#91: AI, Web3, Cybersecurity & The Meaning Of Tech – FDIC’s 1st Chief Innovation Officer Sultan Meghji

Wednesday February 15, 2023

Tech seems to drive our lives these days. We can’t do anything without some sort of device in our hand, at our fingertips, and even on our faces. But what does the tech industry actually do? 

Fran Racioppi asks Sultan Meghji for his opinion on all things tech. Sultan was the first Chief Innovation Officer at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, he’s a Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Fellow at the George Mason National Security Institute, a Member of the Bretton Woods Committee, and currently a Professor in the graduate programs at Duke University’s Pratt Engineering School teaching AI, Web3 & Cybersecurity.

They cover how FINTECH changed the banking industry and why Sultan’s four innovation themes of Inclusion, Resilience, Amplification and Future are critical to implementing sustainable technology solutions in any business. Plus they cover how technology is being used in America’s peer-to-peer competition with China. 

Learn more about him on LinkedIn and Twitter @sultanmeghji.

Read the full episode transcription here and learn more on The Jedburgh Podcast Website. Subscribe to us and follow @jedburghpodcast on all social media. Watch the full video version on YouTube.

Listen to the podcast here


About Sultan Meghji

TJP 91 | TechSultan Meghji most recently served as the inaugural Chief Innovation Officer at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation of the United States Government. A noted expert in AI, Biotech, Cybersecurity, Quantum Computing & Web3, he also serves as a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a fellow at the George Mason National Security Institute and is a distinguished member of the Bretton Woods Committee. Mr. Meghji also serves as a professor in the graduate programs at Duke University’s Pratt Engineering School with a focus on AI, Web3 & Cybersecurity. Mr. Meghji has a 30 year career in technology, including launching, scaling and selling a number of startups in frontier technologies, biotech and fintech. He currently advises both America’s Frontier Fund and Reciprocal Ventures


AI, Web3, Cybersecurity, Quantum Computing & The Meaning Of Tech – FDIC’s 1st Chief Innovation Officer Sultan Meghji

The threat landscape is going up at an almost algorithmic rate and will continue to grow at that rate. The average bank in these countries is not prepared for that. The X factor was things like quantum computers, more artificial intelligence, de novo, Web3, and all these new technologies that people are investing in now that, in several years, will be core. As an agency, you can’t wait for somebody to tell you about it several years from now.

We hit the word tech or technology every day. Tech seems to drive many aspects of our lives these days. We can’t do anything anymore without some device in our hand at our fingertips and soon even on our faces. What does the tech industry do? What kinds of tech are there? What do all those people even mean when they say, “I work in tech,” like I know what they are talking about?Fran Racioppi and Sultan Meghji on The Jedburgh Podcast.

For the last episode of our late fall trip to DC, I visited Sultan Meghji. He is the former Chief Innovation Officer at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, FDIC. He is a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a fellow at the George Mason National Security Institute, a member of the Bretton Woods Committee, and a professor in the graduate programs at Duke University’s Pratt Engineering School, teaching AI, Web3, cybersecurity, and some of the foundations of leading tech.

I asked Sultan to define tech and why Google says there are 77 different kinds of technologies. We spent a good bit of time discussing FinTech and how it is changed the banking and finance industry, not for the big banks and the regulatory agencies, but for regular people like you and me. He shares how it is for innovation that themes of inclusion, resilience, amplification, and future are critical to implementing sustainable technology solutions in any business of any size.

We spend our lives thinking about how technology will help us and make our day easier. Sultan and I also dig into the dark side of tech. We are in a great power struggle in a peer-to-peer battle with our adversaries like China and Russia. Much of the tech we use every day is as easily turned against us, uses weapons, and is often clandestinely concealed until it’s time to strike.

We have to ask ourselves, “Are we taking the powers of tech as seriously as we should for the good things they do and the bad?” Check out my conversation with Sultan from his kitchen table on your favorite platform. Watch the full video version on YouTube. Learn more about Sultan on LinkedIn and Twitter @SultanMeghji. Subscribe and follow @JedburghPodcast on all social media. Check out our website, JedburghPodcast.com.

Sultan, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me. It is great to be here.

Thanks for having me at your house.

This is the first time I have hosted an interview at my dining room table.

Do you know what happens when you admit it is your first time for anything? You owe a case of beer.


I wanted to talk about tech. That was how you and I were introduced. There is so much talk in society around this word tech. We hear tech startups, tech businesses, FinTech, biotech, and smart tech. I googled, in preparation for this, the word tech. All these things come up, and mostly, it is short for technology. I said, “Let me expand this and put types of tech.” I found that there are definitions for 4, 6, 7, 20, and 30 types of techs. Seventy-seven types of tech were the most that I saw. I wasn’t going to be able to make a list and say, “Let’s talk about the four types,” because it is infinite, it appears.

You built a career in tech. You were the Chief Innovation Officer at FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. You were a noted expert in AI, biotech, cybersecurity, quantum computing, Web3, a scholar at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a fellow at the George Mason National Security Institute, and a member of the Bretton Woods Committee, which I want to ask you about. You are a professor in the graduate program at Dukes University, Pratt Engineering School. You focus on AI, Web3, and cybersecurity there.

You have many years of career, launching, scaling, and selling a number of startups. You work with early-stage VCs and funds that invest in technology-driven businesses. I thought, since I was unable to find a proper definition of tech, I got to start there with you. I’m going to give you what I found for technology and let you define what tech means. What I found is technology is the application of scientific knowledge to the practical aims of human life or, as it is sometimes phrased, the change and manipulation of the human environment. I liked that one. What does it mean to you?

I liked both of those, and they are far better than anything I could tell you. I will tell you what I think, which is not as good as either of those definitions. We used tech and technology as a placeholder relative to how the caveman first had tools. It is an extension of that. We were living in caves. We picked up a rock, banged it against the wall, and all of a sudden, we could make fire, and we could move out of the caves. Our smartphone is a couple hundred thousand years later. It is the evolution of that. All of this technology is that. I fundamentally believe that humans plus technology are a different species than humans without technology. That is why we are different than Neanderthals.

TJP - E91 Sultan Meghji First Chief Innovation Officer at FDIC

“We use tech and technology as a placeholder relative to
how the caveman first had tools.”

That ties into the manipulation of the human environment. It is an enabler.

It doesn’t say if it is good or bad. It is a change. We have changed it. We now have roads, electricity, running water, and the technology we are using to do this interview. These are all things that change the environment around us. Sometimes they are good, sometimes bad, but they are changing it. In most cases, it is designed to make it easier, with less friction, or able to do things faster than we could do previously. We talk about horsepower and cars, but we rarely remember that. That is because we used to ride horses. I’m staring at your laptop now, and I can see if I’m not close enough to the microphone, which tells me I need to lean in, so I’m changing the environment.

That is the beauty of some of the tools that we are using here. It takes me to think about it in a way. In many ways, over the last several years, we have seen what has become the new industrial revolution. We mentioned we went from horses to cars. Our cars, which were combustion engines, are now pieces of electronic machinery that can run on batteries and alternative fuels. How does the new industrial revolution, the technological revolution, advance society in many ways faster than the mechanical industrial revolution?

As we move into this environment over the last several years, what we have done is we have started removing people from the processes of our civilization. When I swipe my credit card or use Apple Pay at the store, I no longer have to have 157 people sitting behind me to make sure that that transaction goes through.

The vast majority of the time, there is no human involved in that process. The interesting thing about where we are now is the end result of the current investments in technology we are making. I’m talking about the stuff we are investing in now in the fall of 2022 is going to remove people from needing to do stupid repetitive jobs they have done for a while.

In the 1970s and 1980s, we started seeing it with car manufacturing plants where you would have robots weld and stuff like that. We are getting to a point with financial services and healthcare where humans aren’t part of the main line of those processes. You will have a person at one end who triggers something and a person at the other hand who receives the output of that. It becomes an automated system.

A lot of the time, when I talk about artificial intelligence, I say we should be talking about automation. It is because that is what we are doing. Financial services in healthcare are particularly the two markets where we are putting tremendous money in to remove people from the process. There are a lot of reasons why, which we can talk about, but that is what that tech is doing now.

[bctt tweet=”Financial services and healthcare are the two markets where tremendous money is being put right now just to remove people from the process.” username=”talentwargroup”]

We are going to talk about the financial industry, for sure. As many people who read the blog know, when I got out of the army and went to business school, I worked at Merrill Lynch. I had the opportunity to be there for several months, and I learned a tremendous amount about financing. When you combine that with taking a finance and heavy MBA, it was a great experience coming out of special operations when you are sitting in interviews, and people are saying, “Tell us about leadership.” You are giving them these wild stories of being all over Africa and leading multinational forces. They look at you and say, “What about the balance sheet?” You were like, “What is a balance sheet?” They were like, “You didn’t get hired now.” It was important to understand that world.

The previous CEO of FTX probably shouldn’t have been hired because he couldn’t have answered that question either.

You are the third person who brought up FTX to me.

You are in Washington, DC. It is right before Thanksgiving. It is the top story in everyone’s mind here in DC because that whole crowd spent probably hundreds of millions of dollars in political contributions. They are running all over DC. Everyone is running around trying to make sure they are not going to get in trouble about it. It is the topic of topics now.

TJP - E91 Sultan Meghji First Chief Innovation Officer at FDIC

“We’ve started removing people from the processes of our civilization.”

We got to track him down after this. Talk about FDIC. I mentioned you were the chief innovation officer there. First of all, what is a chief innovation officer?

I thought you were going to ask what the FDIC was.

That is the next one. I am going to ask you why the FDIC is important to our banking system because you see it in every single bank, teller, and ATM. Everywhere you go, it has a sticker.

Can I answer the questions backward? It’s because why the FDIC is important leads to why it was the first federal agency that was a prudential regulator to have a chief innovation officer. The FDIC was created several years ago after the banking crisis and all of the issues that surrounded the Great Depression. They were worried about banks failing, Americans losing their savings, and all of this stuff.

The FDIC was created as a private insurance company that was part of the US government that had the balance sheet of the entire country. The entire wealth of our nation is the insurance policy protector for the banking system. Over those several years, they created a series of processes. If you wanted to become a bank and stay a bank, you would have to get a charter, which is something that you would have to get both at the state and federal levels that would allow you to operate.

You would have to conform to certain processes to be allowed to operate as a bank. If you did that, every single depository account would be insured up to some certain amount of money. It started off in a much smaller amount, and then it went to $150,000 or $250,000. That is where it is now. It is $250,000. There are slightly more than 4,000 banks in the United States. About 80% of them are regulated by the FDIC directly. It is the state level, the standard banks that we also have growing up as kids. I’m from a cornfield in Illinois. It is those banks, not like the JP Morgans of the world.

What has been interesting, especially since 2008, is that we have realized the vast majority of new financial services, products, and services that have entered the market have been brought in by tech companies or FinTechs, not by banks. The banking system is on its back foot. We have put trillions of dollars of New American US dollars into the system over the last several years. A huge percentage of that money has never gone into the traditional banking system.

I will use the Starbucks app as an example. Everybody has a Starbucks app in the United States at this point. The average person who has the Starbucks app has slightly more than $30 in it. That is what it is. At this point, it might not even be two coffees. It might be a coffee and a straw. What is interesting about that is Starbucks isn’t a bank. That money isn’t sitting in a bank account. Starbucks would be a multi-hundred-billion-dollar bank if you thought about the app as a bank.

There are hundreds of others examples of that, from the PayPals of the world to the Starbucks of the world to Facebook to whatever. The chair of the FDIC, a few years ago, realized three things were wrong. 1) The average American was highly exposed to non-banks holding American capital. 2) The pace of change in the banking system is not even remotely close to what was happening in the traditional markets. 3) The cybersecurity risks in the system were getting worse.

In the military or IC, we would talk about the threat landscape. The threat landscape is going up at an almost algorithmic rate. We will continue to grow at that rate. The average bank in this country is not prepared for that. We see it every single day, whether it is ransomware, old computer systems, or the 75-year-old CEO of a bank in the Midwest not having his home Wi-Fi have an encrypted password on it. Therefore, bad guys can drive by his house, pretend to be him, send a wire, and all this stuff. This happens on a daily basis.

We created the role of chief innovation officer reporting to the chairman of the FDIC to specifically address these exact issues. One was around human capital. One was around competitiveness. One was around the cyber risk to the system. The last was around educating the entire system and the other regulators about why this was important to the point that now every single federal regulatory body has a chief innovation officer and a whole team that you see in the White House, OCC, the Federal Reserve, CFPB, and SEC. This was the first time we created it as a departmental function as a deputy, someone who could drive some real change in the system.

TJP - E91 Sultan Meghji First Chief Innovation Officer at FDIC

“I fundamentally believe that humans plus technology are a different species than humans without technology.”

They had a seat at the table.

It was to the point where there were entire sections of the portfolio of the chairman that I owned.

The word FinTech, I don’t know if I would say overused, but it is used mostly in a context to make it seem like you know what you are talking about more than anything else.

It is a marketing phrase. A lot of these tech words that you have said since we started this are marketing phrases. That is why I threw them up. Cloud computing has been around since 2008. That is a marketing phrase. When they talk about an on-premise cloud, that means it is a data center. We have been doing that for many years. FinTech, at its broadest categorical definition, means the application of technology to finance. We have been doing that for many years. There are people who talk about fifteen-year-old FinTech. I’m like, “That is a meaningless phrase.” It means the application of technology. The vast majority of financial services firms in the United States don’t use technology newer than fifteen years ago.

Why is that? This is where I wanted to go with this because you had mentioned, and you had said in a couple of the talks that you have given, that banking, in general, is behind the innovation and the technology curve. Why is it as an industry that is the case? I saw this firsthand when I worked at Merrill Lynch. You see user-friendly type things on your iPhone and Mac. When you go into a bank, it is clunky, square, and hard to use.

It is the green text on the black screen that is curved from the mid-’80s. You still have that. That is common in banks. If you talk to people in the banking system, what they will tell you is it is because the regulation is onerous. That is what they always say. That is why they can’t do it. Technology is too expensive. They give you all these reasons why they can’t do it.

The reality is the vast majority of financial services institutions and the United States, and I’m going to talk about the United States. I’m talking about chartered banks and chartered credit unions. They are a little under 10,000 of them in the country of this specific category of deposit-taking institutions that are regulated by the US government.

Several years ago, the average CEO was 60, and the average chair of the board was 65. A few years ago, the average CEO was 70, and the average chairman was 75. Another few years, it is the same person. Eighty-five percent of the time, it is the same person. These guys have been sitting in these jobs like many Baby Boomers are and treading water. They are risk averse. They don’t know how to run efficient businesses. They don’t have the money. It is a risky thing in their mind because they don’t understand it.

Most of these guys don’t know how to change the ringtone on their iPhones. You turn around, and you say, “A normal business spends, roughly speaking, 7% of their annual operating expense on technology maintenance.” It is mainline and keeping the lights on. It is hard to find a bank in the United States that spends more than 4%. If they doubled what they were investing now, they would be on par with their competitors. The leadership teams don’t know about it.

The board of directors of these institutions doesn’t have somebody who is supposed to be in charge of cybersecurity, which any reasonably governed organization should. Not only do those institutions don’t have the right people in place, but they also don’t have the right money in place. Therefore, they can’t put the right technology in place.

You see a direct parallel of that in the regulatory system. The president renominated somebody who had already been chair. He has been acting chair of the FDIC. He is 80. You have these people who fundamentally don’t understand these technologies in these jobs. They don’t understand the risk factor and threat landscape, not just on the cyber side but the risk of the system. All of a sudden, you have the banking equivalent of the Flint water crisis that could happen.

What if there are three tech companies that nobody has ever heard of that control over 80% of the technology in the banking system? They are not regulated like a bank is. They go off and do their thing. Their average systems are several years old. They struggle to do cloud computing. We have been doing cloud computing since 2008. You have an entire categorical set of companies, institutions, and people that are not wired for this new technology. That is why you walk in and see a mainframe or a beige computer from the mid-1990s sitting underneath the CFO’s desk. If you unplug it, the entire bank crashes.

Those are situations where I remember not even being able to remote in. You couldn’t work from home. Things have changed over the last couple of years because of COVID.

During COVID, a lot of great mid-2000s VPNs got turned on, which has made it easy for a small subset of people to work from home. You turn around, and it has opened up more cybersecurity risk.

It is interesting because tech is young, finance is old, and now you have to sit here and figure out how we bring these two together.

It is a real challenge, and like many other challenges we have in the market now, it is fundamentally an education problem. There is an entire category of leadership that are uneducated about these topics and old enough that they don’t feel like they need to be educated about these topics. There is a generational change moment happening. When we get through it, this becomes a lot easier.

You said that you have to look around your leaders, and they need to be 40. Forty-one is okay.

TJP - E91 Sultan Meghji First Chief Innovation Officer at FDIC

“Starbucks would be a multi-hundred billion dollar bank if you just thought about the app as a bank.”

The median age of a federal regulator is almost 60. The median age of a bank employee is over 50. It should be under 40 because the median age in the workforce now is 37. Banks shouldn’t be decades or more off of that. It should be right in that same range. People are like, “They need experience.” I hear a lot of excuses. I don’t hear a lot of like, “Why am I not bringing on younger people to do these things?” They are not part of the club. There is a lot of, I don’t want to say it’s discriminatory, but it certainly leans more in that direction. You don’t see a lot of banks where the head of technology reports to the president and is under the age of 40.

I want to put this whole thing into context because you also worked for a bit with the New York Stock Exchange on their technology innovation. One of the largest advancements in financial services was the change from traders running on the floor with tickets and throwing them across the room at each other to an automated system where we still have traders on the floor, but they are the man in boots.

It is one of the things I’m most proud of, and I don’t get to tell this story. I’m going to tell you what I think is one of the coolest projects I have ever worked on.

It is one of the coolest projects that has happened in society.

This was in the late ‘90s, early 2000s, and pre-9/11. Anybody who is reading remembers PalmPilots. It is the first generation of PDAs. They weren’t connecting any. You had to plug them into a dock next to your computer every day to sync your calendar.

We didn’t have Bluetooth.

There was no wireless. You plug it into a printer port or a serial port. There is no USB. We took a first-generation PalmPilot and a first-generation compact IPAC. It was the competitor of the old company Compact. We put a backpack on it that could speak to a cellular network for data. We wrote an app that would allow you to buy or sell stock using this thick device. It was three inches thick. You take your biggest iPhone and put four of them stacked against each other. That is about the size of what this thing is. The battery would last about three hours.

We thought it was the coolest thing because we got it running on this test system. We took it out to lunch. This was one of these trader lunch places where there were lots of martinis and cigars. People are still smoking. We would stand at the bar as a test case to see if we could create what we would all call FOMO with all these guys with their brightly colored jackets and coming off the floor.

I would sit there. These guys are talking about something. They were like, “We are going to do this after everything. We hope it doesn’t go above this price.” I’m doing this on the thing. This guy was like, “What are you doing?” I’m like, “I’m executing what you said” He was like, “Are you kidding me?” I’m like, “No, we are doing it.”

The average transactional price in NYC was about $40 before we did this. After we did it, we drove it down to $7, and it directly got to a point where it became almost a zero-cost transaction. The first time we could do that, not on the floor or attach to one of these fancy terminals, was with these little compact IPACs and PalmPilot.

What is making up with that cost is the volume and the personnel.

You got to pay for the trader, his office, and his access. A market maker’s seat, back in the day, was a fortune to buy one if you could even get one. Now, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t exist as a thing.

People are sitting in their living rooms on their couches.

Back in the day, it is like getting a taxi shield. That was a big investment. You had to know a guy who knew a guy. It had all these mafia overtones to it. That is what getting a market maker seat up through the late ‘90s.

That whole project then set off the move from lower Manhattan. What most people don’t understand is the physical presence of the facility is in the financial district in lower Manhattan. The NYSE is a data center in New Jersey, of which now many of the banks have moved their own headquarters closer to the data center because there was this whole concept that if we were closer, there might be a millionth of a second difference in our transaction versus somebody else.

We are getting to out of that is the ability to do frictionless near real-time transactions. I’m going to correct you slightly. The NYSE is not a data center in New Jersey. There are seven of them scattered across the country. Three of which I believe are still secret. I don’t think I’m supposed to talk about them because one of them is co-located inside a DOD facility.

The network became the thing. It wasn’t the people or servers. It became your ability to touch the network. All that matters is that you are connected to the backbone. That allowed this next generation of hedge funds to start driving alpha on this and doing amazing stuff. You saw Bridgewater. It is one of the most famous companies that did that. They would buy one rack over from the main rack that NYSE used, and they could shove stuff in it as quickly as human as possible they could. They could front-run everybody else’s transactions.

Lots of other stuff happened. That is why the flash crash occurred, and we had to put new controls around that. It is how Robinhood got to zero-cost trades. It got to a point where average America now has full access to the entire public markets of the United States with little effort. That wasn’t true several years ago. It demonstrated not that you could execute, but you could clear, do all the regulatory processes, buy or sell during the day, and participate in IPO. You could do all of that. We put all of those systems in place. It wasn’t being able to buy and sell. There is a lot of other stuff you have to do there.

On the back end of that, we demonstrated to every other aspect of financial services and healthcare that this is possible. If you can do it in real-time at the New York Stock Exchange, you have solved every tech problem out there. There are no other tech problems to solve. You have solved cybersecurity, the network, the app, and all these other things.

[bctt tweet=”The average American now has full access to the entire public markets with very little effort. If you can do it in real time at the New York Stock Exchange, you’ve solved every tech problem out there.” username=”talentwargroup”]

We are still feeling the ripples of that and the banking system back to a chief innovation officer at FDIC. The banking system is the next logical place for that to go. At the end of the day, a depository account at a bank should be as frictionless and easy to manage as an equity account working against the New York Stock Exchange. It is not worth several years out of some of this work. At some point, the banking system is going to have to adapt to that, or they are going to get run out of the system entirely.

One of the challenges that you had at FDIC was fighting this institutionalized thought. We talked about the generational gap. Once you are in these roles in any organization and you see it across many different industries, you have this inclusion of the median age of the 37-year-old workforce going into organizations. You have this generational divide that exists. You created four innovation themes that you instituted into FDIC that are applicable to any organization that seeks technological change in advancement, inclusion, resilience, amplification, and the future. Can we break these down for a minute?TJP - E91 Sultan Meghji First Chief Innovation Officer at FDIC

Let’s start with inclusion. Why? What is it mean? For me, it is simple. The American dream is the pursuit of life. We all should have the same opportunity to go into a system and be as successful as anybody else. The banking system is particularly bad at that. If you look at the demographics in the banking system, they are not reflective of our nation at all. It is fundamentally one specific gender, age, race, and socioeconomic background. I use this as a placeholder.

[bctt tweet=”The American dream is the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Everyone should have the same opportunity to go into a system and be as successful as anybody else. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

The average bank president didn’t buy his first house. His parents bought him his first house, and everything downstream from that. He had a country club membership since he was seventeen because his dad bought it for him for graduating high school. He didn’t buy his first car. There are all these things that are true of that crowd.

The fact is that is not what America looks like now. Not only do we have to have a banking system that has inclusion built into it for the average American, but it needs to be run by people that look more like every other American. In the military, especially in the enlisted ranks, they look way more like every other American than the admiralty or the general ranks generally do, historically. We see a lot of change there. It has been a lot of work.

One of the great things about the military is it is a microcosm of the right demographic spectrum that we have in America.

If you look at the army post-Vietnam war, it has done a fantastic job of becoming much more representative than it was through that era. The banking system is quite similar to that. Whether it is making sure it is the right products and services for the people that need it, especially people doing the gig economy, those having a side hustle, or those who have their own LLC, we have to make sure that we have banking products and services that are fit for purpose for that.

The people running those institutions need to be reflective of that population. The people regulating and governing the banking system itself should be more reflective of it. I was one of the first people in the regulatory system to have a funny name and be brown in that senior role. Within the ethnic-religious group that my father comes from, I am the most senior person to ever serve in the US government from that community, which blows my mind because it is a 50 million population group of people.

What about resilience?

Resilience is simple. The world and threat landscape are changing. Whether or not you have an opinion on climate or what that means to us, some guy down the street can take a backhoe through a fiber optic cable and take you offline. You don’t need to think about that. You need to plan for it and practice it. Make sure that when it does happen, it doesn’t impact what you are doing.

You have to practice, prepare, and execute the plans on a daily basis for anything that can take you offline. If you are a bank, that means making sure you have two internet routes through two different providers, two different pipes through the ground, and all that great stuff. If you are at home, make sure you got batteries for your phone, a generator, solar panels, or whatever. We have to accept that so much of the infrastructure in our country has not been invested in decades. We still have to live our lives and operate the way we do. Resilience is not thinking about getting punched, knowing you are going to get punched, and practicing taking that punch because it is going to happen.

[bctt tweet=”You may go offline anytime. Be sure to plan and practice for it so that when it does happen, it will not impact what you are doing.” username=”talentwargroup”]

How you prepare now determines success tomorrow. That is the tagline of the show. That is all about resilience. In context, for us, it’s a lot about resilient leadership, understanding, planning, and thinking about your emotions and the different situations you are going to encounter and being able to get back.

This is something that I found on a bit of a tangent and disappointing. When I was inside the government, I have been through a lot of crises in my life, whether it was 9/11, the SARS epidemic, or a variety of other things that have happened to me, including getting injured and all this stuff. A lot of people in the military have gone through this. The first time you are in a firefight, pure adrenaline, you taste all this stuff in your mouth, you are running around, and you don’t remember anything terror. You throw up fifteen minutes later after the whole thing. The second time is 10% or 20% easier. By the fifteenth time, assuming you were still there, it was like, “That thing blew up right next to me.”

We don’t have resilient leadership in a lot of places a lot of Americans expect us to because they haven’t been through these kinds of crises, seen this stuff, and experienced it firsthand. I was in a country in South America. There was a huge earthquake. It knocked me out of my bed at 4:00 in the morning. I had exactly 90 minutes to get to the airport and get out of the country, or I would have been stuck there for six weeks. I would have had to have taken some crazy road over the mountains in the back of a Toyota pickup truck to get out.

You have moments like that occur to you, and you realize what you have to become, not to be a resilient leader but also to be a resilient leader that can show that to everybody else who hasn’t gone through that. COVID has explored a lot of us, and there aren’t that many resilient leaders. We need to grow them as fast as humanly possible.

I had the opportunity to go to the Capitol and sit down with Congressman Mike Waltz. He was a Green Beret. He is still serving in the National Guard. We talked about the fact that veterans, now going into the 188th Congress starting in January 2023, will make up about 91 seats and will be veterans and 30 alone from the army in the house. One of the most exciting parts of that is that’s the greatest influx of veterans that have been in Congress since the post-Vietnam era.

One of the things they are looking for is what you are saying, “Putting people into these positions who have a broader understanding of experiences in the world to have faced levels of adversity had to be resilient.” When we are having disagreement across party lines, we can be what the former congressman and secretary of the Army, Patrick Murphy told me, “We can disagree but not be disagreeable because we are unified by a mission.”

Having more mission-oriented individuals is going to be a step in the right direction. As somebody who is not from DC, we are sitting in DC now. There are a lot of great things to love about DC. It is the nation’s capital. There are a lot of people here who think they are better and fancier because they are here. It drives me crazy. They don’t understand there is a mission. If you are sent here by your constituency, there is a reason you are sent here. There is a mission, and there are a lot of people who don’t act like that.

The next one is amplification.TJP - E91 Sultan Meghji First Chief Innovation Officer at FDIC

I don’t think we communicate well. That is what amplification is. We do a lot of amazing stuff in our nation. The banking system and regulatory community are what I was talking about. We need to communicate it better. When I went in, one of the first questions I asked was, “What AI are we using at FDIC to manage the risk in the banking system? That is one of the best applications. It is a fantastic use case for AI.” I was told by everyone, “We don’t use AI at all. We don’t trust it.” I’m rather surprised to hear that.

About several months in, after a little bit of me being proven in the organization, a guy four layers below, one of the people I talked to, emailed me and said, “We use AI for this, that, and the other.” I’m like, “I was talking to your boss’s boss, and she said you didn’t use any.” He was like, “We didn’t tell her.” I’m like, “Why?” He was like, “She doesn’t understand all this.” I’m like, “That is a little weird. Do you mind if I talk about this?” He was like, “No, you get it. Go for it. This is an important part of what we do as an organization.” I’m like, “Okay.”

I made a presentation to the chairman. She got super excited, and the whole leadership team. This person was like, “We should stop using that because that is unproven technology.” I will save the name because I don’t want to embarrass anyone. I’m like, “This has been in place for several years.” She was like, “No, I didn’t know that.” It is within the organization. It is the exact same thing.

This is a great example of that gap. For amplification, it wasn’t just making sure that we, as an agency, are telling the American people what we were doing to protect them, but also to amplify the 6,000 staff at the agency. They knew that we were listening and cared about what we were doing. If they were doing great stuff, we wanted to amplify that up and out.

The minute I started talking about the fact we were using AI at the agency for stuff, every other somebody’s senior called me. They were like, “This is exciting. Can we use it?” That is what you want. You want your government to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s dollars, being on a mission and making use of things that are proven across as many agencies as possible. You don’t want the boondoggles of paying for things 30 times and all of that.

[bctt tweet=”You want your government to act as good stewards of the taxpayer’s dollars. They should be on a mission to use things that are proven across as many agencies as possible.” username=”talentwargroup”]

The last one is the future.

This is the X factor. Anybody who says they can predict the future has no idea what they are doing.TJP - E91 Sultan Meghji First Chief Innovation Officer at FDIC

There are people who have made their job titles as, “Futurist.”

I got introduced as a futurist once at a conference. I got embarrassed. I was like, “I don’t know if I should even be here.” It is simple. Either you are building for the future, you are building for 5 to 10 years out, or you are lost. In a military context, you don’t plan to fight the last war. You plan to fight the next war. People spend all this energy with the intel community trying to figure out what the bad guys are thinking, what those next conflicts are going to look like, and the kinds of tools that will be used. In the banking system, in particular, they are great at navel-gazing and looking at 5 to 10 years into the past. Most people still talk about the financial crisis in 2008. We had two more since then. Can we get with the program a little bit?

The X factor was things like quantum computers. It was more artificial intelligence, de novo, Web3, and all these new technologies that people are investing in right now that, in several years, will be core. As an agency, you can’t wait for somebody to tell you about it five years from now, and you tell them to stop for two years, which they have been known to do, especially since the chairman has told people to stop until they can spend two years figuring it out. When your median age is 57, and you don’t have any younger people who understand technology and leadership, you are in a position where the regulatory agency won’t understand it. They will say no. It leads to one of my biggest concerns, which is competitiveness.

I want the United States to continue to be the background of the global financial system. It gives us tremendous soft power. It kicks some of the bad guys and our enemies in the teeth. It keeps us in a position where we can dictate terms of what the future looks like. If we give up on being the home of financial innovation globally, the Chinese and others will use that to win the next set of battles.

The simple way for me to look at it is the global reserve currency. Now, about 57% is the US dollar, according to IMF. In the ‘80s, it was as high as 83%, 84%, or something like that. Don’t quote me on that number, but it was in the 80s range. It went from 80% to 57% over the last several years. What are we doing to get it back up to 80%? What are we doing to continue to be not only the currency that everybody uses but the wires and the ground that everybody uses? After World War II, it was a great power for us to be the guys who created the global telecommunications infrastructure and create the internet. What are we doing so that by the end of this century, we are still in this leadership position? I don’t see anything happening.

I want to keep going on the future piece, and I know we made one of the futurists. When we talk about tech innovation and the need for organizations to focus on certain areas, you have also mentioned a few of the themes here, but you have concretely said, “We have to focus on human capital, cybersecurity, and competition.” You mentioned China. I have spoken at length on a number of our episodes and with Congressman Waltz about this peer-to-peer battle that we are in. You have mentioned it in many of your talks.

For many years of the global war on terror, we fought an enemy that was, by and large, inferior to our capabilities. They did a phenomenal job in many ways of competing with us in unconventional ways, but they were not what we would consider a pure nation. The term we used during the global war on terror for China, Russia, and North Korea was the term near-peer. I have stopped using that term because that fight is here. We are in a peer fight. Anyone who thinks that we do not need to watch the news for at least one day and get with the program because we are in the peer-to-peer fight front and center.

It is not just military hardware and financial infrastructure although both of those are big ones. They are trying to hit on every single thing we do well as a nation, like education and entertainment. You go down the list. There are some talking points that a lot of people don’t know. Look at naval construction by the PRC. They are going to end up having a bigger fleet than ours. It has been a few years.

They own the ports at Djibouti. I lived at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti for several months while China invested billions of dollars in the construction of the port that was five miles or whatever it is down the road from our largest base in Africa. In order for our naval ships to come into the only deep water port in the horn of Africa, you got to pay the Chinese.

I was in Dar es Salaam. It is the single largest petroleum entry point into East Africa. It is entirely built, managed, and run by the Chinese. There is a single road that comes out of it. That road bisects the airport from the city of Dar es Salaam. When the Chinese fuel trucks come through, that road is cut off. Chinese don’t need to do it because they fly in through the port side. They can fly in. Those fuel trucks shoot up. They go North and West. They keep going down the roads that they built themselves.

Look at that in Cameroon. There is another place. They “won” the contract to build the infrastructure and airport. The Cameroonians were under the impression that they were going to hire the Cameroon people. They flew 747 plane loads of Chinese workers in there. They built all the infrastructure and left the people.

You go 1 or 2 miles out of that infrastructure, and every bodega is selling Chinese phones on Chinese cell networks with Chinese apps on it. They are walking down this line. We see a huge investment on the naval side that they are doing incredibly strong work with. They are going to have force projection through carriers, cruise, hypersonics, and all this other stuff they are doing. They already have highly encrypted networks because they are using quantum encrypted network technology already. They were the first to deploy it. They are the first to deploy it in space too.

You have an incredible offensive and defensive cyber operation. They have tremendous capital because every time Citibank pays some of the debt it owes the Chinese, that cash doesn’t go back to the PRC. They use it to buy something. The CHIPS Act was a great first step. We need 30 more of them to stop them from being able to do some of this more tech-oriented development. The fact is they got subs and carriers. They penetrated the Joint Strike Fighter Program and have their own version of that now, including the holographic displays and all the other cool stuff.

We are in this situation where we should think we are on our back foot a little bit. I don’t want to say war footing, but I go past your comment about near peer-to-peer. We are probably one step past that. That is how I would do it. I love the fact that we are watching the Russian military slam itself against a wall, use up all their material and guys on all this and cause all this strife. The fact is that it is a distraction. That is not the war I’m worried about. I am worried that by the time we get to 2040 to 2050, all of the communications and financial services infrastructure will be Chinese. It is all going to be on the back of significant naval and other infrastructure investments they are making now that we are not doing a whole lot to stop.TJP - E91 Sultan Meghji First Chief Innovation Officer at FDIC

Why aren’t we doing enough?

This is where I get a little controversial. I will pre-apologize for it. I don’t see a lot of great strategic thinking. This is where we can talk about Bretton Woods. To me, we need a Bretton Woods-style moment. The reason the US is the global reserve currency is because the US ambassador waited for the British Ambassador after a meeting at the Bretton Woods to go to the bathroom. He scribbled in the notes that instead of creating a currency that everyone would use as the global reserve currency, he scratched out and said, “It would be the US dollar.” Nobody caught it. It became the US dollar because he knew that that would give us amazing strategic long-term power.

We need to think we came out of World War II. We are coming out of COVID. We need to think about the next 50 and 100 years and say, “What do we have to do strategically to win every single one of these and not allow the congressional infighting and a bunch of 80-year-olds running around who don’t understand any of this to say my planning horizon is two to four years because I’m thinking about an election or I’m thinking about retirement and we’ are not thinking strategically about this?”

I struggle to find many people within a 30-mile radius of where we are sitting who I think are amazing strategic leaders who can get us focused on some of these conversations. I see it far more in the private sector. I see people having these conversations, but nobody in Congress. There are few people in the executive branch. I want to have this conversation because they are focused on the next election cycle.

It drives me crazy because you have to invest thinking 10, 15, 20, to 30 years in the future and not invest in terms of dollars but in attention, education, and all these things. I will give you my perfect example of the human side of this. I have been a professor for a long time. I mostly teach either business or engineering. I have not had a US citizen out of the hundreds of graduate students I have had at places like Duke and Washington University for the last several years. I have not had a single American citizen. Ninety percent of my students have been PRC. Instead of coming over and sticking around in them, becoming US citizens, and joining the American dream, they all go home immediately. There are no Americans in my current cybersecurity class this semester. I have all PRC and one kid from South Asia.

I had a chance to speak with retired two-star General Craig Whelden. He works for a company now called Velontra Hypersonic. He started a Marine. We talked a lot about the technological innovation of the Chinese and how when you look at hypersonic weaponry, the last time we as a nation invested in hypersonic weaponry was the SR-72, the Blackbird, which is sitting in a museum at Dulles Airport. That is predicted to be one of the game changers when we talk about warfare moving into the next decade.

Hypersonics is a huge issue, and sadly, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has worked against what I think you and I would both agree with this. The Russians tried using hypersonics to nominal effect. Everybody was like, “Hypersonics aren’t that big a deal.” I’m like, “I don’t care about some piece of Russian junk tech. I’m worried about the Chinese thing that will take out one of these new forward-class carriers with a single missile with a conventional warhead.” All I have to do is pockmark the takeoff and landing bit or hit the engines. Nuclear waste mess meltdown in the middle of the ocean. We are running around. We don’t have a lot of these operational. There are eight operational now with the big carriers.

Hypersonics are an example of a technology, and it is one of the first places where the Chinese have done something other than photocopy what somebody else has done. They are inventing and doing something interesting. It works against the narrative here in DC that the Chinese can’t invent anything. They can. It is easier for them to steal it from us, which is what they do on a daily basis. We have a lot of work to do on hypersonic defense. I worked on some of the patriot upgrades in the ‘90s and 2000s. A lot of the tech that we think is going to work on that is not going to work on that. Am I going to hurl a rock in the air and hope the hypersonic hits it? That is not how that is going to work.

Do they have smarter people?

It is not a matter of smarter people or not smarter people. It is a matter of educated and motivated. It is education and mission. You have a population that is three times bigger than ours, and you educate them from the fourth grade to be hard asses in STEM, and you say the mission is the survival of our country because the word for the country and the word for China are the same in Mandarin. A lot of people don’t know that because they only think there is one country. It is an existential fight that they are putting their people in that focuses on the mission. We haven’t had that since World War II.

We don’t have that same sense of mission operating the private sector, the public sector, academia, and government. All of these things that work together on a common mission, we don’t have that. Do we have a more educated workforce? Yes. That is falling quickly. Do we have the same mission orientation and investment profile? Not remotely, $0.10 on the dollar at best. If they can maintain that, we are going to have some trouble in the coming decades.

We have been unable to mobilize the populace. That is one of the biggest things when we talk about World War II, and to an extent, you can talk about Cold War II. Do you remember President Reagan talking about this as a battle between good and evil? We have seen evil over the last few years. Our fight in the global war on terror was against an ideology. We didn’t mobilize as a nation to say, “We are 100% altogether mission-oriented against these ideologies that are going to destroy our way of life.” Your points on China are valid because that is what you see there. You are seeing them say that this is for the protection and the long-term longevity of our nation and our people. We have forgotten that.

The biggest challenge now is that all the ways that we would traditionally go and say, “This is how it is an existential threat to us.” They are trying to show that our economic system, political system, and societal construct are invalid. We aren’t doing anything to say, “You are wrong. No, here is how we are going to prove that.” In doing so, we are leaving room for autocracy, oligarchy, and these other systems that weaken our entire species. We are at a point where we are running out of time to stop before we have to play catch up.

I worry that if they own digital, quantum, financial, and all the things you and I have talked about now, how do we get past that? What is the next thing that gets invented? How many decades will that take? If it is at a point where we are a bankrupt nation that doesn’t have the ability to run any of these discussions, what is the goal there? What do we do? We need more strategic thinkers, coordination, and mission focus as a nation in that.TJP - E91 Sultan Meghji First Chief Innovation Officer at FDIC

It starts with our elected leaders coming together and saying, “We got to stop the political infighting and divisiveness. We have to say what unifies the nation.” One of the things is we talk about it. Everyone was like, “We got to work together and cross the aisle.” What are you doing?

I don’t lead with my political affiliation at all because I don’t think it is relevant. I’m an American citizen. You and I don’t know each other well, but I can guarantee that somewhere between 60% and 80% of what I believe, you also believe. You and I might not be at the same party. We might be the same party, and it still might be 60% to 80%. The fact is the current generation of political leaders is way too focused on the 20% to 40% that gets them clicks, gets them on cable news, and generates them tweets and checks to donate to the next election campaign, and doesn’t focus on what our nation needs.

Going into this split congress, there is now going to be a series of conversations and fights over funding the US government. That is going to happen. It is a stupid thing to raise the debt ceiling. It’s a stupid conversation to have, “We have to raise the debt ceiling. Otherwise, it defaults and kills the value of the US dollar.” We are no longer a global reserve currency if we default on the US dollar. That is it. That is a long-term strategic thing. It cannot happen. If it happens, you might as well hand the Chinese.

That is not how we are talking about it. A couple of politicians on one side want to make it a fight so that the other side does this and this that and all these checkers that they are playing. A good friend of mine framed it for me like this. He was like, “Most of the time in the United States politics, we play checkers. Every once in a while, you get a guy who plays chess. The entire time that is happening, there are a bunch of Chinese guys playing go at the one table over.” We are in a position where we are not meeting them head-on strategically. Some of the stuff we are seeing with our elected leaders is going to play right into their hands.

We talked a lot about that human capital piece in that discussion. Cybersecurity is the second one of these. I found some interesting points that you have made about cybersecurity, saying that the Russian and the Chinese are already in. It is a matter of activating. I had an opportunity to sit down with Steve Bernard and Rich Davis.

Steve Bernard was the former Chief Security Officer of Sony Pictures when the North Koreans hacked Sony and shut them down after the James Franco movie about North Korea. Rich Davis was the Chief Security Officer for a long time, 40 years at United and 20 plus years as the Chief Security Officer there during 9/11, which was not a technological attack. One of the things we talked about was the consistent cyber-attack that the aviation industry is under. We have seen it represented in shows like 24, Die Hard, and Die Hard 2. You expose those systems to a malicious actor, and you could take control of the entire aviation grid. Where are we in cybersecurity?

We have a lot of work to do. I will start there. On the human capital side, the primary national cybersecurity advisor to the president has publicly said, “We need 100,000 more people in cybersecurity in the United States.” That is underestimating. Double that number is what we need. We have many different generations of technology. We have analog, first-generation, mainframes, and old systems like the air traffic control system. We have new systems like some of the cryptosystems and everything in between. We have one big human problem there. Number two is we still struggle with most people doing basic cyber triage. I always joke and say, “How many people have at least one, if not two, multifactor authenticator apps on their phone?” You can see about half the people when I say this are like, “What is that?”

That is because they are annoying. We talked about the mobilization of the country. It is an attitude thing. You don’t want to use them, and it hurts us.

I like them because it makes me feel good. I have been public about this. I only work with two banks in the United States because I only think there are two that are safe. I won’t say which two they are.

You are freaking everybody out.

I would also probably get a phone call from someone at my former employer if I said that. Both of them require multifactor authentication. They do a bunch of interesting stuff on the tech side. For example, if I am using a card associated with one of those banks and I don’t have my cell phone with me, they have enough geolocation information to be like, “Maybe his card was stolen,” so they ping this. There is a bunch of thoughtful behavior activity built into it. There is some good stuff there.

First is the human capital issue. We need to grow more cybersecurity professionals and do a better job of educating people, especially those who are digitally native on cybersecurity and basic cyber triage for yourself. That is one big area. The second is it is always going to be easier in cyber to be an offensive actor than a defensive actor. I can take the laptop you are using to record this. In an hour or two, I could go onto the dark web, buy some stuff and impersonate you in some meaningful way digitally, open a bank account, and do something. Unless you have done a number of steps, including locking your credit and report, I could buy a car pretending to be you.

The challenge is we have not been investing enough in the technology and the defensive side. I will give you a couple of great examples. Several years ago, an open-source piece of technology called Log4j, a big hack, was discovered that would allow anyone using that in any piece of technology to be compromised incredibly easily. They could put ransomware on the system and a crypto miner. They could do all this terrible stuff. It was announced by SISA, which is the primary cybersecurity group out of the White House, that a civilian federal agency had been compromised for at least several months entirely. Their network was entirely compromised with this on, and a bunch of people were doing stuff.TJP - E91 Sultan Meghji First Chief Innovation Officer at FDIC

The only reason anybody noticed is because somebody logged into a server that was acting funny and noticed a crypto miner is what happened. I guarantee you the CIO of that organization had sent something to SISA at various points over the last several years saying that they had removed or patched Log4j. What most people don’t realize is there are not a lot of automated systems out there that could respond and say, “This flaw was detected in this piece of technology. Click a button,” or automatically go, run around, patch everything, and turn stuff off, or give people a list to say, “Here are the things you need to go by hand.”

Many organizations and most federal agencies are like this, but also, every Fortune 500 public company is like this. They use people instead of technology. People are highly valuable. If you give a systems engineer a list of 137 systems to log into, you have to trust and make sure he hits all 137 of them. What if he forgets one? What if one is mislabeled? What if he does one twice and forgets about the one that is in a slightly different rack or something?

I built one of the largest automated cloud computing environments out there. We had about 45,000 servers with entirely automated management. If it couldn’t automatically update itself, we took the server offline, wiped it completely, and put it back in the queue to be completely rebuilt. No human touched any one of these servers. That was several years ago. That technology has existed for a while, but most organizations don’t know how to replace what they are doing with that full automation. We have a lot to do on cyber. We aren’t using the tech we have, and we have to invest in more of it.

The third piece of the future is the idea of competition. We have seen massive consolidation in the banking industry. We have seen this balance between the big banks, JP Morgan, Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and the regional banks. We don’t go to branches anymore. My mom is the only one who says I got to go to the bank. I’m like, “I got USAA. I haven’t been to a bank in twenty years.” Is this good or bad? How is competition between the big banks and the small banks helping or hurting?

I’m a capitalist. I always want the market to do what the market is good at. The market flourishes when there are competition, disruption, and innovation, and when the big guys are kept on their toes by the little guys. Banking is a great example of that where we have created a system partially through regulation and different political infrastructures that have everybody playing and doing the same thing. If you go to a regional bank in the Midwest versus one of these big banks or the little banks, you don’t see a lot of difference. Maybe one app is a little better, you get a slightly different interest rate on one, or you have a slightly different product or service mix.

Where I see amazing competition is in the FinTech space, payments in particular. You go out with some friends, and it was like, “They won’t let us split the bill. We all take a picture of it. We figure out what we each owe. John pays. We all use an app and send John money.” There is huge competition in that space. I got six different apps that do that on my phone. That is not the banking system anymore. It used to be the banking system. Back in the ‘80s, I could write a check or hand you cash, and that was it. Now it is a whole different thing. Apple and Google are getting into it. Apple pay and all this stuff. All the smartphone providers are getting into it.

You can send people money directly from your phone without even those apps.

If your phone wasn’t there, I could do a thing on mine. I could wave it at your phone and would send you $5. You can do it with watches, which is interesting. The minute the glasses come out, I will stare at you and send your money. That will be weird. That is where innovation and disruption are happening. Even the payments move into social media or Twitter. Elon Musk wants to make Twitter a payments company. He wants to have you be able to sell, send money back and forth, buy stuff, whatever on Twitter because he wants his half a percentage point of all of that. He got to make up the $50 billion he borrowed to buy Twitter. He is going to recreate PayPal inside of that. It is clear what he is going to do there.

The regulatory system won’t be able to stop him at all. They will try, and it won’t happen. We have this massive struggle where the places competition is happening are not inside of the regulated environment. That is the problem. You have to create a space in the regulated environment for innovation and disruption to happen in a controllable manner because it is not possible now. There is no ability for us to make sure that the little banks are competing with the big banks or that new banks are competing with the old banks. There is no system in the regulated environment that allows for that.

What is the next big tech innovation?

I’m going to answer this in two ways. The first is we are in the midst of making people irrelevant in certain industries, like banking and financial services. We are going to start seeing organizations needing far less people to do more work. We are finally seeing the core tenets of our economic system get change because of the application of automation. Automation is the keyword I would use there. In some cases, it is going to be on purpose, and in other cases, it is going to be almost accidental that it gets created. We probably won’t need as many bank tellers in the future. More money is flowing through the system than it ever has before. That’s number one.

[bctt tweet=”We are in the midst of making people irrelevant in certain industries because of automation. We will start seeing organizations needing far fewer people to do more work.” username=”talentwargroup”]

Number two, the thing I am most interested in is neuro elastic computing. It is the ability for us to create actual artificial intelligence that mimics the structure of an organic system like a human or a NAT because now we don’t have any real artificial intelligence. You see operational AI that looks like that. Imagine a fleet of next-generation fighters with no pilots. Maybe there is one who got a pilot, and the other ones are swarming around him like a bunch of NATs.

Sikorsky launched the Black Hawk.

The new pilot is Black Hawk and whatever they are calling the next-gen Army helicopter UAV program. There is plenty of computational power in that infrastructure that would allow us to put that stuff in there. You could have drones, helicopters, airplanes, and all these things in highly coordinated ways, operating as if they were a single organic system. That is an incredibly exciting piece of technology that we are starting to see. In terms of military applications, it is one of the most interesting.

Sultan, as we close out, the Jedburghs had to do three things every day to be successful in their world. They had to be able to shoot, move, and communicate. If they did these three things with the utmost precision, calm foundations, and habits, they could apply their focus on more challenging tasks that came their way. What are the three things that you do every day to set the conditions for success in your world?TJP - E91 Sultan Meghji First Chief Innovation Officer at FDIC

I have been waiting for you to ask me this one because it is a fantastic thing. It is one of the reasons why this is such an amazing show. Thank you for having me on. I will tell you the three things I do every day. One is I make sure I get good sleep. That is critical to me. If I don’t get good sleep, I don’t get executive function and critical thinking skills up. I am canceling the day. Like a lot of people, I don’t sleep well sometimes. If I have a three-hour night, I cancel most of my meetings. I get some walks in and listen to a podcast. I’m lucky that I’m at a point where I can do that.

Number two is I learn. I have to learn something every single day, something that has a direct outcome attached to it. It isn’t just, “I learned some interesting historical factoid about Julius Caesar.” No, I have to learn something meaningful relative to what I care about and what I’m working on. The third is I have to do something that makes me tired. I have to physically do something. I have to run, walk, put some furniture together, do woodwork, or do something that has a tangible, quantifiable output, whether it is calories or, “I have to bench now.” If I can do those three things, the rest of the day will work out.

Get good sleep, learn every day, and do something physical that makes you tired. I like all three of those. The first one I love. That is where I’m always struggling.

Especially post-COVID, where we all are in these hybrid environments. We are doing this at my house. We all are dynamically in movement more. We are all occasionally locked in our houses. I’m not optimistic we won’t have another pandemic. This is version one. This is going to be a thing. We will be better at managing the next few.

We are not taking care of ourselves well. We are not getting the sleep and giving ourselves the emotional space we need. To be a good leader, especially when you look at all the different generations we are navigating around and the different backgrounds, you have to lead with a high EQ and lead with a degree of understanding that it is almost like you are dealing with a bunch of aliens. They are going to be different than you in many ways.

[bctt tweet=”Leaders today are better at managing the next generations. However, most of them are not getting enough sleep or unable to give themselves the right emotional space.” username=”talentwargroup”]

Going into that, if you are exhausted, or you haven’t had the time to think, learn or get your body to a certain place, you go in, and you have a meeting where there are eleven people around the table who all hate each other because that is what our culture is like now, there is no way for you to be a leader for those eleven people.

Your cognitive function declines.

There is a certain window of time every day when I know my brain is at 120%. It is not a big window, but I know there is a 3 or 4-hour window. Once I am outside that window, I don’t try to force it because it won’t be good.

We talk about the nine characteristics of elite performance used by a special operations command in the identification of the recruitment assessment and selection of high-performing talent. In a lot of our conversations and different episodes, we have brought these concepts in drive, resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, curiosity, teamability, emotional strength, and effective intelligence.

In order to be a high performer, individuals will exhibit all of these characteristics never at once because they face different situations and require different components, but generally, you have high levels of each one of these. At the end of these conversations, I always think about one that sums up our conversation and defines my guest in my eyes. For you, it is curiosity because technological innovation requires the challenge of the status quo. It requires you to wake up every day and ask a simple question, “Can it be better? Is there another way?”

We had conversations where we had said, “Your answer to that question always has to be that it can be better.” I may not know what it is now, but to your second foundation, learn. “Can I find the answer? Can I push myself to not only ask the question but seek the solution to confirm or deny my hypothesis that it can be better?” That takes an incredible amount of curiosity.

It is curiosity that drives innovation in whatever your organization seeks to do. You have done that across many different organizations. You continue to set the example and the standard for all of us who seek to latch on to technological innovation, even if some of us struggle to figure out how to shut the ringer off on our iPhones. There is a lot more out there. It is changing the world. You are leading it. Thanks for inviting me here. Thanks for this conversation.

Thank you for having me. I’m excited to have spent some time with you and to be added to the amazing list of guests. I hope people who maybe came to this show because they wanted to hear me speak will come back and read all the other episodes because you do such a great job with many people with many interesting backgrounds. I hope a lot of people read the blog.

Thank you. That means a lot.


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