page title icon 270: Mark W. Johnson: Bringing the Future Alive

Mark W. Johnson Show Notes Page

Mark W. Johnson spent his beginning days trying to drive disruptive innovation for organizations, but the innovation they were trying to drive never really took root in their own organization. After a long time, he realized that innovation without a strategy behind it is going nowhere, and for a strategy to be successful, it requires a long-term, holistic approach to leadership, strategy, and innovation.

Mark Johnson was born in Boston, MA and raised in Hollywood, Florida. His father was an airline and corporate pilot, and his mother an Opera Singer. He has one older brother who is a practicing radiologist.

Growing up, Mark was heavily involved in making and flying model airplanes and playing golf on the High School team.

After attending the U.S. Naval Academy, he spent eight years in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear-powered trained surface warfare officer and served as part of the first Gulf/Iraq War, operating in the Red Sea.

After leaving the Navy, Mark received his MBA from the Harvard Business School and then spent three years at the management consulting firm Booz, Allen, and Hamilton in New York City before co-founding the Strategy and Innovation consulting firm Innosight with HBS Professor Clayton M. Christensen.

Mark has been a strategic advisor to both Global 1000 and start-up companies in a wide range of industries. Mark’s most recent work has focused on helping companies envision and create new growth, manage transformation, and achieve renewal through business model innovation, and he is a frequent writer and speaker on these topics.

Mark has published articles in the Wall Street Journal, Sloan Management Review, BusinessWeek, Advertising Age, and National Defense.

He is also the co-author of Lead from the Future: How to Turn Visionary Thinking into Breakthrough Growth. This manifesto for “Future Back” thinking and a hands-on guide to long-term planning, strategy development, and execution within established organizations.

Mark lives in Belmont, MA, with his wife Jane Clayson Johnson.  They are the proud parents of 5 children and 3 grandchildren.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @Mark_W_Johnson to get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShowClick to Tweet

“Problems aren’t going to go away any time soon. The antidote is vision; the antidote is purpose.” – Click to Tweet

“Putting real-time into the future is the only way to overcome the pulls of the present.” – Click to Tweet

“People should diverge before they converge.” – Click to Tweet

“As the world becomes more tapped with more information, we become busier and spend less time thinking about the art of the possible.”- Click to Tweet

“The world we live in further exacerbates our ability to get outside of our current paradigm.” – Click to Tweet

“It’s not about the answers, it’s about the questions.” – Click to Tweet

“The first order is to change your mindset; to think in a different way.” – Click to Tweet

“Do not let the paradigm of today have any influence in what you are developing for the future.” – Click to Tweet

“Business creativity requires getting into the mindset of future-back and being able to take advantage of the longer-term planning horizon.” – Click to Tweet

“No organization lasts forever.” – Click to Tweet

“Any organization’s business model is ultimately going to pass away.” – Click to Tweet

“Many of our problems today is that executives are burning the furniture in their homes to heat the home.” – Click to Tweet

“So many companies are in the long term going to fade away because they’re not planting the seeds for growth platforms for their future.” – Click to Tweet

“Developing, and deploying, and inspiring an actionable vision is a skill that anybody can learn.” – Click to Tweet

“When you combine inspiration with engineering with practicality, you can become a visionary leader or organization.” – Click to Tweet

Hump to Get Over

Mark W. Johnson spent his beginning days trying to drive disruptive innovation for organizations, but the innovation they were trying to drive never really took root in their own organization. After a long time, he realized that innovation without a strategy behind it is going nowhere, and for a strategy to be successful, it requires a long-term, holistic approach to leadership, strategy, and innovation.

Advice for others

Communicating and learning from other people, it’s the fastest way to our own personal growth.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

I need to gain more confidence in what I can do for organizations.

Best Leadership Advice

Listen and be humble.

Secret to Success

Being passionate about communications and being proactive about that communication and being sensitive about people’s needs and trying to reach out in little ways.

Best tools in business or life

To keep the word initiative first and foremost in my mind.

Recommended Reading

Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen by Rita Gunther McGrath

Lead from the Future: How to Turn Visionary Thinking Into Breakthrough Growth by Mark W. Johnson & Josh Suskewicz

Contacting Mark W Johnson






258: David McCourt: Blow up the model and start over

Show Transcript

Click to access edited transcript

Unedited Transcript

Jim Rembach (00:00):

Okay. Fast leader Legion today. I’m excited because we have somebody on the show today. While he does have a very common name, has some very uncommon tactics that we can all benefit from. Mark W. Johnson was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in Hollywood, Florida. His father was an airline and corporate pilot and his mother and opera singer. He has one older brother who is a practicing radiologist. Growing up, Mark was heavily involved in making and flying model airplanes and playing golf on the high school team. After attending the U S Naval Academy, he spent eight years in the U S Navy as a nuclear powered trained surface warfare officer and served as part of the first Gulf Iraq war, operating in the red seat. After leaving the Navy, Mark received his MBA from the Harvard business school and then spent three years at the management consulting firm, Booz Allen and Hamilton in New York city before co-founding the strategy and innovation consulting firm in a site with his Harvard business school professor Clayton M Christensen.

Jim Rembach (01:02):

Mark has been a strategic advisor to both global 1000 and startup companies and a wide range of industries. Mark’s most recent work is focused on helping companies envision and create new growth, manage transformation and achieve renewal through business model innovation and he is a frequent writer and speaker on these topics. Mark Mark has published articles in the wall street journal, Sloan management review, business week, advertising age and national defense. He is also the coauthor of lead from the future. How to turn visionary thinking into breakthrough growth is manifesto for future back thinking and a hands on guide to longterm planning, strategy, development and execution within established organizations. Mark lives in Belmont, Massachusetts with his wife, Jane [inaudible] and Johnson and they are the proud parents of five children and also three grandchildren. Mark W. Johnson. Are you ready to help us get over the hump? I’m ready. Thank you Jim. I’m glad you’re here. Mark, now I’ve given my Legion a little bit about you, but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?

Mark W. Johnson (02:06):

Well, current passion is, is front and center with this book and launching the book. To be honest. Uh, I just think the world is in desperate need of getting out of short-termism. Um, you know, there’s been a number of people who’ve talked about thinking about the longterm, but practically putting it in place and being able to plan for the future just seems non-existent. Whether we’re talking about in the business world, government education, I think we’re all sitting in a world of short-sightedness. And my passion is to help people practically bring the future alive and manage for it.

Jim Rembach (02:41):

Well, I think you know, you putting the way you did, I know it was of course more than just rehearsed. It’s part of what you do every day, but you taught planned piece and you know, being proactive. But you talk about this in the book and you say the pull of the present presents engaging with the future. And you kind of said it there too, but can you elaborate on that a little bit? Yeah. So the, well, two things. One is the present

Mark W. Johnson (03:06):

has such, um, greater pull than ever before because it’s counterintuitive. But as the world becomes an army term, more VUCA, more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, the noisier it gets, I think we have a tendency to hunker down even more towards addressing everything that’s happening in the here and now. So as the world becomes pulled more by the urgency of things, you know, whether it’s trying to meet the quarterly earnings or address somebody that’s upset as a customer or you know, governmental agencies that are falling way behind what they need to do, all these things are perpetuating into a more tighter, you know, shorter time horizon. And what I’m suggesting is there’s a way to look out in the future and actually bring it alive and then connected back to the present that you can actually tangibly do things today that help you move towards that future.

Jim Rembach (04:02):

Okay. So in the book you really talk about transformative innovation. And I think w part of what you were saying, you know, is really what is leading to that and that it is more of a longer term horizon than just, you know, the three to five years. And you talk about people having glorified operating plans when they call it their, their present forward. Look, it’s not long enough when you talk about four common failures that that organizations often fall victim to him and they hit and you, and you say one is too late, the other one is too few resources. Yep. And patients for growth and then competition from the core. So to me this is all about abandoning a particular path and never getting to innovation. Is that correct?

Mark W. Johnson (04:47):

That’s correct. And you made, you made the excellent point that it’s transformative innovation. I mean, companies are innovating every day incrementally to sustain their business, whether they’re trying to improve efficiencies, modify a product, they do that very well. But when you’re talking about, yeah, no [inaudible] a Monty Python, uh, praise, you know, and now completely different. So when you’re talking about really the completely new and different kind of innovations, those transformative, non incremental breakthrough innovations that go beyond the core, that’s where these four failure modes go. Because you’re asking for resources to be diverted away from those things in the here and now. And those things that are very predictable to things, less predictable, higher risk, uh, more ambiguous. But being able to put some effort into that is critically important. And these four failure modes are what we’ve seen over and over happen. Is it really down deep, uh, leaders and others are not really committed to do those longterm efforts.

Mark W. Johnson (05:51):

And that’s what happens is they, you know, they end up holding off. They’re too late, they end saying, okay, we’ll fund it, but they’re very minimalist in their efforts to fund it and invest or you know, they end up saying, Oh, we’ve got some competition happening and what we need to take care of in the core. And so the first thing to be cut is these transformative innovation efforts. And again, it ties to timing. So many of these, most of these take three, five, seven years to really come to fruition. So, you know, we end up in this sort of cognitive bias of wanting to get, you know, immediate gratification if you will, and not being comfortable waiting those five to seven years because that doesn’t do anything for the short term bottom line.

Jim Rembach (06:34):

You know, I know what as you say that there’s several things that are running through my head is like, you know, who am I dealing with? You know, talking about the whole, you know, publicly traded organization that has shareholders and boards to answer to and talking about maybe a smaller firm that has a PE or private equity fund or something like that that I always have to answer to. And there’s always that short term pressure. So it takes, you know, somebody who has the ability to influence those other peoples, to have people to have the longer term time horizon. And then I’ll also think about the average tenure. You throw that in about a lot of these seniors and seniors and then you throw in the whole element, you know, just associated with you know, age of those people. And they always say about if tomorrow guys problem.

Mark W. Johnson (07:16):

That’s right. Exactly. Yeah. And so that’s why what we say is the antidote and we even, I haven’t put it in the book and said basically the Calvary’s not coming that these problems aren’t going to get go away anytime soon. So the antidote is vision is, is purpose is, you know, and everybody will say, Oh, mission, vision. But putting real time into the future and crafting a comprehensive narrative about how you would fit in that future vis-a-vis a vision with purpose. Underpinning it is the only way to overcome all of these poles to the present and be able to give the passion for yourself and the organization, the commitment to be able to sustain it. The other thing I would say is spending time in the future, and we’ve seen this happen over and over again. First of all, the future’s more predictable than people think, especially in terms of finding opportunity and not recognizing that not investing for the future. You’re missing opportunity to take advantage of it more so than the threats. There are clearly threats about the future, but it’s being able to spend time and use those ability to find opportunity and to recognize threat that can help overcome all of these different kinds of biases towards the president.

Jim Rembach (08:37):

Okay. So that the mentors are several things that pop into my head as you’re saying that. One is, and I’m not a fan of the whole SWOT analysis because you know, when you focus on threats you see more threats, right? I prefer to focus in on the positive psychology based soar model, which is we have strengths, we have opportunities and aspirations and driving towards the results and trying to obtain those results. Uh, it, it changes the narrative. Totally changes the lens focus. Also, you talk about, and as you’re walking through this, I mean I start thinking about the whole time element. You talk about that dedication piece and you actually come right out and say, statistically speaking, if I’m thinking about investment of time, that 10 to 20% of our time actually needs to be spent on this future back thinking. But then when you analyze these leaders, I mean, when they’re in meetings all day, when does that happen?

Mark W. Johnson (09:28):

Well, it doesn’t, right? I mean that’s the problem is it’s, it’s not happening. And you know, we can talk about the tyranny of the urgent, right? All these things that are coming on leaders, you know, we, we interviewed or actually spend time with one leader who through the course of our work with him, talked about the only time he had to think was on the treadmill. And really when he was on the treadmill in the morning, it was reading emails. The rest of the time he was in meetings. So there’s never was any time to even create the space to be able to explore and talk about future opportunity. And where’s the direction of the company? It’s all spent in the operate X a road and we’re one of the other overcome the, this issue of the calories not coming is to have the discipline for leaders to say, you know what? We are going to carve out a set amount of time each quarter in talk about the art of the possible and talk about with our innovation teams, what are those things in the future that we could begin to think that helps us to get beyond the core as good stewards to try and to sustain the business for the long term.

Jim Rembach (10:33):

Well, even as you’re saying that, I start thinking about some of the biases that you mentioned in the book. And so one of the things that we often find with that whole creative thinking process is a lot of people don’t know how to approach it. And so they have a whole lot of, and I talk about the whole thinking process and talking about, you know, being able to be congruent and being able to focus in on different types of divergent and convergent thinking activities and making sure that we don’t mess all of that up.

Mark W. Johnson (11:02):

No, absolutely. Yeah, it is. It is a great point, Jim. You know, we have to switch from a linear, uh, sort of operate, execute, give me the data, we’ll make decisions and that feels really comfortable to a more uh, abstract, uh, you know, I would say a learning mode, right? Which is to get executives and other leaders comfortable that they too must be heavily involved in the learning process. So in this 10 to 20% time, they should move away from an operate and execute data-driven mentality more towards a, let’s explore this space, let’s envision the art of the possible and let’s figure out what assumptions we’re making that need to go get tested to be able to validate or invalidate what we’re imagining for the future.

Jim Rembach (11:51):

So as you’re talking, I’m trying to think about it cause I’ve been in those sessions,

Jim Rembach (11:54):

I mean, they have to be heavily moderated and yes, because if not, we go to that. What you just said, that that typical operating procedure is like, well let’s just do it and decide, and that’s not the way that you’re actually going to be able to identify those opportunities. No, absolutely. In fact, we would say they’re structured dialogues that need to be crafted and you know, a couple ways to characterize those dialogues is, one, they’re messy, they should be messy, they should be iterative. People should diverge before they converge. And that makes a lot of um, leaders uncomfortable because they want everything buttoned up and we’re saying, let’s make it messy. Let’s, let’s go off and talk about things. You know, there’s no wrong answer. We’re going to, we’re going to be able to go off in different tangents to begin with before we start converging.

Mark W. Johnson (12:43):

We would say converge on a core set of assumptions about the way we think the world’s going to work and how we fit in that world. And that process is also got three steps forward. Two, a step backwards. You can’t get everything done in one session. You have to think about it over time. People need soak time to figure out how are they developing a point of view about the way things should be in terms of their future business. Yeah. And none of this stuff is easy and however you kind of make it seem easier, appear easy when you talk about these three phases of future back thinking, which is, you know, develop your vision. And again, we’re talking, you know, seven, 10 years out. Yes. Convert vision to strategy and then program and implement the strategy. Now for me, I’ve been studying this whole future back look, now I referred to it as retrospective engineering.

Jim Rembach (13:32):

Yeah. I like that. And because if you look at grit, chess grandmasters they are, they play the game backwards from checkmate. Yeah. That’s how they go about trying to figure out what move they need to make. Yes. And so for me, when I started looking at your work, I’m like, well man that that’s engineering and I’m in this prospective engineering. It’s what I’ve been chatting about for awhile. So for me, I connected with it quickly. But when you start trying to explain this to others, and while I do have the three phases, which is beauty, it makes it simple. But how do you get people to understand being able to connect today to the future? Well, there’s a couple things you said that I think are really important. One is, um, one is this idea of engineer being an engineer. And I think there is an engineering component because without a set of steps and without some practicality, then we end up in sort of pie in the sky thinking.

Mark W. Johnson (14:29):

And I think it’s where futuring and visioning gets a bad rap is it’s like, well that’s great, but it’s not very practical in terms of what we’re going to do about things. So I think the first order of this, this process is one, becoming a great storyteller, becoming a great, uh, uh, inspirational person. Like we talk in leadership, but then you’ve got to translate that compelling narrative, that vision into a way to make it practical for the organization, allocate resources. That’s where the engineering comes in. So when it not gel, these three respond. Forming a vision would be about how do you sort of craft a way to think and talk about the future of your organization and your enterprise in terms of the, uh, in terms of the environment that, that you’ve envisioned five to 10 years out. That’s the inspirational narrative piece, but then you have to convert that to what we would call a set of three portfolios.

Mark W. Johnson (15:29):

The first portfolio was a future state portfolio, which is a literal quantification of what would you would, uh, predict or what you would estimate is the mix between core business adjacent and new growth and being able to articulate it in terms of financial revenues or profits or some kind of metric. You know, in a nonprofit it might be, you know, sort of level of initiatives or types of initiatives that happen across what you’re doing today versus in the future. And that future state portfolio is, is a sort of engineered or conversion of that inspiration into something that you’re sort of laying out as a target in the future. And then you need to walk that back, that future state portfolio into a set of portfolios of today. You know, a classic innovation and growth portfolio that again comprises core adjacent and new growth where you’re literally going to allocate resources from what we’d say is an investment portfolio.

Mark W. Johnson (16:30):

Again, split between the different groups. That then is a way to define a seed planting initiatives that you’re going to start to test and learn about how those initiatives are moving you towards that master plan that you put five to 10 years out. And what happens is as initiatives prove a viable and work within the environment that those give confirmation towards your future intended enterprise things that aren’t working out. We’ll give you feedback that we have to make an adjustment to our vision in terms of our future state. So it’s a lot to sort of, I think for your audience comprehend, you know, outside of me laying it out in the book. But, but suffice it to say the visioning piece is the first phase. This convert to strategy is the actual how you’re gonna win in the game. You know how you’re going to actually implement that vision and then the programming and implementation at the very end is how do you get the organization aligned and set up to be able to move forward with the transformative strategy. And the thing that I like and why I’m loving having you on the show is that the reality is, is that when we’re talking about a lot of this future state and impact, it’s customer focused. It’s based, it’s customer,

Jim Rembach (17:50):

it’s employee experience because you even talk about, you know, talent and capabilities. And that is the, the information that those people at the senior level they need in order to be able to drive some of these decisions and understand context and understand direction and understand need comes from the front line.

Mark W. Johnson (18:09):

It absolutely does. In fact, the whole premise of going out into the future, you know, to your point about SWAT and classic strategy work and trends analysis is it’s really not about, Hey, what does socioeconomic trends say or what a technology trends are. Those are all in service. To your point, where is the customer going? What’s the customer going to really care about? What’s most important and going to be least satisfied five to 10 years from now? And how do you anticipate that it’s a little bit the Wayne Gretzky quote, you know, skate to where the puck’s going. Well that puck, you know, without in any way being insulting to, to our customers. That puck is basically where’s the customer going and how can you actually shape where the customer’s going by being able to anticipate for them what their unmet needs are going to be. By being able to understand the circumstance based on the trends, help define the circumstance for that customer and help you really start to anticipate in position. What are those kinds of breakthrough opportunities that you can start developing now to serve that customer of the future?

Jim Rembach (19:17):

Well, and at all levels you talk about, uh, and you kind of mentioned this in the book or you kind of mentioned this a moment ago, but, um, you know, there are some roadblocks to the whole future mindedness, uh, culture. If you want to create an in starting with the individuals and having the organization do it, is that we have a slew of cognitive biases. Um, we also have organizational rewards and incentives. Uh, and then we also have ecosystems, rewards and incentives. So I think it’s easy for us to really, uh, you know, get into the understanding of the organizational rewards and incentives. But the thing that intrigued me the most was the whole ecosystem rewards and incentives. So if you can’t, what does that really mean?

Mark W. Johnson (19:56):

Well, it just means that, you know, especially in the for profit public company world, right? You, you’ve got pension fund managers, you’ve got wall street, you have, um, Esther stakeholders. Uh, you know, you have, uh, regulatory bodies. Uh, you know, you have, uh, even consultants, quite frankly, traditional management consultants, you have a whole set of stakeholders in the ecosystem that for either reasons of their own incentives or based on having served a certain way so long are perpetuating, are contributing to the short term mindset. Uh, you know, it starts with a cognitive biases because we’re biased towards the short term and towards the here and now and the things for instant gratification, human beings, the rewards and incentives. So they create those that further perpetuate the bias and then they’re just other stakeholders outside the organization that share similar interests and incentives that are reinforcing or holding fast the organization to not be able to get out of its own way.

Jim Rembach (21:05):

You had mentioned this also a moment ago. You talked about the, you know, the tyranny of the urgent and for me, I had shared with you that I’m actually kind of living that right now. I’m in a couple of different fronts, but help us explain what this tyranny of the urgent actually means. Well, that’s just focused completely on the time dimension. Um, and, and it, and it is literally that we, we are so subsumed in our world of, you know, instant information and instant, uh, information and data and all kinds of challenges to be able to, you know, serve our different, uh, immediate customers. That as the world becomes more tapped with information, we just become busier and busier and busier and then we end up crowding out the ability to spend any time thinking about the art of the possible. So the tyranny of the urgent means we have all these things coming to us.

Mark W. Johnson (22:05):

Right. I, by the way, didn’t coined this term, I think, I forgot it’s been around for a long time, but it’s some time management guru who said it. But basically we are, we are, we are stuck in the urgent, but maybe it’s not the vital. Maybe much of that is not vital. But we, there are so many things hitting us and competing for our time that we literally don’t have any space to be able to soak in. You know, the things that could be the art of the possible because we’re, we’re so stuck in trying to be able to address all the things our to do. List the meetings one after the other and by the time we’re get outside of all of the, to do lists, the meetings that are for, you know, dealing with the next three months, there’s no time left to be able to spend time in the, uh, in the longer term horizon.

Jim Rembach (22:55):

Well, and uh, and, and as you say that too, I came across some research that talks about when we have that issue as far as the whole, you know, one of the tyrannies I guess you’d say in issues with the urgency is that as human beings we automatically go into self preservation mode. Yes. No, it’s all CYA baby. Right. Well, and there’s also to your point earlier about cognitive biases. There’s something that feels very gratifying or, or that we have just a need to be able to, to, to put a check next to our, to do list. And so we have these things that come at us and we feel a need to address them. Again, they feel urgent. They may not necessarily be vital. And if we have too long a checklist, then we just have no chance to be able to, to think about the things that actually may be coming at us that we don’t see and start to be able to plan for them. So, you know, it’s this world that we live in that is really further exacerbating the ability to really get outside of our

Jim Rembach (23:56):

current paradigm well, and to get outside that current paradigm, you talk about attributes and things that we really should be able to have as as lenses and viewpoints and mindsets. And as far as the attributes of future back thinking. Um, and in the book you also talk about the present forward thinking board. I’m going to focus on that. We’re going to focus in on the forwards or on the, the future backside. Um, it’s what could be transformative. We talked about that upon a discontinuous, uh, develops a new paradigm, ambiguous and abstract, uh, drive to clarity, discover, discovery and entrepreneurial, multi-dimensional, abductive imaginative and creative assumptions driven questions, clean sheet and systems thinking. So I would dare to say, going back to that engineering reference, you’re hitting all of these when you’re working with clients.

Mark W. Johnson (24:52):

Yeah, absolutely. And what I was trying to do with, if you will list, you know, I have a kind of a says, you know, as side by side in the book between present forward and future back attributes. I’m just trying to give like somebody, you know, sort of an ability to get with [inaudible]

Mark W. Johnson (25:08):

the brawl of the back by giving all these different ways to look at it. And in essence, as you can see from those word descriptions, the first order of this is to change your mindset, to change your way of thinking that it’s, you know, it’s not incremental, it’s transformative. You know, it’s not about the answers about the questions so that you could make the comparison and realize that the first order here is to think in a different way and to think future back, which is not only think from the future back, but it’s also think from this idea that you’re starting with a clean sheet. You’re not letting today’s structure get in the way of future strategy. You’re able to open up and say, maybe there’s a whole different way we need to imagine and think about our business. It’s a little bit similar to say in the finance budgeting world, it’s not about taking this year’s budget and then taking it into next year and incrementing off of lab budget.

Mark W. Johnson (26:01):

It’s saying we’re going to zero base our budget. We’re going to start with it being nothing and say, what do we really need in order to fit within the future? So future back thinking, it’s not just the process of going from the future back. It’s opening up the mind to, to recognize that you’re in this learning mode of explore, envision, discover, and that requires you to have this mindset also that you’re not letting the paradigm of today, at least for the beginning exercise, have any influence on what you’re going to try to develop as the envision future state for your organization.

Jim Rembach (26:42):

Well, and you make it even more when you start getting into what you call the emerging fault lines, right? So it’s how do I take all of these attributes and make them real? And so in the book you talk about customer needs, performance metrics, industry position, the business model as well as talent and capabilities. But, uh, for me, I, I, I love this perspective taking that ends up happening when you started asking these questions, it’s, uh, you know, what are the top unmet needs of each group of customers, you know, do they vary across different types of customers? Do customers we don’t currently serve, you know, have emerging unmet needs. We have a slew of these types of questions to get people into that right? Type of thinking. And one of the things that I’ve focused in on, uh, on my virtual Academy for frontline supervisors that we all need to develop as business acumen and what you’re really talking about is helping people build their business acumen in all aspects of the organization.

Mark W. Johnson (27:35):

Absolutely. Another way, actually a, I had a colleague once say to me to you, and you had mentioned this earlier before we started the show about, uh, you know, this idea of, um, the business construct that we live by generically was something that was intended that was built 80 years ago and is not as relevant today. You, this colleague said, you know, we have the MBA program and the MBA program is, you know, this very analytically driven, it’s within different disciplines. Maybe the MBA should shift and be more about the MBA for business creativity. You know, that that’s so much about what we need to think about is the world changes so much faster. We have to be able to be much more agile to be LT, to understand and develop new business models. So I agree. I mean, I think we need to be figuring out a way that how, and just as a general sense, how do we in cocaine, this business creativity, this entrepreneurial-ism within established organizations in a much more effective way than it has been today. And I, and, and why I wrote this book was to say, one big component of that happening is to be able to get into this right mindset called future back and literally be able to take advantage of the longer term planning horizon to unleash entrepreneurial-ism slash business creativity.

Jim Rembach (29:05):

So when I started looking, you know, at, you know, there’s so many things in the book and I told you I don’t think we would be able to get through all of the things that I want to talk about. Uh, so I, again, we’re gonna make this available of course, link on the show notes page and stuff, but ultimately what we’re gearing up to, and you have it towards the end of the book, is talking about the stark truth. What’s the stark truth?

Mark W. Johnson (29:28):

Well, the stark truth is that, um, no organization, uh, lasts indefinitely, forever perpetuating what it currently has. Um, that’s by the way, another way to put it as the Ford fallacy is this notion that we can continue to sustain an increment our business indefinitely. So the stark truth is any organization’s business model is ultimately going to pass away. And just like us as human beings, you know, or any biological system that individuals pass on. But the, but the species itself continues in you on, I think we have to think of organizations as [inaudible] business units as having a lifespan to them. But by being fought full about the overall enterprise, we can continue to renew and reinvent and transform ourselves to continue to be able to live into the future. I mean, I lastly say the great business, uh, business management guru, Peter Drucker said, every business, there’s a theory to any business and sooner or later that theory no longer works.

Mark W. Johnson (30:38):

I mean, that is the stark truth. But the good news and the hope for all of us and just like individuals is we can renew, we can reinvent ourselves. We can, we can get past the things that are no longer working to be able to position ourselves in a place that we can thrive in the new environment. Well, and without a doubt, I mean you talking about being able to do this type of work is, it requires a whole lot of inspiration and resilience and all those things. And one of the things that we look at on the show in order to help with that or quotes. Uh, is there a quote or two that you’d like that you can share? Uh, well, um, you know, I think, I’m just thinking from again, from the book that could be helpful is just from a negative side, if you will for a moment, just be mindful that, you know, I think many of our problems today is that executives are burning the furniture in their homes to, to heat the home.

Mark W. Johnson (31:34):

And I think we ought to be very mindful that this is really an epidemic. Uh, I see it over and over again that companies can’t get out of their own way because they just are so beholden to the, the, the quarterly earnings. And if we don’t do something about it, so many companies are in the longterm gonna fade away because they’re not planting the seeds for growth platforms for their future. So, you know, that’s a, that would be a, that’d be kind of one quote that just comes right top to mind that rings over and over, you know, another one. You know, I think what I would, you know, I’d share just right up front, but I’m going to, I’m going to have to look at it to remember of, yes. So here’s the quote. I would just, I think be good to inspire everybody that this is eminently doable.

Mark W. Johnson (32:17):

Developing and deploying an inspiring and actionable vision is a skill that anybody can learn beyond that. It can be driven into the cultures of even the most hidebound organizations to reignite, reignite their entrepreneurial and fight fires and infuse them with a renewed sense of purpose and direction. So that’s a, I think that quote is another part I would love to make, which is so many, so many people think that the visionary leader is a mystical, you know, very few people can be this kind of way type of leader or for that matter organization. I would argue that when you can combine inspiration with engineering, with practicality, you could actually make this, um, a lot more, um, uh, reachable, accessible to a broader group of people into organizations. And that’s the key is the visionary organization is the way to get past the tyranny of the urgent urgent. It’s the way to get past all the pull of the here and now.

Jim Rembach (33:23):

Well, and without a doubt, when I start thinking about all this and you’ve coming to the work that you’re doing now, um, it, it didn’t for you, I’m sure happen rapidly. I mean, you had to have a learnings along the way. And we talk about getting over the hump and having ourselves be, you know, redirected and things like that. And sometimes it happens quicker for others, but is there a time that you can remember where you’ve gotten over the hump

Mark W. Johnson (33:45):

and you can share? Well, I think a yes. So, you know, if I think about it from Innosight as an organization, you know, getting over the hump, to be honest, has been easily a 15 year journey. Uh, we spent our beginning days just talking about breakthrough innovation. You know, I co founded the firm with clay Christiansen of disruptive innovation fame. It was all about how do we create disruptive innovations for organizations that they can go on the offensive, but we kept banging our heads against these failure modes that we talked about and other reasons that the innovation never took root. It took us a long time to realize that innovation without a strategy behind it is going nowhere and that strategy, if it’s not longterm enough, is not going to be the right kind of strategy to be able to drive the innovation and then if there’s not the right kind of leadership development and discussion around, you know, being able to have these unstructured dialogues to be able to explore, envision and create the right site set of leadership mindset, then the strategy is not going to get implemented in the right way. So are getting over the hump is actually maybe I should say it’s almost taken us 20 years to figure out that we need to bring together leadership strategy with in a patient and think about them holistically. If not have any success with breakthrough innovation and helping companies own their future. That’s my hump. And

Jim Rembach (35:20):

I guess I went on a very long hump. Well, I mean it’s all about you learned how to do that retrospective engineering, right? Yeah, exactly. Okay. So when I start thinking about that, you talk about the journey and, and talk about the book and you’re talking about the works and you and you know, we, we have some, you know, you talked about organizations an issue. We have governments

Jim Rembach (35:38):

that have that issue too. I mean we keep seeing that repeated so there’s a lot of work to be done. And I started thinking about, you know, some of the goals that you have, can you share one of them with us? So when you say share a goal, you mean a goal for governments or for just as it relates to this work or just a general goal for you? For me personally. Sure. Whether I mean, and how you define that, how you’d like, yeah. Well, I mean, it’s probably not going to be surprised since the books just coming out my goal and you just mentioned on government organizations and you know, we can talk about global warming and you know, the whole argument about, okay, I think you’re seeing it happen as we speak of, you know, not a lot of effort in global warming because that’s way out in the future.

Mark W. Johnson (36:21):

I mean, if you talked about a broad based population, right? Uh, with a lot of pain up front to be able to do something about it. So my goal, I mean in a nutshell, I mean I’m not on a global warming campaign, but I’m just using that as one example. My goal is how can I help organizations, whether they be government, whether they be nonprofit, whether they be higher education along with business to be able to take some of this language in the book. That’s my goal really over this next, next year. That’s my passion is to be able to address an epidemic because the epidemic is, as the world gets more VUCA, volatile and uncertain and complex, we are actually getting more short term. We’re getting more transactional, we’re getting more blinded to what actually could be the frog and the boiling water problem. And that to me is very dangerous and very, um, very much my cause is to help more organizations be able to navigate all of this uncertainty and, and, and create greater potential for their longevity.

Mark W. Johnson (37:31):

Because I think without that, then we’re going to, we’re going to see just a lot more pain. We’re gonna see a lot more individuals who are gonna face on employment. You know, it’s, there’s some conversation that says, you know, let these large organizations get disrupted. Let them, you know, sort of fade away because that’s sort of creative destruction. There is something to be said about entrepreneurship coming in and creating new businesses and all that, but large institutions have lots and lots of capability and resident knowledge and we need to do something about helping them create more vision, more tangible vision that can help allow them to, um, navigate these very turbulent waters in a much more effective way than the way they’re doing it now. Which in many cases as I said, was about burning their furniture to heat their homes. And that is not a, um, that is not a strategy for being able to sustain for a very long period of time. And the fast leader Legion wishes you the very best. Now before

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Mark W. Johnson (39:25):

Uh, I think, uh, I need to gain more confidence in what I can can do for organizations and for, um, you know, for work that goes outside of business. I think I just have to be even more deliberate and more definitive and I think it’s just been my sense to just kind of hold back and be humble, if you will, about things. I think I need to be more assertive in my commitment to what we’re trying to get across. What

Jim Rembach (39:48):

is the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?

Mark W. Johnson (39:52):

Uh, to listen and, and I, that flip side of what I just said to listen and be humble because listening and being humble is on the other side of learning and being able to learn is the best way to drive growth for yourself and for your people.

Jim Rembach (40:09):

What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?

Mark W. Johnson (40:13):

Uh, being passionate about communications and being proactive about that communication and being sensitive about people’s needs and trying to reach out in little ways, in communicative ways to be able to help them help me and others to do, get what we want to achieve.

Jim Rembach (40:31):

And what do you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?

Mark W. Johnson (40:36):

Uh, one of my tools is to, um, be always thinking about what initiative I can take. So I use, uh, one tool is to keep the word initiative first and foremost in my mind because I think with an initiative comes the opportunity to make things out of nothing happened. And that’s a definitive way to think about leadership.

Jim Rembach (40:57):

And what would be one book that you’d recommend to our Legion? It could be from any genre.

Mark W. Johnson (41:03):

Uh, let’s see. One book that I would think about seeing around quarters by Rita McGrath.

Jim Rembach (41:10):

Okay. Past literal Legion, you can find, find links to that and other resources on Mark’s show knows page, including a link to the book lead from the future. How to turn a visionary thinking into breakthrough growth growth. And Mark’s show notes page will be fast Mark Johnson. Okay, Mark, this is my last Humpday add on question. Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25. You can take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you, but you can’t take it all.

Jim Rembach (41:36):

I’m going to choose one.

Jim Rembach (41:37):

So what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?

Mark W. Johnson (41:43):

Um, I would take back, um, being again, effective communicator because I think with communications comes the ability to gain not only understanding but to and knowledge, but to gain wisdom. Uh, because none of us have all the answers. So for really effective about communicating and learning from other people, it’s the fastest way to our own personal growth.

Jim Rembach (42:11):

Mark, I had fun with you today. Can you tell the fast leader Legion how they can connect with you?

Mark W. Johnson (42:15):

A couple of ways. One, you can connect with me through our company in a site, and also because I think communication, personal connection is so important. You can also connect directly by emailing

Jim Rembach (42:34):

Mark W. Johnson, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. The fast leader Legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump.