Digital 2.0 – The Modern Digital Executive

People, Stories, and Integrity: Why They Matter More Than Technology

Author: Matt Schaub , Associate Principal, Prime TSR

“When you do something for nearly 30 years, you make mistakes. Believe me, I’ve made my fair share.” Matt Meier doesn’t mince words and isn’t shy about admitting he’s been wrong. His candor is compelling—and I think that explains a great deal of his success.

Meet Matthew Meier

Matt’s been in the technology game since the mid-90s. He’s been an IT program manager and chief information officer for some heavy hitters, including General Motors, Rolls-Royce, Dana Holding Corporation, and Whirlpool, to name a few.

Currently, he’s serving as EVP, Chief Digital and Data Officer for Charlotte-based Driven Brands.

I wanted to know what he thinks about digital innovation trends, what he’s learned in a career that spans three decades, which companies we should keep an eye on, and who will be around in the next decade. 

Here’s what he said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--iicvn6CUs

New technology solutions pop up daily, and it’s easy to be enamored by them. And why wouldn’t we be? Matt reminded me that only a handful of years ago, engineers were forced to “crawl around in the nerdy plumbing to make technology work.” Now, Cloud, AI, and ML technology essentially dig the trench and lay the pipe for you.

Automated software frees organizations up. The trouble comes when organizations over-invest in technology and lay their foundation on a digital cornerstone.

“Look, you can have all the technology in the world,” says Matt. “But do your organization and team understand the business? Are you aligned on outcomes and then work backward to match technology with those outcomes?”

You have a problem if you can’t answer “yes” to both questions. I like how Matt puts it: “Having a team of awesome nerds is important, but you’re going to need a lot more than that to succeed.”

How Matt Defines Innovation

I asked Matt how he defines innovation. I liked his response. “Innovation doesn’t mean anything on its own, so I avoid using it.” He feels similarly about the word “outcomes.” Both words are vague and, unless qualified, have little meaning to Matt. Here’s why.

“Outcomes are just that—outcomes. They lack drive, purpose, intention. Disruptive outcomes are the exact opposite.”

Organizations pursuing disruptive outcomes create things that don’t exist. That, or they solve problems people didn’t even know they had. If technology helps them get there, so be it.

But for Matt, the question shouldn’t be, “What technology should we use?” Rather, it should be, “How can we make someone’s life better?”

Matt’s advice: Put your energy into creating disruptive outcomes. If you need technology to get there, fine. Otherwise, use what you already have.

Biggest Impact on Digital Innovation For The Next 10 Years

Which organizations will be around in a decade? It won’t be those with the most technology; it’ll be those who, as Matt puts it, “play both sides.”

That means organizations must have a deep understanding of technology. Just as important, they must understand business. Then they must successfully bridge the gap between the two.

If you haven’t created a highly-engaging environment that drives good people, technology won’t help you.

Companies that are embracing Digital Innovation

While Matt was hesitant to single out a specific company he’s watching, he did have a lot to say about “innovative” moves made by key players in the quick-serve restaurant industry.

Take Starbucks as an example. They’ve found a way to marry the digital and in-store experience in a hyper-focused, repeatable, and efficient way.

Starbucks has a powerful little app—and customers love it. The app allows you to order ahead, skip the line, and purchase and refill gift cards, eliminating the need for cash or card. Simply pull out your phone and enjoy your coffee. The customer experience is frictionless.

The next time you’re in a Starbucks, take a look around, suggests Matt. “It’s a glorified vending machine.” He’s right. Is there a better way of saying it?

Digital 2.0 Hot Seat: Real, Hype, Or WTF

I closed our conversation with a series of rapid-fire questions covering five of my favorite topics: AI, crypto, remote/hybrid work, the Metaverse, and Elon Musk. Are they real, hype, or do they just make you scratch your head and say, “WTF?”

Here’s what Matt had to say:

AI: “Real, although I think we’ve yet to determine ‘killer’ use cases.”

Crypto: “The hype is ridiculous when you consider the variants in what I consider pretend markets. Long story short, crypto’s real, but we haven’t unlocked its potential.”

Remote and hybrid work: “Real. It’s unlocking recruitment opportunities and allowing us to search abroad for new talent. Working in-person is awesome, but for most companies, having a hybridized and flexible workforce is the way forward.”

The Metaverse: “Ridiculous. We may see an application down the line, but I just don’t get it in its current form.”

Elon Musk: “Genius. Disruptor. And also some WTF. Look, he builds markets and orchestrates them independently.”

Thank you, Matt, for such an insightful interview!

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