Robert Tercek

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Business Futurist, Technology Strategist and Digital Media Pioneer; Former President of Digital Media, Oprah Winfrey Network; Adjunct Professor and Lecturer, University of Southern California

Biography

Software is redefining the way our entire society functions, and award-winning author Robert Tercek is the go-to technology strategist actively working on society-wide digital transformation. More than a pundit, Tercek – a media executive turned digital consultant – has designed and supervised the launch of innovative digital services in Asia, Europe and the Americas for some of the world’s most notable media organizations. As many businesses struggle to keep up with the inexorable shift from product to platform, Tercek provides strategic insight and advice for executives to reinvent their businesses and take action to proactively contend with digital disruption – before it’s too late.

In his speeches, books and consulting work, Tercek’s urgent message is that software is not only redefining the way society works – from the way we communicate to the way we learn and work – but it is literally reshaping the physical world. Entire categories of familiar products have been replaced by downloadable apps, and increasingly, the flow of traffic, money, goods and services is governed by information technologies. Tercek calls this process “vaporization,” and argues that it is accelerating as it spans to every industry and civic institution around the planet. Whatever can be vaporized will be.

As goods become information rich, they shed the characteristics of physical products and morph into services delivered instantly to always-on digital devices. This can be a difficult proposition for long-established companies that built their reputation on making high-quality physical goods, and that’s exactly where Tercek’s expertise shines brightest. Tercek helps his clients identify and optimize their proprietary data assets by turning them into tools for customer acquisition, retention and monetization. He provides strategic insight and leadership guidance to a wide range of companies that includes manufacturers, major retail chains, media and advertising conglomerates, health care providers, automakers, and technology firms, as well as standards bodies and state and national governments.

Tercek believes that every product can be enhanced or augmented with an on-demand service, an assertion he supports with an inspiring range of examples, case studies and business strategies. Even the firms that currently offer such services must continuously refocus, reorient and reimagine their offerings in a world where consumer preferences and choices evolve rapidly. The process of optimizing businesses that have been redefined by software in a continuous cycle of reinvention is Tercek’s sweet spot.

In 2016, Tercek’s best-selling book, “Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World” (LifeTree Media, September 2015), was chosen from a field of 10,000 business titles as the 2016 International Book of the Year by GetAbstract. Reviewers called “Vaporized” an “urgent manifesto,” “a wakeup call” and an “essential read for 21st century leaders.” After digesting the ideas put forth in “Vaporized,” many leaders now ask, “What can I do to avoid getting vaporized?” Tercek’s forthcoming book, “Optimized” (LifeTree Media, 2019), will survey the full range of digital technologies, revealing an entirely new set of business strategies designed for success in the 2020s.

Tercek’s views are informed by his 25-year long experience in major media, telecommunications and software development. As the Creative Director at MTV International in the 1990s, he witnessed firsthand the painful process of digitization in every corner of the globe. Later, as Senior Vice President of Digital Media at Sony Pictures Entertainment and as President of Digital Media at OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, he planned and implemented the strategies that established those firms as the category leaders in the booming digital economy.

During the past 10 years, Tercek has expanded his expertise into many fields, designing digital strategies for universities, corporations, cities, and state governments. As everything from cars to household appliances and fashion accessories, and even buildings and neighborhoods, get “smart” and connected, Tercek recognizes the growing opportunity to launch digital services in every industry. In 2017, Tercek established Hybrid World Adelaide, a week-long festival in South Australia that showcases the infusion of digital technology into daily life, that attracted tens of thousands of attendees.

Tercek is an enthusiastic and dynamic orator who invests roughly 100 hours into every customized speaking presentation, drawing on his media experience to simultaneously entertain, persuade, and educate his audiences. Tercek’s presentations are visually spectacular, typically consisting of 200 images and bold graphic designs. His unique views on managing innovation are highly sought by organizations around the world, including PwC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Huawei, Time Warner, AT&T, Kohl’s, Lenovo, Aetna, Ford Motor Company and Deloitte. From one-time presentations to long-term consulting relationships, Tercek has made it his life’s mission to advise as wide a range of clients as possible on the implications of the digital revolution and teach them how to cope with change.

Tercek is a passionate advocate for education about the principles and dynamics that propel technological change. Tercek’s commitment to education extends to his position as Advisor for the newly-established Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Earlier, he spent a decade as a lecturer at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television, where he introduced the curriculum for interactive media and served on the faculty of the Peter Stark Producers program. He has also been a guest lecturer at many universities and colleges in the U.S. and abroad.

Robert Tercek is available for paid speaking engagements including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, conference talks, and advisory/consulting services through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Articles

Digital Convergence: The Shape of Things to Come - Or Is It Already Here?

May 19, 2017

Live Mint logo

No Industry is Immune From Vaporization

November 7, 2016

Dealing with Vaporization (Page 64-66)

August 8, 2016

Changing the Brewing Industry with Big Data [Book Excerpt]

June 15, 2016

Inc

What You Need to Know About Making Money in 2016

January 12, 2016

the vancouver sun logo

Software and Apps Will Continue to Replace Physical Items in 2016

December 25, 2015

small biz daily logo

The Disruptive Myth

December 16, 2015

Fortune logo

Could You be Replaced by a Thinking Machine?

November 1, 2015

'Vaporized' Poses New Challenges for Media

October 13, 2015

The Battle for the Connected Car Takes Us Down a Brave New Road

September 25, 2015

Huffington Post logo

Vaporized: Thriving in a Business World That You Can't See, Touch or Feel

September 23, 2015

Los Angeles Times logo

Can ZendyHealth Be the Priceline of Healthcare?

September 8, 2015

Kelli Richards Interviews Robert Tercek

September 2015

The Future Of Human Labor In A Robotic World

September 1, 2015

‘The Economy Will Always Destroy Jobs’: Our Future in an IT-Driven World

August 28, 2015

Everything You Know About Business is About to be VAPORIZED!

August 2015

Tercek Praises Chattanooga’s Positioning in the IoT World

August 2015

Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World

August 10, 2015

Robert Tercek: Science Fiction is Going to Become the New Normal

July 29, 2015

Mobile Games Should Stop Copying Supercell and ‘Think Outside the Phone’

January 23, 2014

Forbes logo

The Future of Film

August 3, 2012

Robert Tercek: Traditional Mass Media Cannot Compete with Digital

May 31, 2011

Biography

Software is redefining the way our entire society functions, and award-winning author Robert Tercek is the go-to technology strategist actively working on society-wide digital transformation. More than a pundit, Tercek – a media executive turned digital consultant – has designed and supervised the launch of innovative digital services in Asia, Europe and the Americas for some of the world’s most notable media organizations. As many businesses struggle to keep up with the inexorable shift from product to platform, Tercek provides strategic insight and advice for executives to reinvent their businesses and take action to proactively contend with digital disruption – before it’s too late.

In his speeches, books and consulting work, Tercek’s urgent message is that software is not only redefining the way society works – from the way we communicate to the way we learn and work – but it is literally reshaping the physical world. Entire categories of familiar products have been replaced by downloadable apps, and increasingly, the flow of traffic, money, goods and services is governed by information technologies. Tercek calls this process “vaporization,” and argues that it is accelerating as it spans to every industry and civic institution around the planet. Whatever can be vaporized will be.

As goods become information rich, they shed the characteristics of physical products and morph into services delivered instantly to always-on digital devices. This can be a difficult proposition for long-established companies that built their reputation on making high-quality physical goods, and that’s exactly where Tercek’s expertise shines brightest. Tercek helps his clients identify and optimize their proprietary data assets by turning them into tools for customer acquisition, retention and monetization. He provides strategic insight and leadership guidance to a wide range of companies that includes manufacturers, major retail chains, media and advertising conglomerates, health care providers, automakers, and technology firms, as well as standards bodies and state and national governments.

Tercek believes that every product can be enhanced or augmented with an on-demand service, an assertion he supports with an inspiring range of examples, case studies and business strategies. Even the firms that currently offer such services must continuously refocus, reorient and reimagine their offerings in a world where consumer preferences and choices evolve rapidly. The process of optimizing businesses that have been redefined by software in a continuous cycle of reinvention is Tercek’s sweet spot.

In 2016, Tercek’s best-selling book, “Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World” (LifeTree Media, September 2015), was chosen from a field of 10,000 business titles as the 2016 International Book of the Year by GetAbstract. Reviewers called “Vaporized” an “urgent manifesto,” “a wakeup call” and an “essential read for 21st century leaders.” After digesting the ideas put forth in “Vaporized,” many leaders now ask, “What can I do to avoid getting vaporized?” Tercek’s forthcoming book, “Optimized” (LifeTree Media, 2019), will survey the full range of digital technologies, revealing an entirely new set of business strategies designed for success in the 2020s.

Tercek’s views are informed by his 25-year long experience in major media, telecommunications and software development. As the Creative Director at MTV International in the 1990s, he witnessed firsthand the painful process of digitization in every corner of the globe. Later, as Senior Vice President of Digital Media at Sony Pictures Entertainment and as President of Digital Media at OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, he planned and implemented the strategies that established those firms as the category leaders in the booming digital economy.

During the past 10 years, Tercek has expanded his expertise into many fields, designing digital strategies for universities, corporations, cities, and state governments. As everything from cars to household appliances and fashion accessories, and even buildings and neighborhoods, get “smart” and connected, Tercek recognizes the growing opportunity to launch digital services in every industry. In 2017, Tercek established Hybrid World Adelaide, a week-long festival in South Australia that showcases the infusion of digital technology into daily life, that attracted tens of thousands of attendees.

Tercek is an enthusiastic and dynamic orator who invests roughly 100 hours into every customized speaking presentation, drawing on his media experience to simultaneously entertain, persuade, and educate his audiences. Tercek’s presentations are visually spectacular, typically consisting of 200 images and bold graphic designs. His unique views on managing innovation are highly sought by organizations around the world, including PwC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Huawei, Time Warner, AT&T, Kohl’s, Lenovo, Aetna, Ford Motor Company and Deloitte. From one-time presentations to long-term consulting relationships, Tercek has made it his life’s mission to advise as wide a range of clients as possible on the implications of the digital revolution and teach them how to cope with change.

Tercek is a passionate advocate for education about the principles and dynamics that propel technological change. Tercek’s commitment to education extends to his position as Advisor for the newly-established Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Earlier, he spent a decade as a lecturer at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television, where he introduced the curriculum for interactive media and served on the faculty of the Peter Stark Producers program. He has also been a guest lecturer at many universities and colleges in the U.S. and abroad.

Robert Tercek is available for paid speaking engagements including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, conference talks, and advisory/consulting services through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Vaporized: How to Crush It in a Dematerialized World

Everybody knows we’re living in a time of rapid change, but the surprising fact is this transformation is invisible, one that can’t be seen until it’s over. Often, the first mark of change is a sign in a shop window that says “Store closing! Everything must go.” That’s because physical goods are being replaced by invisible cloud-based software services. More than two million products have been transformed into digital services, and the number will double by 2020. Robert Tercek refers to this process as “vaporization” because the new digital offerings are similar to the atmosphere – existing all around us and available any time – at the touch of an icon on a smartphone. The move from physical to digital form changes the way products are designed, created, distributed, sold and received by consumers. And that changes everything.

Customized to suit particular industries, events and organizations, this high-energy speech reveals the dynamics of digital transformation and the optimal strategies for successfully navigating it in a fresh and fascinating way. Leading technology experts – including Hewlett Packard, IBM and Microsoft – have engaged Tercek on multiple occasions to convey his urgent message to their customers and partners. The media, finance, advertising and retail industries have already been vaporized. What’s next? Surely transportation, hospitality, insurance, health care and education, and many, many others, can’t be too far behind.

Artificial Intelligence – The Big Data Solution

Eight years ago, most companies were data-poor. Today, the situation is reversed: many companies are overloaded with far more data than they can manage. Robert Tercek, digitization expert, knows where to find the solution: Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s no coincidence that machine learning has begun to gain real traction; as companies connect more devices to the cloud, instrument their entire process and track more details of their business, the volume of data generated each year doubles. The datasets are now so large that they surpass the capacity for humans to manage them or understand them. That’s where AI fits in, making sense of the data via machine learning. Intelligent machines won’t replace human experts; instead they will augment human abilities, endowing us with super powers.

The organizations that learn to tame huge datasets, courtesy of machine intelligence, will enjoy a sustainable strategic advantage. Tercek demonstrates how firms can harness the incomprehensible amount of data being generated by sensors and connected devices and convert it into a valuable asset, preparing companies for the next step in the evolution of business.

How to Be an Amazing Leader in the 21st Century

Is your organization ready for the next wave of change? Most firms, large and small, are reeling from the changes wrought by the first wave of digital technology, and many are still woefully far behind on digitization. And now it’s time to prepare for the next round.

Robert Tercek pulls executives from all industries out of the dark to propel organizations into the next decade of sustainable digital transformation. In this speech, attendees will gain an understanding of the technological building blocks of the next phase of change, including virtualization, blockchain-based decentralized apps, automation, robotics, deep learning, sensors, and environmental computing, and the leadership strategies to foster their adoption. Tercek explains how all these disparate elements fit together in an integrated toolkit that offers strategic advantages for first movers. No technology is neutral as each innovation comes with its own agenda. The magic is in the combination of technologies employed and the common set of core values established within the organization.

The Awesome Power of Trust in a Time of Disruption

The headlong race into the future has unleashed forces that are spiraling out of control, and we’re stumbling forward into a future that no one predicted. Twenty years ago, pundits and prophets foresaw an era of prosperity, transparency, democracy and decentralization. But today, we are experiencing the exact opposite. Immense wealth accrues to a tiny percentage of the population while wages stagnate. We enjoy access to more information than any previous generation, yet many of us are ignorant of fundamental facts and scientific principles. And social media has deluged us with a flood of fake news that has skewed elections and undermined democracy. No wonder massive numbers of consumers have grown jaded and skeptical about the future.

This vast gulf of distrust between citizens and the institutions that serve them is what Robert Tercek calls the “trust gap,” and he sees it as the next major challenge for business leaders, as well as the greatest marketing opportunity in a generation. In this hard-hitting presentation, Tercek presents a powerful case for a new kind of brand-building. Beginning with a vivid illustration of how corporations are violating the trust of their customers, skirting the law, and evading regulators, he shows how these opportunistic shortcuts backfire by weakening consumer faith and undermining brand promises. Tercek reveals strategies for establishing a meaningful connection with consumers, especially those who are wary of sales hype and data mining. The companies that are bridging the trust gap are building durable reputations via transparent pricing and privacy policies, solid data governance, openness and a new approach to cooperation based on software platforms. The old strategies of saturation marketing and mass branding are dead; bring on the new trust!

How to Seize the Incredible Opportunities of the High-Tech Revolution

What kind of world are we building in the 21st century, and what comes next after the cycle of disruption? Robert Tercek believes that an entire generation of young leaders – living in a new society defined by software that serves human needs in ways that were unthinkable just one generation ago – has been distracted by the allure of dismantling the old institutions and breaking the rules that guided society in the past. Unfortunately, we have not yet devoted enough attention to building durable institutions to replace those that have been deconstructed.

This optimistic presentation focuses on the new business and civic dynamics that emerge after a period of rapid transformation, and probes past the headlines – beyond the reports of inequality, displacement and devastation – to reveal the outlines of a new society that is emerging from the dust of the ruined past. This talk is an urgent manifesto, a call to action to reorganize technology and enterprises to be in alignment with a common set of goals that go beyond quarterly financial targets. Modern technology gives companies and their customers superpowers that previous generations could barely dream of. What will we do with these immense powers, and what legacy will we leave behind? Tercek also illustrates the judicious use of immense power and reveals the consequences when we fail to do so.

For any conference or organization devoted to exploring the future paths to leadership and professional excellence in a digital world, this is a rousing opening keynote presentation that will inspire attendees with vivid examples and a robust set of highly applicable principles for how to lead enterprises in the new society.

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Books & Research

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Recommendations

“Robert delivered an amazing keynote address at our Management Team Conference.  He invested time in understanding our firm and needs that greatly increased the impact of his already impactful message.  His breadth of understanding of digitization and its impact on business and society gave our team a broader view into possible futures we and our clients may face that will add value to our firm for years to come.”

–Kerry Stover, Chief Operating Officer, Pariveda Solutions

“Robert’s keynote at NetBase LIVE was a HUGE game changer for our inaugural conference and one of our most loved sessions. I’m still getting compliments from attendees touting that ‘Robert’s keynote was the best presentation they’ve ever seen.’ Robert completely knocked it out of the park and delivered a truly impactful session that left brands and agencies immediate and actionable insights to take back to their organizations. If you need someone to provide a though provoking and dynamic session, Robert is your man!”

–Kevin Lau, Senior Marketing Manager, Netbase

“Rob’s presentations are energetic, future looking and inspirational. The effect of his presentations is so much more than informational. He truly inspires the audience to think differently, to consider new ideas for the future, and then to build plans and take actions to innovate in anticipation of that future. Rob is energetic and enthusiastic in his presentation style, using unique and engaging graphics and narrative to tell a story of where we are and where we might go to be successful.”

–Betsy Gerdeman, Senior Vice President of Development Services,
PBS

“Robert is a consummate professional. An energetic, captivating speaker who has a passion for his topic and the experience, knowledge, and skill to back it up. His workshop and keynote were easily the most popular events of our conference. Highly recommend Robert for any company that would like assistance in their creative process.”

–Douglas MacDonald, Partnership Management,
QTel Group

“Robert Tercek commands the respect of the global media industry, his peers, and countless conference attendees who have heard him speak. What sets him apart is that rare combination of visionary thinking, hard won practical insight, and tireless passion for the way media shapes our world. It was a privilege to have Robert speak at this year’s seminar. He lit up the room. What’s more, he created a customized presentation, tailor-made hand-outs, and promoted the event using his own online show and social media clout. Make no mistake, Robert is far more than an inspiring keynote presenter. He is a catalytic partner committed to the success of your event.”

– Simon Mainwaring, Founder, We First
Social Branding Seminar

“We were fortunate to have Mr. Tercek as one of our keynote speakers at our premiere national industry conference, Prime Time in Ottawa, in 2011. Our delegate feedback to his address was so positive that we invited Robert to speak again at our event in 2012. Robert Tercek is a leading speaker on media innovation and creativity. His insight on the latest global media trends and his extensive experience as a producer of leading-edge content across multiple platforms make Robert uniquely qualified to provide strategic guidance to anyone doing business in media today. Not only is Robert keenly aware of the myriad interwoven variables that come into play in the media environment, his presentation style is organized, logical, clear and concise, with just the right amount of humour. I highly recommend Robert Tercek as a keynote speaker for any event that is focused on the media sector, or for any media company looking for a business strategist to help guide them to greater success.”

– Mark Seguin, Senior Vice President of Policy,
Canadian Media Producers Association

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Intro Video

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THE SOFTWARE-DEFINED SOCIETY: Robert Tercek keynote speech at Huawei Innovation Summit