Join me as I chat to Dale Imerman, the founder of The Mojo Dojo and Catalyst Africa.
Dale Imerman has the much envied job title of technologist – but enviably wears many other equally impressive hats – such as entrepreneur, corporate educator and keynote speaker. He is also a friend and someone whose opinion I really value when it comes to how COVID has impacted businesses and the way they use technology.
So of course – I invited him to chat all things digital marketing with me on my YouTube channel! First things first, I asked him the secret to becoming a technology whisperer. He attributes his career path to being a naturally curious person who gravitates towards new and exciting things. Also being born in 1980, he is grateful to have been born into a world where there was an offline before there was an online – helping him better appreciate the progression of technology.
“I have been lucky enough to always work for companies who were quite progressive. One of my bosses many years ago would say to me – I am willing to try anything twice – despite being a conservative financial company.” The reoccurring threads which have been stitched in his life have been creativity, technology and mindset, creating a burning desire for him to combine these three vital components in all he does.
Dale’s business, The Mojo Dojo, is a purpose led business whose main objective is to take the anxiety out of technology for corporates through education and team building. But in true Dale fashion, he wanted to create an even bigger impact in the tech space. So he and his business partner launched an event called Catalyst Africa which aims to bring people together and unpack mindset challenges.
After attending many conferences, he had become tired of the tried and tested approaches to conferences. He felt that after sitting in a conference room for 9 hours – being scared and excited in a rather formulaic way – saw him returning back to work on the Monday with no more tools in his arsenal. This all changed when he attended South by South West (SXSF) in Austin, Texas.
What did he love most about this event? He felt that it embodies one of his favourite quotes - “Blowing out someone’s candle won’t make your light shine any brighter.” This was because his experience of the event demonstrated a genuine desire of attendees to connect, facilitate and help one another.
This collective light gives everyone a better opportunity says Dale, and so he wanted to bring this concept to South Africa and disrupt a somewhat staid industry here. Last year’s event had 45 sessions happening over two days and every session had practically takeaways to be applied a bit more easily in everyday life. Dale feels that this is an important thing to note - that innovation needn’t come from an innovation department – it can come from anyone in an organisation who can identify where things can be done differently, if they have been empowered to act on their insights.
During this time during the pandemic – there have been a mix of needs which clients have approached Dale with in terms of how they can pivot their business. He is most excited by the collective realisation that the technology which people potentially didn’t have the time nor inclination to unpack previously is now being adopted en masse. Skype for one was actually launched in 2003 – so is almost two decades old! “But only now that people have been forced to use the technology, and have a couple of things going wrong or a couple of things gone right and understand the capabilities… are they in a position to say let me try this or try that”.
And further than technology simply unlocking new ways for teams to connect remotely, things like cloud computing, business processes and gaming have surged. This in stark contrast to the companies which have been severely impacted negatively – which no amount of video conferencing can solve! Dale referenced a number of cool ways which green screening is being used more extensively and not just internationally but locally in South Africa too.
And yes, whilst tenacity is a wonderful quality for employees to have – much like perseverance – other qualities (even ADHD) may be the ones to bring companies to the fore. “High value” individuals, Dale explains, may actually be the people who are simply more adaptive and cope better with change.
Apple also launched three products during lockdown Dale explained – the iPad Pro, MacBook Air and a US$400 iPhone - and managed to still do it in a lifelike way using augmented reality to bring a “digital twin” to life. This trend can be for objects as large as automobiles and as small as airpods – and underscores how far eCommerce has come – from when fabric close ups seemed like the best thing to envision what a car interior may seem like.
FNB is a local company which Dale references as something which consumers possibly have perceived as an overnight success in so far as its technological offering is concerned. But the reality is that it was more like a five years process of iterating how to help their staff with bandwidth, then their consumers and finally interrogating the devices which would help everyone to unlock their new connectivity.
In so far as the Mojo Dojo is concerned specifically – their business model has always been lean – bringing in experts in each field as necessary - so Dale’s business has possibly been less affected than others – but he is still having to relook at how Catalyst Africa can work as a more digital offering. In the meantime though, The Mojo Dojo team feel they have been lucky in that there is also a greater demand for augmented reality, facial recognition and natural language processing.
Of course, I couldn’t let Dale get out of the interview without asking him for his own secret sauce to #dodigitalbetter. His answer may surprise you. “When I think of digital, I think of a set of tools. In the history books, this might have been a sharp rock – which would have been used in a variety of ways. Our current tools are no different.” He recommends always asking yourself what problem you are trying to solve vs. using technology for technology’s sake, to help people demystify technology and how it can help them. That and watching my YouTube channel, thanks Dale – you are a good friend :)