The way we travel today is going to charge in the next 10-20 years. This change will involve much more than just using a ride-sharing service or even autonomous cars.

More than anything, it will become a colossal effort of cooperation.

Dozens of companies will need to work together to make sure you can travel from one point in a city to another (safely and securely), feeding data from the stoplights, handling the commerce between apps, and even communicating your location with a future car traffic control center. We think of it as one or two companies--say, Uber and Google--paving the way, but it's much more complicated than that.

That's why the news about Uber hiring Dara Khosrowshahi, the former Expedia chief, as their new CEO makes so much sense. Khosrowshahi is widely known as a "connected" CEO, someone who ushered in massive changes at Expedia and led multiple acquisitions--namely, for newly purchased companies like HomeAway and Orbitz.

He's highly connected in other ways. He worked with Google to smooth over the rough waters of search-based advertising as well. More importantly, he is ready to take on even bigger travel-related complexities. He was vocally against the Trump travel ban and isn't afraid to dive into the political cesspool to find workable solutions.

That makes him an excellent pick, even if we don't know too much about his leadership skills. Uber needs a deal-maker who can take them into the connected car future without too many dings and dents, but they also need someone who is willing to force a change in the culture at a company that has been way too cavalier in how they form best practices.

As anyone who has worked at a startup knows, there is no process at first. It's all about building out your service as quickly as possible and attracting customers any way you can. You think about process only after you hire a few hundred employees. (Note: I'm not saying that's a good thing.) This chaotic mess sometimes produces billion-dollar companies in a short period of time. It also produces a lot of serious problems. Everyone is in market-penetration mode not process mode. It's the drive and the vision that carry the company, not any sort of long-term strategy. Even that phrase "business process" is shunned and scorned. It's spoken in hushed tones...with a thick layer of sarcasm.

Khosrowshahi could change that mindset at Uber.

Sometimes the best "dealmakers" are able to make deals inside their own company first. The best "deal" might be to start respecting employees and their contributions. The best cultural change might have to do with insisting on decorum and office policies.

Khosrowshahi's greatest accomplishment initially might not be in working out deals with Las Vegas for self-driving car permits and a connected car framework, or figuring out how to get along with Silicon Valley. It might be in making "deals" with his own management team and attempting to turn Uber into a respectable place to work.

There's a danger, of course. Rigor is not always a recipe for long-term success when a company has basically built a product offering by sheer willpower and under the leadership of a trigger-happy leader. Roadblocks and rules can squelch innovation. As the new CEO, Khosrowshahi will have to figure out how to balance and channel the energy at one of the most valuable startups ever and yet keep the ship straight at the same time.

It will be interesting to see if he can accomplish that.

Published on: Aug 28, 2017