AR Transforms our World, with Shel Israel from Transformation Group

This week on The Tech Cat Show…

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Tech Cat show, with host Lori H. Schwartz. Each week we hear from established leaders in the technology and consumer industry. Finding out the scoop should never be this much fun. Now here is your host, Lori H. Schwartz.

Lori Schwartz: Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Tech Cat Show, and we are continuing a month long series talking about augmented reality, and I really don’t think we could talk about any sort of new platform, emerging cultural behavior or technology without having my next guest on, and that is Mr. Shel Israel, who is the co-founder and CEO of the Transformation Group, and Shel is a very successful writer, having published a number of books really capturing different technology and cultural phenomena, and really shaping it in a way that helps everyone understand what’s happening and then how to move their businesses forward with it, and he’s a really long and successful career as a business technology consultant and writer. He’s contributed to Forbes, Fast Company, Business Insider and many other publications. I’ve invited Shel to speak at a number of different conferences I’ve done in my life. Let’s have a big Tech Cat welcome for Shel Israel, ladies and gentlemen. Hi.

Shel Israel: That’s the most enthusiastic round of applause I ever heard. Because we’re only on audio, I don’t know if it was a standing ovation or not.

Lori Schwartz: It was a standing ovation. They were throwing things. I mean, they were so excited. Shel, I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time. In fact, Naked Conversations, which was one your books with Robert Scoble, was a book that we would give out as a gift when I was running my technology lab at Interpublic, so I have known about you for a really long time, and I would love for you to give our audience a little sense of your history and how you came to be the bon vivant of technology that you …

Shel Israel: Well, you just did a great job on my bio, so I thought we were gonna go right by it, but let’s see how many minutes of our time together I can spend on this. I guess the quickest way to starting is I’ve sort of split my career in two groups. One is as a writer and the other is as a consultant. I love writing, but I get very tired of the vow of poverty that’s connected to it. That brings me into consulting, which is far more lucrative, but then I miss writing, so I’ve been bouncing back and forth.

My most recent of seven books, written also with Robert Scoble, The Fourth Transformation: How Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence Will Change Everything came out in December 2016, and immediately we started getting asked to these very nice lunches in big companies, and then for the price of lunch and thank yous and kudos and buying a few books, we were thanked and sent on our way, and at some point I slapped my self on the forehead and said, “Wow. Why don’t we consult these guys?”

And so in March of last year, I started Transformation Group with Robert, who has since left us, and at Transformation Group, we do three things, really. We’ve got a couple of newsletters going, which one is focused on tech, and the other is, the one I write, is focused on business related to immersive technologies, particularly AR followed by VR, non-gaming VR. Then we do education programs. We do classes online, we do classes to brands and large enterprises, either on-site or online, and then finally we consult on all sorts of levels to all sorts of companies, so long as it is related to what I call immersive technologies. Is that enough?

Lori Schwartz: Yeah, that was beautiful.

Shel Israel: Well, thanks. Thanks.

Lori Schwartz: Do you think that it takes a certain type of person to dig into a world that is constantly changing? I mean, you’ve been writing about the edge of things for a long time, but what I love about your writing and your work is that you are literally translating it for people in a way that’s very comprehensible.

Shel Israel: That’s a good question, and I don’t know if I have a good answer because I’ve never quite thought of it that way. Once again, let me ramble just a little bit. The common denominator in my life going back probably to elementary school is I’ve always been curious about what is going to happen next and what that means to life. Not working on business at that point, certainly not technology. When I was in grade school the only technology we knew about was Sputnik, and that wasn’t Silicon Valley by any means, at least not yet. As time went on, I became a journalist first, and had a real love for the startups, the guys that would go in against the big, established corporations, and they had crazed looks in their eyes, and they were gonna change the world, and most of them, of course, did not, but many of them then got acquired by the very companies they were trying to put out of business, and did quite well.

But then some of them just refused to get acquired. They were just too brassy to listen to anybody else, and they went on their own. I can name a few, because I think I recall their names. There was Apple, there was Microsoft, there was Facebook, Google. Google, of course, started in the ’90s, when everyone knew the era of startups was over and you couldn’t raise any money to become a startup, and they ignored all that, and look at what they have become.

My interest before the technology was what’s gonna happen next? What’s gonna change the game? What’s gonna change life? Mostly what’s going to change the culture that is humanity? That’s how I come at it now. I am not a technologist. I’ve certainly over the years become business-focused, and that is how I make a living, is looking at the business aspect of this. I also-

Lori Schwartz: Do you … Sorry, go ahead. Well, I mean-

Shel Israel: I have to fill up the hour on that question.

Lori Schwartz: Well, I guess what I was gonna ask you, too, is, and this is something I’ve asked other guests on the show, because I frequently have folks who are teaching, leading the way, in new technology, but have you noticed any change in how people are taking in the information that you’re bringing to them, since you always have been on the edge? Are people more accepting of it? Are they digesting it easier? Is there more of a jumping onboard quicker right now?

Shel Israel: Aren’t you gonna ask me things like what’s my favorite color or something easy?

Lori Schwartz: The next section we’re gonna talk about trends, which I know you’re gonna have a good time with, but I’m just curious because to me there’s been a big difference in how people [crosstalk 00:08:15]-

Shel Israel: There are three changes that I think overwhelmingly have altered where I write. One is a generational change. The era of aging boomers, as I get tired of hearing, has pretty much come to en ebbing point. We are not the main strain. We’re replaced as the predominant generational culture by millennials. Their values, their lifestyles, are very, very different. Most people my age cross their arms and say, “Harrumph,” in my day, but this isn’t my day. Now I can look at another generation who can take the best of my generation and apply it to do new things that we never thought of doing.

My generation did some cool things. We gave you the PC, we gave you the smartphone, we gave you the world wide web, but we kind of screwed up on saving the planet and the world peace, and an enlightened American public who will use it most wisely does not seem at this time to be a result of our efforts. What has changed remarkably, our companies are not driven by people who are in love with doing it as it was done last quarter, and are not necessarily driven by people who just care about the bottom line, particularly if they’re not yet public.

Lori Schwartz: Sorry, Shel, that was just a message from our guy, but we have to take a quick break, but I wanna come back and talk to you a little bit more, just because you were sharing, and I think it’s really interesting.

Shel Israel: Your engineer just told me to sit down and shut up.

Lori Schwartz: No, but just a really quick … when we come back, we’ll talk more about this generational idea, because I think it’s really interesting, and no one quite has brought that up, that reason about why all this is happening, but we’ll be back, and we’ll talk a little bit also about the trends, so we’re gonna be back in a moment on the Tech Cat show with the fabulous Shel Israel, who I love to hear anything that comes out of his mouth, because it’s always amusing.

Shel Israel: Even when I’m not trying.

Speaker 4: When it comes to business, you’ll find the experts here. Voice America Business Network.

Speaker 1: The key point of contact between consumers and brands is technology. Story Tech, a boutique agency, empowers you to use that tech to deliver your message, engage your customers, and raise the bottom line. How do you track and exploit the trends, how do you stay ahead of industry disruption, and how do you maximize profit from content? From strategy to execution, the answer is Story Tech. Inform, innovate, create. Visit us at story-tech.com. That’s story-tech.com.

Speaker 5: Follow us on Twitter at VoiceAmericaTRN. Get the lowdown on guests, new shows, and your favorites. That’s VoiceAmericaTRN.

Speaker 6: These days, everyone is looking for information on staying young, healthy, and fit. The Voice America Health and Wellness Network is here to help you on your quest to better health and a better you. We talk about everything from diet, fitness and aging, to substance abuse, personal growth, mental health, and much more. Learn from our experts who cover health and wellness from traditional and holistic perspectives. Tune into the Voice America Health and Wellness Network. Healthy living starts here.

Speaker 4: From the boardroom to you. Voice America Business Network.

Speaker 1: This is the Tech Cat show with Lori H. Schwartz. If you wanna find out more about our show or to leave a comment or question, send an email to lori@techcat.tv. That’s lori@techcat.tv.

Lori Schwartz: We’re back, ladies and gentlemen, talking to Shel Israel, writer and teacher and consultant on all things that are new, and we’re gonna jump right into some trends, because Shel can talk about everything and make it really interesting, and he’s keeping us laughing as well, so let’s jump right into, Shel, the trends of augmented reality, virtual reality, that this transformation that’s happening. We’ve been talking all month long to various people focused on augmented reality, so I’d love to get your take on why is it finally coming to pass that people are starting to understand it? Why is the development happening the way it is, and what do you see its future being?

Shel Israel: And you ask me to be shorter with my answers? Your questions are getting longer. Okay. Let me start with a basic premise, which is of the book, and that is that in the next 10 years, the center of digital life will move from these handsets that we walk around with to headsets that are on our eyes. Instead of typing, or swiping, or tapping our phone or the side of the headset, we will be talking or actually doing things with our eyes. Not eye tracking, eye interacting, and most important, 10 years from now, an awful lot of us will be doing a great deal using brainwaves.

The trends are all pointing for this to happen, if you look at the world’s biggest companies, they put the best, brightest and biggest lion share of R&D money into it. They’re all prepared to fiercely and wildly compete with each other, and they’re facing the most promising school of startups that I’ve ever seen. VR got the first attention, but most of what’s happened in VR historically has been in the affluent gamer department, and there are limits to how much fun it can be and the number of ways you can zap an alien. The trend in VR now is into two very important business areas. One’s not just business, and that’s training, learning, education. Everything from kids taking virtual tours of the White House or Buckingham Palace, or visiting the Battle of Hastings where they can see that it wasn’t all just fun and pleasant, to virtual teachers, which the Chinese are using, and therefore every student gets a very personalized education at their own ability to learn, because AI allows that, to the way that Walmart is training its new employees in stores to be more empathetic because Walmart’s never been known for having empathetic employees.

Lori Schwartz: Yeah.

Shel Israel: We hear a lot about what’s gonna happen in consumer with VR and AR, but in fact most of the stuff that’s happening has been on the very boring side of the backrooms of brands and in the enterprise. Fulfillment of orders in warehouses is a place where a great deal has happened. AR is being used to make sure the wiring in the next Boeing 7XX plane will be safer. Architects are switching to AR and VR to understand blueprints. The trend is, from handsets to headsets, the trend right now is to use the enormous advantages of immersive technology in places where fashion, battery power, and the cost of the device are second to order fulfillment, supply side logistics, to training employees before they do hazardous work, and making sure that they really want the job before they go down into a mine and discover really, they’re claustrophobic.

The trends in AR and VR right now are in the backroom, and the trends sometime around the year 2021 will move into consumer, where there will be a real transformation in a great deal. We’ll walk down the streets and we’ll get offers for whatever we want. If we’re walking to work, it might be a discount on a cup of coffee at the local java hut. If we’re coming home, it might be an offer for a reduced price on a brew at the local tavern. If we’re driving, we may be warned that there was an accident ahead. You may get that in ways right now with audio, but you’ll see what the accident is and you will see a little arrow about how you go around it.

We will start finding that our glasses, our headsets, will be helping us with everything we do, and we will able to do it safely and effortlessly with new ways of interfacing. I didn’t get any shorter, did I?

Lori Schwartz: Well, so my question to you, because I love that and it’s such a great explanation about what’s really happening, but why is it going to be in 2021? Is it just gonna be that finally glasses will be mass-produced? Is the-

Shel Israel: Oh, you seem fashion conscience. Would you really wanna stroll down the street with one of the headsets we have going on now? Look how it happened two years ago when Google Glass came out, and I remember one woman thought she was cool, and she went into a working class tavern and got physically thrown out, and that was in San Francisco. Think of what would have happened in Memphis.

Lori Schwartz: Right. So it’s just that the hardware isn’t there yet. It’s just not all there.

Shel Israel: It’s not fashionable. The technology is still quite crude. In terms of the technology evolution, we’re just now crawling out of the swamp. Our little flippers are starting to turn into cute little legs. We’re dragging ourself up into the land, but as we evolve, it’s happening faster and faster and faster. Vive came out a little over a year ago, and I think it was $1,000, not counting the $3,500 in computer power you needed, and now it’s $400, and that computing power is about $1,200. The prices are coming down, the functionality is improving, but we have all these very basic barriers. We don’t have a headset that won’t heat up if you wear it for more than a couple of hours. We don’t have a battery that’ll last a couple of hours if you’re using the headset. While we have this big picture, and we have these very crude instruments now, the stuff we’re looking at will look pretty much like, oh, I don’t know, what a rotary phone looks like to a kid who was born after the year 2007. It’s a novelty. You understand how it would work, but who would ever wanna do that?

Lori Schwartz: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. I mean, my thing that I always wonder about, because you and I and our crowed are deep inside of this, and we love this stuff. Even if we weren’t making a living through it, we’re turned on by it, as early adopters, but I have friends that are terrified of new technology, are Luddites, and they’re not even boomers. Some are gen x and some are millennials too, they just don’t want it to take over their lives. They see the dystopian movies and science fiction thrillers and they get nervous about these things.

Shel Israel: And rightfully so. First of all, I’m not always a proponent or a champion of everything that’s going on. I write books because I say, “This is gonna happen. Like it or not, this is going to happen,” and I can assure that if a technology is involved, there is going to be a dark side. Let’s get way back before the digital revolution.

When tall ships were invented, did you know that led to a whole lot of sailors drowning? Cars came out, and not only was it bad business for the blacksmith, but people started killed in these horses’ carriages. Facebook, it started off as technology that would let Ivy League frat boys find dates on the weekends, and it ended up being a tool for foreign government to tamper with the United States election. There are always going to be downsides, and the greater the good that is delivered, the bigger the downside. Let’s go back to cars. The cars, let’s face it, we cannot live without motor vehicles at this point in our revolution, yet those motor vehicles are not only killing people in crashes, they’re killing the planet in pollution. They’re doing much better than they used to because technology is fixing, in that case, part of what tech broke, but not fast enough to save a planet, so there is always going to be a downside.

Dystopian pictures are very easy to paint. I think uncanny valley is really funny in a chilling and macabre sort of way, but we will have filters on this stuff. When we walk down the street, we certainly will not tolerate it if everything that we look at starts talking to us, and some of the YouTube videos show where two privates are competing with each other saying, “Hey pal, step over here.” “No, pal, we’ve got better food over here. We’ve got a special offer.” That’s insane, and technology has never evolved in that level of ugliness, but we do have spam. We do have phishing. We do have fake people. Today I discovered that I was selling sexual objects on Facebook Messenger, and my wife was one of the first ones to point out that that really wasn’t me.

Lori Schwartz: Shel, I hate to say it, but on that note we’re gonna take a little break, but that’s a really great explanation and setup for why everything is going to happen the way it’s gonna happen. I mean, it makes me want to invest in the production of glasses, since that’s really where all the magic is going to happen, but when we come back, I wanna talk to you a little bit about where do you, someone who is obviously teaching and laying out this future for everyone else, where do you go to get inspired? What are some of the conferences you’re attending, the things that you’re reading, some of the ways that you keep up to date with everything, because it is really overwhelming, and outside of listening to folks like you and reading, how do people keep up when there is so much constant change?

We’re gonna back in the moment with the fabulous Shel Israel, author of many books, including The Fourth Transformation, which is another fabulous book on what’s happening in this space, and also CEO of the Transformation Group, a consultancy that’s really helping businesses navigate. We’ll be back in a moment with the fabulous Shel Israel.

Speaker 4: When it comes to business, you’ll find the experts here. Voice America Business Network.

Speaker 1: The key point of contact between consumers and brands is technology. Story Tech, a boutique agency, empowers you to use that tech to deliver your message, engage your customers, and raise the bottom line. How do you track and exploit the trends, how do you stay ahead of industry disruption, and how do you maximize profit from content? From strategy to execution, the answer is Story Tech. Inform, innovate, create. Visit us at story-tech.com. That’s story-tech.com.

Speaker 4: The business community’s first choice in internet talk radio. Voice America Business Network.

Speaker 1: This is the Tech Cat show with Lori H. Schwartz. If you wanna find out more about our show or to leave a comment or question, send an email to lori@techcat.tv. That’s lori@techcat.tv.

Lori Schwartz: We are back with Shel Israel, author and teacher and guider of the future, and I’m not allowed to say fabulous anymore. Shel, how do you keep up with all of this, because you’re obviously leading everyone else, so what is it? Are you a big Twitter reader? Do you go online and spend hours reading other journalists? How do you keep up?

Shel Israel: I spend a lot of time keeping up, and I spend a lot of time starting articles and deciding what value it is to me, and the answer can simply be it’s interesting. I didn’t know that. I’m reading more these days about artificial intelligence I think than I am augmented reality, because I don’t fully understand the implications of it. I’m better at telling you about software and hardware than about something that is sort of like blood in these things that are becoming more and more lifelike through artificial intelligence. To gather my news, I use a very non-hip way of doing it. I use Google News, and I at least once a month calibrate what topics and buzzwords that I’ll pick up on. This includes any aspect of AR or VR, but it also … right now I’m calibrating up on the NBA because I’m a basketball fan and this is the time of year to pay attention.

Google News has more filters than I know, and I subscribe to some of the mainstays. I can’t get through a day without reading news and technology from the Washington Post, from New York Times. Also the faster places that don’t go deep but give me news. Tech Crunch is really great for telling me what happened, and then the next week I’ll read more on an interesting subject to let me know what really happened. If a topic is deeply interesting to me because I’m a writer, because I post news on my newsletter every couple of weeks, I do have the good fortune to have access to people who are making them. There’s a lot.

Lori Schwartz: Right, you’re buddies with a lot of them, right?

Shel Israel: Well, one generation of us, we’ve all grown together, but all my friends have retired lately. I love hanging out with journalists and writers. In my soul, I am a writer, and if the economics would allow it, that is what I would do. In my soul, I am discovering I am a teacher, or I love it whether it’s a corporate workshop or online, but one of the challenges everybody has to do is … I used the word “filter” in our last dialog. You have to filter out the crap. Let’s be nice and say the chaff from the wheat. You have to know what is useful or valuable to you. I can’t tell you what to do. For example, I know people that love Huffington Post and Forbes, and I find those two publications not particularly valuable to me unless I’m reading Forbes and just trying to rethink, who does a very good job covering VR, at least from my point of view.

There are bloggers that I really enjoy, and to be honest some of my best friends, I barely ever read, and I imagine they’d barely ever read me because their interests are a little different. They may be more marketing oriented than I am. They may care more about the cultural issues than I do.

Lori Schwartz: Right, right, right.

Shel Israel: We all have to self-filter and self-calibrate.

Lori Schwartz: Right, and you [inaudible 00:30:58] in an area and a perspective that has become identified with you. Now, how do you come up with … how do you know that you wanna write a new book, because I think when Naked Conversations, which is really all about blogging and those conversations way back, I think it was like, what was it, 10 years ago? When did you write that book?

Shel Israel: Wrote the book in 2005, it came out in 2006, and it was credited with being the first book to give a compelling business case to what would soon be called social media.

Lori Schwartz: Yeah.

Shel Israel: I was one of the people who popularized that term, which everybody hated at first, maybe rightfully so, but nobody could come up with a better term. I wanna write books about technologies that are gonna change stuff. Not change stuff a little, but in a lasting way.

When blogging came out, when that book came out, it was only blogging, vlogs, as they were called. YouTube had not yet been acquired by Google and nobody was sure if the damn thing was legal, and there’s confusion. I always try to write about an issue that is going to be complicated and confusing for business readers. I do write for business readers, and in that complication, I try very hard to simplify it. I take it one step further. I talk a lot about what has already happened, and then I share with them my reasons for thinking that what has already happened will evolved in another way, in a greater way, and in that greater way, if you’re in that market, you may be doing just fine now, thank you very much, with systems in place, but you’re about to be left behind, and you better hurry up. Every one of my books has that message through it.

Lori Schwartz: Then Age of Context, which I think … Was that about three or four years ago?

Shel Israel: 2012.

Lori Schwartz: 2012, and that one was really about IOT in a way, or just all these different things coming together with Google and sensors and data.

Shel Israel: Well, you just hit it better there. There were five forces that we saw coming together. We didn’t quite yet see what is happening in AR, VR or the immersive world, but we saw data, IOT … I hope I can name them all. Sensors, location-based data, and, oh yeah, one other, and they were converging, and the end result is business and customers were going to understand things on a more contextual basis.

Lori Schwartz: That’s right, that’s right, and you also talked about the future of privacy, so that we wouldn’t all be scared about what was coming.

Shel Israel: Well, essentially the point which should be revisited, because I keep hearing … I was recently called an enemy of anything but radical transparency. That’s completely untrue. What I do believe was inevitable, and I think this is the way we worded it back then, is that the cool stuff, the free ice cream, the businesses going to offer customers, was going to motivate them to give out personal data without them thinking about the long-term repercussions of giving up that data, and we didn’t say whether that was good or bad, we just said that was what was gonna happen, and I’m pretty sure that is what happened.

Lori Schwartz: Now, in the last book that just came out, and this was last year The Fourth Transformation came out, is that true?

Shel Israel: December 2016, so our year for making big noise was 2017, and thanks to you we’re spilling over into 2018.

Lori Schwartz: That one is really all about the immersive world, so you’re really a couple of years ahead of when it hits everyone mainstream. Is there another book bubbling up for you now?

Shel Israel: I’m always thinking about another book, but backing trends, I try to be brief. There is a trend that is important that may negate my doing any more books.

Lori Schwartz: Which is?

Shel Israel: Yeah. I’m trying to think of a succinct way of saying it. Okay, I can’t. The written word is one of the trends that is tapering off to be replaced by something that’s more visual. The internet as we know it is a text-based place with pictures, and it is evolving into something that is a video-based place with words and still photos. Younger generations, millennials and those that are younger than millennials, are much more visual in the way they communicate and the way they watch. If I were to write a new book, it would be about the death of the printed word, which is a pretty funny thing to write a book about.

Lori Schwartz: Right, right.

Shel Israel: Let’s say it’s the most oxymoronic idea I’ve ever had.

Lori Schwartz: Right.

Shel Israel: But it’s what I see, and from a business point of view, this discourages me from writing more book because they’re still just as hard as they always were for me. They require the same amount of research for me. I get lost in the interviews, and go down all these rabbit holes that have nothing to do with the book, but wow, they’re cool, and I’m not getting any younger, so spending a year of my life immersing myself into a really interesting book about something, let’s say it’s not about the death of the written word, I don’t see that happening in the near future. At some point-

Lori Schwartz: Well, maybe we’ll figure out another way to tap it into your head so that it won’t have to be like that, but we’re gonna take a quick break. I wanna come back and talk to you in our last segment about the Transformation Group, and I know you’re heading up a lot of education for the Transformation Education Group, and there are some interesting things that you’re doing with online training, so I’d love to share that with everyone, because that’s a great way for people to engage with you in a way that’s digestible, like your books are, and sort of get some of those smarts inside of your head into theirs.

All right, so we’re gonna be back in a moment with Shel Israel, who is fabulous, but I’m not allowed to say that, and …

Shel Israel: I said I would hug you, I didn’t say you couldn’t.

Lori Schwartz: And Shel, of course, contributes to Forbes, Fast Company, Business Insider, as well as penning many books, and so we’re gonna dig more into his company, the Transformation Group, and what they’re doing to bring some of these insights to the rest of you. We’ll be back in a moment on the Tech Cat show.

Speaker 4: Voice America Business Network: the bottom line in business.

Speaker 1: The key point of contact between consumers and brands is technology. Story Tech, a boutique agency, empowers you to use that tech to deliver your message, engage your customers, and raise the bottom line. How do you track and exploit the trends, how do you stay ahead of industry disruption, and how do you maximize profit from content? From strategy to execution, the answer is Story Tech. Inform, innovate, create. Visit us at story-tech.com. That’s story-tech.com.

Speaker 7: Do you need directions to solve financial future? If so, The Money Answers Show with Jordan Goodman will provide you with the roadmap to making smart money decisions in every area of your personal finances. Join Jordan every Monday at 12PM Pacific Standard Time, 3PM Eastern, for The Money Answers Show on the Voice America Business Channel. Learn how and where to get the best deals on mortgages, cars and insurance. Find out the best ways to save for college and retirement. Get out of debt, improve your credit rating, and save on your taxes. The Money Answers Show with Jordan Goodman will provide you with great tips on investment opportunities in real estate, stocks, annuities, and other investment vehicles. That’s The Money Answers Show with Jordan Goodman on the Voice America Business Channel, every Monday at 12PM Pacific Standard Time.

Speaker 4: When it comes to business, you’ll find the experts here. Voice America Business Network.

Speaker 1: This is the Tech Cat show with Lori H. Schwartz. If you wanna find out more about our show or to leave a comment or question, send an email to lori@techcat.tv. That’s lori@techcat.tv.

Lori Schwartz: Welcome back, everybody. We have been chatting and laughing with Shel Israel, who is the co-founder and CEO of the Transformation Group, as well as a well-known author, and Shel, so how did Transformation Group come to be? I know you said that the consulting is another piece of the business, since writing is not always as lucrative, and now you have the Transformation Education Group. What are you doing there?

Shel Israel: Well, as I said a little earlier, I write about things that are complicated, particularly to business decision-makers, and they’re always, any good business thinker, is always looking at new technology in the near-term future, let’s say near-term is less than 10 years, and what do they really have to care about, and when I was writing the book we knew that the issues that we were competing with for attention were robotics, cyber-currency. There was about five or six of them.

We picked immersive technologies because I think that it’s going to be the most imminent, and I think lots of companies are going to wait and see, and that’s because, despite those of us who follow it hour by hour and day to day, it is happening very fast, but it’s happening in little baby steps, and they’re coming very fast, but they’re still baby steps. We haven’t woken up one day and Google Glass wasn’t suddenly on everybody’s faces. There’s been a lot of trying and failing going on for 10 years, and now it’s coming together, and so Transformation Group, which is really a small group with lots of big and extremely capable partnerships going on, try to one, educate brands and enterprise customers about what is going to happen over the next five to 10 years, and then back it up to where they should get started with changes to their culture and changes to their technology adoption strategies.

After getting this huge, big picture, we try to think up a choice of little pilot programs, low-risk, low-budget, doesn’t take a lot of time to do, and if it fails, then the person who contacted us to try it won’t get fired and hopefully neither will we, but through the process of trying it, they’ll start understanding how immersive it is. It amazes me how much companies want a very simple answer to things that are unknown. I do not yet know what headset you should use. I do not know what you’re going to do with the headset. I don’t know who’s going to use the headset. I don’t know if you’re gonna use it in a way that saves lives, and therefore the fact that it costs 2,000, $1,500 really doesn’t matter because you’re gonna save yourself 20 million in the lawsuit that you might face.

We try to one, educate, two, let them paint their own big picture, and three, help them get started through working with us and our partners.

Lori Schwartz: The online classes, are you using a special platform, or is it something you built yourselves, or have you had any learnings in that sort of solution?

Shel Israel: For our purposes, zoom.com is wonderful, and it’s so affordable that even bootstrap consulting firms can get away using it all over the world. It has the bandwidth to handle video and two or three people talking live. We’re thrilled with it. I say that knowing full well that we’re currently using a certain competitor of it, but we’re very happy with it. Zoom.com, and we moved from the one we’re using to Zoom.

Lori Schwartz: I like Zoom too. I’ve used Zoom for webinars as well. It’s really easy to use, too, which is nice.

Shel Israel: Yeah, and we’re cheating a little with these classes. These classes are making myself, Irena Cronin, [Chrissy Hansen Anka 00:45:38]. I’m sorry, Chrissy. I forgot your name for a second. We’re getting better at working together at teaching individuals, very often at a mid level, so that we’re more adept when we go into a much higher-paying situation with a corporate brand, and teach executives in the form of a half-day workshop or something like that.

It’s also a way that we’re getting people to know we’re good, because if you’re a potential client, then you can sit in and audit my next class or just listen to one of the recorded classes and see if we’re any good at it or not. That’s where we’re up to there. Eventually, we’d prefer to just do the corporate classes, but I’m getting more and more excited about doing the classes for individuals, because they’re starting to pay off, and secondly, I’m learning how rewarding spiritually teaching can be.

Lori Schwartz: Yeah, I teach at Loyola in the spring, and it’s to 22-year-olds, but I really enjoy it. I really like people getting up and leaving with this feeling of, “Oh, I just got something out of that,” you know?

Shel Israel: Yeah, it’s very rewarding and it’s not even taxable.

Lori Schwartz: No, no, I know what you mean. Yeah, we’re not doing it because … I mean, I like that I am on salary, and it makes it fun to go every week because I could say I’m an adjunct professor because I really am, but it’s not money that I could … maybe I could buy a pair of shoes with it at the end of the semester.

Shel Israel: But no [inaudible 00:47:21].

Lori Schwartz: Exactly.

Shel Israel: Yeah.

Lori Schwartz: Now, where can people track you? If they wanna read all the stuff you’re doing and keep-

Shel Israel: Well, if you’re in the US government, you’re probably already doing it. For the rest of you, I spend a lot of social time on Facebook. I am Shel Israel on all social media. That’s Shel, S-H-E-L, with two Ls. It’s hell with an S in front. Israel, just like the country, one word. My website, which I’d love you to visit, it’s transformationgroup.io. That’s the letters I and O, not I-O-I-O, so it’s off to work I go, and on that site you can see our classes and you can log onto newsletters and see what you would get if you were subscribing to it. You can also send me messages or hurl virtual tomatoes at me, whatever fun you’d like to have.

Lori Schwartz: You also, and I can brag for you, you are a wonderful speaker at conferences and shows on these topics, so I know that you do that a lot, and I’ve certainly had you speak at different events, and you’re just as much fun there, so that’s another way that you spread your Shel love.

Shel Israel: Well, if you’re gonna mention hiring me for conferences, I’ll give you my email address, too. It’s shel with one L @transformationgroup.io.

Lori Schwartz: If we came to your house, would we see a house filled with all these different technology solutions that you’ve been writing about for all these years? I mean, do you have tons of different AR, VR setups?

Shel Israel: Yeah. As a matter of fact, some of my tech friends at how neanderthal-esque my house looks. We haven’t even bothered to cut the cord yet, although now that I know that I can watch NBA finals on Hulu in realtime, I might do it now. But I am of an older demographic, and the house has its share of screens and handheld devices, but we’re not totally immersed in technology. I don’t have a headset in my home. I use headsets to understand the experience so I can tell others about them, and I talk to them on ways that they would be using them in the workplace. Once we find clients in the consumer arena, I imagine I will have a headset that’ll be far less geeky than the things that people are putting on their heads now, and I imagine that my grandchildren, when they graduate college, will have much geekier houses, except the stuff isn’t geeky anymore, it’s like having a cellphone or a TV set.

Lori Schwartz: Right, right, you’re right. Most people I talk to that are experts in this area don’t have all that stuff, just because your home is your home, but I am finding that I am smarting up my home as much as possible. But we have to log off now, but we have been talking to Shel Israel, author and teacher and speaker, keynoter, and many other things, but Shel is part of the Transformation Group, the CEO, and he’s just written another great book all about these subjects, so check him out. He has a great Amazon page with all of his books. Shel, it’s been so much fun talking to you. You crack me up, and you also drop so many insights in such an easy and understandable way that it’s so great to get to talk to you.

Shel Israel: Thank you for saying that. The hour went by faster than I thought it would. Can we go for another hour now?

Lori Schwartz: We’ll be back next week. I don’t think we’ll be laughing as much as we have with Shel, but we’ll be back next week, talking to another wonderful, insightful human being, wrapping up our great, month-long series on augmented reality. This is Lori H. Schwartz, your Tech Cat. Thank you for joining us, and check out all the wonderful things that Shel Israel is up to. Bye, Shel.

Shel Israel: All right, Lori. It was fun. I never found out what the H was for, though. Goodbye.

Speaker 1: Thanks so much for listening to the Tech Cat show. Please join Lori H. Schwartz again for another great program next Wednesday at 4PM Eastern Time, 1PM Pacific Time, on Voice America Business Channel, and syndicated to the Voice America Women’s Channel.