsh | Apr 03, 2018 | Comments Off

Yossi Ghinsberg is a true adventurer. Although best known for his story of survival when he was lost in an uncharted part of the Bolivian Amazon jungle for three weeks in 1981, he has since led a life of inspiration, motivation and raising awareness for humanitarian causes. His bestselling book, ‘Jungle’, was recently released as a major motion picture starring Daniel Radcliffe. Over a cup of coffee we chatted about life, the universe, and the magic that happens when you find yourself off the beaten track.

Building smart cities in India - Mike Walsh

By Mike Walsh | Mar 27, 2018 | Comments Off

If by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities - how do we reimagine our infrastructure, resources and services to cope? Bala Mahavaden is one of the thought leaders involved in planning the next generation of super cities in India, the Middle East and Europe. We spoke about the role of data in tomorrow’s cities, digital identity and citizen information, and how predictive analytics might help civic leaders mitigate day-to-day problems and response to crisis.

Why the future of energy is not what you think - Mike Walsh Podcast

By Mike Walsh | Mar 20, 2018 | Comments Off

It would be easy to imagine in this age of Teslas, Powerwalls, and Nest thermostats, that we are somehow on the brink of escaping traditional energy sources forever. Yet, oil, gas and coal persist - and continues to shape economies, nations and industrial policy. Dr. Kent Moors, a global expert on energy and a professor in the Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy at Duquesne University, where he directs the Energy Policy Research Group, has some ideas on why that may be. He has also had a fascinating life. You will hear how I try, unsuccessfully on a number of occasions, to get him to talk about his former life as a covert operative working for the State Department.