Grayson Brulte

Grayson Brulte

@gbrulte | @gbrulte

Grayson Brulte is an Innovation Strategist and Co-Founder of Brulte & Company.

Grayson Brulte is an Innovation Strategist and Co-Founder of Brulte & Company. As an innovation strategist and strategic advisor, Grayson builds trusted relationships with organizations, working together with internal teams to prepare clients for what’s next.

From developing strategies for autonomous vehicle programs to helping companies become the go-to resource for technology innovation, Grayson empowers clients with the foresight and intelligence to take on the world’s biggest challenges.

Sharing his insights into what’s next, Grayson hosts The Road To Autonomy™ Podcast and the SAE International Tomorrow Today Podcast, where he interviews high-caliber guests and leaders across industries, sharing his own unique perspective to deliver one-of-a-kind discussions.

Harnessing his in-depth knowledge of diverse markets, economics, politics, and technology, he and the guests tackle topics from autonomous vehicles and mobility trends to the financial effects of innovative breakthroughs and their impact on society.

Grayson understands the intricate relationship between politics and innovation, expertly navigating between these worlds and facilitating the impactful conversations between the two. Grayson has enabled forward momentum and transformation from a city to a national level.

As a former Co-Chair of the City of Beverly Hills Mayor's Autonomous Vehicle Task Force and member of the city’s Smart City/Technology Committee, he helped Beverly Hills become one of America’s digital capitals chosen by Google.

His perspective, insights, and opinions are utilized and shared by leading organizations and publications throughout the market.

Grayson’s comments and opinions have appeared in numerous publications, including: The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg, CNN, Forbes, The Hollywood Reporter, and Reuters.

For speaking engagements, editorials and media enquiries please email [email protected].

Political Innovation: Embracing and Understanding Customer Service

Politics is a pursuit inherently built on customer service but without enough attention paid to those who matter the most: voters.

In politics, voters are the customers, and instead of asking for a refund or an exchange, they can vote the politician out of office.

So why isn’t voter relations one of the top priorities of a campaign? Campaigns should hire a Chief Voter Relations Officer to manage voter relations and develop an organization that is always striving for perfection. In that way, the organization would be actively embracing customer service as an asset, not a chore.

Voters are consumers, and they know what an honest customer service experience feels like. Customer service cannot be faked or forced; consumers are too smart for that, as many have experienced great customer service from companies like and Nordstrom, to name a couple.

The Chief Voter Relations Officer should build upon the customer service models that successful companies are using as a starting point. By embracing customer service in a campaign, politicians would be able to build an open and honest conversation with voters, all while building trust and managing expectations.

Innovation in Politics: Understanding and Appreciating the Voter

1. Respect the Voter.

Always assume voters are smarter and more technologically savvy than the campaign. Most individuals today live on their smartphones and are accustomed to Googling anything of interest.

2. Embrace Android and Google Now.

Apple’s iOS might be cool, but over 758,719,000 Android phones were sold globally in 2013, according to Gartner. That represents an astounding 78.4% market share of all smartphone sales. Apple, on the other hand, sold over 150,785,000 iPhones globally in 2013, according to Gartner, accounting for a 15.6% market share of all smartphone sales. By embracing Android, politicians would be able to leverage the important advantages of the Google Now platform and Google Card updates, as Google Now is natively built into Android. Hands-on, connected voters who are interested in each and everything related to the politician and the campaign would be able to get instant updates right on their Android phones in a frictionless way. With iOS, the voter would have to log into the Google app, creating friction.

3. Make it Easy to Communicate.

Voters today are fragmented and do not always open their mail on a regular basis and/or watch TV daily, but a huge number of voters are continuously connected to the Internet. This is a trend that I only see continuing and getting stronger as younger individuals prefer to text or chat via an app rather than pick up the phone and call a friend or a business, let alone a politician’s office. Politicians should understand this trend and embrace it, making their campaigns accessible via apps such as WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and Kik Messenger. In the coming years, voters will expect more two-way open access to elected officials in real-time, and by building out and embracing a mobile communications strategy, politicians will be able to directly communicate with voters.

4. Take Control of the Message.

Campaigns should focus on taking control of the message and communicating directly with the voters; they can do this by re-inventing the typical political website. Political websites of today are old, slow, and for the most part, broken. Harper Reed, who was the CTO for President Obama’s 2012 campaign, understood this and built to be scalable and to tell a story. Harper understood the value of a site that loads fast and tells you what you want to know, without having to search for it. Organizing For America and Harper Reed successfully took control of the message and delivered a decisive victory.

5. Eliminate the Friction.

Make it simple and easy for a voter to contact, connect, donate and/or get the information they are looking for without having to wander and get frustrated. Keep the language in the voice of ordinary Americans. Enable every touch point of the campaign to be a wonderful, frictionless experience from the voter’s perspective. An email reply, a cordial “please,” and especially a “thank you” will go a long way on Election Day.
The above-mentioned ideas are key to the success of a victory on election night for the 2014 mid-term elections. While some of these ideas will translate to the 2016 presidential election, others will not.

This is why political campaigns and political organizations should embrace a strategy that has them looking into the future—without missing it. As Larry Page, Co-Founder & CEO of Google, recently said during a recent TED talk, “The main thing that has caused companies to fail, in my view, is that they missed the future.”

New communication platforms have the ability to assist politicians in building more open two-way communication channels with their constituents, which will lead to a stronger bond between the voter and the politician. It is this bond that could make the difference on Election Day.

One means to this end? Political organizations should consider enrolling their executives in the new MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Platform Strategy: Building and Thriving in a Vibrant Ecosystem. During the two-day course, executives will learn more about the ideas mentioned in this article and how to develop and implement a winning platform strategy. Two days of in-depth, hands-on learning will help executives in political organizations approach new technologies and platforms—and not miss the future.

Political Innovation: Embracing and Understanding Customer Service is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on The MIT Sloan Executive Education [email protected]™ Blog.

The Future of Voting

As smartphones become smarter and citizens become more keenly aware of security, we could envision a society in which citizens would have a frictionless voting experience without having to drive to a polling place.

Sir Richard Branson recently penned an interesting blog post about the future of voting and how citizens one day might be able to vote on the internet. The internet of today is not the future of online voting. Instead the future of online voting rests in the developments of mobile and wearable technologies.

As smartphones become smarter and citizens become more keenly aware of security, we could envision a society in which citizens would have a frictionless voting experience without having to drive to a polling place. Taking time off from work, getting gas and driving to a polling place creates friction which does not entice your average younger citizen to want to vote. What if that younger citizen could download an app and vote?

What if that same citizen could talk to their smartwatch and tell the app how to they want to vote? This would be a frictionless experience that would be engaging to younger voters. Voting would be a simple task that could possibly encourage younger citizens to get involved in politics.

The big downside to a voting platform such as the one described above would be privacy, as the Government would have to verify your device against a database to ensure you are a legal citizen over the legal voting age. Would citizens allow the Government to verify their device in exchange for being able to vote using a smartwatch and smartphone?

While we might not have the answers today, we do agree with Sir Richard Branson that there are many benefits to online voting.

There could be many benefits to voting online, not least the opportunity to engage more young people with politics. I was speaking to my friend Vladas Lasas, who is running for President in Lithuania, and he pointed out how the tech-savvy youth of his country (and the wider world) are the “sleeping giants” of politics. They feel disconnected from politics and the action of going to vote is not appealing. – Sir Richard Branson

While the current state of voting today is not a frictionless experience, this could be changed by allowing online voting through a smartphone or smartwatch. Would you wave some privacy rights to be able to vote with your smartphone or smartwatch?

The Future of Voting is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte.

Political Innovation: Developing an Innovative Political Organization

When you think of the term innovation, you probably do not associate it with politics. This is due at least in part to the historical reluctance of politicians and campaign managers to take uncertain risks that could have a negative impact on the outcome of an election or term.

Instead, it is companies in the private sector such as Apple and Google that are disrupting their industries with new, innovative products and services. And, even older, more established companies such as Porsche and Walmart are redefining their industries with updated product lines and innovative business models.

These private sector companies have successfully developed cultures that are always learning and striving for perfection. Apple has Jony Ive, who is always pushing the envelope of what is possible, and Google has Google X, its secret lab focused on solving big problems.

So where is the Jony Ive and Google X of politics?

I believe that if political organizations adopted the mindset of these above-mentioned private sector companies and moved away from the tried and true strategies of non-geotargeted direct mailers and blanketed TV ads, their candidate would win more elections. While America has already seen the power of these more targeted strategies in President Obama’s campaign wins, as explored in the June, 2013 New York Times Magazine article “Data You Can Believe In,” conventional strategies for the most part remain uncontested, and true innovation has yet to hatch.

Innovation in Politics: Rewrite the Playbook and Change the Organizational Model

Being an innovator in politics would mean rewriting the playbook and building a political organization that is always learning and experimenting with new technologies and strategies. This organizational model should be the model which all future political organizations use to develop political campaign strategies.

Political candidates, campaign managers, and political consultants should consider the following when developing an innovative political organization:

1. Recruit problem-solving individuals who have multidisciplinary backgrounds and who have the ability and bandwidth to focus on the bigger picture: changing the way politicians approach politics.

2. Take more calculated risks. While some of these risks will fail, others will succeed. When Porsche preemptively decided to get ahead of the SUV trend by introducing the Cayenne in 2002, they were taking a huge risk. But the Cayenne now accounts for more than half the company’s global sales.

3. Consumers demand customer service from private sector companies, and they expect immediate responses to their inquiries. The same will be true of voters. As more homes come online, politicians will be able to host virtual, two-way interactive town halls in voters’ homes and gather real-time feedback on their policies. While this might not become a reality for the 2016 presidential election, it is a very real possibility for the 2020 presidential election, especially if the much-rumored Apple TV is realized.

4. Politics need innovation labs focused on changing the way politicians win elections. A lab should be run as a fully independent arm of a political organization—away from campaign headquarters, to avoid the echo-chamber effect. Political operatives would be able to focus on the long-term picture of winning multiple elections, not just one. In the retail industry, companies such as Nordstrom, Walmart, Target, and Kohl’s have each established innovation labs to figure out the future of retailing. As a result, for example, Walmart has had great success in developing mobile apps that allow their customers to shop when, where, and how they want to.

5. Politicians need to stay in front of their message. On-demand political news channels would allow the politician unprecedented access to voter’s living rooms. Platforms such as xBox Live, which currently has 48 million members, and Google’s Chromecast would be great places to start.

The traditional ways of connecting and interacting with voters will dramatically change over the next 10 years. Will political organizations willingly adapt to trends in the private sector or will they continue not to innovate because that is the status quo?

Political Innovation: Developing an Innovative Political Organization is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on The MIT Sloan Executive Education [email protected]™ Blog.

Innovations in Politics: On Demand Media

The absence of the introduction of innovation in our political election system should raise serious questions about why we are not adopting and embracing new technology that could be both be cost efficient and justified in achieving a common goal.

It has never been more critical and apparent that leading figures in the political arena should be more accessible and mindful of new methods and strategies that could enhance the overall voter experience.

Innovation in politics is near non-existent and it shouldn’t be since voters are more connected than ever. Why is innovation non-existent in politics? The answer is rather simple, many political operatives do not want to up-end their lucrative businesses as new technologies would indubitably eat into their profit margins. This is clearly demonstrated as the keyword “Political Innovation” is only searched on average 20 times a month on Google in the United States.

This is the same problem that destroyed the record business. Digital music sales cannibalized CD sales when industry executives were unwilling to embrace new technologies. The big difference between the music industry and politics is that there will always be a need for politicians to represent their constituents.

Political operatives know this very well. While it is up for debate, the one defining fact is that most political operatives are not innovators. For the most part they are not willing to roll up their sleeves and try something that might disrupt their current business model.

How many individuals do you know who watch TV without skipping ads on a regular basis? Out of those handful of individuals who do watch TV and do not skip ads, how many are not technologically savvy and do not own a DVR? Do those same individuals still receive the majority of their bills and correspondences through the mail?

Now ask yourself, is this individual an early adopter of technology? More than likely they are not. Early adopters who are registered to vote do not spend time watching countless hours watching live broadcast TV and patiently waiting for correspondences in the mail. These early adopters are living in a real-time society with access to pretty much anything they want on demand.

Why do political operatives continue advise continue to their clients to spend the majority of their campaign funds on TV and print mailer ads? Because it is what they know and if they lose the race, they can justify this to the candidate because this strategy has won political races in the past.

While this formula has worked before, it will not continue to work in the future. The future of reaching voters is more hyper-targeted than ever. Politicians need to learn how to become real-time publishers of content.

Instead of spending millions of dollars on a TV ad buy, why not call Microsoft to explore innovative ways to target and reach potential new voters via the xBox Live platform which has 48 million members and growing? Or perhaps even call Samsung to learn about developing an app for their Smart TV platform?

If exploring strategic relationships seems like an overwhelming task, politicians could follow in Chris Christie’s footsteps by creating a series of YouTube videos to promote their message. But why stop there when a politician could “Plus It” as Walt Disney famously said? To Plus It, political campaigns could purchase a GoPro Hero 3+ for $399.99 that would allow them to shoot 4k videos and upload 1080p high-resolution video YouTube.

Voters could then watch those crystal clear videos on their TVs via Google’s Chromecast from any device that either has Chrome installed or the YouTube App. The early adopter demographic of voters consumes content on demand, not at a pre-subscribed viewing time.

While a politician might not see a great ROI when they first start experimenting with new technologies and platforms, they will be building a long-term relationship with the voter. These new technologies will allow the politician unprecedented access to both new and current voters.

With the upcoming 2016 Presidential Election will Republican candidates reach out to the Romney team to inquire about what technologies worked and what lessons they learned from implementing new technologies?

Will those same team members share their honest unfiltered thoughts regarding which technologies and strategies worked and failed and why? Or will the Democrats continue to out innovate the Republicans by embracing new technologies and continuing to build a highly-scalable mobile ground game powered in part by SalesForce?

As technology evolves and voter habits change, innovation will allow politicians to stay in front of the message and connect directly with the voters. With the upcoming 2016 Presidential Election will we learn if old habits die hard and if new innovative technologies such as streaming video on xBox Live or developing an app for a Smart TV will become a reality?

xBox Live, Chromecast and Smart TV apps will enable politicians to get ahead of the message and connect directly with new voters in an interactive way like never before.

Innovations in Politics: On Demand Media is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte.

In-Flight Innovation

Would you like in-flight Wi-Fi on your next flight? It will cost you a premium in addition to any movies or food that you might purchase on board.

If you are traveling on a plane that offers Gogo, and you would like to connect to the internet, it will cost you $14 for a daily pass, and a monthly pass for a airline you frequent will cost you $39.95, according to Gogo’s “Buy Before You Fly” service pricing chart. Forget to buy access before you fly? That will cost you extra. Should it? I don’t think so.

Airlines are not innovating and enhancing the in-flight entertainment experience. Instead, they are falling back on their existing model of adding new fees and raising existing fees for services. Fees do not create value—they create customer service headaches.

It is time for an airline to become an industry leader and to cannibalize their existing in-flight entertainment offerings. The first step should be an all-encompassing in-flight entertainment package that creates value for their paying passengers by offering a great experience. Whether traveling on business or for pleasure, passengers will gravitate toward an airline that is offering them value.

Perhaps Harry Sloan and Jeff Sagansk of Global Eagle Entertainment will be the innovators who will change in-flight entertainment. They are already starting to innovate by providing the technology that powers DISH’s free live TV programming on Southwest Airlines. Passengers can watch live TV using their smartphones, tablets or laptops for free as long as the promotion is active. But why stop there when it could be complimentary all the time?

Imagine a complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi service that would allow you to stream HBO GO and Netflix on your next flight? Or starting a movie on your iPad and continuing to watch from where you last left off on the screen behind the seat? What about an in-flight entertainment system that would allow you to load your favorite movies, games, and music before you even stepped foot on the plane?

Now imagine if all of this were complimentary.

In-flight experiences like this will happen when an airline steps up and says we want to be a leader and an innovator. We want to create value for our passengers and change the way you fly. This is the future of commercial in-flight entertainment. The only question is which airlines are willing to fundamentally rethink their existing in-flight business model to create value for passengers?

According to Gogo, only about 6% of fliers used their in-flight Wi-Fi service in the first quarter of 2013. With only a 6% adoption rate, the market is demonstrating that there is little to no demand for paid in-flight Wi-Fi at their current prices and restrictions in tandem with a substandard internet connection.

Will Richard Branson be the innovator who looks at the numbers and notices that less than 16% of passengers aboard Virgin America flights pay for in-flight Wi-Fi, according to The Wall Street Journal? Will he build on Virgin’s heritage of risk-taking by cannibalizing an existing revenue stream to create value for Virgin America passengers?

The innovations suggested above would allow airlines to slightly increase the average fare, as consumers would be more focused on value-added services rather than strictly upon the price. Alternatively, the airlines could sell non-invasive in-flight advertising to make up for the lost revenue. At the current prices, in-flight Wi-Fi is primarily appealing to the frequent business traveler; that would change if an airline offered complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi.

“I would be more inclined to fly an airline which offered complimentary Wi-Fi and a bespoke in-flight experience,” said Jeanne Caputo, VP of Sales and Industry Relations for MTC Limousine & Corporate Coach, a global transportation company based in Bedford Hills, NY.

Airline executives: it is time to start innovating and creating value for your passengers. Frequent Flier programs and updated airport lounges are no longer innovative. Innovating is disrupting and sometimes cannibalizing an existing business model in order to grow the business and create value. Passengers are full of great ideas—sometimes you just have to listen.

Would you fly a particular airline if they offered complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi and offered an in-flight entertainment experience tailored to you? Please share your thoughts.

In-Flight Innovation is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on The MIT Sloan Executive Education [email protected]™ Blog.