Interview with Colin Iles - Exponential Technologies and Purpose

Updated: Oct 15, 2019

Today’s blog is linked to my new Podcast “Exponential Organisations” and is a loose transcript of the interview I had with Colin Iles. It won’t be a word-for-word transcript of the interview but will rather be me highlighting some key things that Colin said during the interview. I hope you enjoy it.

Introducing Colin

Colin shows leadership teams of entrenched organisations what steps they can take to hedge themselves from new entrants who are benefiting from easy access to disruptive exponential technologies.

He has worked with clients across multiple industries including MiWay | Thomson Reuters | Ab InBev | Korn Ferry | University of Cape Town | PepsiCo | Afrocentric | Betterlife | Old Mutual | Absa.

He owns his own company “The Innovation Catalysts” and is a Global Ambassador for OpenExO

Colin, can you tell us about the XPRIZE?

Solve the worlds grand challenges

“The Xprize is run by Peter Diamandis and is a competition and is using competition theory to come up with new ideas. It is an incredibly efficient way of doing this because if you put up a prize of 5-10 million Dollars to win, and set a challenge to achieve, then there is a multiplier effect where people invest huge amounts of time to win the prize even though everyone who enters knows they are unlikely to win it. It is used to incentivise teams across the globe to solve the worlds grand challenges.”

Presenting and funding of ideas

“This year’s prize was handed out by Elon Musk and was awarded to a team who have managed to extract water from air in a carbon neutral manner and under 2c a litre. The Xprize brings together 300 to 400 wealthy people and get them to have conversations. They then start to design the competition for the following year. As these individuals chat they start to form teams around ideas and on the last day of the three-day conference they start to present their ideas. Even during the current conference the best ideas start to get funding already of hundreds of thousands of Dollars.”

How did you learn about the concept of Exponential Organisations?

Exponential technologies developing simultaneously

“I started by reading the book “Exponential Organizations” by Salim Ismael which is a must read for anyone in business. I then found out about Abundance 360 which is another Peter Diamandis community where he brings together 360 entrepreneurs each year to have a look at some of the latest technologies. When you go to these events you get blown away because you have very important influential people presenting about some of the crazy things that are happening on the technological front. You then start to think that you are in a world where things are moving so fast and we have gone from linear progress to exponential progress. You then realise that it not just one technology it is probably a dozen, or two dozen, technologies that are all developing simultaneously.”

Companies are in jeopardy

“You realise that in 5 to 10 years the world is going to look radically different because these technologies are enabling it to be radically different. The only conclusion you can draw is that for incumbent organisations that don’t catch that wave they really are in jeopardy. This is because it is becoming so easy for companies to go and set up competing products and services and go to market in radically different ways.

How do you assist leadership teams?

Start thinking differently

“The first phase is to make the leaderships teams aware of the exponential technologies. Introducing them to how technology is going to disrupt industry in the next four or five years. Getting leadership teams to start thinking differently on where to focus their attention. The pessimistic side is just to really scare them into action. More positively you can introduce them to opportunities that technologies are likely to bring and it is no longer good enough to just sit on the side-lines and wait for them to occur. Companies need to work out how they can be leading in that space.”

Purposeful leadership

“Secondly is to start introducing leadership teams into the concept of purposeful leadership. Analysis has shown that companies that are just pursuing profit are perversely not likely to find the profits, and super profits, that their competitors are finding – especially competitors that are driving their strategy according to a sense of purpose.”

Why is purpose important?

Big is no longer enough

“In many ways it is actually common sense. Five to ten years ago it didn’t feel like purpose was something to pursue because you could probably get away with just being big, being able to protect your IP, protect your distribution network and your competitors weren’t moving that quickly. Now you just can’t do that. A person can setup a startup with internet access, they are able to find funders, experts to help them develop and build products and services, and so things are moving incredibly quickly.”

Winning companies have purpose

“In this age where there are so many competitors you have to look at companies that are constantly winning. 99 times out a 100 they seem to have some altruistic purpose that they are driving towards.”

How do you see the world in 2 to 5 years’ time?

Things will accelerate

“Things are going to continue to accelerate. When you look at the technology improvement a lot of them are on exponential curves. It is very difficult for us as humans to understand how much is going to change. A simple example is that ten years ago there wasn’t an iPhone. Humans are very good at accepting change but not so good at deliberating and investing in it. When we look at the change that it is coming it is quite unbelievable. There are companies out there that are working on making us live longer and get younger. There are companies that are trying to interface the brain with artificial intelligence.”

Thank you Colin for being my guest in this blog and podcast. If you would like to contact Colin then email him at To listen to the full interview subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, spotify or listen on

I hope you have enjoyed and found this blog valuable. If you would like to talk about any of these concepts further, then let’s chat. You can book me online using Calendly at, contact me through my website at or email me directly at

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