On Episode 113 of The Edge of Innovation, we’re talking with executive advisor Scott Monty about looking to the future of innovation and learning from the past!


Dealing With Skeptics
How to Approach Innovation In Your Business
Henry Ford: A Business Historical Perspective
Start With The Basics
Looking To The Future & Changing With The Times
Conclusion: “Stay Curious”
More Episodes
Show Notes

Innovation: Looking To The Future & Learning From the Past


Paul: Good afternoon, everyone. Today we’re talking with Scott Monty of Scott Monty Strategies in Canton, Michigan. Welcome, Scott.

Scott: Good to be with you, Paul.

Dealing With Skeptics

Paul: So do you find that the people who engage you are because you have a track record in their mind?I know there’s probably a lot of repeat business, but then there’s this sort of subset, I would imagine, that are skeptical. It’s like, okay, I don’t know. You know, “I can see everything. I know everything about this. You know, what’s he going to add? He doesn’t even know this business.”

Scott: Yeah.

Paul: And how do you deal with that because… First of all, have you had that challenge? And then how did you deal with that?

Scott: So, the types of clients that I have right now, it’s largely referral and word of mouth. I’ve been writing a blog for,I guess, going on fifteen years now. So I’ve got a track record of what I guess you could call thought leadership. I won’t claim the mantle, but, you know, that’s what other people have said.

I certainly made a reputation for myself at Ford. And largely the people that approach me are people that are already believers. Like that dealer, you know. Here’s a guy who I didn’t have to convince him that something needed changing. He knew a change needed to happen. He just didn’t know how to get there. Right? And I find those are the leaders that I enjoy working with the most, is those who are naturally curious and those who are constantly pushing for something different, something better.

However, I will say that in my career, I have come across plenty of skeptics, and I actually had an opportunity to convert one of them, or so I thought, at a meeting of the entire C-suite at Ford Motor Company. This was back in 2011, I think. I was asked to give a presentation on the state of social media, more broadly and specifically what it meant for the company.

And I went into this room. And, remember this is late ’10, early ’11. So, oil and gas prices were still high. Every executive around the room had fuel prices on their mind as Ford was thinking about its way forward. And I acknowledged that, and I said, “Before I begin this presentation – And by the way, I happened to be seated directly in between the CFO and the COO. I was in the seat that normally the CEO held at these meetings. And I looked around the room, and I said, “Everybody has this at the back of their mind, so let’s see if we can get a little consumer research.”

So I went onto the Ford corporate Twitter account, and I asked the audience, “When you buy your next car, what’s the minimum MPG you’d like to see — miles per gallon — you’d like to see from it?”

And I, I hit “send,” and I gave my presentation, and about 20 minutes later, I opened up the Twitter feed, and all of these responses were in there — about a hundred or so responses. And it ranged from “Don’t matter the MPG as long as it got a V8 engine in it” all the way up to “300 miles per gallon.”

But most of the answers were in the 30s and 40s, which is exactly where Ford had been targeted over that two to three period range. So it validated the strategy. And the CFO, the guy who was the most skeptical of digital and social, who wondered whether people were wasting their time, whether this was productive for the company, he pushed back from the table and he put his reading glasses up on his forehead and he looked over at me and he said, “Do you know, if I had insights like this every day, I would find it invaluable.”

So, in that very moment, I made a believer out of a skeptic. And it was all about speaking his language, putting it in a frame of reference where he could work with it. Now, this isn’t a guy who’s going to be creating his own Instagram feed or you know, you name it. This is a guy who thinks about it from a utilitarian point of view. But until we actually packaged it in a way that was useful to him, he didn’t see the value in it.

Paul: Of course, yeah. How would he know? How could he perceive it?

Scott: Right.

Paul: It’s as good as not existing.

Scott: Exactly.

Paul: Fascinating, fascinating. Now, you said… Did he continue to, to believe? Or did he wane on that?

Scott: Well, he did because he was the guy we had to go to when we wanted funding. So, yeah. Obviously, we had to prove our case each time, but we didn’t have to prove the fundamentals to him. So, it became a less frustrating exercise and more of an exercise in creativity.

Paul: Okay, alright. That’s fascinating.

How to Approach Innovation In Your Business

Paul: So now, a lot of our listeners are small to medium-sized businesses. They’d love to be Ford, which was once a small business. But it took them a little while to get there. What would be your counsel to a… So, let me think about just different businesses we’ve talked to here in New England that… Let me think.

There’s a CPA firm. Typical. It’s tax season. They do taxes. That’s where they make most of their money. They do some advisory work, etc. You’ve got two typical partners and they’re busy. They do the work themselves. They’ve got a few people working for them. How would you help them navigate? And I know this is out of the norm. We’re taking a thousand horsepower person with you and putting them in a little two-seater here. So, it’s way oversubscribed.

But how would they approach innovating in their business in a way? And I’ve been asked this question before, and you don’t want to come up with this just real leap of faith. Well, you know, you can do… there’s one of the banks out there that now, it’s a restaurant and a bank. I forget which one it is. But, you can go and get coffee at the bank. And it’s like, okay, you know. It sounds like they’re reaching. So, I’ll let you sort of pontificate on that. What do you think about that?

Scott: Well, first, Paul, what I would say is that I don’t presume to know as much about their business as they do. That will always be the case. And I will defer to business owners for their level of expertise. But I do start by asking a lot of questions. So I’m at a little bit of a disadvantage here since we’re just creating this hypothetical.

But first I would start with kind of the Socratic Method, as it were and, and try to get more information out of them through a series of questions or observations. About a flow through or whatnot, I would observe what’s going on in the place of business.

Henry Ford: A Business Historical Perspective

Scott: But here’s the thing. Let me approach this from a business historical perspective as Henry Ford did when the Model T came about. His whole idea was… You know, he created the quadricycle, and that was his first opportunity to experiment with the combustion engine. Ford Motor Company came along in 1903 and the Model T debuted in 1908. So, there were years where this was in development. And his idea eventually was to create a car that could be used by virtually any American and would have a variety of utilities to it.

So, a couple of things happened. One, he began to produce enough cars that the cost per unit was driven down. In 1908 it cost, I think, $850, which was pretty expensive back then. But by the late teens the cost was $250 per car. So, by scale, he brought the price down. Again, simple math. In this process — and you probably are familiar with this phrase, he said, “You can have any color you want as long as it’s black.” Right? And people thought that was because he was not innovating. Well, the opposite was true. He was innovating so much, the car was in such high demand, he knew that black paint was the fastest drying paint.

Paul: Oh, interesting.

Scott: So it was the paint that allowed him to produce the more of vehicles. But when it comes down to innovation, he created his product in such a way that it could be used, it could be converted into a tractor; it could be easily adapted as a pickup. You could even put snow tracks on it and use it on the snow. Right?

So, he was already designing something with a better customer experience in mind. And it started small, and it got big, and I think the same thing applies to whether you’re a CPA or a real estate agent or what have you. It’s about making these observations at the minute level.

Start With The Basics

Scott: So, for example, you’re a CPA. Where does most of your business come from? Is it online? Are you competing with the TurboTaxes of the world? Or is it local business that you’re serving? And if so, how are you actually transmitting business to them? Are you meeting them at their place of business? Are you making them come to your office? Could you do sessions where you borrow a gymnasium for an afternoon and get a line of people queued up and run them right through? Are you associated with a collective of other similar businesses or related businesses where you can each feed off of each other? I mean, these are all very basic things. I’m kind of grasping at straws here. But again, it’s starting with the very basic.

It may not sound sexy. It may not seem like it’s completely scalable, but you’ve got to start somewhere because from those, from those initial tweaks, then you may see a bigger one, a bigger opportunity come by. Or you may run into something that you never expected. If you’re the bank that has opened the coffee shop, okay, I don’t know why people want to spend so much time in a bank. I’ve seen auto dealers with coffee shops. Well, people are getting their oil changed, and they want a more premium experience rather than the stale donuts and crappy coffee on the sideboard there. Okay, I get that.

But what reason are you retaining people in the bank? And, if you’ve got them in the bank, then what other opportunities are you making available to them? Would you have other small business owners available to do an open house with them one day per week at that coffee shop or a seminar or something to help them grow their business that’s a value add that doesn’t feel like it’s some kind of awkward square peg in a round hole?

Paul: That’s interesting.

Looking To The Future & Changing With The Times

Paul: So, I want to go back to something you mentioned about the initial years of the car with Henry Ford. So, there was a whole ecosystem pre-car that was taking care of the feeding the animals, the horses, cleaning up after them. Now, this is ultimate hindsight, but what would you have counseled the horse manure cleanup people to do? I mean, thinking about it from now, it’s like, okay, I go around. I’ve got some low-paid people, low-skilled, and I pick up horse manure. And that’s my job, and that’s my business. And I can’t imagine a world in which there are not horses on the street of New York. How am I going to pivot? Let’s go back. And what would you have counseled them? I’m even just thinking myself. What would I have counseled them? I know the rest of the story.

Scott: Yeah. We certainly have the benefit of hindsight now. What I like to help executives do is to think in terms of analogies. And I’ll give you an example.

Back when social media was first rearing its ugly head in business — and there were a lot of skeptics back then. I mean, again, something we take for granted now. But you think about the advent of Twitter and of Facebook and even email at a certain point. Somebody shared an article with me from a business journal. And it was kind of like a case study that all these employees were petitioning the boss to allow them to have access to this new technology. And again, the boss, very skeptical, was concerned that it would be a drain on productivity. But in order to assuage his employees, in order to, to get them off of his back, he said, “Well, let’s, let’s run an experiment. Let’s set up kind of a central kiosk out in the middle of everyone’s desks where we can keep an eye on this so we know that people won’t be wasting their time, and they won’t be giving away corporate secrets or anything like that. It will be kind of a publicly available thing.”

And do you know that that business journal was from the 1920s, and the technology was the telephone? Now, again, you think about how closely we use all of these utilities from telephone to email to, to digital and social. It’s just taken for granted. So, put yourself in the situation of the horse manure guy. The question is what kind of analogy could you present to him to help him understand that there will be change coming. We not know exactly what it’s going to look like, but you need to be ready to adapt.

It could be that, with the advent of street cars, let’s say, that began to reduce the the number of, or at least the routes of horses and carriages in the city. Alright, well, we’re only operating, on the side of the road now. You know, we’re not operating in the center. Or now we’ve actually seen more of our business driven out to the suburbs rather than the city center. Right? So, we can already begin to see some of these things. So, you know, my recommendation would be, if I were more farsighted than some folks… This is the interesting thing, Paul. I tend to pride myself on my knowledge of history and literature and the things that have already happened, but at the same time, I kind of think of myself as a futurist. Right? “What’s past is prologue.” It’s quite simple as that. Shakespeare knew what he was talking about.

So to say to the manure guy, “You might think about focusing on places where we know horses are going to be needed regardless of how this car thing works out.” Farms, zoos, circuses, wherever. Equestrian shoes. You know, wherever we see horse concentrations now get them to start thinking about alternative markets and how they can actually continue to be part of that niche rather than fighting what we all know is coming, even though we’re not be able to see clearly what it is.

Paul: Right. It’s very much like innovation. It’s like that’s not obvious, but once it happens, it was very obvious.

Scott: Exactly.

Paul: I think it’s the core of the issue here is how do you get people to take the leap to understand or even take the leap to consider understanding what might be.


As you’re aware we’ve been talking with Scott Monty of Scott Monty Strategies. There’s gonna be a whole bunch of show notes based on what we’ve talked about and we’ll have his contact information there as well.

So, Scott, thank you very much for coming on the show. We appreciate it.

Scott: It’s my great pleasure Paul, thank you.

More Episodes:

This is Part 2 of 3 our interview with Scott Monty. Stay tuned for Parts 3 coming soon! If you missed Part 1, you can listen to it here: https://saviorlabs.com/innovation-marketing-strategies-with-scott-monty/

Show Notes: