radical Insights.

Weekly Research and Commentary on the Future of Business and Technology.

The Gestalt of Signals and Amazon’s Ad Business.

Mar 28, 2022

Dear Friend,

While going through the interviews we published on our Disrupt Disruption project, I came across a gem of an insight (truth be told, the insights from guests are goldmines filled with insight!). Amy Radin pointed me to a HBR study by management guru Michael Porter on the time allocation of CEOs. The insight which stood out is that CEOs spend on average 3% of their time with their clients (and 5% of their time with consultants) — which tells you pretty much everything you need to know why so many companies struggle with their customer centricity. A good reminder to go out there, be inspired by Intuit’s Follow Me Home model, and spend time with our customers.

Disrupt Disruption

At the end of 2021, Amazon, for the first time, broke out their “other revenue” (which includes essentially everything which isn’t Amazon’s retail business or AWS) line item on their annual finances. “Other revenue” grew from about $4bn by the end of 2017 to a whopping $14bn by 2019. The 2021 statement revealed that Amazon made $31bn in direct ad revenue — which is on par with Google’s display ad business, YouTube’s ad business, and the entire global newspaper business. Ads have become as big for Amazon as AWS. A good reminder to think about our businesses much more holistically than we might be used to — there very well might be a giant revenue opportunity hidden underneath that rock that is your current business. (via Pascal)


You heard us talk about weak and strong signals in our sessions. When assessing the viability, likelihood and timing of a weak signal turning into a strong signal, one of the dimensions we look at is the gestalt: The surrounding factors (or dependencies) which are outside of your control but either hinder or accelerate the glide path a signal is traveling on. Think “broadband internet penetration and Netflix” — as long as you connect to the Internet using a dial-up modem, Netflix can do whatever they want, you won’t use their service. In our session we often reference autonomous vehicles — and just this week two interesting gestalt factors moved into the spotlight: On one hand Mercedes Benz announced that they will cover liability for their self-driving tech Drive Pilot (which will accelerate the adoption). On the other hand, NPR reported that 44% of Americans, in a representative Pew Research Center study, said that they are “strongly opposed” to the use of AI in self-driving cars (a factor which will slow down the adoption). A good reminder to always consider the gestalt when thinking about signals on their glide path to becoming trends. (via Pascal)

What We Are Reading

🔮 What Makes a Company “Future Ready”? A great insight into how different industries actually have universal lessons which we can all learn and apply for our innovation strategies. JaneRead

⚡️ Bitcoin Miners Want to Recast Themselves as Eco-Friendly The bitcoin industry is trying to change its negative energy guzzling image to a more eco friendly one after strong criticism. This is how they plan on doing it. MafeRead

🌦 Climate Change Is Disrupting the Global Supply Chain Too Supply chain challenges that are more likely to resolve in near term may actually obscure larger challenges that loom in the long term. This offers an interesting case study for imagining solutions that build resilience across multiple time horizons. JeffreyRead

🎧 iPod Modders Give Apple’s Abandoned Music Player New Life While IKEA hacks seem to be born out of practicability, the modifications of the classic iPod are an ode to a product’s character and a job well done. JulianRead

🖥  Is the Metaverse Even Feasible? IEEE’s take on the investments needed and technical hurdles to overcome should (and that is a big should) the metaverse come to fruition. PascalRead

From The Community

Daniel Diemers and his colleagues at Snglr Group published their annual Artificial intelligence Executive Briefing.

Internet Finds

People do turn themselves into actual cyborgs for the weirdest of reasons: Medical student surgically implants Bluetooth device into own ear to cheat in final exam. 👂

In Case You Missed It

🏴‍☠️ The Heretic: Solve Gnarly Problems

⚠️ Disrupt Disruption: Listen in on our latest conversation with Bruce Smith, founder and CEO of connect rowing machine company hydrow (and if you happen to be a hydrow rower — find Pascal on hydrow as “RowingPopeye” 🚣)

Radically yours, take good care, friend!

— Pascal, Mafe and the three Js (Jane, Jeffrey, and Julian)