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.

Books and References:

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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.

To learn more about innovative defense strategies or in attending a CIO Innovation Forum lunch, email

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

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Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication

Today I have an amazing guest. His name is Dr. Jeff Karp and he is a Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He is also a Principal Faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and an affiliate faculty member at the Broad Institute and at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

I’m just getting warmed up, wait until you hear the rest of his background. This is a real special guy.

He works in the fields of drug delivery, medical devices, stem cell therapeutics, and tissue adhesives. He has published over 125 peer-reviewed papers, with more than 18,500 citations, and has given over 300 invited lectures. He has over 100 issued or pending national and international patents.

Several technologies developed in his lab have led to multiple products currently being funded, and he’s launched seven companies that have raised over $300 million in funding. These technologies include high-tech skincare, tissue adhesives and 3D-printed biomedical devices, immunomodulation with biologically responsive materials. We talked about small molecule regenerative therapeutics with an initial target of hearing loss and other aging therapies; as well as stem cells, cannabinoid therapeutics, biomedical devices to improve child safety, needles that automatically stop when they reach their target, and a bio-engineered luminal coating for controlled GI targeting.

Dr. Karp has received over 50 awards and honors. He has been recognized by Boston Magazine as One of 11 Boston Doctors Making Medical Breakthroughs’; The Boston Business Journal as a Champion in Healthcare Innovation’ and by MIT’s Technology Review Magazine (TR35) as being one of the Top Innovators In The World with three members from his laboratory also receiving this award.

I spent a lot of time talking to Jeff about how he builds his teams and how he empowers them to take on these projects. What he’s done is – he’s bridged academia and entrepreneurship and, that’s no small feat! I was interested to know – with the co-founding of six companies, how does he get research out into the world to really impact lives?

We also talked about mentor development. One of the biggest things that he targets is finding – and building mentors. He is always actively meeting people and he talks about this and why the power of meeting new people every two weeks. Another thing we talk about is reducing problems to their essence’. What I love is when I hear scientists talk about how they really place a lot of focus on this radical simplicity’ and the art and discipline of reducing problems to their essence so they can solve problems in the useful, practical solutions to real-world problems.

This is a really, really fun interview with a world-impact leader in medicine. And bringing cutting edge therapies to market with a team. A team of people really dedicated to changing the world.

So, with this, I want to welcome you to my great conversation with Dr. Jeff Karp.

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