Although this is my personal blog, what I do for work — and why — is a major part of who I am.
I’ve been fascinated my whole life with meaning in all its meanings: from the semantic to the existential.
I even studied languages and linguistics in college in Chicago, but the first time I saw a graphical web browser in the early ’90s, it was like everything around me changed from black-and-white to Technicolor. I could feel in my bones that communication as we knew it would transform, and so would what was meaningful.
Toshiba recruited me to come work for them, so I packed my car and drove to Silicon Valley.
A few lightning-fast years later, I became one of the first 100 employees at Netflix, in their first content manager role. I helped do standards-defining work in ecommerce, and I couldn’t be prouder of that time.
But I kept moving and learning, driven to understand the complexity behind human communication through technology, driven to understand what data reveals about meaning, and driven to distill it into practical insights for business to create meaningful experiences for humans.
Along the way, I began to develop expertise in conversion optimization, marketing analytics, and business intelligence. I’ve helped influence and shape industry best practices in marketing analytics and experience optimization.
By 2009, having moved to Nashville (because I also wanted to pursue songwriting, of course), I launched [meta]marketer, a first-of-its-kind analytics and strategy agency. Its operating premise was that by focusing on improving the customer experience, you could also improve the bottom line. We demonstrated that idea in dollars again and again. So much so that they named me Entrepreneur of the Year.
In 2012, tragedy split my life into two parts: Before and After. In the After, I got right up close and personal with meaning, and came to a deeper understanding of how to bring the quest for meaningful experiences to almost every part of business and culture. Although it’s a deeply personal part of my life story, I bring it wholly into informing my work, because part of the lesson from that time was that everything is more connected than we ever admit. And to arrive at an understanding of meaning, you have to be willing to look closely at even the most difficult truths.
My integrity is fundamental to my truth, and truth is fundamental to meaning.
This makes me an unusual but valuable presence in a board room, because I will speak aloud what I see as the integrated, human truth.
There may be no one who can better appreciate the mix of elements it takes to arrive at intentionally meaningful experiences: the strategy insight and planning, the data modeling, the technology deployment, the endless quest for new knowledge, the drive to innovate, the authentic human empathy.
The future of humanity will be shaped by data and technology, yet we struggle to use them to create truly meaningful experiences.
As founder and leader of KO Insights, I write articles, a column, blog posts, and books about various aspects of meaning and the human experience, and in particular the role technology plays. And I speak to leaders and help advise companies through digital transformation and as they design and develop strategies and products involving augmented reality, AI, chatbots, robotic business process automation, beacons and sensors, and more — all kinds of emerging technologies.
But I haven’t taken my eye off the ball: it’s still about meaning, in all its forms.
Some of my professional philosophies are:
- “Analytics are people,” by which I mean that most business data represents the motivations, needs, and desires of real humans. Which is why empathy is the starting point of developing effective experiences.
- Business drivers are what accelerate emerging technology. So while people often have a frightening view of the future with robots who are indifferent to human suffering, what we actually need for a better future has less to do with benevolent robots, and more to do with benevolent businesses.
- Machines are what we encode of ourselves. The socialized biases and the values we claim to hold dear. We have an opportunity now to encode the best of ourselves.
- Humans crave meaning.
- Meaningful experiences tend to be more profitable experiences.
- Improving the customer experience will almost always result in a more profitable business.
- Everything is more connected than we ever admit.
There’s more about my professional background on my company’s “about me” page and more about my speaking work over that-a-way too, including how to inquire about booking me if you are interested in having me speak at an event, at your company, or at your group or association meeting.