00:13 JAMES GAMAGE, HOST:
Welcome to this episode of Responsible Disruption Podcast. My name is James Gamage, Director of Innovation at the Social Impact Lab. Today we have the privilege of hosting Brant Cooper, the author of New York Times, best selling the Lean Entrepreneur, and his more recent book Disruption Proof: Empower People, Create Value, Drive Change which is the subject of today's podcast. So let me tell you a little bit about Brant. So Brent Cooper is a disruptor, innovator, and lean innovation expert. He is the CEO and founder of Moves the Needle, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lean Entrepreneur and Disruption Proof, a sought after keynote speaker and a trusted advisor to corporate executives and entrepreneurs. His mission is to empower individuals and teams to make the change they want to see in the world by reimagining business for the 21st century. So Brant, welcome to the show.
01:05 BRANT COOPER, GUEST 1:
Thank you for having me.
01:08 JAMES: Right, so I've worked in the world of organizational innovation for over 20 years and your book in that respect, your book really resonated with me because I've been a keen reader of Clay Christensen's work, the person who pioneered theories about disruptive innovation. And I've also tried to innovate within a variety of organizations and I can tell you, it's hard. And anyone who has worked in this space will understand the issues associated with trying to build more adaptive and flexible organizations that are future proof. And of course, this podcast is called Responsible Disruption, so I'm really excited to discuss your book today. So if we can kick off into the question. First off, an easy question. Why did you decide to write this book? Was it a natural follow on from the Lean Entrepreneur or was it just something that happened to you in the pandemic?
02:05 BRANT: Yeah, I guess the book has been in the works for the last 10 years. So for the last 10 years, I've been helping these organizations around the world try to innovate and try to create the structures inside their organizations to enable this innovation to happen and like you I feel like I've been, to a certain extent, beating my head against the wall and so the book was originally, I think going to be about what are the best practices of the companies that successfully quote, unquote, innovate, though I have to say that even before the pandemic, I was getting pretty tired of the word innovation. And how much it was overused and how much in the end, many companies, if not most companies failed to define the word for their own organization, and so the innovation groups and the practices really were meaningless, and I think that they were perpetually underfunded, but to be honest, I started seeing the world a little bit more from the C-Suite who was deciding not to fund that stuff, and I think it's because it just simply wasn't aligned with what the objectives were of those companies. And so then it really was kind of this wild goose chase, but anyway, the pandemic changed the book a little bit because I think what we saw there were organizations that were forced to adapt and those organizations that couldn't adapt suffered and those that could predominantly were companies that had turned digital to some extent. If not, were fully digital and also those that had adopted systems and practices and behaviors that were the human side of digital transformation and those things had to happen. Before the pandemic, you had to be ready had that mentality and those behaviors operating before the pandemic in order to benefit from them during that massive disruption caused by the pandemic. And so yeah, the book kind of changed and in my view actually even on the word disruption changed and I really came around to believing that innovation doesn't belong in its own group and its own silo, that it's really more about a mindset and that everybody in the organization needed it to varying degrees, but that the world was fundamentally changed that disruptions were not going to come from the Clayton Christensen model. They were going to come from almost normal worldly events that a global digital economy means that everybody experiences on an ongoing basis. So in other words, supply chain issues, cyberware attacks, pandemics, inflation, war, all of these things that have gone on at some levels in the past but were maybe regionally isolated now will ripple across the world ripple across all our economies, affect our businesses. There is no such thing as the normal anymore. And if your organization is just simply looking for black Swans or disruptive innovation, or breakthrough innovation. You were going to fail and you need to adapt the very being of your companies in order to be able to survive the digital age.
05:50 JAMES: Yeah. Thank you. I was reminded when you mentioned the word innovation there, cause I was going to ask you a question about that because I was tickled by the anecdote in your book around doing a conference presentation and asking people to Boo every time you said the word innovation and you managed to get all the way through to the version of the last sentence, you said it five times, so I like that.
06:13 BRANT: Yes, I have to say that's the only time I've been booed on stage. [Laughs]
06:21 JAMES: No, I'm sure. So you talked about disruption there and I think one of the early theses of the book is that disruption is constant. There's all sorts of phrases for it. The vehicle world we've heard of. But you're also very optimistic that business will find solutions that will help us reshape and reimagine our future and in some respects it's like a celebration of capitalism. Why do you think that?
06:51 BRANT: Yeah. Well, it's interesting. I just think that the fundamentals of capitalism is a natural way of being. It's like innate in human beings. And so I think in the book I mentioned, if you think about the countries that are considered communist, that I put in scare quotes, like in Cuba, has tons of great personally owned personally run businesses, restaurants and those type of things that people absolutely love. And it's just innate in us. And so I think that if we take a step back and look at capitalism from those fundamentals. It's a positive thing. It's human beings that are trying to create value for other human beings, and then we're going to trade in that value. And it raises the standard of living and makes us all more contented human beings, not only to exercise our own intelligence and creativity and producing value for others, but also then even in receiving the value that others are creating and so looking at it from that more fundamental point of view instead of capitalism is evil or the invisible hand will cure all ills, just looking at that fundamental equation, I think is a positive look at capitalism and can we then take that and scale it so that it does make a positive impact on the world and solve the real problems that are in the world that exists in the world and of course that requires us as citizens and through us, our governments, to regulate capitalism in ways that produce the outcomes that we want. And so that's us having to be able to wrestle control back of that engine of government away from the capitalists themselves, which again without judging anything, capitalists will do whatever makes them the most money, and so if you allow them to, then pull the levers of government, then they're going to pull the levers of the government in ways that allow them to make more money. But if you make it so the citizens are leveraging the powers of government, then you can still allow the capitalists to make a lot of money. But also create an equilibrium where the output of the capitalism within those government regulations actually produces products and services that benefit the citizens themselves, so that create value in the world and that becomes the focus and the profits from creating value belonging to the capitalists. But the government gets to regulate what that equilibrium looks like in terms of employment and wages and sustainability and diversity and all of these things that contribute to being fully human and content in the world in the quote unquote, In the pursuit of happiness.
10:05 JAMES: Yeah, I think it was Chapter 9 in your book. You weren't quite macro when you looked at the relationship between business and capitalism and society. And I think you advocated for a bit more purpose in the system and focus a bit more on the rights of employees and a bit more transparency. It's interesting to hear you talk about that because in some respects I thought that was almost counter to the narrative of earlier in the book. But I get it from you where you talked about it now. So I think that chapter was really good, actually. And I would love to read a whole book written by you about that. Because I though there's a very rich seam of conversation there.
10:55 BRANT: Yeah, I think in some degrees, in some ways, I think I bit off a little bit more than I could chew in one book. But I think that the way you described that arc was the purpose is that if you introduce from the beginning, really what I believe is the fundamental positive aspects of capitalism. In my own experience growing up and being introduced to those concepts and really studying a lot of that in school and all the rest. It's a positive relationship with capitalism and then the arc at the end being, well, if you believe me, at the beginning of the book that I'm not a whatever you want to call me, Marxist communists, whatever you believe that I love capitalism, here are ways that we can actually make it work better for more of us and have the desired outcomes that we want because in the end, that is what I think our purpose on life is to, as individuals try to be content, and I use that word purposefully because I don't think you could really be happy. I think that the sorrows of life in the circle of life and all of those things means it's a balance and that's the way it is. But also then as a society or as individuals wanting to contribute to something larger than ourselves, I think is also innate in us. So that was the arc. And I don't know if I pulled it off, but you picked up on what I was going for there.
12:23 JAMES: Yeah. No, that's good. Cool. So back to earlier chapters in the book. You talk about the attributes organizations need to have, to be RAD, resilient, aware, dynamic and you talk about 5 qualities of RAD organizations. So do you want to talk a little bit about that and what they are and how that plays out with organizations that are RAD.
12:49 BRANT: Sure. Right. So the RAD is a fun little SoCal acronym that is really trying to describe an organization that is resilient and so that it has some sort of a DNA that gives them their core strength. Like the tropical tree that's clinging to the shores that has roots that run deep. It could be that they're inventors or that they're great at distribution or could be that they have this powerful brand, but something is creating this strength from which the people of that organization feel a strong tie to the purpose and what that company is trying to achieve. But also that tree is flexible and blows in the storms and is not rigid. The rigid ones break and then the A of RAD is being aware and I like to think of the meerkat because the meerkat is not reactive. It's not like they're looking around just because they hear something, but they're rather proactive and sticking their head up out of the ground and looking around and taking in new information. So Gee, why are there factories closing in China in the winter of 2020? That seems like a phenomenon we should look into. Or here's this economic downturn where there's a ship stuck in the Suez Canal. Look at that supply chain issue there. So we're aware of these things that are changing in the world that might affect us. And then the dynamic part is, OK. That's great that you have all of that information. Can you actually change what you're doing based upon that new information? Maybe you don't have to change, but you're going through this process of pausing your work, looking up, taking in new information and changing based upon the new information where necessary. So from that you get RAD. Individuals inside of the business have to have their own behavior that I think contributes to an organization being RAD. And so those are the 5E's and the first one is empathy. And so that's understanding our customers deeply. It doesn't mean asking your customers what they want and doing what they say, but understanding why they say what they say and what their aspirations are and what their environments look like that will...can their needs be addressed by your solution. And it's also applying that empathy internal to the company, understanding your workers, workers actually understanding the triumphs and tribulations of their bosses. Right. So you actually getting empathy for where your bosses are coming from and why they're making the decisions that they are. And then the second E is exploration and so that's admitting when you don't know something and you have to go into learning mode. So you're not doing the same thing. This is like a question I asked people all the time is that the pandemic hit, if you continue to do all of the activities inside your business the same day after the pandemic is the same day before, I can guarantee you that you were failing. Everything has changed, so you actually have to go into learning mode again and use these principles of exploration to try to figure out how you're going to operate under the new conditions.
And then the third is equilibrium, and so that's finding a balance between execution work and exploration work and that doesn't occur just in the innovation side of the house, or just in a startup. It occurs to varying degrees throughout the organization, and this continues on. So I like to point out in HR. HR departments, now several years after or a couple of years after the pandemic, are facing this whole hybrid versus remote work, so there's a lot of uncertainty about what to do about that. So you can't just execute, you can't just do what you did before. The moment you start demanding, everybody must come back to work. You've got revolution on your hands. You've got things like the big quit and burned out employees and all sorts of other issues that come up. And so you actually can do exploration work, you can go and develop empathy, you can go and run experiments to try to figure out what are the right policies that will actually work, that create happy contented workers, but also serve the purposes of the business. And then you're using evidence to make decisions rather than your own personal biases. So anyway, that's this balance between that's in the very core part of the business exploration work that's needed because of the uncertainty that exists there. And that's what the equilibrium is trying to get to.
The fourth E then is I mentioned evidence. So that's using data and using the results of experiments and using the results of your empathy work to inform your decisions. I don't really want data to make decisions for us, but they should be an important part of eliminating the biases that we're bringing to the table. So you want to put together principles and processes that help us overcome our own biases so that we're making decisions that are better informed and then the final E is ethics. And I think it's especially true in the digital age. It’s easy to hide behind the keyboard. We all know that from social media and so I think that you have to be more as an organization, more explicit about the behaviors that are expected. And you integrate that into the daily work so that they don't just exist as values on the website, but are there actually integrated into the work and practices like agile and forming teams that people work on is one way to actually integrate it into the work that people are doing every day. Are we keeping our customers safe? Are our employees safe? What are these things that we can do to improve their safety? So those are the 5E's. They exist everywhere inside the business. All people need to exercise those five elements. Again, they're a little bit do different degrees based upon their job function. But it ends up being an ethos that I think everybody can buy into and ultimately, I think what you get are employees that get to exercise their intelligence and their creativity and feel like they're making a positive impact on the business and the work that they're doing is aligned with the priorities of the companies and the companies start reflecting the values of the way people are working. And so it ends up being this virtual cycle that you can get into, I firmly believe rather than I think what maybe the pandemic was the ultimate level of a more negative spiral that many companies were going through.
19:47 JAMES: Yeah. Yeah. So I'd like to unpack and probe the last point you made there about leadership and how to embed these behaviours in an organization. Is this about leaders walking the talk? Or what approach should leaders take to cultivate some of these behaviours in others? And I'm also conscious when asking that I'm also conscious that quite a lot of people are very comfortable doing what they've always done and aren’t always comfortable in changing. So how do you wake people out of their slumber, so to speak, and actually help them?
20:29 BRANT: Well, I think that it requires a certain type of leader, at least early on, your early adopters who already get the changes needed and that they actually maybe are already working on themselves. I think that one of the things... I'm curious what you've seen, but I mean really over the last five or six years I think there really has been a shift in leadership training. I mean we see words like empathy now are used in corporate commercials. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, except that the fact that the word is made it that far inside of corporation to me represents something good, even if it's not maybe at the level that we're all thinking about, but like, Brene Brown's books are super popular and there's a lot of talk about vulnerability and being able to admit when you don't know and you know what she calls rumbles, or I call it respectful. Rumbling is this ability to... you're making hard decisions, but you're doing it by having... I don't know if debate is the right word, but it's not an argument. It's an intense. Yeah, it's a healthy discussion and you need to bring evidence and you need to be able to point out things that you disagree with. There has to be this open disagreement, and I find in some organizations that there's so much respect that nobody's actually ever pushing back on anything. So I think we've lost this social dynamic that creates a more powerful team or a more powerful organization is actually getting to the best solutions by being willing to respectfully rumble and part of that is leaders that are encouraging that behavior and that does come from them, then demonstrating the behavior of being respectful and admitting when they don't know something and admitting when they were wrong and expressing that vulnerability as a way to start creating this space that allows other people to do that. And then once you have that, you have this ability to, I think, come to better solutions and to be able to say, for example, let's run an experiment to overcome this disagreement that we have and then we agree to it here on the data and or to the results. So I think it does require leaders that already grokked at, but they already exist in these organizations. I think that they've been there for a long time. I just think that they have been second fiddle to those that do the maybe the Jack Welch version of management which is the shouters and the top down command and control. And I think that's the Industrial age, that's artifacts of the 50s and it doesn't work in the digital age. And I think that it's not because we're all becoming woke or whatever these other epithets are, it's that we're actually responding to the changes that exist in the marketplace that were so globally interconnected and that consumers have, you're competing for their attention span amid, not only incredible amounts of information, but misinformation and disinformation and consumers have all of these choices and businesses have all these different choices. How am I going to spend this budget? It's not just competition between products, it's competition for the money itself. And so, you have to be so in tune with the customers needs are that you can't centralize that. That actually has to be this...you're pushing to the edge the ability of people to understand needs and develop solutions to address those needs. If you try to centralize all of that stuff, you're too slow, you're anti RAD, you're too slow, you can't change based on conditions. There's no way to catch up. And I think that that's where a lot of large organizations feel is they're too slow. They're not agile, they're not truly customer centric. They know they need to be all of those things. So how do we get there? And it's difficult, it's hard, but you need the leaders that are willing to push the decentralized, the decision making so that it's the people that are with the customers that are at the source that can understand those needs and develop the right solutions to address their needs.
25:21 JAMES: Yeah, yeah. And what role does organizational structure or business structure play in that. Is this as much about you putting out the right signals and create cultural solutions. Or is it about setting up agile teams or is it just a bit of both?
25:44 BRANT: Yeah, I think that early on it's the latter. And then if you've really made the change and you've really seen the light, then you actually address it long term through organizational design. So I think that if you just imagine the Henry Ford's assembly line, he's producing any color model that you want as long as it's black and they faced really very little market risk. But what they faced was technical risk and operational risk. And the technical risk they overcame in the creating of this ingenious assembly line. The operational risk was if we could produce this black Model T at the right price point, then we had a market, the middle class market was there for us to take. And so then what you had is an organizational structure top down that was everybody do the same thing every single day because we know that produces this black Model T that the middle class can afford. So that's one end of the continuum. And today, in my view, it's exactly the opposite. You have thousands of different models and options and colors. And you have to serve these niche markets. And so all of that decision making has to be pushed to the edge so that people can make those decisions as quickly as possible and as close to the customer as possible. And so that means that your organizational structure has to reflect that reality and it doesn't. We typically still organize our structures based upon the assembly line. It's by function, and so I think it runs counter to the behavior that we need to see. So what we do now is we force the function we have. Executives that say we will create these cross functional or interdisciplinary teams and they will behave in these ways in order to solve our customers problems. But the moment you take that force function away, everything will settle back into its old structure and so eventually what you do is you create a structure that reinforces that new behavior and now when you take the force function away, it continues to exist because the structure is supporting it.
28:07 JAMES: Yeah, yeah, cool. And I think you're probably touching on probably the next stage, I would say, which is how you scale innovation within an organization. Is that about setting up the functions structure and then just allowing that to propagate or talk a bit more about that.
28:30 BRANT: Yeah. So. Yeah. I'm a big fan of the idea life cycle curve. So I think you start with your early adopters and those are people that recognize the need at the beginning. that's not a hierarchical function, no matter what level you are in your organization, you will find people that are early adopters that recognize the need for that. And so what you're trying to do is provide a little structure to those people that want to work that way. You help them drive impact. You shine a light on the impact. The business or the organization reaps benefits from that, even though they're probably relatively small benefits, people can see that type of working is possible and that the results can be positive. And so then you shift into the early majority and you start to formalize that work a little bit. And you maybe have a central body that is providing the tools and the templates and the coaching and maybe can do a little bit of the work. But again, it's not an innovation silo. This is like exposed to the core business and even if taking resources from the core business, from the businesses that want to contribute that because they're interested in it. It's not sending it off into a silo, which I think is the old school Christensen way of doing it, and I don't think that works. And I think what you find is organizations start scaling that just within the early majority part. Again, you start getting a little bit more formality there, but it's not process driven, it's not over the top. Everybody must do this, this. And I think that that's the failure of most quote unquote transformations these days is big consulting firm, top down, heavy process oriented that forces structure on top of people without ever changing the behavior so it never works. You have to start with the behavior change, drive some amount of impact with the behavior change, and suddenly you get core business people going like, I need some of that energy here so you go from this push function where you're pushing this type of work and this behavior out to the edge out to the core business. And then you hopefully get to a point where the core business sees the benefit and they start pulling it and they want more of it and they see how it applies to marketing. They see how it improves efficiency. They can start seeing how working that way actually helps them achieve their numbers better, more efficiently that it actually improves the execution work. Right now they're all stuck with, I don't have time to do that because I have my numbers to hit. And if you actually give them the right numbers that are outcome based instead of output based, you will see that people actually more efficiently achieve their outcomes and once the business units drop that then they have all of the incentive that they need and that's where the scaling actually starts taking on a life of its own and frankly whatever your innovation group that led this effort or the center of excellence, or whoever almost is stepping back and allowing the core business to take it over because they see the benefits of working this way in achieving their near term goals. And that's really the magic moment. And I think that then again, the processes and those things become more codified to the point of maybe you're going to start tackling some of the structural issues that make it permanent.
32:32 JAMES: And you talk in the book about organizations reaching a flow state and I think that's the utopian state here is that ultimately they do this stuff without thinking. It becomes so much embedded as part of the culture and the way of working. Have you seen any organizations that really typify that?
32:51 BRANT: Yeah, so it's hard to find companies that have gotten to the point where they did it structurally, or at least that I know the outcomes of that. The one that jumps to mind is ING that did a full on agile transformation at the same time as doing really, I guess what one would describe as an innovation transformation with their pace program which was to define their innovation practices really around this combination, this moves the needle combination of lean innovation which is taking the best of design thinking and lean startup, rapid experimentation. Plus the agile processes. And they make it so that that's every day work and then they had this other group that was responsible for doing that in the midterm horizon and then also for the longer term horizon. And at the same time they did the top down agile transformation where everybody was put on teams and they got rid of the functional design. It's been a few years since I talked to them about how that's gone, but the stories that came out of the pandemic about how different parts of the bank were working within that were really pretty extraordinary stories. They were an example of a company that had done it pre pandemic and that it had benefited them during the pandemic. And so there's a couple of stories of that in the book, including their bank in Australia and their bank in Turkey and a couple of other areas that had really some pretty amazing results. There's other companies that have done it maybe on a smaller scale but did the forced function cross functional that had this positive outcomes at 3M and Cargill and those organizations all had... I like to emphasize that they had... like one, was led by the CTO's office, and this is the R&D function that would traditionally only be in the invention part, but they were leading the... Also, the commercialization side of it, which I thought was ingenious, so it makes them more like an internal startup and they had the business units involved and they had the business units and 3M had the business units involved to the degree that the business units were going like, you need to produce more evidence before we're going to invest. Which is totally the right conversation, right? It's not. Oh, here's my innovation budget. You need to give me more innovation budget. No, it's like here's our product that we have leveraged to start up and from Stanford and we've leveraged our own technology from our R&D group and we've done these commercial tests and we've produced this amount of evidence and we got this grant from the Department of Energy because we are going down this interesting path. And so they have all of these other elements that a startup has to do. And the business unit itself was like you need to get to this run rate before we're going to invest more in it. And again I emphasize that's a fair discussion and that emulates the startup world, and I think that the startup world largely works in that way. There's all sorts of issues inside of that, but generally the idea of startups having to prove milestones before they get further investments is the right approach. And then, of course I think from especially the customer centric side of it. Intuit had a long history of ensuring that the leadership was personally bought into the concept of being customer centric so that it was not just a I don't know, just a buzzword inside the organization and while Brad Smith was still CEO and Chairman. He had executives do what they called follow me Homes, which I think was a practice that came from Procter and Gamble, where they actually had to watch customers use their products. And I just think executives should be forced to do that everywhere. It just forces you to understand what the real issues are that you're trying to solve for your customers. And you can see the shortfalls in your own things that you think are so obvious. And the customers still struggle with it and you need to learn that dynamic to actually produce products and services that work. I think that there's a lot of legacy companies now that are getting into digital transformation, which I think is great but often they're so smart in their domain, like in their Health Sciences domain. They're so like, just big brains that they kind of think that the go to market part of it is the easy part and it's like it's a whole another universe and they need to see what happens when hospital staff is forced to use this new product with everything that's going on inside of a hospital environment. You cannot imagine that stuff sitting around a conference room table. You have to be out. You have to be out at the source.
38:31 JAMES: Yeah, as an insider, I used to work in a bank and it used to make me laugh. That senior executives sitting around a conference room table felt that they could project their lives and decide what an 18 year old school leave would want from their banking. It's just nuts, really, when you think about it...
38:56 BRANT: No, I think it's funny because you see that the commercials about design thinking or ideating and everybody's lying on the floor like kindergarteners at nap time. Imagining the world the way it would exist with their products or something. It's like, no, you have to get out into the world.
39:19 JAMES: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for that. I think you've gone through the whole process so to speak and giving us a really good idea of what big disruption proof is all about. But I want to ask you about the world of nonprofits. Obviously, that's of interest to us. Our world is being disrupted, whether that's from a funding and donor point of view or the greater need for services than ever before. Do these principles apply to us, to the nonprofit world or do you think the customers or clients are better served by organizations which follow a social enterprise model which balances that capitalist ideal with a looking to offer a social benefit as well. What are your thoughts?
40:11 BRANT: Yeah. So I guess I think that the fundamentals of what I'm talking about don't require capitalism at all. I think it's really just a group dynamic and how the world works these days. I think that there's actually an incredible number of stories, for example, of people starting social impact nonprofits with this great product idea and they actually will build the product first and then deliver it to some small village in Africa or South America and find out that product doesn't work in that environment or in that culture. I think there's just been a lot of examples of that, and I think it's extreme. I'm not sure if that happens all the time anymore, but it's an example of people that actually their heart is in the right place, but they actually practice exactly the same way as an entrepreneur who thinks if they build something, it's going to change the world. And so I think that this idea that, well, for a nonprofit, you have a bunch of different market segments that you have to look at. You have to look at not only the beneficiaries of the work that's being done, but also it could be that there's all sorts of layers of other volunteers or other people that must be involved in order to make that work done, and you've got donors and foundations, and they all have their own needs and their own ideas and their own issues. And all of these things. So all of those could be considered, quote unquote market segments. So the words change throughout. But I think the practices are the same like the people inside the nonprofits have to understand the beneficiaries as deeply as any company needs to understand customers, they have to understand the environment. They have to understand cultural issues. They have to understand what are the obstacles for those people to achieve what it is that they want where their aspirations are. And then there's all sorts of layers between those beneficiaries and the nonprofit that all end up being some levels of stakeholders that also you have to understand deeply and what's motivating them and what are their obstacles. So it ends up being a lot of design thinking, empathetic work and then running experiments to try to figure out what the best way is to address those needs. I don't know. You would have to tell me, but I think that the hierarchical issues are often similar. I think the people that started it, or the executives believe that they're at the top because of their expertise, and that's true to some degrees, but, I'm in my own nonprofit now, and I think the people that run it are just absolutely vital to the organization, and the nonprofit wouldn't be able to run or exist without them, and I value their input but I don't think that they actually particularly understand the beneficiary.
And so we have to balance the board out with the people that know how to run an organization like that with the people that understand the ground level beneficiaries. And so I think that you run into a lot of the same issues, and I think that the way that we've worked with nonprofits in the past where they have to understand there's different stakeholders, deeply and this idea of running experiments to try to figure out what the best way is to address their needs works really well. I think what's one of the interesting things that I've seen and I don't know if it's more or less in nonprofits, but I think that there's maybe a healthy skepticism of technology in the sense that technology can actually maybe exasperate problems or create a barrier between people and the beneficiaries of the work that they're doing. And that often extends to data, and yet data, it can be so powerful to help you understand whether you're doing the right thing. And so how can you use data in a nonprofit to understand that you're actually achieving your desired outcomes. And so what we found with a couple of nonprofits that we worked for is that leadership actually didn't want the right data because then it was too easy for them to be held accountable to the outcomes rather than the output. And everybody wants to be measured by output because they can control it. How much is my part of the organization producing as opposed to what is the level of benefit that the beneficiaries are getting from my level of output? Is sort of a vulnerable leap in terms of how you're measuring performance, but ultimately to me, that's where you want to get is that you know that you're getting the greatest impact for the dollar that you're investing, so it's not really a return on investment. It's almost like an impact on investment and that's actually the golden number for a nonprofit.
45:47 JAMES: Yeah, yeah, actually, I agree with everything you said there. I do think the issues there, I think the issues are pretty similar. The beneficiaries as you call them and understanding those is vital and the role of technology and data in the nonprofit world is immature, and ultimately there's a huge amount of scope to improve that. So that's great.
46:15 BRANT: Yeah. Interesting. I've done some talks in the past few months about like, for instance, the rise of product management in the corporate world. And it's really because of this digital transformation. Suddenly, if they find themselves in need of this whole other function product management, which I think is a great idea, it'd be interesting to see how that would work, even though nonprofits don't typically think of a lot of what they're doing as product, there is a way that they can imagine that as a product or a service, and to have a product management role would be interesting to see if that starts emerging in the nonprofit.
46:56 JAMES: Yeah, I think a lot of nonprofits might be a bit allergic to the word product over their customers, but that would be really interesting.
47:01 BRANT: Right. That's what I was saying that, yes. So we can invent a new title.
47:06 JAMES: Right. OK, look, that's been fantastic, but we're drawing to a close now, so one last question. Is there anything we've missed or is there anything you'd like to leave our listeners with?
47:23 BRANT: Well, if we had a have a minute, I guess I think that I talked really from a very high aspirational level, and I think that I always try to leave with something that's a little bit more hands on and practical perhaps. And so things that perhaps your listeners might be able to actually do and I think that if for a moment we looked at whether they're a leader and they have a team or a number of people that report to them, or if they're just an individual, it's this idea of thinking about the uncertainty in their work, in other words, it doesn't have to be big uncertainty. It’s what are things that keep you up at night or things that are not working as well as you think that they could or you actually don't know how to accomplish something? That's the type of uncertainty that I'm talking about. And I think it would be interesting to go through the exercise of trying to, if you have resources, form a team with your resources and give them the mission of accomplishing figuring out that uncertainty and this would be a way to test some of these behaviors, the 5E's that we were talking about earlier on a real issue that you're facing. And you can just do it yourself. But here's this uncertainty bucket. And I'm gonna think through how do I interview my beneficiaries of me solving that uncertainty and how might I go about solving it? And here's some experiments. And let's look at some evidence and there's all sorts of resources for free online everywhere, including at Moves the Needle that helps you with the interviewing or the empathy work or with the running experiments to try to overcome that uncertainty. And so you can either do that as an individual or form a team and give them the responsibility to do it and see if they can prove to you that they have the ability to do it and to me that's maybe an impactful way to get started small to just sort of demonstrate these principles.
49:33 JAMES: OK. Thank you. Thanks for that and actually one last question for you. So what's next? Do you have another book in you? I mean, are you gonna write about tonight? What's next for you?
49:45 BRANT: Yeah, I don't know. It's a good question. I'm done with writing for now. I feel like, but I don't know. I guess I still just end up producing a lot of content and maybe I'll come up with another book. But I think that it's kind of day-to-day. We're developing some online courses for some of this that people might be interested in at movestheneedle.com. And just generally people can connect with me on LinkedIn or send me an e-mail at email@example.com. I'll respond to all. But yeah, it's really just proselytizing for a while longer what I've already written. Then maybe we'll see if we can do another book at some point.
50:30 JAMES: That'd be good. I'm sure it'd be a great read. And instantly we'll put your contact details and your site website address into the show notes for our listeners. And I assume the book is available in all the best book shops and it's pretty simple to get hold of.
50:46 BRANT: Yeah, it's in all the retail channels. So if you don't see it, you can certainly ask for it or order online from your favorite bookseller.
50:56 JAMES: That's great. OK, cool. We'll make sure we put that in the notes. So we're drawing to a close, so thank you very much for your time today. I mean from my own background, I really enjoyed reading the book and it was great having a chat with you about it and I think it's been a good discussion and I hope our listeners have learned a lot from it. So thank you very much to you, Brant, and to our listeners, thanks for choosing to spend time with us. We know you have a choice. So until next time goodbye.
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