Tag Archives: Interviews

Lobsters and the Wisdom of Ignoring Your Customers

Lobsters and the Wisdom of Ignoring Your Customers

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Being the smart innovator (and businessperson) you are, you know it’s important to talk to customers. You also know it’s important to listen to them.

It’s also important to ignore your customers.


Customers will tell you what the problem is. If you stay curious and ask follow-up questions (Why? and Tell me more), they’ll tell you why it’s a problem and the root cause. You should definitely listen to this information.

Customers will also tell you how to fix the problem. You should definitely ignore this information.

To understand why, let me tell you a story.

Eye Contact is a Problem

Years ago, two friends and I took a day trip to Maine. It was late in Fall, and many lobster shacks dotting the coast were closed for the season. We found one still open and settled in for lunch.

Now, I’m a reasonably adventurous eater. I’ll try almost anything once (but not try fried tarantulas). However, I have one rule – I do not want to make eye contact with my food.

Knowing that lobsters are traditionally served with their heads still attached, I braced for the inevitable. As the waitress turned to me, I placed the same order as my friends but with a tiny special request. “I’ll have the lobster, but please remove its head.”

You know that scene in movies when the record scratches, the room falls silent, and everyone stops everything they’re doing to stare at the person who made an offending comment? Yeah, that’s precisely what happened when I asked for the head to be removed.

The waitress was horrified, “Why? That’s where all the best stuff is!”

“I don’t like making eye contact with my food,” I replied.

She pursed her lips, jotted down my request, and walked away.

A short time later, our lunch was served. My friends received their lobsters as God (or the chef) intended, head still attached. Then, with great fanfare, my lobster arrived.

Its head was still attached.

But we did not make eye contact.

Placed over the lobster’s eyes were two olives, connected by a broken toothpick and attached to the lobster’s “ears” by two more toothpicks.

The chef was offended by my request to remove the lobster’s head. But, because he understood why I wanted the head removed, he created a solution that would work for both of us – lobster-sized olive sunglasses.

Are you removing the head or making sunglasses?

Customers, like me, are experts in problems. We know what the problems are, why they’re problems, and what solutions work and what don’t. So, if you ask us what we want, we’ll give you the solution we know – remove the head.

Innovators, like you and the chef, are experts in solutions. You know what’s possible, see the trade-offs, and anticipate the consequences of various choices. You also take great pride in your work and expertise, so you’re not going to give someone a sub-par solution simply because they asked for it. You’re going to provide them with olive sunglasses.

Next time you talk to customers, stay curious, ask open-ended questions, ask follow-up questions, and build a deep understanding of their problems. Then ignore their ideas and suggestions. They’ll only stand in the way of your olive sunglasses.

Image credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Innovation and Transformation Advisory and Connection Opportunity

Innovation and Transformation Advisory and Connection Opportunity

Braden Kelley has been focusing on human-centered change and innovation for more than twenty years, bringing in elements of design thinking, customer experience, employee experience and digital transformation as needed.

On November 18, 2022 our founder will be in New York City (Midtown Manhattan) and available to connect for any of the following purposes:

  • Private keynote or workshop for your organization
  • Certification session on the Change Planning Toolkit™ and/or FutureHacking™ sets of tools for your team
  • Featured keynote speaker or workshop for a sales event or conference
  • Advisory session to provide input on a specific innovation project or your overall innovation or transformation program
  • Audio or video podcast appearance
  • Grab a coffee or a meal — to connect or reconnect
  • Or, if you think Braden should interview you on camera to join the video interviews he’s done with luminaries like Dean Kamen, Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Roger Martin, Kevin Roberts, and most recently – PepsiCo’s Chief Design Officer Mauro Porcini – Braden will bring his video camera!

If you work in Manhattan or are willing to travel in from elsewhere in the greater New York City metropolitan area (or the world) and are looking to increase the innovation or transformation capabilities of your organization or to de-risk an innovation project by getting an outside perspective, or just to connect, contact Braden to book time on November 18, 2022.

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Bridging the Gap Between Strategy and Reality

Bridging the Gap Between Strategy and Reality

by Braden Kelley

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Whynde Kuehn, author of the new book Strategy to Reality.

Whynde Kuehn is the Founder and Managing Director of S2E Transformation. Whynde is a recognized global thought leader and a long-time pioneer, practitioner and educator in digital transformation, strategy execution and business architecture, a foundational discipline for enabling end-to-end transformation and organizational agility. She regularly speaks, writes and chairs/co-chairs events with a mission to advance best practices and facilitate community and advocacy across the globe. Whynde is Co-Founder, Vice President, and Academic Committee Chair of the Business Architecture Guild®, a not-for-profit organization focused on the advancement of the business architecture discipline.

The interview dives into how to move big ideas into action, along with exploring several business architecture, strategy and digital transformation topics.

Without further ado, here is the transcript of that interview:

1. What is the difference between an enterprise architect and a business architect?

We can generally think of enterprise architects as professionals who facilitate the development and usage of enterprise architecture to enable effective strategy execution, decision-making, and macro-level design for their organization and the ecosystem in which it operates.
For reference, the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations (FEAPO) characterizes enterprise architecture as “a well-defined practice for conducting enterprise analysis, design, planning, and implementation, using a holistic approach at all times, for the successful development and execution of strategy. Enterprise architecture applies architecture principles and practices to guide organizations through the business, information, process, and technology changes necessary to execute their strategies. These practices utilize the various aspects of an enterprise to identify, motivate, and achieve these changes.”

Enterprise architecture is comprised of multiple architecture domains, which we can think of as business architecture + IT architecture, where IT architecture includes application architecture, data architecture, and technical architecture. In practice, some organizations structure with architects practicing within each architecture domain specialty who collaborate with each other (with no overall enterprise architect role) while other organizations have both an overall enterprise architect role in addition to the specialized architect roles. In the latter case, while an enterprise architect focuses across all architecture domains, they often tend to be T-shaped or V-shaped where they are deeper in one specialty over another.

So, what is the difference between an enterprise architect and a business architect? The answer is somewhat dependent on the context of an organization’s structure and practice, but generally speaking, an enterprise architect practices across all architecture domains, where a business architect focuses just on the business architecture domain (and partners with other architects). Additionally, here are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • All architects should share a base set of competencies as well as those specific to their area of specialization
  • All architects should be fluent in their organization’s business architecture
  • Close partnership and integration across all architecture domains and architect roles is critical for success, this includes cohesiveness of the architecture knowledgebase as well as how architects work together (and with other roles) to deliver value to the organization
  • To maximize value, the business architect role should be business-focused and strategically positioned
  • Business architects can focus on different scopes, from the full enterprise to a set of capabilities to a specific business domain; they always consider the bigger picture though regardless of scope

2. Why do organizations need business architects?

We know that organizations are going through a time of tremendous transformation, and that change and disruption are part of our new normal. A business architecture is most useful in the context of change, which is why we have seen an increase in adoption of the discipline worldwide. Business architects help organizations to create a clear and shared macro level understanding of where the organization is today, where it is going in the future, and how it will get there.

Business architects play a unique (and often missing) role to help inform and translate strategy into the cohesive set of changes needed across people, process, and technology to make that direction real (using value streams and capabilities as a key means to organize changes). They also help to ensure alignment across an organization. This includes both ensuring that the initiatives and solutions delivered meet the original business and architectural direction as well as ensuring that investments in capabilities (implemented through people, process, and technology) are appropriately harmonized across business units, products, and geographies.

Beyond their unique role in helping to inform, translate, and align strategy to execution, business architects also help to steward their organization’s business architecture knowledgebase. A business architecture is like a blueprint that provides a shared language and mental model for an entire organization, and it is owned by the business. A business architecture can and should be used by anyone in an organization for decision-making and an important part of the business architect role is to support others in doing so.

The diagram below reflects the contemporary practice of business architecture as context for questions 1 and 2. Business architecture lives in two worlds, first as part of the enterprise architecture umbrella (right) but also as a key contributor in a strategic management context (left).

Whynde Kuehn Business Architecture Diagram

3. What does it take to be a good business architect?

There are a few characteristics that encapsulate how good business architects think and act. For example, they are value-driven and focus on business value, outcomes, and results for their organization and its customers or constituents. Business architects are business-minded with a strong command of how business works, how to evolve business models and formulate strategies to win, and how to design an organization for effectiveness and agility (this includes having a command of technology and how to leverage it strategically). They are enterprise advocates, always bringing people together across organizational silos and back to the bigger picture of the enterprise. Business architects are bridge builders, knowing that it takes an ecosystem of teams to translate strategy into action and run an organization successfully. While business architects perform unique responsibilities, they also build close partnerships with others because they realize their own success – and the success of the organization – depends on making other people successful. Business architects are also visualizers and storytellers to create clarity and common understanding and they serve as change agents for new ideas. Business architects help to simplify, visualize, and explain complex concepts and show new connections.

Beyond these characteristics, a great business architect needs a depth of knowledge and experience including building a business architecture baseline (capabilities, information concepts, and value streams) at the enterprise level architecting change initiatives, and working across the life cycle from strategy to execution.

Becoming a great business architect is a journey that takes time, but a very rewarding one along the way. A truly successful business architect majors in business architecture, but minors in other disciplines and frameworks. The most adept business architects think strategically and architecturally to facilitate strategy execution and solve complex problems, leveraging business architecture as the foundation, blended seamlessly with many other approaches and abilities. This means that great business architects continually develop and leverage a wide range of knowledge and experiences – much of it beyond the realm of business architecture.

4. What are the key components of a business architecture?

Whynde KuehnThe foundation of a business architecture is comprised of capabilities (i.e., the reusable building blocks that describe what an organization does to deliver its products and services and support its operations), value streams (i.e., the high-level flows that deliver value to an external or internal stakeholder), and a cross-mapping between them (to depict where reusable capabilities are leveraged to deliver business value). In addition, a set of information concepts underpin the capabilities and value streams – and the entire business and IT architecture – and give people a truly shared definition of key terms such as customers, partners, products, assets, and so forth.

In addition to these three fundamental business architecture domains, there are seven additional business domains that are represented through an organization’s business architecture including business units (internal business units and external partners), products (the goods and/or services an organization offers to its customers/constituents), policies (external regulations and internal polices), stakeholders, strategies, metrics, and initiatives.

In addition, business architecture connects to the domains within other disciplines as well such as to journeys from the customer experience discipline, processes from the business process management discipline, requirements from the business analysis discipline, and applications and software services in the application architecture.

A business architecture is essentially an interconnected and multidimensional set of views, stored in a reusable knowledgebase, that can be used to inform many different business scenarios.

5. Who are the key stakeholders for a business architecture?

While the overall value proposition for business architecture is to enable effective strategy execution, business architecture is a bit like a Swiss army knife in that it can be used for a broad range of business usage scenarios and decision-making.

As a result, each organization needs to define its goals for leveraging the discipline for value. For example, while many organizations leverage business architecture for informing, translating, and aligning strategies and transformations, other organizations focus on leveraging the discipline for macro level simplification and effectiveness, business and IT alignment, or even a repeatable way to approach acquisitions.

As a result, the key stakeholders for business architecture within an organization can vary based on how the discipline is being used. However, some of the most common stakeholders for business architecture include strategy and transformation leaders and their teams along with portfolio managers, strategic planners, and technology leaders from CIOs and CTOs and down. Other key stakeholders include C-level business leaders, business unit leaders, product leaders, innovation leaders, risk managers, compliance managers, program and project managers, data management leaders, human-centered designers, organization designers, organizational change managers, business process professionals, business relationship managers, business analysts, IT architects, and many more.

6. How does one “use” a business architecture?

Generally, there are three categories of usage for a business architecture: to (1) facilitate effective strategy execution as mentioned earlier, to (2) help organizations design or redesign for effectiveness and agility, and to (3) inform a wide variety of business and technology decision-making scenarios.

For organization design and redesign, consider that we can assemble capabilities in different ways to deliver new value, products, and services. We can also design our organizations with increased efficiency, for example, by reducing the number of systems needed to automate the same capability.
For decision-making, consider that a business architecture knowledgebase is the go-to place for information about an organization at a macro level. As a result, we can get holistic answers framed in a shared business context to support decision-making around strategic alignment, customer experience, product management, investments, cost, risk, compliance, outsourcing, business and IT alignment, application portfolio management, technical debt, cloud strategy and migration, sustainability, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, joint ventures, and more.

7. Why is it so challenging for organizations to move big ideas into action?

Organizations may formulate excellent strategies, but the challenge often occurs in the translation of those ideas across a large organization with many business units, products, and regions. I believe there are a few foundational challenges that contribute to this.

First, organizations do not always have a formalized, cohesive approach to strategy execution that knits together all the teams from end-to-end to develop strategies, architect changes, plan initiatives, execute solutions, and measure success. We may do this for parts of the process, but we do not necessarily look at the whole of strategy execution with the same criticality and accountability as we do with other functions such as sales, marketing, or finance.

Second, large organizations are still siloed in many ways, which shapes the behavior, thinking, and priorities of individuals. For example, when it comes to investments or problem solving, we may default to what is best for our business area versus thinking about what is best for the customer and the enterprise – especially when organizational structures, motivation mechanisms, and inertia enforce the status quo.

Finally, I believe that both of these challenges are also underpinned by a need to enhance business education to teach a more comprehensive approach from strategy to execution, and normalize the idea of business and IT architecture to supplement strategic thinking and decision making.

8. Digital transformation has become an overused phrase. What is a true digital transformation?

Strategy to RealityA true digital transformation is strategic and customer-driven, leveraging technology to establish business models and ecosystems that unlock new value for organizations to thrive in the digital economy. In other words, automation alone does not constitute a digital transformation. The Institute for Digital Transformation gives us clear guidance in the Digital Transformation Manifesto – that it should “lead to metamorphic change among an organization’s products, services, systems, operations, and culture – amplified by technology.”

I believe that collectively many organizations are now coming to terms with what digital transformation really means and are starting to move beyond the hype. I also think we are reaching the point where digital business is now just regular business – where digital is no longer something separate, but just part of how an organization delivers value, strategizes, and operates.

9. Where does a successful transformation begin?

A successful transformation starts with why. What does the business want to achieve and how will we know when we have achieved it? Clear business direction and outcomes provide the critical starting point so that people across an organization can accurately determine the change that is needed, both to people, processes, technology, assets, and locations – as well as the human side of change. Clear business direction also helps to inspire people to action on a collective vision that is greater than themselves.

10. Why do so many organizations fail to succeed at both strategy and execution?

Organizations can be challenged in formulating strategy, in ultimately executing upon a strategy, or both as suggested here. From a strategy formulation perspective, much has been written by strategy experts, but from my perspective, I see organizations challenged in a few key ways. For example, some organizations lack rigor in the definition of strategy itself, where the strategy does not reflect specific choices or specifies broad (and non-strategic) goals such as to improve operational effectiveness. I also see challenges with articulating strategy where different parts of an organization describe and decompose the strategy in different ways, making goals, objectives, and courses of action difficult to understand and reconcile from an enterprise perspective. Additionally, I see challenges with communicating strategy as it filters through the layers of an organization and becomes diffused – especially without a shared understanding of the courses of action and collective changes that help people relate to the direction and what it means for them.

From a strategy execution perspective, as shared in question #7, the challenges with execution (e.g., building solutions that do not meet business needs or are duplicative) often begin upstream without a well-defined translation through a common blueprint like an organization’s business architecture. This does not mean that improvements are not necessary to execution (and many shifts are happening worldwide today such as around agile delivery), but an organization should assess each major activity from strategy to execution both individually and together as a cohesive end-to-end process.

Achieving a strategy requires clear intent translated into organized effort and the structured methods from strategy management frameworks as well as business architecture and other design disciplines can help. Hopefully the increasing awareness of the opportunity – and necessity – for effective end-to-end strategy execution will inspire and enable organizations to take further action to prepare for an increasingly disruptive and exciting business landscape for years to come.


Thanks to you Whynde for sharing your insights with our global human-centered change and innovation community!

To learn more about Whynde’s views on making your strategy a reality, grab yourself a copy of her new book Strategy to Reality.

Image credits: Whynde Kuehn, Unsplash


Accelerate your change and transformation success

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Reaching Beyond the Limits of Innovation and Transformation

Reaching Beyond the Limits of Innovation and TransformationRecently on Episode #873 of the Marketer of the Day podcast, I had the opportunity to sit down with Robert Plank, have a great conversation, and chat about a number of different topics. Here is a quick excerpt:

“When it comes to innovation, timing is a huge factor. Going in too soon or too late can both cost you lots of money. Innovation isn’t all about creativity and value-creation, it is also about the services that you provide around your new idea and helping people understand how your idea can be of value to their lives. But how can we know if our innovative ideas can really affect people’s lives?”

Click the play button to listen to the podcast right here, right now:

Here is Robert Plank in his own words describing what the Marketer of the Day podcast is all about:

The Marketer of the Day Podcast interviews entrepreneurs who have been through “the struggle.”

They’ve experienced the headaches of repeat failure, trial-and-error, scaling, delegating, course-correcting, and getting their online businesses to succeed beyond their wildest dreams… and want to help you get to where you need to go.

Or visit Robert’s site here for additional information and all of the ways to subscribe to his podcast:


Creating Innovation with Hardcore Soft Skills

Creating Innovation with Hardcore Soft Skills

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Yadira Caro on the Hardcore Soft Skills Podcast.

In the episode I define what innovation really is, how people, process and technology come together to create innovation and where people go wrong.

The conversation includes a discussion of how to craft successful innovation teams because it’s such a crucial factor for successful innovation.

I also speak about the peril of idea fragments and the importance of respecting your employees by putting funding and execution capabilities in place BEFORE you ask your employees for even a single idea.

We talk about top-down innovation…

We talk about bottom-up or middle-out innovation…

And, we also speak about many different innovation misconceptions.

So, I encourage you to check out the episode!

You can listen to the embedded podcast above or click this link to go to the podcast page.

Image credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Keeping Pace with the Latest Trends in Social Media and Online Video

David Meerman ScottThe ways we communicate continue to evolve. Keeping pace with the latest trends in social media and online video, while preventing your product or service from getting lost in the digital clutter, is a daunting task. David Meerman Scott is a master at helping you speak directly to your audience, make a strong personal connection, and generate attention for your business.

In the eighth edition of The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Content Marketing, Podcasting, Social Media, AI, Live Video and Newsjacking to Reach Buyers Directly, David explores the latest approaches for highly effective public relations, marketing, and customer communications – while helping you avoid of the costs of traditional advertising!

New Rules of Marketing and PRI had the opportunity recently to interview David, a marketing strategist, entrepreneur, investor and advisor to emerging companies, and bestselling author of 12 books, including Fanocracy, about the new eighth edition of The New Rules of Marketing & PR.

Throughout his career he has been fascinated by seeing the future of how people and organizations work together, studied ‘what’s next’, and looked for patterns others don’t see.

Three times a year David (@dsmcott) is the lead marketing speaker at the legendary Tony Robbins Business Mastery events, delivering a two hour session on New Marketing Mastery.

Below is the text of the interview:

1. What is the biggest change in either PR or Marketing that today’s companies face?

I wrote this for the first edition of The New Rules of Marketing & PR back in 2007: “There used to be only three ways to get noticed: Buy expensive advertising, beg the mainstream media to tell your story for you, or hire a huge sales staff to bug people individually about your products. Now we have a better option: publishing interesting content on the web, content that your buyers want to consume.” The same is true today upon the publication of the 8th edition!

The tools of the marketing and PR trade have changed. The skills that worked offline to help you buy or beg or bug your way into opportunity are the skills of interruption and coercion. Online success comes from thinking like a journalist and publishing amazing content that will brand you as an organization or person it would be a pleasure to do business with. You are in charge of your own success.

2. Must companies re-think their approach to PR in the digital age?

Many people steeped in the tradition of product promotion naturally feel drawn to prattle on and on about their products and services. But I have news for you. Nobody cares about your products and services. Yes, you read that right.

What people do care about are themselves and how you can solve their problems. People also like to be entertained and to share in something remarkable. In order to have people talk about you and your ideas, you must resist the urge to hype your products and services. Instead, create something interesting that will be talked about online. When you get people talking on the Web, people will line up to learn more and to buy what you have to offer.

Sadly, marketers continue to hype products and services instead of understanding buyers and creating interesting content to reach them.

3. Do press releases still have value?

Yes, press releases have value but way less than most PR professionals believe. There is so much more that can be done.

Somehow along the way PR professionals have lost sight of what ‘true’ PR is and have set their focus on the media. What quick steps can PR pros take to get back to the public relations roots of creating mutually beneficial relationships with all of their publics (shareholders, stakeholders, communities, employees, etc.)?

To paraphrase the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), definition: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

Nowhere does this description mention the media!

Somewhere along the line “public relations” became the same as “media relations.” What people need to realize is that these are different activities. Media relations, or working through journalists, is fine. Hey, who doesn’t want to be quoted in an important outlet?

But there are so many other ways to hear attention.

PR is about reaching your audience. There are many more ways to do that than just via the media: YouTube videos, blog posts, eBooks, charts, graphs, photos, a Twitter feed, a presence on Instagram, TikTok and so much more.

4. What role should LinkedIn play in companies’ marketing strategies? Any difference in your answer for B2B vs. B2C companies?

There are many social networks out there and LinkedIn is one of them. Marketers should understand their buyers and be active on the social networks that are most important to them. For many B2B businesses, LinkedIn is super important, so for them yes, LinkedIn is valuable. However many people use LinkedIn as another way to send unwanted sales messages. To be effective people should use LinkedIn to publish content and to engage with other people’s content.

Continue reading the rest of our conversation on CustomerThink

SIX more questions and answers!

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Creating a Movement that Drives Transformational Change

Creating a Movement that Drives Transformational Change

A while ago I had the opportunity to interview Greg Satell, author of the new book Cascades: How to Create a Movement that Drives Transformational Change.

Greg Satell is a bestselling author, speaker and adviser, who frequently contributes here to my blog Human-Centered Change and Innovation, Harvard Business Review, Inc. and other A-list publications. His first book, MAPPING INNOVATION, was chosen as one of the best business books of 2017 by 800-CEO-READ. His latest book, CASCADES, was recently published by McGraw-Hill Education.

Today, he helps leading businesses overcome disruption through impactful programs and powerful tools he developed researching the world’s best innovators and most effective changemakers.

Without further ado, here is the transcript of that interview:

1. People love to tell the story of Netflix disrupting Blockbuster. What do they get wrong?

It’s funny. People so easily assume that Blockbuster just completely ignored the Netflix threat, when actually nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the leadership came up with an effective strategy to meet that threat, executed it well and began to surpass Netflix in adding new subscribers.

The real reason that Blockbuster failed was that the leadership failed to manage internal networks—particularly franchisees and investors—and the stock price crashed. That attracted the corporate raider Carl Icahn, who had a heavy handed style. Eventually, things came to a head and he initiated a compensation dispute with the CEO, John Antioco., who left in frustration. The new CEO came in and reversed the strategy. Three years later, Blockbuster went bankrupt.

One of the most interesting parts of the story came out when I interviewed Antioco, who was—and is—something of a retail genius. He told me that, throughout his career, anytime he wanted to do something innovative, he always met resistance. He had always succeeded by pushing through that resistance. This time though, it got the better of him.

We tend to think that if we have the right idea and execute it well, we’ll be successful. The real lesson of Blockbuster is that isn’t always true. We also need to manage stakeholder networks.

2. To be efficient at scale, businesses introduce hierarchies as they grow. What weaknesses does this introduce and how should companies manage these?

To be honest, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with hierarchies. They’ve been put in place because they are effective at executing processes efficiently. Every organization needs that. However, hierarchies tend to be rigid and slow to adapt. That can be a real problem when the marketplace changes.

So what I think leaders need to focus on is building strong informal networks to supplement the formal organization. Chris Fussell calls this a “hybrid organization.” That’s what’s really key, to have the formal organization and the informal organization working hand-in-hand.

Unfortunately, there’s been so much emphasis on “breaking down silos,” that business leaders often miss that silos can be very positive things. They are essentially “centers of capability.” So you don’t want to break them up. What you do want to do is to connect silos so that they can adapt and collaborate.

3. Some would say that hierarchies are created to cascade information. How does information cascade differently within networks? How is better?

Well, hierarchies are essentially vertical networks, so information tends to move up and down fairly well, but not so good side to side, which makes it hard for an organization to adapt laterally. The types of networks I write about in Cascades are horizontal, so are much better set up to transfer information between disparate groups.

Clearly, you need both. The problem is that we tend to ignore the informal networks, which is why organizations over time become vertically driven and rigid.

Greg Satell - Digital Tonto4. What causes some movements to grow and others to be sidelined at the periphery?

That’s a great and complicated question (in fact, I wrote a whole book about it!). The truth is that, much as Tolstoy said about families, successful movements tend to look very much alike, while unsuccessful movements fail in their own way.

However, if there is one key thing that makes the difference it is to always connect out. Research has shown that the key metric that best determines success is participation. That may seem obvious, but many movements get caught up in idealogical purity and shut out potential allies. If you want to kill a change movement quickly, that’s probably the best way to do it. It’s not the fervor of zealots that brings change about, but when you get everybody else to join in that a true revolution can take place.

A great example of this kind of failure is the Occupy Movement. At first, they gained a lot of sympathy for their “99% vs. the 1%” message. However they were so extreme, and so intent on demonizing anyone who didn’t believe 100% what they believed, that they turned many people off. At one point, the legendary civil rights leader John Lewis asked to speak at a rally and was refused. I mean, John Lewis! Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

The same is true in the business context. Think about VHS vs. Betamax. Betamax was the better technology, but VHS was more inclusive. VHS won.

Another great example is the Ignaz Semmelweis story. Semmelweis had discovered that hand washing in hospitals greatly reduced infection rates. It was a major discovery. However, rather than working to build a movement around his idea, he railed against anyone who didn’t agree with him. It would take another 20 years for antiseptic practices to gain traction and millions of people died needlessly because of it.

More recently, Jim Allison had a similar challenge with cancer immunotherapy. Pharmaceutical companies didn’t believe it would work and refused to invest in it. I still remember the sound of despair in his voice when he told me the story—and this was 20 years after it happened! But Jim kept pounding the pavement, kept working to bring others in and thousands upon thousands of people are alive today because of Jim.

So again, you have to constantly be connecting out and bringing people in. That’s why Jim Allison won the Nobel Prize last fall instead of dying in an insane asylum like Ignaz Semmelweis.

5. Why do successful movements or revolutions seem to need rules?

I think it’s better to say that movements need values. Values play two important roles: First, they provide constraints and, second, they provide rules for adaptation.

For example, during the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was accused of being an anarchist, a communist and worse. When asked about his beliefs though, he always pointed to the Freedom Charter, which was written way back in 1955. So he could point to something concrete that outlined his values and that of his movement. That commitment to values was crucial for getting support from institutions outside of South Africa and it was the support from those institutions that enabled Mandela and his movement to succeed.

When he got into power those constraints became even more important. Because one of the core values spelled out in the Freedom Charter was that all national groups should have equal rights, he couldn’t infringe upon the rights of white people, even though many urged him to do so. It is because of those self-imposed constraints that we remember Nelson Mandela as a hero and not some tin-pot dictator.

A similar dynamic played out in the “Gerstner Revolution” at IBM in the 1990s. Gerstner famously said that the last thing IBM needed at the time was a vision. But he was very clear that he wanted to shift values, to make IBM more customer focused and more collaborative. That sent important signals to customers, partners and investors and played a big part in Gerstner’s success.

Perhaps even more importantly, the focus on values helped IBM prosper long after he left the company. Irving Wladawsky-Berger, one of Gerstner’s key lieutenants, told me that if the Gerstner Revolution had merely been about strategy and technology, it wouldn’t have survived. But because it was rooted in values, IBM was able to adapt as technology and the marketplace continued to evolve.

Clearly, IBM has had its challenges since Gerstner left in 2002, but it’s still a highly profitable company that continues to be on the forefront of many cutting edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and quantum computing, just to name a few. It’s hard to see how that could have happened if the company was still stuck in a strategy developed in the 90s. That’s the role that values play.

6. How would you contrast the theory behind Cascades with W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne’s Tipping Point Leadership?

I think on the surface they are somewhat similar ideas. However, there are important differences “under the hood.”

First, while “Tipping Point Leadership” implicitly refers to the importance of networks, Cascades is deeply and explicitly rooted in network science. In fact, Duncan Watts and Steven Strogatz, who pioneered modern network theory, have both endorsed the book (although Strogatz has done so more informally). I believe that scientific approach really helps provide a stronger framework to understand how change occurs.

Another important difference is that while Kim and Mauborgne basically built their framework from scratch, Cascades is more of a synthesis of ideas that have already been proven successful in social, political and business contexts.

There has been a lot great thinking about this stuff for a long time, so I saw no reason to try and reinvent the wheel. Rather, I tried to shape already powerful ideas—some of which have been battle-tested for decades—into a coherent framework that people can put to good use. In that way, Cascades is very similar to my previous book, Mapping Innovation.

Of course I’m biased on this point, but I believe the result is a much richer, detailed and useful framework for driving change. When you are driving change in the real world, details matter.

7. What is wrong with the theory of influentials being central to successful change?

Well, first it’s wrong because it’s empirically been shown not to be true. Scientific research has clearly shown, across multiple studies, that you don’t need “influentials” to create a viral cascade or, as Gladwell puts it, a “social epidemic.” I reference many of these studies in the book, so that readers can go check for themselves.

Conceptually, the influentials hypothesis breaks down because you need large chains of influence to create a viral cascade. Somebody may be influential because they are a connector, a maven, or whatever, but unless the people they influence pass on their ideas to others who pass them on to others still, the movement will die out. As I write in the book, it is small groups, loosely connected, but united by a shared purpose that drives transformational change.

The one exception is celebrities like Oprah Winfrey. They can really move the needle if they choose to promote an idea, but not because they have any “rare social gifts.” It’s because what they say is broadcasted by mass media. So there’s nothing really mysterious about it.

Cascades by Greg Satell8. What are some of the critical raw materials for fueling a cascade?

The three most important elements are small groups, loose connections and shared purpose.

Small groups engender strong bonds and that’s super important. Creating change is hard. So it’s important to build deep trustful relationships that lead to effective collaboration. That’s at the root of any successful movement. For example, the Otpor Movement in Serbia started with just 11 founders.

However, a small group can’t do much on its own. So it’s important for small groups to connect to other small groups. It’s that continuous linking that creates the conditions upon which a cascade can arise. That’s how Otpor eventually grew to 70,000 members and took down the dictator, Slobodan Milošević. As I explain the book, organizational change movements, such as those in the US Army and at companies like Experian and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, play out in very much the same way.

Lastly, you need a sense of shared purpose. That’s what ties everything together. It’s also why effective leadership is so important. You need leaders to provide that purpose. As I write in the book, the role of leaders is no longer merely to plan and direct action, but to inspire and empower belief.

9. What’s your view on the phases of a successful change

Generally speaking, change movements have three phases: planning, mobilization and the victory phase.

In the planning phase, you need to formulate your Vision of Tomorrow and your values and also map out the specific constituencies you want to mobilize and the institutions you will need to influence. It’s important to not mobilize too soon, because every revolution inspires a counterrevolution. So by mobilizing too early you run the risk of inspiring opposition as much as you do supporters. This is a very common mistake.

Mobilization is largely about planning and executing tactics and there are a couple of important points to keep in mind. First, you are always mobilizing specific constituencies to influence particular institutions. You are always mobilizing somebody to influence something. You’re never mobilizing just for the sake of mobilizing or to “raise awareness” or anything like that. Everything you do needs to have a strategy in mind.

Another point is that you always want to be mobilizing out and bringing people in. And when you recruit new people you want to immediately train them and get them to act, even if the action is small. It is through action that people take ownership of change, so getting people to act is incredibly important. One of the cases I researched was Experian’s digital transformation. They really focused on this aspect and had enormous success.

The last phase is the victory phase and it’s often the most dangerous. For example, in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, which I took part in and inspired me to write the book, we thought we had won. As it turned out, we hadn’t and soon the country descended back into chaos, which resulted in a second revolution, the Euromaidan protests in 2013 and 2014.

We’ve seen the same thing happen more recently in Egypt, where they overthrew Mubarak and ended up with el-Sisi, who is very much the same. It’s also common in startups and in corporate transformation, an early surge and then things go awry.

So you need to plan to “survive victory” ahead of time. You do that by focusing on shared values, rather than specific personalities or objectives. You never want to make a change movement about yourself or your organization. It always needs to be about values.

There is a fourth phase and it’s one you want to avoid. It is the failure phase. Almost every movement I researched had a massive early failure. In most cases, it arose from a failure to prepare and build the movement methodically. The successful movements learned from those failures and continued to evolve. The unsuccessful ones didn’t.

10. When it comes to participation and mobilization, what should people keep in mind to accelerate both?

Again, you just want to keep building out and networking the movement. Keep building links. Eventually, you will build critical mass and the movement will accelerate by itself. That’s what a cascade is, when your movement goes viral.

However, before that happens, you want to prepare as much as possible or your movement can spin out of control, if you haven’t invested in building values, training, etc. We’ve seen that happen with Occupy, Black Lives Matter and, to some extent, the modern women’s movement. Values always need to be upfront.

Perhaps most of all, you need to keep in mind that change is always possible. If you looked at Serbia in 1999, what you would have seen was a country ruled by a ruthless dictator with no effective opposition. Occupy only had a few hundred members at the time. A year later, Occupy had grown to 70,000 members and Milošević was out of office. A few years after that, he died in his cell at The Hague.

Very few change efforts have to overcome those kinds of odds, but using the same principle—those that I write about in Cascades—you can bring real change about, whether that change is in your organization, your industry, your community or throughout society as a whole.


If you’ve read this far you deserve a free bonus!

Click here to download a FREE excerpt from Greg’s latest book CASCADES


Accelerate your change and transformation success

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Building an Imagination Machine

Exclusive Interview Excerpt from InnovationManagement.se with Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller

Imagination Machine Authors

Imagination is one of the least understood but most crucial ingredients of success. It’s what makes the difference between an incremental change and the kinds of pivots and paradigm shifts that are essential to transformation — especially during a crisis.

Imagination is needed now more than ever—to find new opportunities, rethink our businesses, and discover paths to growth. Yet too many companies have lost their ability to imagine. What is this mysterious capacity? How does imagination work? And how can organizations keep it alive and harness it in a systematic way?

Drawing on the experience and insights of CEOs across several industries, as well as lessons from neuroscience, computer science, psychology, and philosophy, Martin Reeves of Boston Consulting Group’s Henderson Institute and Jack Fuller, an expert in neuroscience, provide a fascinating look into the mechanics of imagination and lay out a process for creating ideas and bringing them to life.

I had the opportunity recently to interview the authors about the concepts behind the book The Imagination Machine: How to Spark New Ideas and Create Your Company’s Future.

Below is the text of the interview:

1. What do we most need to understand about the slowing growth rates you highlight early in the book?

Long term growth rates have been slowing in recent decades and its likely that this will continue, driven by demographic maturation even in countries which have been motors of global economic growth like China, as well as by increasing material saturation and planetary sustainability limits. The consequence is that it will become harder for companies to passively participate in aggregate growth or to merely refocus on faster growing geographic or product markets. Companies will therefore need to compete more aggressively for growth by creating new opportunities through imagination and innovation.

2. How does imagination differ from dreaming and creativity?

Dreaming is fantasy, unconstrained by the laws of physics and economics. Imagination, as we use the term in the book, is conceiving of things which do not exist but could be created. Imagination is therefore grounded in causal thinking. Creativity is a capability which can help individuals generate imaginative ideas but to systematically harness the power of imagination we need to look at the entire life cycle of ideas from inspiration through obsolescence and renewal and we need to consider how ideas develop and spread socially.

3. What makes imagination go?

Imagination is triggered by surprises which do not fit our current mental model for how the world, or a business is supposed to work. These surprises occur in the form of accidents (unintended consequences), anomalies (deviations from normal outcomes), and analogies (comparisons with other situations). In order to leverage a surprise, we need to first perceive it, requiring an external orientation, keen observation and open-mindedness. We also need to care about what we see, in the sense of harboring ideals or frustrations which propel is to pursue further the impetus created by surprise.

4. What is collective imagination, why is it important, and how is it fostered?

An idea which is not communicated or supported and adopted by others can never create new realities and be of economic value. Since an idea cannot be directly observed, it creates what philosophers call the challenge of inter-subjectivity. We can share ideas socially however by creating a prototype, by sharing the experience of developing an idea together, by witnessing its effect or by hearing and being motivated by a narrative which points to the significance of the idea. Put another way, one person’s idea needs to become the next persons surprise and inspiration if an idea is to spread. Organizations can unwittingly create many barriers to the spread of ideas, from functional silos, to local organizational dialects, to applying financial criteria too early, to skeptical cultures which only embrace proven ideas.

5. What gets in the way of imagination?

There are many obstacles to harnessing imagination throughout the lifecycle of ideas. These begin with the internal orientation of large companies, and over-reliance on averages and aggregates which conceal the surprises we need to see. Then we have the fact that few managers are trained in counterfactual thinking and many company cultures reject new ideas, in the name of “practicality”. Then we have obstacles to the spread of ideas, some of which I have already mentioned. As ideas mature, success needs to replicated and scaled through codification, which many companies make too complex to be implementable or too vague to capture essential features. Finally, past success can be toxic to future success if it becomes enshrined in fixed mental models and complacency.

The Imagination Machine6. Why is it important to understand and challenge your mental models?

Mental models are often confused with facts, but constructs like an industry, a strategy or a business model are chosen simplifications, which could be otherwise. If we don’t challenge our existing mental models, we cannot create new ones which then become the basis for new realities. To do this, we need to pay attention to anomalies and use them to update and evolve our mental models. It helps if we hold several mental models in mind at one time and if we are familiar with the techniques of counter-factual thinking – like decomposing models into elements and recombining them or imposing or removing constraints. It also helps if we educate ourselves broadly in several disciplines to build our repertoire of concepts and perspectives.

7. What is the link between action and imagination?

Click to read the rest of the interview on InnovationManagement.se

Accelerate your change and transformation success

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Leveraging Alien Thinking

Exclusive Interview Excerpt from InnovationManagement.se with Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael Wade

Alien Thinking

For the past decade, Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael Wade, professors of innovation and strategy at IMD Business School, have studied inventors, scientists, doctors, entrepreneurs, and artists. These people, or “aliens,” as the authors call them, are able to make leaps of creativity, and use five patterns of thinking that distinguish them from the rest of us.

Alien Thinking leads to a fresh and flexible approach to problem-solving. Alien thinkers know how to free the imagination so it can detect hard-to-observe patterns. They practice deliberate ways to retreat from the world in order to see the big picture underlying a problem. And they approach ideas in systematic ways that reflect the constraints of reality.

I had the opportunity recently to interview these three IMD professors about the concepts behind the book ALIEN Thinking: The Unconventional Path to Breakthrough Ideas.

Below is the text of the interview:

1. It looks like A.L.I.E.N. is an acronym. What are the key components that make up the approach? And what was the genesis for its creation?

Cyril Bouquet (CB): ALIEN thinking is first and foremost a metaphor that captures the need to approach problems with an open mind and a fresh perspective – like a child or an outsider – in order to develop breakthrough solutions.

About 10 years ago, my colleague Estelle Metayer (now professor at McGill University in Canada) was discussing the importance of avoiding strategic blindspots in a session she ran for groups of executives at IMD. Browsing through a book on change called Future Think, she also brought my attention to the first chapter, which was called “Looking Through Alien Eyes”. I thought this metaphor was very applicable to innovation – and at some point, I made a connection between the letters and some of the themes I was teaching to executives in class. Together with my colleagues, Jean-Louis and Mike, we came up with an acronym that highlights the essence of the creative mindset that we believe executives must embrace.

So, A stands for Attention, which is about noticing problems or opportunities that you and others previously missed by changing where and how you look.

L is for Levitation, which means stepping back to gain perspective and make sense of what you’ve seen to reflect on what you need to do differently.

I stands for Imagination, which involves connecting the dots in new and interesting ways to create original and useful ideas.

E is about Experimentation, which is about testing your promising idea and turning it into a workable solution that addresses a real need.

Finally, N stands for Navigation, which is about finding ways to get your solution accepted without getting shot down in the process.

2. Why is originality important? Why is it difficult to be original?

Jean-Louis Barsoux (JLB): Originality is a key driver of innovation and progress. It’s what fuels economic growth and brings advances in domains from science and medicine to inequality and sustainability, not to mention spiritual and emotional sustenance through the creative and performing arts.

But originality often represents a challenge to the prevailing norms and practices. It can easily trigger an allergic reaction toward the “odd” idea or its “weird” originator. The more disruptive your idea, the harder you need to work to show how it fits with the belief systems of people whose support you need to move the idea forward.

This is especially the case within companies. Intrapreneurs who come up with breakthrough ideas are often shocked to discover how much resistance they elicit from inside the organization that stands to benefit the most.

3. What does it mean to think like an “alien”?

Michael Wade (MW): Urging would-be innovators to think like aliens is similar to what Zen Buddhists call adopting the “beginner’s mind”. It’s about developing an attitude of openness and overcoming the many biases and blindspots that place artificial limits on your creative intelligence.

Perhaps the most insidious of these biases is what the French call “déformation proféssionnelle”. This is your tendency to look at the world through the distorting lens of your job, your training or profession. The very expertise that can help you solve problems can blind you to a wider range of creative possibilities. Instead of seeing the world as it is, you view it in the way an accountant, lawyer, engineer, or professor would see it.

This expertise baggage is problematic because it can impact every phase of the innovation process: starting with what problems we pay attention to or ignore; and how we interpret the information. It influences the types of ideas we generate and what aspects we stress or neglect in testing. Ultimately, it also impacts who we reach out to for support and what arguments we put forward to convince them.

It is vital to be conscious of this conditioning as we develop our ideas, test them, and try to sell them. Whenever possible we need to get input from people who think differently from us – and make sure we listen to them – to counteract our preconceptions.

4. Why do existing innovation frameworks – including design thinking and lean startup – fall short?

CB: The design thinking and lean start up methodologies have done a wonderful job of raising our understanding of innovation and creating a shared vocabulary – with concepts like “minimum viable product”, ideation, and pivot. But we feel that like other innovation frameworks, they fall short in two ways.

First, they are incomplete. They don’t explicitly take account of the vital role of reflection – what we call levitation – throughout the innovation process. Instead they emphasize speed and action, presenting innovation as a series of sprints. Lean startup takes the initial problem as a given, leaving no space for reframing it, before launching into a frenzied cycle of build-measure-learn. Nor do existing models integrate the digital aspect of innovation or show how digital technologies relate, say, to the “human-centric” principles enshrined in design thinking.

Second, existing models are misleading because they gloss over the psychological pitfalls and biases that inhibit your original thinking. They tell you what to do, without acknowledging why it’s difficult. For example, pivoting is a great concept, but to do it, you must overcome some critical cognitive biases, including confirmation biases and sunk cost effects. By contrast, ALIEN thinking surfaces some of the ways we deceive ourselves at different stages of the innovation process – and end up focusing on the wrong problems, or jumping to solutions, or sticking too long with a bad idea.

Our view is that an alien mindset can support and complement design thinking and lean startup by helping to challenge assumptions that these frameworks take for granted.

5. What can or should be the role of digital augmentation be in innovation activities?

MW: Digital technologies can boost ALIEN thinking in several ways – but especially during the attention and experimentation phases.

For example, in terms paying attention to how products or services are actually used and what are some of the unmet needs, we traditionally relied on painstaking direct observation of users. But today, a lot of that observation can be automated. You can remotely monitor people and objects in close to real time through sensors and social listening. For example, the German-based Nivea brand tapped into discussions across social media sites concerning deodorant use. Contrary to expectations, they discovered that the main preoccupation of consumers was not fragrance or effectiveness, but clothes stains. This insight triggered the development of a new category of anti-stain deodorants. Digital tools enable you to collect data without direct observation and on a much larger scale than previously.

Digital technologies also make a dramatic difference at the experimentation stage. You can build digital twins of objects to experiment quickly, safely, and cheaply. This is exactly what Bertrand Piccard’s team did when they built the first solar-powered plane, with the wingspan of an Airbus, the weight of a car and the power of a small motorcycle. Testing multiple full-scale prototypes would have been ruinously expensive. But computer simulation creates the possibility of trial without error – or at least without costly errors.

Alien Thinking6. In an era of digital saturation and burnout, how are people supposed to make time to focus and elevate their thinking?

JLB: Occasionally stepping back from the action to regain perspective and make sense of disparate pieces of information is vital to creativity. Reflection is an integral part of the innovation process – whether it’s to reconsider the problem, or your approach to it – or the solution itself.

But elevating your thinking, which we call “levitation”, has become increasingly difficult in a context where we are inundated with calls, emails, and texts from colleagues expecting quick responses.

Paradoxically, the experience of working from home, which should have given us more control over our agenda, has often exacerbated the problem, with back-to-back or even overlapping zoom calls. And although we save on commuting time, we rarely make use of that time to re-energize or re-assess.

The only way to secure reflection time is to plan for it. This may seem forced, but unless you schedule breaks, you will find that the demands of the problems at hand always win out. It also has to be a meaningful break. Snatching a short lunch at your desk while watching social media for distraction won’t help. Nor does going out a walk and taking your phone with you.

Creativity demands introspection. To leverage your pause, you really need to unplug and see where your mind leads you. You need to protect your boredom! Is it any wonder that people often report getting their best ideas in the shower? It is one of the few mindless activities that remains beyond the reach of digital technology!

Click to read the rest of the interview on InnovationManagement.se

Accelerate your change and transformation success

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Building Cumulative Advantage

Exclusive Mark Schaefer Interview Excerpt from CustomerThink.com

Mark W SchaeferCumulative Advantage as a concept builds unstoppable momentum for your ideas and your business — even when the odds seem stacked against you. The book shows how initial advantages, seams of opportunity, sonic booms, and the lift from mentors can impact your world in powerful and permanent ways. It’s designed to be a practical source of inspiration for the entrepreneur, business leader, and every person with a dream that’s ready to take flight. The Cumulative Advantage concept focuses on:

  • How the initial advantage that drives momentum comes from everyday ideas.
  • The inside secrets of creating vast awareness for your projects.
  • How to nurture powerful connections that lead to break-through opportunities.
  • Why momentum is driven by the speed, time, and space of a “seam.”
  • How the “certainty of business uncertainty” can be used to your advantage.

I had the opportunity recently to interview Mark Schaefer, a globally-acclaimed author, keynote speaker, and marketing consultant. He is a faculty member of Rutgers University and one of the top business bloggers and podcasters in the world. Mark is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, Chief Executive Officer of B Squared Media and on the advisory board of several startups. He has been a contributor to Harvard Business Review and Entrepreneur magazine.

His latest book is Cumulative Advantage: How to Build Momentum for Your Ideas, Business and Life Against All Odds.

Below is the text of the interview:

1. Is success random?

Yes and no.

Momentum in life begins with some initial advantage. That is almost always random and unearned. It could be inherited wealth, a special, early educational opportunity, or being in the right place at the right time. Even being born into a free country and living in a stable household with two parents can be an advantage.

Frans Johansson wrote an entire book about this phenomenon called “The Click Moment.” I can point to a random conversation with my boss in 1992 that led to this book!

However, just having an idea or an advantage is not enough. You must pursue the idea and apply it to something changing in the world to create an opportunity. Randomness is likely to get the ball rolling, but hard work and smarts still make a difference when it comes to success.

2. Why is creating a cumulative advantage important?

There are many reasons to understand the patterns of momentum but for me, it’s the fact that it’s just so hard to stand out today. Even if you’re doing your best work, you can be buried because the level of competition and content out there is so great. How can a person or a business be heard? How can they be found?

For the past 10 years, most of my career has been devoted to this idea of becoming the signal instead of the noise. It’s never been harder for a business to be seen and heard and I think understanding how we can apply momentum to our lives is a big idea to help solve this problem.

3. Can anyone create cumulative advantage for their business or ideas?

This is going to sound weird, but honestly, no. This haunted me as I wrote the book. I realized that every business book and every self-help book is inherently elitist. The author assumes a person has the money to buy the book, the time to read it, and the resources to act on it.

But there is a big part of society that is being pulled under by Cumulative Disadvantage. It’s a cosmically complex topic that I address, in part, at the end of the book. I wanted to write a book that could help everyone, I don’t think anybody can, really.

But let’s put it this way — if you have the resources to buy the book and read it, then yes, you can probably build momentum!

4. What kinds of initial advantages might the average person have?

It can be anything really that leads to some momentum in later life. I already mentioned this idea about just living in a safe home as an advantage. Children adopted out of poverty had a substantial gain in IQ just from being in a safe environment.

Research has shown that early reading skills can lead to an advantage in education. Early athletic coaching can lead to longer and more profitable professional careers (just ask Tiger Woods or Serena Williams!). It can be a special ability, a personality trait, or even a stroke of luck along the way.

5. We are all surfing the crest of a wave that started long ago. Advantage builds on advantage. Why is curiosity so important?

I once had the opportunity to meet Walter Isaacson, the biographer of Steve Jobs, Leonardo DeVinci and Benjamin Franklin. I asked him what made a genius. He said endless curiosity and an ability to see patterns.

The world is filled with millions of ideas. An idea is worth nothing without the pursuit of curiosity, That is the beginning of momentum.

Click to read the rest of the interview on CustomerThink.com

Accelerate your change and transformation success

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.