152: Introducing the Life Stack – Where Does Your Firm Fit?
In the near future, you will need to determine where your company fits in your customer’s life stack
Good morning. My name is Chris Kalaboukis and you’ve returned to the think future podcast. Today I’m going to introduce a brand new topic something that I’ve been playing with over the last little while. Based on some of the future discussions I’ve been having Futurist discussions I’ve been having and it’s a concept that I’m going to call. I’m calling the life stack so similar to network stacks. If you’re familiar with network stacks if you’re technologists at all. You’re familiar with network stacks and when they are the way network stacks work is it’s a visual representation of the way things are communicated both on a foundational level and at the user level on a network. So a network stack basically starts with the lowest layer which is a physical layer which is the actual hardware that the network runs over. And there’s a set of layers in between. And then the very top is the user interface layer. And I don’t know if they bore you with the details of the layers in between but basically what it is it’s a representation of how networks operate they need all of those layers in order to be able to deliver a web page to you. So I mean if you think about it in concrete terms. You have to be connected to the Internet by or some type of wire or wireless connection and at the very bottom there has to be that sort of hardware connection that allows that to occur and at the very top there needs to be a browser that you use in order to be able to view a website right. So that’s the very top and that’s the very bottom and at the very top. It’s like everything below the very top. Is typically hidden from most users so most users most customers most of your customers. Most of your users don’t care about anything below the very. Top layer. So the top layer is the interface that that interconnect with the users the user interacts with the top layer and then the top layer interacts with the lower layers in magic occurs. And the user gets what they want right. So that’s how the network stack works. So I want to introduce this new concept that I call a life stack and it works very similarly to the way the network stack works. The only difference is that the top layer is the things that a typical user needs to do. Let’s stop using the use the word user I mean joke is that only in the I.T. field is your customer name the same as the customer in a committed. That a drug pusher has so let’s call me House or so customer your customer has to do an interface with a number of things over the course of a day. And those are now all currently at the user interface stack so if you think about the things that a customer has to do every day the long list of things that a customer has to do every day. So a customer has to do a number of mandatory things right. I mean they have to wake up in the morning they have to make coffee in the morning they have to have a shower. They have to get dressed. They have to get in their car whatever these mandatory things are there’s a number of mandatory things that humans have to do every day in order to live in a polite and civil eyesight. So there’s that thing that list of things that needs to be done. Right. And so those are also at the top layer. So there’s a bunch of think imagine a bunch of blocks at the very top layer and all these things these are touch points that the customer has to do during the day in order to like I said live in a civilized society. And then there’s a whole slew of other things that a customer needs to do during a day. Well not needs to do but would like. To do during the day. So for example have a delicious and healthy breakfast being able to. Stop and. Admire the view on the drive to work have a great lunch at an interesting place go to go and meet some people that they’ve never met before. So there’s there’s a number of these optional things that we can do during our day that we do. Optionally because we enjoy doing them they improve the quality or our lives. So a lot of times we say well there’s a bunch of minatory things I have to do and I just want to get them out of the way and get done with them so that I can get to the really nice stuff and the really nice stuff is the stuff that improves quality our lives right so let’s think about the life stack as here a number of things that a typical person or typical customer needs to do during the day here the things that they’d like to do during the day and we’re going to make the assumption that the customer wants to do less of the mandatory things and more of the optional things because the optional things are the things that they are choosing to do right. So they want to do more things that they choose to do so if the opportunity presents itself for the mandatory things the non-optional things to be done by somebody else or something else as in a bought or whatever then those things will disappear or we should think about what how to get those things to disappear down the stack so that the user doesn’t need to deal with it because the user needs to deal with it right now. I’ll give you an example. So I have a family of five. We’re out of milk. We run out of the. Look on a regular basis. And we have both Allman milk and regular milk in the house. So what happens when we run out of milk. Well we have to factor in going out and getting milk and that is a mandatory thing that we need to do every now and then whenever we run out of milk. So it’s a random thing depends on how thirsty the kids are etc Whether or not we need to buy milk. So this random mandatory task just pops up in the middle of our day and we’re like damn. Now we have to go get milk. So do we. But then we have to figure out how to factor in a lot of cognitive work to to do that for everything. I mean it’s if you think about your life. There’s so much that you do during your day. Which is sort of random stuff that pops up in other mandatory things that you don’t you wish somebody else could do for you. So where that what does what do we do what we could do is we could go on to card or any one of these services that allows you to automatically buy milk when you’re running low. And at some point the future we’re going to have sensors in our milk carton so that when even when the milk carton knows or the fridge knows that the milk is low. It will automatically reach order that thing. So, in the life stack the thing that the customer needs to do or a thing that I need to do in order to order milk disappears down the stack and is now invisible to me. I don’t care about milk ordering because milk ordering disappears from my view. I have some automated process in the background ordering milk for me. So the question for you is what if you’re a dairy. What if you’re a dairy and you’re trying to get new customers. How are new customers. How is this dairy going to get new customers if everybody Ellery out there is already buying their milk through this service. How many even going to know about this new milk. Or care about this new milk. If the process of buying milk is now off my radar and I don’t care about it anymore. So let’s expand this out into the near future a little bit. And in the life stack there will there all these things in the life stack the going to start moving down the stack. And some of these things that are happening in the life stack today are things that keep your business alive. If you weren’t at that point in the life stack if somebody wasn’t purposely choosing you. Or using you to choose things say let your retail or something like that. I mean you survive on people walking into your store and buying stuff or you survive on people going to your website and buying stuff. What if suddenly those people weren’t the ones walking into your store or going to your website but it was their agents doing this for you are you going to have to start thinking about pitching to the agents or is it too late. Once. Once I’ve already subscribed to the milk of my choice. How will my going to break into that conversation say Hey Chris. Try this other milk. It’s more delicious than the milk you’ve been getting and I might say to myself Oh I’ve completely forgotten about the whole concept of milk because milk just appears when I need it. So you have to think to yourself. The life stack. You exist in the life stack somewhere today. You either are right in front of your customers in your customers interact with you all the time or you live somewhere deeper in the stack where those customers talk to somebody who then talks of somebody in Texas somebody and then you still make money in that stack in because you’re somewhere in the stack so you don’t talk directly to the customers but you talk. You make some money in that stack through some transaction. That occurs when there’s customers at the very end. So the point I’m trying to make is that this stack is going to change as more and more things get automated more and more chat bots come out there more and more services come out to layer themselves on the stack and become that first point of contact with the customer. And once these services become that first point of contact with customer and then other services possibly even your services start moving down the stack there’s less chance of you being able to talk directly to the customer about a process that’s been subsumed below the top level of the life stack. So you have to ask yourself the question where do I exist in that future. Do I still want to exist at the top of the life stack talking directly to people or am I OK with going deeper into the life stack where I act more like a piece of technology platform that other players can use and I still make money off it. I think that’s a question that we need to ask. And this is a question that needs to be asked. Now because we are seeing the emergence of these semi-intelligent agents like Amazon Alexa google home that can take a command and generate a sequence of actions. Beyond that once we start seeing these things get smarter and automatically redoing things basically removing those mandatory items out of our lives. Then you have to think if these mandatory items are removed out of our lives. If we’re no longer in the customers. View. As a thing then we’re how do we stay relevant to that customer and if you’re locked in you’re great. But what if you’re a new player who wants to get locked in. How do you break into that market without. True civilly advertising to the customer who no longer cared about milk because milk shows up whenever he needs it. So I just wanted to introduce that concept of the life stack think about where you fit within the life stack and then think about the future of the life stack where are you going to be three five ten years out. In that life stack are you going to continue to maintain that connection with your end customers are you going to move down the stack and become a layer in that stack transacting and making money off the transactions between the layers. Think about where you’ll be in that future because this future is coming and you have to. And you’d better be ready to determine where you will be in the life stack.