Have you ever wondered why some entrepreneurs “make it big” while others — who are just as bright and hardworking — don’t? This question is one I’ve studied for the last 30 years.
As an innovation design consultant, my colleagues and I have worked with over 600 business leaders and management teams from a wide variety of industries. And over the last three decades, I’ve encountered every type of organizational culture imaginable.
Just add any adjective you can think of — brilliant, bureaucratic, efficient, dysfunctional, corrupt, or visionary — and I’ve worked with them before. …
As a consultant, I’m inside my clients’ corporate offices several times a month. And after doing this routine for over 35 years, I can tell what a company’s management philosophy will be about just by the looks of their lobby and conference rooms.
I’ve worked for some clients that haven’t made a profit in five years but still have deluxe conference rooms — with expensive furniture, flashy technology systems, and plenty of snacks and bottles of Perrier sparkling waters.
And I’ve also worked for some of the world’s wealthiest companies with conference rooms with old, musty carpet, beat-up tables, chairs…
Starting a business is akin to trying to build a utopian colony in the middle of the jungle. With no roads, electricity, plumbing, or running water, you spend the first year just getting the fundamentals of your base camp set up while trying to survive the harsh realities of the business wilderness.
When my business partner and I started our consulting firm in 1992, we had a mountain of issues to tackle every day. We’d work with staff and clients during the weekdays, do bookkeeping and accounting at night, and focus on marketing efforts on the weekends.
However, the most…
“I can’t wait for you to get this childish hobby out of your system!” Marie shouted as Harry laid on the floor, wrestling with one of his students.
And with that, she stormed out of the gym in a huff.
Harry looked embarrassed…as if his mother just told him he was too old to be still playing with GI Joe’s.
As students, we weren’t used to seeing our action-hero smacked down like this. There was an awkward silence for a few breathless seconds. …
“So, what’d you think of my new girl?” Felix asked as if he were referring to a new convertible sports car he just leased.
“She seems like a wonderful human,” I said.
He was hoping for a more enthusiastic response from me. But I didn’t want to participate in this visual evaluation game with him like we were judges holding scorecards at a dog show.
Felix always had a new modelesque girl on his arm, but these relationships never went far beyond the first few dates.
My friend was a serial dater, and he had all the trappings of a…
The NFL is the most successful sports league in history, but how did a relatively obscure sport — born in Ohio in the 1920's — turn into a cultural and financial powerhouse?
In one word: Parity.
Although it was a long journey of experimentation, the governing body of the NFL developed a system that gave every team a fighting chance to become a champion. This vision kept the sport lively, competitive, and beneficial for everyone in their society. However, to achieve this goal, the team leaders had to agree to two critical rules:
First, they instituted a reverse order first-round…
“That’s some of the worst guitar playing I’ve ever heard — not only from you but from anyone. As your friend, I’ve got to stop you from humiliating yourself. Just tell them you got mugged or arrested. But whatever you do, man — don’t go to that auditorium!”
And with that motivational pep-talk, I grabbed my coat, tie, and guitar case and made the 20-minute walk across campus to the windowless recital hall.
The whole way there, I reflected on how crappy the final semester had been. To graduate, I took an extra-heavy course load and was down to my…
When my wife saw my crumpled-up car, she sobbed uncontrollably at my near-death experience, but I couldn’t feel anything. While I knew my reckless behaviors were heading towards disaster, some other self-destructive force steered my life.
For the next two weeks, I drove a rental car while the insurance company debated whether to fix my vehicle or retire it to the junkyard. The agent told me, “If the repair costs are over 50% of the vehicle’s value, there’s no sense in fixing it. We’ll just cut you a check.”
The damage I’d done to my marriage was well over 50%…
Some entrepreneurs sell convenience, while others promise the lowest prices or offer the best quality products or the highest level of service. I sell breakthrough ideas that can change the rules of my clients’ industries. Sounds cool on the surface, but it comes with some big expectations.
Being creative a couple of times a year is fun. Doing something creative a few times a month is relaxing and therapeutic. However, needing to be creative every single day to do your job is daunting.
As the co-founder of a strategy and design firm, I know this pressure well because my team…
We’re a sophisticated society with more information at our disposal than ever before, yet we’re still highly prone to believe in the powers of magic elixirs.
As the cosmetics founder of Revlon, Charles Revson, famously said — “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.”
But it’s not just cosmetic companies that sell hope. Many different products and industries — such as Harley motorcycles, fast cars, self-help books, new clothes, hair loss tonics, vitamins, organic food, fitness magazines, diet plans, education, vacations, and politicians — also sell hope.
There are always bad players out there that sell false hope. Consumers eventually figure out the real deals from the fake ones. But the key for good companies is to identify the hope and transformation potential they sell — the more verifiable, the better — and be intensely aware of hopes and dreams their best consumers seek.