We Are Fairy Godmothers of the Modern World

Deepa Prahalad is an author and an innovation consultant. She has worked with startups. She’s worked with large multinationals and co-authored the book, Predictable Magic: Unleash The Power of Design Strategy To Transform Your Business, which was selected by Fast Company as one of the best design books of the year. She’s written for the Harvard Business Review, strategy and business; Business Week and was elected member of the International Academy of Management and is ranked number 34 on the inaugural Thinkers50 India list. I love Thinkers50, it’s an amazing resource. Google it and you’ll see what I mean. Just some of the best thinkers in the world are associated with that organization and she was recently selected by leadership guru, Marshall Goldsmith, into his 100 Coaches Program from over 16,000 global applicants.

Rarefied air for sure. Deepa speaks on innovation and design strategy and mentors social entrepreneurs, and I might add social for-profit entrepreneurs and one of the organizations we talk about is ModRoof, an innovative sustainable roofing company in India. She has a BA in Economics and Political Science from the University of Michigan and an MBA from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Here are the learning points you’re going to get from listening to this conversation. Design is more than aesthetics. Most people think of design – as around the physical aspects of a product, but it’s more than that, it’s emotion. Then we talked about a story of how logistics can be impacted by looking at multiple disciplines. For example, we talk about a worldwide charity that delivers mosquito nets. They have a complete supply chain to delivers mosquito nets to populations that need to protect against malaria. Well, how is that similar to the US supply chain from a wood manufacturer, for example.

Asking those type of questions to develop similarities between problem solving. It’s no longer enough to own your own corporate story. Customers have to help you tell the story. They have to tell the about your wins. The power of open-ended questions to build momentum around ideas and how it’s not necessarily the idea, but the questions around the idea, where you build the momentum. I love this part that Deepa talks about. Information is no longer privileged, which is obvious, but next you are at the 10-yard line the imperative is to execute. If you’ve got access to the information and it’s not privileged, now it’s about execution.

Deepa talks about this other really great concept called the ‘needs versus aspirations’. If we’re taking care of the needs, we’ve lifted a lot of folks out of poverty, billion out of poverty, but what are their aspirations? What are their aspirations moving forward as they climb the economic ladder? Asking that question and creating something takes optimism, versus when you need something. Deepa breaks that distinction down during the interview.

We talked about the hero’s journey and the importance of emotion and the story that you’re telling and that hero’s journey. I also ask questions about nostalgia. How important is nostalgia? We talk about the sweet spot’ between the past, the important past and the future. We look at how we develop that sweet spot that people love.

Finally, social entrepreneurship, with so many people coming online, the needs for large segments of the population to be served by entrepreneurs who want to bring products and services to those billions. How does that happen? How much does social entrepreneur think? It’s a wide and varied conversation that you’re going to love and I want introduce you now to my conversation with Deepa Prahalad.
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Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen

Today my guest is Rita McGrath. She is a best-selling author, sought-after speaker, and a longtime professor at Columbia Business School. She is widely recognized as a premier expert on strategy, innovation, entrepreneurship and growth during times of uncertainty.

Rita has received the #1 achievement award for strategy from the prestigious Thinkers50 and has been consistently named one of the world’s Top 10 management thinkers in its bi-annual ranking. As a consultant to CEOs, her work has had a lasting impact on the strategy and growth programs of Fortune 500 companies worldwide.

Rita is a highly sought-after speaker at exclusive corporate events around the globe, such as the Global Peter Drucker Forum. She is also the author of several books, including the best-selling, The End of Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). Her new book is, Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019). She has written three other books including, Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity, cited by Clayton Christensen as creating one of the most important management ideas ever developed.

She received her PhD from the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) and has degrees with honors from Barnard College and the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs.

Here are some key items that you will learn about in this podcast episode:

  • How did Walmart innovate in response to a resistant culture?
  • How retail will rebound, i.e. the story of Showfields.
  • Some practical ideas about How to See Around Corners.
  • Learn about Adobe’s innovative strategy using the Red Kickbox Program.
  • What Rita means by ‘Snow melts from the edge’ and the imperative for leaders.
  • Learn what Rita considers to be her Superpower, and why.
  • How innovation proficiency defangs an organization’s anti-bodies.
  • Personal inflection points and how to personally manage being an Innovation Leader.

Now, I want to introduce you to this amazing conversation with Rita McGrath.

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How Do You Navigate Your Ceiling of Complexity?

As business and life speeds up, it is undeniable that many business leaders are sucked into this vortex where they think that adding more is the way to add value. Sometimes adding more is the right path to take, but not always.

It is my belief that as a Digital Leader, Leaders of Transformation, CIO, CXO… or, whatever your role – that you are a voice of wisdom and that you can usher changes into your business because you understand two things:

  1.  That you are the leader of the only department that spans horizontally across the entire business.
  2.  That you understand the power of technology to effect change.

However, you may have reached a Ceiling of Complexity. Every business does and every leader does. Where are you?

So, how do you know that you have reached this point?   

   You will know when:

  • You are no longer able to manage your team with a simple ‘to-do’ list.
  • Your normal way of managing your priorities is falling apart.
  • Your promises to your team, the businesses, yourself and your family are slipping…… and possibly a lot.

Now, how do you navigate these waters?

  • Ceiling of Complexity – Realize that anything that looks like a ceiling, an obstacle or threat is an opportunity for you.
  • Mentors – Ask yourself, who are my mentors? Are all your mentors just like you, or have they done what you are trying to achieve. Use LinkedIn to find higher caliber mentors.
  • Think like an Intra-preneur (internal entrepreneur) – Every entrepreneur has complexity ceilings they have to get through. I would like you to think of yourself as an intra-preneur. I love this book by Shannon Waller, Multiplication By Subtraction. I think it will help you examine ‘right fit’ people in your business.
  • Ask Better Questions – Develop techniques like ‘question storming’ versus ‘brain storming’. By asking higher quality questions you will get better answers. One book that I highly recommend that can help you with this is, A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger.

These are the type of things we discuss at my CIO Innovation Forum group events. These events provide an important source for CIOs and IT leaders to get together, communicate, and dive deep into common concerns and challenges they face in their organizations every day. They learn how to flex different muscles in their thinking and recognize leadership and innovation opportunities.

To learn more about our CIO Community, email, and if you are interested in attending our upcoming CIO Innovation Forum lunch, click here to go to our website to register.

CIOs Must Be Able To Foresee Potential Trends To Guide and Assist Decision Making and Strategy

Today, I have a very special guest. It’s Jason Kasch, CIO at Structural Group. Structural Group is a big business 3,000 employees. One of their big, big moonshots their big growth patterns, is they want to be a multi-billion dollar company.

I’ve known Jason from my very first RedZone Podcast episode. He was on the first episode many moons ago. Here, we get into some really powerful topics like – self-driving cars and business disruption, what does that mean to a company like Jason’s; we talk about invention convention and problem solving for a 3,000 person company; the modern IT leader skills are not what you think, and we talk about the role of the CIO moving forward and which skills he believes are necessary for you to cultivate… and they’re not what you think!

We also look at what is the mindset to the multi-generational workforce. I haven’t covered this topic with anyone recently. This is the first time in history CIOs must support multiple generations from people super young to people super old. Sometimes the young people are leading the older people. So, how do you do that as a CIO? How does that impact you and your teams?

CIO Superpowers! One of the things I always like to ask is, ‘What is your CIO Superpower?’, ‘What are you great at?’ If you’ve ever thought about what makes you great. We’re always focused on what makes you weak and what we want to make strong. Well, what if we double- or triple-down on our strengths? Jason and I discuss that.

Jason firmly believes that he’s a technical guy. He started out technical and he’s got amazing business skills now, but he believes you shouldn’t lose those technical skills if you come from that world.

We talk about SD-WAN. For those of you who want to understand SD-WAN and how you can use that at scale and some of the benefits Jason has gotten from that, then listen into this episode a little further.

So now we have a conversation about Structural’s small, vision, mission cards. It was really interesting as I was sitting down with Jason. We talked about these little tiny vision cards that the founder and majority owner of Structural distributes among the teams, and how it really guides how they make decisions how they run meetings, and how you scale culture. You know, that’s always a challenge. How you scale culture this is a great learning point.

Finally, what is your 3-year ambition? Jason and I talked about the ambition of his organization for growth and the role and the mindset that’s needed as a CIO to support his business as it scales into a billion dollar organization. I often say, and Jason supports that who do you need to become as the business grows bigger and as you take on more challenges?

When you think of the construction industry, you probably don’t think of innovation. Well, sit back and listen to my conversation with Jason Kasch, CIO of Structural Group. Continue reading

How Do You Develop Anticipation as a Superpower? Lessons from An Empathy Master

Jim DePietro, CIO of Bowman Consulting, embodies the principle of anticipation that enables him to span across all departments in his quest to serve the business. As a young or old CIO, you will admire how Jim uses innovative thinking and anticipation as key tools.

This is another great conversation with a member of my CIO Innovation Forum community. This group provides an important source for CIOs and IT leaders to get together, communicate, and dive deep into common concerns and challenges they face in their organizations every day. They learn how to flex different muscles in their thinking and recognize leadership and innovation opportunities.

The video and full transcript of my conversation with Jim DePietro can be found below:

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