John Ellis

John Ellis

Technology and Futurist Keynote Speaker, Author, Software Expert, and Former Head of the Ford Developer Program with Ford Motor Company

Sep 1, 2017

John Ellis

John Ellis is the former head of the Ford Development Program, as well as a technologist, founder, board member, entrepreneur, and software developer. In this episode, Ellis explains the narrative he uses to take very technical, very dynamic and fluid concepts and put them into a language that makes it easy to communicate to an audience. He uses a basic understanding of technology and incorporates it into business transformation. He aims for his audience to walk away entertained and having learned something new that they can apply right away.

“Get comfortable being uncomfortable”

Episode Highlights


It’s interesting when you look at the things that you’re known for … internet of things, trends in technology, connected cars … that the ability for you to take these very technical, very dynamic and fluid industries and put them into a language that makes it easy to communicate and easy for your audience to digest. Seems like a superpower. Do you have a trick there?

At the risk of exposing myself, there’s a concept in math that you can always get to a better answer through indirection, which basically means going up another level. You can always find another level to explain something. What I’ve done in terms of all those what appeared to be very disparate topics is tried to find that level where there is a narrative that weaves through all of them. That has been truly the success in being able to do the things that I do. Which whether I’m talking to a large audience about the impact of autonomy in terms of convenience stores and what’s gonna happen to the salad goods in convenience stores to the coming of electricity and the electric car and what that’s gonna do to the gas pumps. Which is gonna do to credit card companies, to the internet of things and devices and what’s that gonna do to the insurance companies.

All of them have a narrative that at the appropriate level is a narrative that it turns out is a really good narrative to try and teach.


What are the kinds of takeaways you get from a technical talk that we could apply to a general business? Give me an example.

I won’t go into how a sensor works, right? We don’t go into the math. While I’m comfortable about that, that’s not the goal of any talk I’ve ever given to date. It’s always generally been about: Here’s a basic understanding of the technology, and here’s how you incorporate it into business transformation or business model transformation.

That said, what the takeaways are? Probably the first takeaway that generally seems to apply to everybody is get comfortable being uncomfortable, which is phrase draw from down by your area, which is the US military, the SEALs specifically.

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