This episode could have just as easily been called “The Democratization of innovation.” After all, the fundamental thrust of this book and our conversation was about moving innovation beyond the “usual suspects,” i.e., the R & D Department, and spreading innovation opportunities across the ranks. Most promising of all for soliciting input might be front-line employees, who know best the frustrations and disappointments of customers. Others to include range from current and potential customers to distributors and other business allies. Where might resistance emerge to such an expansive view of the innovation process? The answer could be middle managers, focused on executing the current business model. To win them over, it may be necessary to combine coaching about the importance and means of innovating with monetary incentives or placing limits on their career growth if they don’t “play ball.” If there’s a regrettable need to play the heavy, at times, it’s because as the saying goes, “It’s not that people see the light so much as they feel the heat.”
Ben Bensaou is a professor and former Dean of Executive Education at INSEA. He’s also been a visiting professor at the Harvard Business School, a research fellow at the Wharton School of Management, and a visiting scholar at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.
Remember the Marlboro Man, who symbolizes rugged individualism? Minal Bopaiah is here to suggest that the idea of the “making it on your own” is and has always been a myth. That’s because there is always, inevitably, a social context that favors one group more than another. It’s not that individual efforts aren’t valid; it’s just that the story is always more complicated, and those in positions of power are eager to camouflage the degree to which the “game” is tilted by factors like gender, race, and of course relative wealth. Beyond corporate life and the usual topics covered when discussing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), this episode also explores the world of non-profits, where “doing good” has aspects to it that should welcome reform. Get ready for a passionate guest. Minal Bopaiah doesn’t deliver “talking points” – “feeling points” is closer to the mark.
Minal Bopaiah is the founder of Brevity & Wit, a strategy and design firm focused on DEI initiatives. She’s written for the Stanford Social Innovation Review and TheHill.com an author, among other activities and career accomplishments.
The statistics are, frankly, exasperating. Gender equality remains a mirage. For instance, the proportion of female CEOs at major companies in America struggles to break 10%. On Fortune 500 boards, only about 20% of the seats are held by women. The problems with achieving gender fairness go on and on. Fortunately, my guest Colleen Ammerman covers solid ways of addressing the injustices still present. Those steps include not tolerating bad behavior from “rainmakers”—even to the point of disallowing severance pay or other benefits if that person gets terminated due to sexual misconduct. Declining invitations to events that don’t prioritize gender diversity among its speakers is another avenue of applying pressure for change. For anybody who wants to witness both structural and cultural changes within companies, this episode is well worth a listen.
The New York Times columnist David Brooks once joked that, ultimately, the “revolution” promised us by the Baby Boomers amounted to nothing much more than the founding of Whole Foods. What will Millennials bring us? Already it seems that the answer is employees and consumer-citizens for whom the values they want to live by and be known for on social media will be paramount. Why is that the case? As Nathalie Nahai argues, a primary reason is the looming environmental disaster of climate change. The stakes are high, and the result is that nothing can be taken for granted. With trust being the emotion of business, today’s agile, atomized and antagonized workforce wants some measure of justice: for women, for people of color, and in general for everyone who wants to rally around the mantra of “profit with purpose” rather than “profits ahead of people.” From topics ranging from cancel-culture to woke-washing, this is a very timely episode.
What do customers most want nowadays? According to David Avrin, the three-part answer consists of immediacy (instant gratification), individuality (flexible, customized assistance) and humanity (concern trumps indifference). Of them, while immediacy should in theory be the easiest to enact, ironically enough automation is making that goal more elusive. What else is of interest from Avrin’s version of ranting about the ills of customer service? For one thing, the desperate measures companies take to ward off negative reviews appearing on-line. For another, Avrin’s favorite exercise to help his clients improve their operations: have front-line employees imagine that they are creating a rival company, which benefits from knowledge about what customers really want most but aren’t getting right now. There’s nothing like the risk of losing existing customers, after all, to grab management’s attention!
David Avrin is a highly popular speaker and consultant on the topics of the customer experience as well as on marketing. He’s a former CEO group leader and speaker for Vistage International. This is his third book, following It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You and Visibility Marketing.
The joke is that the only person in the world who normally welcomes change is a baby with a dirty diaper. Indeed, a change in the status quo means we have to exert energy to deal with that change and people are generally loath to expend more energy than necessary. Scientists call this phenomenon trying to avoid the “metabolic cost” of expending mental and physical energy. You and I call it preferring to live life like a house cat, if we only could! In this episode, April Rinne offers advice based on her eight rules for navigating change more adroitly. Part of her advice has to do with slowing down, setting a sustainable pace to avoid burnout in ever more demanding careers. But there’s more. How may higher education change, including MBA programs, in a world where more and more of us will be part of the Gig Economy? Listen in for Rinne’s unique perspective.
April Rinne is one of the 50 leading female futurists in the world, a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum and a Fulbright Scholar. She’s also traveled to over 100 countries as part of having a front-row seat to a world in flux.
You’re helping South Africa make the transition from apartheid to democracy under Nelson Mandela. You’re helping end a half-century long civil war in Columbia. You’re working with the First Nations in Canada to secure more respect for their heritage and traditions. That’s a sampling of the work Adam Kahane has been involved in during his career, basically reconciling parties often barely on speaking terms before Kahane intervenes to bring them together. Kahane’s approach draws inspiration from the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the German existential theologian Paul Tillich. What does that approach involve? Why should you care to listen to this episode? The answer to both questions is that love offers unity, power, and the opportunity for self-realization, while justice looks to ensure that power gets employed to bring equity for all parties involved. If you’ve ever sought to resolve a conflict, this episode is for you.
How is it that $8 billion a year gets thrown at diversity training and yet next-to-nothing changes? One person who isn’t giving up is Sue Unerman, who along with her co-authors Kathryn Jacob and Mark Edwards favors a full array of changes that can improve the degree to which women get represented in the ranks of senior management at companies. The scope of this episode is broad: from how meetings are run, to how teams are built, and of course who gets promoted and receives how much in compensation. A particular focus is detrimental “banter” that’s hardly as light-hearted as it’s claimed to be. Add to that the Glass Slipper problem of people trying to fit into a corporate culture that should, instead, be blown wide-open and allow everyone to thrive, and all-in-all you get a sense of just how committed Unerman is when it comes to the interlocking topics of gender, fairness, and reform.
Greater social inclusivity can, at times, seem to take forever. It wasn’t until 1967, for instance, that bans on interracial marriages were finally declared unconstitutional in America. How appalling that such a hallmark of diversity would have taken so long. And yet a decade earlier, a mere 4% of surveyed Americans were in support of interracial marriages, a number that today stands at 87% approval. Clearly, progress has been made in a country whose citizens are often multiracial as well as in interracial marriages and relationships. How can the momentum for accepting people as they are be sustained in these divisive times? Soo Bong Peer’s suggestions are of both a personal and systemic nature, ranging from practicing greater empathy to having leaders dialogue more often with employees distinctly different in backgrounds, experiences and perspectives from themselves. One specific idea Peer suggests is that rather than lecture-style, lunch-n-learn sessions at company headquarters, why not try for Friday “movie lunches” instead! She cites as inspiration long-time movie critic Roger Ebert and his remark that “movies are like a machine that generates empathy.” If seeing is believing, then getting executives, managers and employees at large to see on screen lives lived in circumstances far different from their own might help enable a warmer, more inclusive spirit in corporate America.
Soo Bong Peer is a strategy consultant and executive coach for Fortune 500 companies. The daughter of a prominent South Korean general and ambassador to Mexico, she has lived in multiple countries, including the U.S. for the past 50 years.
Since the 1990s, the fade rate or inability of companies to stay ahead of their closest rivals, has gone from sustaining a lead, on average for 10 years, to now a single year. So focusing on innovation alone won’t suffice. A company that will survive and thrive must re-imagine every aspect of the its culture and operations in order to succeed. That re-imagining requires an open mind and an inquisitive spirit, not averse to surprises but instead, willing to embrace them. Who better than these two authors to take on that task? Martin Reeves is in his own words a “failed” musician and biologist turned businessperson, and Jack Fuller is versed in philosophical theology. Together, they are a perfect team for exploring how organizations can even change their very “souls”.
Martin Reeves is a Senior Partner and Managing Director at BCG, i.e., the Boston Consulting Group. He’s also the Chairman of the BCG Henderson Institute, BCG’s internal think tank. Jack Fuller is a former special project manager at the BCG Henderson Institute, and the founder of Casati Health, a company that re-imagines mental and physical health. He’s a Rhodes Scholar with a background that combines neuroscience and philosophical theology.