Oct 28, 2020 | 6 min read

Conversation with Joseph Bradley

Podcast #115: Green-Field Futures

In this week’s episode, we feature Joseph Bradley,President of Technology andDigital for NEOM, someone who is truly building the futureIn our conversation, Joseph describes his digital leadership journey and key trends he saw during his early work at Cisco. He then jumps into the exciting work he is doing to create NEOM, the world’s first Cognitive City. He shares his goal of creating the first predictive and proactive city, and how he tackles architecting toward this future. Lastly, he shares his positive transition to living in Saudi in addition to how digital industry startups can get involved with NEOM and what the future will hold. 

Joseph is a recognized industry leader and technologist. Prior to NEOM, he wasTim is the visionary behind NanoThings. Prior to NanoThings, he was the first employee and Vice President of Business Development for a startup named Acquisition Labs, which exited less than two years after inception. Before Acquisition Labs, Tim was the Director of Business Development at Rakuten Loyalty, where he developed their largest and most profitable business line to date. Tim was also the President of a private consulting company, which delivered over $20 Million in revenue for his clients in under four years.  



Black Swan by Nassim Taleb



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Good day and welcome to another addition of our Digital Industry Leadership Podcasts. Today I’m pleased to feature someone who is literally creating the future, Joseph Bradley, President of Technology and Digital for NEOM, the world’s first cognitive city. Joseph is a recognized industry leader in technologies, prior to NEOM he Vice President of Cisco’s Internet of Everything practice where he led a team of technology and business consultants, counselling CXOs and government leaders to realizing IoE value in digital business transformation. He built the foundation for the IoE practice by directing the ground-breaking research and production of Cisco’s influential thought leadership, embracing the Internet of Everything to capture your share of $14.4 trillion in Internet of Everything value index, how much value your private sector firms capturing from IoE in 2013. As an aside I can reference that Momenta to this day still references those great reports.

His dynamic engaging style and his passion for disruptive technologies, inclusion, and diversity, and the role people play in driving innovation to create a better world, has made him a popular speaker, and thought leader whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Forbes, The Street, and The Financial Times.

Joseph it’s really an honor to have you on our Digital Leadership Podcast today.

Thanks a lot, looking forward to it.

Alright, as well. So, let’s start with your professional journey. I know I captured a lot of it here, but I think I only touched on a part of it, because we have known you for quite a while and admired the work that you’ve done, all the way back to Cisco. So, tell us a bit about your background and how it has informed your views of digital industry.

You know, when I think about what’s got to shape me, I definitely without a doubt think about my Grandfather quite a bit. He was a very influential man in my growing up, I was actually named after him. A short story basically is, he came from New Orleans, Louisiana, came to California, high school educated and landed in a place called East Palo Alto. East Palo Alto had the highest crime rate of any city in the world at the time. I was like, ‘Grandpa, why don’t we just move? You’re successful, why don’t we move?’ and he said, ‘Son, if you want to drive change, you have to do it up close and personal with people’, and he literally created and built his house right in the middle of this crime area. He worked for 15-20 years talking with the leaders of gangs and bringing city councilmen together. And now if you go to East Palo Alto you won’t even recognize it. It’s one of the wealthier areas in California, a thriving economy, they’ve got great healthcare there.

I tell you that story because what I learned from a digital standpoint in my career, the first thing I got from my Grandfather is, is that value improves exponentially as you move data and decision-making as close as you can to the customer. So, throughout my career in technology when I started at AT&T and we had the rollout DSL for the first time, and everyone was saying, ‘There’s no ways it can get done, what are you talking about? A one-megabyte service for under $500 a month is impossible!’ And really working with the union at the time, the local union leaders, and taking my office which was a blasphemy at time, taking it out of executive row and putting it smack dab in the middle of the floor with my technicians, and really working hand-to-hand, we made it happen.  So, I have a strong affinity in my career for working as close as I can and pushing decision-making down. Had a great career at AT&T for about 14 years, so that was really super exciting.

The other thing, I had also a balance of I would say traditional Fortune 100 companies, AT&T, Cisco, but also start-ups, and this is where I really learned that it’s not about failing fast. I hear this all the time in Silicon Valley, ‘Oh, it’s all about failing fast,’ and I’m like, ‘You know what? I don’t wake up in the morning, and my start-ups – ‘Whoo! Can’t wait to lose $10-million dollars today, let’s do it really quickly!’ That’s not what you do, right. So, a horrible notion that people use.

It’s all about accelerating your rate of learning, that’s what you want to do, you never want to make the same mistakes twice, you want to improve that rate of learning, and really learn that. I learnt that at C3 Communication, I was CEO there, and I learned it as a President of Uptake in predictive analytics, and that thirst to ensure that you’re not making those same mistakes, that you’re constantly improving your way of learning at a faster and faster pace, that’s what’s required to be successful, especially in a world that is changing so much.

Then lastly, I would say a career experience that definitely shaped my views was the stint at HCL, and definitely now at NEOM, which is that when you look at the factors that determine success in driving digital projects, a lot of people mention the quality of technology, the quality of infrastructure, the quality tools, measurement practices, all that stuff. But we found, we did a study at Cisco, and it’s true in NEOM and it’s true at HCL, is actually the number one factor is the level of inclusiveness. What that means is, do your teams feel comfortable in openly sharing and discussing information? That’s because the level of uncertainty is so high when you’re driving these solutions, if you don’t have a strong level of inclusion, it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the profitable thing to do is the net of it.

So, we spent a lot of time in my career around ensuring, that I just don’t have a diverse environment, meaning that I have people that are of different backgrounds, but that I have an inclusive environment, meaning that they are sharing and exchanging information to create value. So, that’s what I would say about to highlight my career, how it shaped my views, I think in the digital industry.

I’m going to take you back for a moment, all the way back to your first stint at Cisco, and around IoE. We really have looked at this quite closely over our time, and as I mentioned even early investments, we made companies like ThingWorx reference those reports, the Value at Stake reports we still call them. And so, I guess as you think about the short history of IoT, there’s been natural gatherings, subsequent diaspora of those thought-leading teams. I would trace one of those strong hubs all the way back to Cisco around IoE and developing those ground-breaking presents and predictions. Tell us a little bit about those beginnings around the IoE particularly, and how you took those forward at HCL and Uptake as you mentioned.

Well, I’ll tell you one thing, when you were talking it reminds me, John Chambers tells this story when you first came up with the concept and everything, you had to buy people expensive bottles of wine just to listen to them, just to have a conversation and get airtime. We were saying that we envisioned a world where the number of connected devices will be more than the population on the planet, and it actually happened in 2017 that we crossed that milestone.

In the beginning days of IoE, I can tell you I used an execution model that I’ve used very successfully, and I called it Execution 123 Model, but basically is really simple. Number one, whatever you say you’ve got to be able to put it on a single-page. If you can’t communicate on a single page, when you leave the room no-one else can do it, and that means you’ll never build momentum in a large organization. So, you’ve got to be able to communicate on a single page.

Two, what’s really important, we take two weeks to align stakeholders. So, we’ve got everybody who had value, who could benefit from what we were talking about, to make sure that they agreed not about how we were executing, but people were asking fundamentally the right question. That was really important.

Then finally, human success. We needed to gain a quick success, it doesn’t mean the project was done, but from very early on and producing the Value at Stake report, as soon as we got the first solution in the used case and the first customer to expose data, we celebrated it, right. We’ve got to try and get that done as a success factor within three weeks. It doesn’t mean to be you’re automatically done, but you’ve got to have something to drive momentum.

In those early stages that single slide was about people, process, data, and things, and the real thing there was, everybody was talking about IoT as just devices, but they didn’t understand that you didn’t get value from this data unless you intersected it with people, process, data, and things. So, that was really I think a huge transformation in really trying to understand what are those people and process implications required to extract value. And so a really good example of this, and we use it at ACL, and have leveraged in Uptake, was we had this assignment where we had to go into a store and the idea was, can you shorten the amount of times that someone is waiting in the line. So, we said sure, we said, ‘What’s the thing, what’s the dark asset that’s not connected today? Well a parking lot, so let’s connect those.’ ‘And what data are we going to get?’ Well, you’re going to get whether a car’s coming into the parking lot, if you’re tracking people in the store you’re going to get geospatial information, so you’ve got your things, you’ve got data.

Then on your process side we said, ‘Hey, we can apply analytics,’ we said, ‘We can figure out 40 minutes in advance when a line is going to long.’ Great, awesome! So, we think we’re done. Remember I haven’t mentioned the word people yet. So, you go into the store and the store manager gets all excited, ‘Hey we’ve got a solution, we’re going to stop people from abandoning their carts, because they wait in line and leave their carts.’ So, we put the solution in, and the store manager is so excited, and you’ve heard, you’ve been in the store, so we put it in, and he grabs the speakerphone, and he says, ‘Hey! Mark in the back of the store, our lines are going to be getting long, I need you to open up check stand number 12, check stand number 12 please.’ And what happened was, everybody in the store – all that great tech became useless, because he announced to everyone in the store the lines were getting long. The problem was, is that when people perceive the lines are getting long, they abandon their carts.

So here we have a people issue! He grabbed the mic and told everybody the lines are getting long, everybody heard that, and even though they were going to come up to open this check stand, people said, ‘Ah, we’re out of here, I’m not going to wait for Mark…’ and the same problem would happen, all that great tech. We were laughing, and I said, ‘You know, this is a classic example of how you’ve got to go that last mile, you’ve got to include people.’ So obviously the solution at the time was, hey, you know what, let’s not announce it over the speaker phones, let’s just go ahead and do that people in practice, make sure we pay that person in the back room to come up, and be able to open up check stand number 5.

But the point is, you’ve got to think about the intersection of people, process, data, and things, to great value from IoT. So, once we had that work, we carried that forth in all of our partnerships and all of our engagements, and all those solutions, that was the model that we used.

  • What’s a dark asset?
  • What’s the thing that you could connect?
  • How do you extract data from it?
  • How do you apply analytics to impact process?
  • And then finally, how do you tie it to people? How do you make it so that their normal workflow is not disrupted, and disrupted as minimal as possible?

So, that same model was applied at HCL, and that same model was applied to Uptake and we’ve had a lot of success with it.

Absolutely brilliant. I’m rapidly taking notes, and I have to imagine as this goes to production, that people driving cars will be wanting to take notes of all of these great learnings! So, warning toward anybody listening to this, please keep your hands on the wheel.

All of this has converged upon you joining NEOM, as you call it, the world’s first cognitive city. So, what and where is NEOM?

Yes, so NEOM is located in the North West part of Saudi Arabia, and if you think about it, its location is kind of ideally located, in terms of it’s in the crossroads as we like to say, of the world. What we mean by that is, 40 percent of the world’s population is within a four-hour flight of NEOM. And to give you the size, it’s like 35 times the size of Singapore, so that gives you the sense of this area. When you ultimately think about what NEOM is, we like to describe it as being the world’s first cognitive set of cities. And what does that mean? That means it’s a place where we use the power of prediction; we’re not reactive, we’re proactive, we’re being able to change your living, your experience by being able to give you a week, an hour, a month, a day, a year in advance of what’s going to occur.

And so it’s dramatically transformational from a standpoint of people, its transformational in terms of living, its transformational from a standpoint of enterprises, in terms of driving an innovative living hub, kind of a digital living hub environment, and it is extremely transformational when you talk about what does it mean for the environment. It means redefining, we say conservation and we say being environmentally responsible, most people use those terms in saying, ‘We want to limit or have a neutral impact to the environment.’ When you think about NEOM, our goal, our view, everything is built to not leave a neutral impact, but to leave the environment in a much better condition than it was before we as humans came to it; which is an amazing challenge, but it’s a huge attractor of talent, and its engrained in our culture, it’s engrained in our mindset.

We don’t do anything that is environmentally neutral, it’s got to be environmentally positive. It’s got to add to the environment, whether that’s replenishing the aqueducts and aquifers that run underneath the dessert, many areas of Saudi; how do you replenish that, whether it’s revitalizing and ensuring that we continue to enhance the beautiful coral reefs that are in NEOM, or whether it’s being the first place on earth that will be powered by 100% renewable energy. NEOM has incredible access to solar obviously, and wind, 24-hours a day, it’s a very unique and very beautiful environment, and they want to invest in green hydrogen as a power source. So, if you had to say one word, it’s a place where I would say it’s the accelerator of human progress. It’s the Willy Wonka come true, right, it’s Wonka Land come true.

One could say it’s truly greenfield both in the eco-sense and the fact that you are developing something brand new, which is pretty interesting. You’re President for the Technology & Digital sector of this very large project, what is your remit in this function, what are some of the key projects you’re working on?

The remit is really simple to say, hard to do. The remit is simply to build the world’s first cognitive city, to build the technical foundation and technology foundation, and roll-out solutions for that. So, when I think about this in the sense of what does it mean in terms of the key projects, there’s really five core ones and we’ll touch on a couple of these.

  1. It’s all fundamentally about building the cognitive foundation. And so, what I mean by that is, is that in NEOM we have to have the ability to connect things, we call them digital air, that means we don’t want to have any space of digital divide. So, we’re going to have 5G, 5G services throughout, and the use of low earth orbiting satellites to provide broadband connectivity throughout the whole region.


  1. You’ve got to have the ability to compute, that means you’ve got to have the ability to calculate hyper-skilled datacenters. Situating NEOM as a center for hyper-skilled datacenters around the world.


  1. Most importantly you have to have the ability to contextualize. What I mean by that is, the ability to actually comprehend and understand artificial intelligence, AI data. So, one of the biggest problems we have is NIOS which is our state-of-the-art synthetic intelligence-based operating system. So, that’s really I’d say the core foundational project that has to happen in order for us to be really-really critically able to execute in our vision.

Then there’s a set of other projects you have to do with rolling-out. We have 16+ sectors, so healthcare, federal services, media, real estate, sports and entertainment, those sectors have 650+ solutions that we have to roll out across NEOM. And in order to do that, talent, access to talent is huge. So there’s a whole lot of initiatives around how do you apply gamification to attract talent, of those 8 billion people on the planet, two billion of them are gamers growing at 20 percent a year, so we have a lot of initiatives around how can we test for tech talent, and make it fun in terms of gamification.

Then finally, when most people thing NEOM, they think of a digital city, you think of the physical version of NEOM, you think about the buildings and the incredible terrain, and the beautiful coral reefs, and everything that we’re building. Well, that is absolutely true, absolutely true. There is a side of NEOM that is equally as important, that’s the digital version of NEOM, what we call NEOM Verse, and in order to create NEOM Verse, what that means is, we have technology that allows us to create a portal between the digital and the physical world, meaning the ability to stream in real-time the physical world into the digital, and vice versa.

So, imagine you walk into a gym in the US, it’s early morning-time in the US which is the evening-time in NEOM, and when most folks go out because it’s cool in the desert, so, they’re going on a trip in the NEOM mountain. So, you walk into a gym in the US, and you go into your augmented reality room, and you’re there. As you walk and as you see the temperatures changing, the ground is adjusting based on the terrain, you see something you can put a circle on it, as you circle that area your guide sees the same circle and they point out to where that is, it’s the physical merging of those two worlds. What that means is anything you create or you think of in the physical world, you can create in the digital world, meaning it’s a whole new market for application developers, and programmers, to come and participate in one of the largest growth regions in the world being the Middle East and NEOM in Saudi.

So, super-excited, lots of projects, lots of interest, and never a dull moment at NEOM.

Oh, I just can imagine. What a great position to be in. So, you are in the unique position in that you really don’t have any legacy. How do you architect the future differently for this, versus the evolutionary brownfield future that you’ve traditionally, and we traditionally have to work with?

I think the first thing you have to be able to understand, there’s two core principles you have to have, and then we’ll talk about specifically, but one, you have to hire for curiosity, really important, number one, you have to have people who are very-very curious, people who ask the right questions. We live in a world where all the answers are known, so therefore the ability to ask the right question is what is really immensely important. And as you’re going through this process the second thing that you have to have is, you’ve got to have a lot of humble pie, you have to be extremely humble because you have to recognize that it’s not about what you don’t know, it’s about fundamentally waking up each and every day and challenging what you believe to be true, because you can’t control what you don’t know, but you can’t control what is the beliefs that you hold to be true. So, from a cultural standpoint those are the two things that really underpin I think our ability to move forward and guides our thinking.

Then from an architectural standpoint, one is we’re trying to put as much as we can into software, really-really important to have I think a software driven environment that allows for flexibility. The use of microservices in our architecture, the ability for the software components, these Lego blocks, to stand on their own so that you can stand on your own, you can replace a Lego block as technology or things change, really-really critically important in terms of the design of the infrastructure.

And the third thing I think is to understand that you don’t go this alone. I would say in today’s world what’s different when I was building a greenfield environment, when you’re doing the financials, it was about customer lifetime value; you get all these used cases and what’s the impact on customer lifetime value. And while that is still an important calculation, what’s even more important or equally important is ecosystem lifetime value, which means how do I construct a service or a solution toward enterprise, to an individual, to a citizen, how do I construct that service with a set of partners in a way that allows each partner to sustain itself with value? That we can see that the ecosystem itself when you look at the value of each of the individual elements, it can sustain itself; why is it important, because you need to diversify risk, you have to diversify risk in order to do that, especially when you’re building for the future that you don’t know, it requires partners and they have to be there in the trenches with you.

And so, we spend a lot of time on making sure the value proposition for the ecosystem is high and sustainable and maximize as much as we do for the value proposition for the individual, really-really important. So, that’s kind of how we kind of manage this uniqueness of greenfield versus brownfield.

Excellent. There was a book, I want to say it was about 2010, by a gentleman Dr. Gregory Berns who was at Emory University, a famed Neuroscientist, he wrote a book called ‘The Iconoclast’, I believe it’s sub-titled ‘A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently’, and the point of the book was that it’s not genetic as much as it is environment. One of the key aspects that he talked about was living in constant discomfort, and he specifically mentioned about moving to country where you might not understand the language or the customs, to be able to think differently.  Think about it this way, you mentioned Paulo Alto, and you’re driving back and forth one on one every day, you likely don’t recall those drives after a certain period of time, they’re just the same, right?

That’s right.

Where if you’re doing the same in Saudi, I have to imagine you’re watching everything because you’re just not used to the customs, everything is new. I think you’ve been there with your family for almost six months now, what has been your experience and your family’s experience in Saudi?

I have to say it’s been wonderful. Uniquely for us, all I can say is, I can’t describe the experience for everyone, but I can tell you as an African American coming from the US working my career in technology, it’s the first time in my career where I walked into a room and really have been afforded 100 percent of my focus and ability on solving the problem, as opposed to trying to fit in. You might find that strange, how is that possible? Because when I came to Saudi they see us not as a black man, or as a black woman, a family, they see us as an American who they view as being someone that can help them, who they view as being here to help them create this new accelerator of human progress. So, whether it’s been the amazing outreach. When we came here, the community taking us and showing us where there’s restaurants, volunteering restaurants, just being open, or whether it’s us dressing in our regular western clothes and walking into a very nice incredible shopping mall, going into the high-end stores or whatever, and not having a security guard or someone follow us around.

If you’re African American and you’re in the US, you know exactly what I’m talking about. All I can tell you is, our experience here in Saudi has been really open and inclusive for us, and it’s been eye-awakening. I love the US and I love my country obviously, and I think that we can get blinders on that we just get a little cocky quite frankly, that we think we’re the best in everything. What I’ve been really amazed at, at least within NEOM, is when we say that NEOM is going to work on open and inclusiveness, I for the first time in my career, again I’ve moved to a lot of tech companies, my first time in my career I have paid for performance targets based on the level of inclusion, based on the number of women that we hire, based on those that are under the age of 35, based on the diverse metrics. I am paid on those metrics.

I’m not talking about someone having a nice presentation and saying, ‘Yeah, here’s what we’re going to do, and we all recognize a problem, then we bring on a celebrity and they talk about what we need to do to hire the advancement women, or hire the advancement of African-Americans,’ not that that’s not important, but we’ve all participated in that but never once coming out of that did it result in a fundamental change in terms of how it was measured.

Over here what’s very interesting is, the great diversity that I get to experience each and every day at NEOM is not because they wrote it down in a vision, and I find this in Saudi, it’s because they actually measure it. It’s actually implemented because they fundamentally believe that in order for NEOM to be successful we have to be a model of openness and inclusion for the world. And so that to me again was really eye-awakening to hear and see the passion for those that are in NEOM and working in NEOM to make this vison a reality. I am very much aware of all the stereotypes that we are told about Saudi on the western side of the world, because I’ve lived in the US forever. When I came to Saudi though and in my experience just in NEOM, I’m not saying this is throughout Saudi, but from what I’ve experienced, it’s been nothing short of just a huge relief. Me and my wife talk about it all the time, it’s easy to do things, it’s easy to communicate.

One thing you’re told is, if you’re a minority in the US you are always told that you have to be twice as good, there’s various evolutions of that depending on your background and culture. And what I’m trying to explain to folks who are not minorities is what does that really mean, is that really true. Well what it means is, if you go into a meeting; take the example if you’re a woman and you come to a meeting in technology with all men, the first thing, if there’s a problem every man in that room jumps on, ‘How do I solve the problem?’ so 100 percent of their brain capacity is focused on that. If you’re a woman you start thinking about, ‘Well, wait a minute, how do I fit in?’ so instead of 100 percent of your brain capacity focusing on the problem, and everybody else is, you spend 20-30 percent of your brain, ‘How do I fit in…?’ So, when they say, ‘Hey let’s grab a bunch of beers… let’s go golfing… let’s go race some cars afterwards,’ how do I fit into that environment. And if you’re an African American, same thing. In a room of Caucasian men, same thing. You can just go down the line.

The point is, is that you’re spending a significant portion of your capacity trying to understand, trying to fit in, as opposed to everyone else trying to work on the problem. What’s been a huge relief, and I hope every person can experience this once in their life, and from a professional standpoint, is walking into a meeting room and being able to apply literally 100 percent of my abilities on solving the problem. Because the room is so diverse, I don’t have to worry about fitting in, because it’s just not an issue! It’s a wonderful thing.

So, for me personally, my wife and I talk about we’ve had just a great experience in Saudi, they’ve treated us so well. Sometimes I wear a Saudi thobe which has been great, I think that’s one of the greatest adventures in the world, I don’t know why they kept it secret, its amazingly comfortable for men, it’s airy when it’s hot, I just love it, I think that was one of the best inventions of the world. But at the same time I can also aware my US traditional clothes and we haven’t experienced any sort of discrimination, different looks or anything, and I ask myself in my country would that same be true if they wore their traditional Saudi garbs and walked in some states and places in the US, would that be true? And so I’ve really learned a lot from here, and I’m not saying Saudi is perfect, I’m not saying that at all, I’m just saying from my experience I think I will definitely take back a lot of the cultural learnings, the positive that I’ve seen and hopefully drive change back in the US in certain areas. But it’s been great, yeah, it’s been a great experience.

And I can vouch for your exposure to the top echelons there, because we’ve tried to schedule this over several months, several times, where your EA has come back and said, ‘He’s got a meeting with the Crowned Prince, so he’s not going to be able to meet with you Ken,’ and I said, ‘It’s okay.’!  

Yeah, that was definitely a highlight I think of the other trip here. I just tell everyone, it’s so amazing when you get a chance to meet people behind the scenes, and you get a chance to actually engage and learn from someone, without the media; just hold judgement on people you meet until you meet them. It’s amazing, and to me one of the things I’ve learned is I’ve met some incredible young Saudi talent, some incredible bright minds in both men and women. If I read some of the US things that were going on, it’s just amazing to me that we’re still writing things that are just completely erroneous about certain characteristics of how people operate, or certain views, and they’ve never even been to the area, or they’ve never spoken to these people.

So, I really learnt quite a bit to be humble, to keep an open mind, and to really listen to what people have to say, and active listening, listening from a state of point of learning, not for judgement. So it’s been just been a great opportunity, and as I’ve said the US is still my country, I love it, I love it so much, but I’ve just been so thankful for the Saudis to allow me and my wife and family to have a great experience, and help them in their country, and help the world to see that there is a place where everyone can live in unison.

You’ve done such a great job marketing NEOM at this point, how can people get involved in this project, and especially I would say digital industry start-ups, since we like to invest in them?

Yes, so number one is NEOM has sixteen sectors, and so be clear on where you want to engage, I think that’s number one. Be super clear on where you want to ultimately engage. We have sixteen sectors, you can reach out to those sectors directly on LinkedIn, so if you’re in tech and digital like myself, if you want financial services or you’re talking about retail, or real estate, so go directly to I think those particular sectors is kind of the best. You can find out a bunch of information on our website that we have in terms of what’s happening, but that’s probably the best way that I would tell you, is to be clear on what sector you want to engage with is probably the fastest, and then go directly and engage with that sector.

Excellent. On closing can you provide any recommendations of books and/or resources that inspire you, beyond your Grandfather who clearly had a great impact on you.

There’s a book that I often refer to at NEOM, it’s called Black Swan and it’s by Nassim Taleb. It describes your ability ultimately to recognize the world isn’t linear, that it’s not about drawing a straight line from point A to point B, it’s about understanding when those predictable moments going to happen. What are those things that nothing is as nice gradual, and the idea of a black swan is, they didn’t know they were black swans, they showed up and, ‘Ooh, what is that? Oh my God it’s-it’s a black swan.’ So, the idea is, can you predict where are those hyper-growths, be bold, and can you say, ‘Hey, how do you think about things differently that are going to be unpredictable?’ Because the world is that way, so it’s a way of changing your thinking. I think that’s been tremendously helpful.

I love any and all books and writings about Warren Buffett, I am just a huge Warren Buffett fan in terms of what he’s been able to accomplish. And the reason I highlight, especially any books that are written around his readouts at his quarterly shareholder meetings, those books that chronicle and notes about his wisdom that he gives out, those meetings last for an hour or two hours. And the reason I say that is, from a technology perspective, the number one thing I think we have to recognize as technologists is that our goal is to create value, not to roll out cool tech. That is where I think that a lot of technologists really need to work on, understanding how does a P&L owner, how does a business think about creating value. And how do I express my technology, not in my language but in their language.

I think Warren Buffett has so many great learnings about how to view a company, how to view a business model, how to evaluate growth in value that is a technologist. Those are your customers, so you need to understand them; you need to understand how they think, you need to understand how they talk, because that will make you and your organization much more impactful as you try to drive change in your respected environments.

Great suggestions, especially I must say, the Black Swan has obviously enjoyed a resurgence there, when you think about… I think the subtitle is, ‘The Impact of the Highly Improbable,’ and certainly the last nine months of COVID would fit that, in terms of planning for the unknown future there. So, Nassim Taleb did a good job of that. I love Warren Buffett as well.

Joseph, thank you for this inspirational interview.

Thank you, it’s been great man, I love talking to you guys and anytime man, look forward to hopefully the next one.

Excellent. Well yes, we’ll have to do some check-ins along the way to see how this project is going. And I want to know at what point I could start reserving some real estate, an apartment per se in the city of the future, Utopus.

So, this has been Joseph Bradley, I’d say architecting the future really as President Technology and Digital for NEOM, the world’s first cognitive city. Thank you for listening, and please join us next week for the next edition of our Digital Industry Leadership Podcast Series.


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