Sept. 16, 2021

How to turn Visionary Thinking into Breakthrough Growth by Leading from the Future with Mark Johnson | Global Thought Leader

How to turn Visionary Thinking into Breakthrough Growth by Leading from the Future  with Mark Johnson | Global Thought Leader

In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Mark Johnson, co-founder and senior partner at Innosight. Innosight is a growth strategy consulting firm focused on helping leaders design and create the future instead of being disrupted. Mark Johnson focuses on growth strategy and disruptive transformation and has authored many books, including his latest, Lead from the Future. In this conversation, Mark Johnson discusses steps leaders can take to help their teams think more clearly, creatively, and expansively in guiding the organization through ongoing disruption. 

 

Some highlights:

-Mark Johnson talks about the importance of focusing time on future-back thinking.  

-Mark discusses why facts and data are not as helpful in a future-back thinking approach.  

-The present-forward fallacy and how to overcome it.

-How leaders can get their teams to rally around a clear vision of the future.

-Mark Johnson on the importance of becoming more narrative-oriented in communicating a vision of the future.  

 

Mentioned:

-Clayton Christiansen, Harvard Business School professor, author, and Co-founder of Innosight

-Dr. Bob Johansen, author and a distinguished fellow with the Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley (Listen to Dr. Bob Johansen's Partnering Leadership episode here)

-Admiral Jim Stavridis author 2034


Book Recommendation:
Lead from the Future by Mark Johnson and Josh Suskewicz

 

Connect with Mark Johnson:

Mark Johnson on LinkedIn

Mark Johnson on Innosight

 

 

Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:

MahanTavakoli.com

 

More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 

PartneringLeadership.com

 

Transcript

Mahan Tavakoli:

Welcome to partnering leadership. I'm really excited this week to be welcoming Mark Johnson.

 

Mark is co-founder and senior partner at Inosight as strategic innovation consulting and investing company. Mark co-founded Inosight with Harvard business school, professor Clayton Christiansen, who also had a significant impact on my own thinking with respect to organizational strategy jobs, to be done, the concept of disruption and Mark is himself taking the thinking to the next level a lot of conversations  about how we can lead our organizations for visionary thinking and breakthrough growth by leading from the future. 

 

Now, a lot of leaders tell me I'm having trouble leading for the present, let alone lead from the future, but Mark shed some great thoughts, perspectives on why sometimes leading from the future is both easier And necessary all at the same time. 

 

I also love hearing from you. Keep your comments coming. Mahan@mahantavakoli.com. There's a microphone icon on partnering leadership.com. Really enjoy getting those voice messages. Don't forget to follow the podcast. and for those of you that enjoy these on apple, leave a rating and review when you get a chance that will help more people find the conversations. 

 

Now, here is my conversation on lead from the future with Mark Johnson.

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
Mark Johnson. Welcome to partnering leadership. I am absolutely thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.

Mark_Johnson: 
Thank you, Mahan. Great to be here. 

Mahan_Tavakoli:
I have loved your books most, especially "Lead from the future," because I think it is a brilliant book and it couldn't have come at a better time for leaders as we are dealing with a pretty severe disruption in all aspects of life. But before we get to your book, we'd love to know whereabouts you grew up, mark, and how your upbringing impacted the kind of person you became.

Mark_Johnson: 
Sure. It's interesting. I was born here in Massachusetts, Chelsea Naval hospital. My, my dad was a Marine Corps officer. He had retired when I was born. We moved to Florida when I was a year and a half old. So I pretty much grew up really in South Florida, which was as a lot different than being in Massachusetts.

 And that was my whole upbringing there. I think one of the interesting things I reflect on and in my upbringing, aside from being in a very sunny and warm place was my dad as a former military and then an airline pilot and who was very mathematically engineering inclined. And my mom was an opera singer and very artistic of very creative and I think a combination of just their passions and talent and proclivities and probably inherent DNA if you will. Amalgamated within me, because I feel like a lot of my work has been at the intersection, but like lead from the future of things that are more creative and artistic, like developing a vision, I think has a lot of art to it. But then the engineering that comes in thinking about a process of innovation or how do you translate that?

I often think about this combination of my mom and dad. And how both in their words and action and just who they were have blended in me. And I think an interesting way and where I've ended up professionally in life.

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
What a great combination, as you said, to lead from the future, requires some of the creativity and the ability to put yourself in that future. Process and a systemic way of having some of those conversations. But you ended up coming to Annapolis and attending the Naval academy.

What was that experience like for you?

Mark_Johnson: 
Honestly nobody sits and looks at say plebe summer and goes, gosh, that was the best thing that ever happened to me. But I have to say I loved it. I loved every aspect of it really. I love to being on the Severn and the just the beautiful campus And the town of Annapolis.

I really did acclimate again, this is this interesting combination towards the discipline, towards the rigor and the regiment of that military training and military life. 

I was oriented towards the academics of being an aerospace engineer and just the strength of the school in terms of engineering and the math and the sciences, and just the comradery, just the kind of friends that I made at the academy that to this day my individual company of the class of 86 were very tight. We stayed close on our group meet chat and we have zoom meetings and we're looking forward to our reunion this year. The Naval academy was an amazing experience for me.

And I always fondly think about that time. And then the subsequent time that I was in the Navy and the ended up in the nuclear power program on surface ships, but that was equally rewarding to me. And I would never rethink for a moment doing anything other than that initial path in my life.

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
And one of the great things has been actually the armed services have in many respects reinvented themselves effectively and even their leadership. I know you are friends with Bob Johansen and I had a great conversation with him, but the fact that in many respects with some of the future back thinking, the armed services are doing a much better job than many of the organizations navigating the crisis.

Mark_Johnson:
I think that's true. There is something to be said about the nature of the armed services and the sort of ecosystem or community around them war gaming the whole nature of readiness and having to imagine how things could go in the future and then bring that back.

So I think there's an inherent nature of how the military works. I do think I continue to have my own view to continue to do more of the sort of transformative elements of like asymmetric warfare and all those kinds of things that I think continue to require us getting out of an original defense paradigm.

And I think more future back is needed. I will say I'm also good friends with Admiral Jim Stavridis who just has his own book that came out. About amongst a number of books, 2034, which I've loved, which is a story looking into the future looking 14 years or whatever into the future about what could happen between the United States and China.

And I think that's powerful and there'll need to be more of that to really put ourselves in the future and really think not within existing military doctrine, but how the whole thing could play out in a different way and what are the implications of what we need to do in a geopolitical world?

And not only from the defense side, but the diplomacy side. So no, absolutely. It's an area that's right. Just because things do change. The enemy changes, the world changes, technology and the importance of being able to anticipate more than anything else, because there are periods when things stay calm and peaceful, and then all of a sudden it's sheer terror or something happens that needs to be addressed.

And that will all constantly, I think, require this sort of future back lens to, to be best prepared. 

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
Now Mark, one of the challenges that I hear from a lot of leaders with respect to doing some Future back thinking is that at this point they have been through a lot of disruption and in some cases they feel pretty proud of the pivots that the organization has made in a few weeks, they were able to get everyone remote if they needed to, for other organizations deliver services to their customers differently.

But they feel there is so much turbulence and change happening now. They say, let me ride this out until there is some stability before I can think forward. So what is your thought with respect to the moment we are facing now and how and why leaders should use this moment for some future back thinking.

Mark_Johnson: 
It's a great question. I have a lot of sympathy and understanding for dealing with all the disruption now and having to address the here and now, and what are all the operational execution oriented kind of things that take attention to do that. But you have to remember as leaders leaders and leadership is about setting direction and giving a hope and vision and inspiration for the organization.

And so that never changes guiding an organization to its north star defining what that north star is. And I would say it becomes in many ways, even more important in the midst of turbulence to say, yes, we're being buffeted about, and there's a lot of changes happening, but we still know where we're going.

And we still have that ability to look past the tree tops and see that, that place that we want to have as an intended destination. So that would be kind of 0.1 because people need that hope and that commitment it's a little bit back to a military analogy or story is Admiral James Stockdale, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

He, his, the whole Stockdale paradox is yes, you have to be realistic about the moment and deal with it. But at the same time you have hope that you ultimately are going to get out of it. Out of being a prisoner of war even if it takes time. So I think it's that duality that applies here.

Yes. We have to deal with the moment and be realistic and attentive, but we also have to be planning for the future. And I think the other point I was going to make was planning for the future doesn't have to be equally distributed between dealing with the here and now and operate and then execute, just carving out, say 10% or five to 10% of the time to be talking about the future and its implications and understanding what kind of seeds do we need to plant today to prepare for that?

Because the other side of the coin of facing this disruption is it's not going to be the only thing that hits us, right? We're in many ways to coin an army term, VUCA, volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, the world becomes more VUCA and there's going to be something else. There could be a second pandemic, or there could be some kind of cyber terrorism that is of extreme level.

And so disruptions and major trend forces that skewed towards a whole different future are really part of the reality of our lives. And I would say. There almost has to be a way to continually strategically managing the future, even if it's that 10% of leadership time. Also doing the 90% of the operating and execute.

And I, unfortunately I see too many organizations that are virtually a hundred percent, regardless of COVID are not spending time in a present forward operate and execute. Let's just plan for the next three years. 

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
Yeah, I totally agree with you, Mark, in that many of the same leaders are the same ones that even pre COVID were spending most of their time on that present rather than the kind of future back thinking that you talk about. And you're also talking to book about the present forward fallacy, which is both a combination of a human heuristics and biases that we have, and the way we have been used to operating our business.

What is that present forward fallacy and how can we overcome that?

Mark_Johnson: 
The present forward fallacy sound actually ended up coining of maybe a pretty fancy definition there or a fancy way to say. But all it really means is that?

The fallacy that the organization can be incremented indefinitely into the future, that that there's a straight line that just goes infinitely up and onward and that we won't have to ever make any kind of transformative changes to the nature of our business model or business business portfolio or in any significant way that we can continue to drive sustaining innovations in the world of clay Christensen and disruptive, and that there won't be the need for being able to look in a transformative way in the future, which by the way when you think about it and not get too technical, of the function being a transformative S curve type function, as opposed to a linear.

 That's when we have to look from the future back that we're not going to be able to just linearly look forward. We have to actually look in the future to better understand the potential for transformation and why we need to have part of our time allocated towards exploring and envisioning what things could be as opposed to just sustaining indefinitely, the nature of how things are today.

So that's really the present Forward fallacy. And as you said, it's just reinforced by our cognitive biases, which tend to hold us to today's paradigms and then further reinforced by human beings that create rewards and incentives. That just cause us to prioritize our best customers that demand us continuing to increment and improve what we're already doing well today. 

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
I know, Mark, you and Innosight guide clients on these types of conversations. And part of it is the importance of spending at least 10% of your time on that future, which a lot of leaders don't, didn't pre pandemic don't during the pandemic. So having that be a priority, but beyond it being a priority, you also mentioned that data doesn't work when you're having those conversations. So what do you use or what do you recommend for leaders to use, to be able to have a robust conversation of that future in order to then have the future back thinking.

Mark_Johnson: 
The operative word is assumptions. Facts and data, while you can somewhat drive it by a slow moving trend line and say, Hey, that could be almost factual facts and data really are about the present or reflection of the past. They're not necessarily many times they have nothing to do with the future.

So we have to use a different mechanism to be able to manage the future. And that is through the process of developing assumptions. And so that assumptions is the operative word. And what we think about is how do you over time through instead of an operated execute mentality, go into more of a bright brain learning mode the design thinking nature of things were explore, envision, discover. So how do you explore the future based on faint signals and trends and the convergence of trends and be able to pull out through a set of dialogues. So the other part of this is that you don't do it alone.

You really do it with a group of leaders or, and subject matter experts to have a debate and discussion and diverge on a different set of views, which then can be converged to try to get to a core set of what everybody agrees are a core set of assumptions about the way the world may work in the future.

 And so you need that diverged converged, dialog oriented, explore envisioned discover approach, as opposed to the other 90%, which is going to be, give me the data, give me the facts. We will take that in and we'll make decisions and we'll go implement. 

So that's how that side works is it's more of a what we call abductive logic. What's the art of the possible? What do you have to believe for that to be true? You have to think clean sheet, you have to drive by these assumptions as opposed to being anchored on facts and data. Because you're really trying to develop as Bob Johansen would say, who I know has been on your show from the Institute of the future.

You're trying to build a foresight point of view about the way the world's going to work, that leads to an insight or a set of insights, which then lead to a few aha moments. That become a way that you can say, okay, we're going to do an experiment. Now we're going to plant some seeds to act. We think could be a future disruption or a future part, a part of the future that we need to be targeting as an opportunity and being able to do what we need to do now to start moving us in that direction. 

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
So that's a first critical step doing that future back, thinking, Mark, the way you were describing. Now, a part where I see a lot of organizations and leaders fail is that when there has been that future back thinking there are vested interests in the organization that are threatened by whatever those assumptions are.

There's always a core element to the business, whether in the Kodaks of the world or to blockbusters of the world that ended up rejecting whatever those assumptions are. So for leaders to be able to actually help their organizations embrace that vision of the future, what do you recommend and what have you seen work best?

Mark_Johnson: 
Sure, no. Another great question. First of all, what works best is that the leadership team is a set of people that are as Jim Collins would say are on the bus or the right people to put on the bus that have locked elbows together and said, we are first and foremost in service of the enterprise and its purpose and its vision.

And when we get together, we take off any kind of parochial hats about our different line of business or our different functional lead and really be for the sake of the enterprise. So some of it is, it has to be a mindset shift. Set by the CEO probably that says, this is how we're going to think about our enterprise.

So that would be first and foremost to almost stave it off preemptively to say, we're doing our best to not be parochial here, but we're combined together. I think the second is to, as part of that is to recognize that part of looking into the future is to understand the implications for the enterprise.

And in those implications, be forthright in asking the question when we look five to 10 years out and based on what the world could end up doing both in general and to our core business and everything, or our core organization, what kind of gaps do we see emerging? The most obvious gap is a financial gap.

 That our businesses are going to commoditize and we're not going to achieve our growth objective, but their positioning gaps too strategically. We're not going to be relevant where we should be in our mission or what have you. Those gaps are another way to galvanize leaders in an organization is say a little bit, the frog and the boiling water.

We can be fine the next three to five years. But since we spent time in the future, we've really talked about it. There's some serious gaps. And if we're really good stewards of our organization, are we really gonna wait until this becomes a real problem, our missed opportunity? Or are we going to try to do something about it now?

And that includes saying Yes, we have a viable business right now, but the forces of commoditization and other factors are going to mean this isn't really going to be viable in the future as part of our portfolio and have a truthful admission to that. Then the mix of business or the mix in the organization will change.

Into the future. And some things will be deprioritized and let go. And that leaders within there have to accept that. So that's what I found is one to set the tone lock arms, and be able to start to understand gaps in the future. And insist on the values of the organization. It's not about trying to hold onto something just because you're on top of it for too long, but to really be part of where the direction of the organization should go and then try to encourage that leadership can move around that they're still valued, even if they might have to have a different role going forward at some point. 

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
when I reflect on that, Mark, the examples that come to mind that have brilliantly done that from the jobs of the world, to the Bezos of the world, to Reed Hastings or arguably now Elon Musk, they're all founders that have a very strong vision. In addition to that, it's almost like the organization, the board, the shareholders, everyone is willing to let them take the organization there.

What can mere mortals do to be able to guide their organizations again, to that unknown future, which in many instances requires risking. The known added Kodaks of the world, risking the film business core part of their revenues. Blockbusters of the world, risking their rentals. That was a core part of their revenues.

How can leaders that are not founders of organizations lead their organizations effectively to that future vision?

Mark_Johnson: 
Part of it, you've already answered, Mahan, which is you cited blockbusters and Kodak where are they both ended up? So you could do a poor, you could do a case study, understanding that disruption happens. And if you're not on top of it and manage it in the right way, you will be disrupted when these technologies that enable new business models like digital come digital imaging comes in.

 You can try to say, Hey Founder led and we can't do what we do because we got to protect the core, but you can look at these case studies and say that's a fool's errand. If you're really a good leader and good steward of the business, you can't stop disruption.

Disruption is a process. And you have to accept the process is going to happen and then just be as proactive to, to manage what is ultimately going to be the outcome? So one is I think, case study understanding of how the process of disruption happens can help to say, do I really want to go the way.

Of Kodak or the way of blockbuster. The second is to have a language on the positive side of something like future back and lead from the future and say, there is a way to manage the future. It's not as crystal ball oriented, as you think. And again, as Bob Johansen says, it's not about certainty.

It's about getting clarity. So there's a whole language and a whole approach to managing the future that you, with the right perspective, doesn't put it into some kind of it's all about. Guessing or we don't have a crystal ball. It's not that at all. So there's a mindset shift that has to happen.

And I think that helps a lot too. The other is to understand, there are examples of visionary leaders who are not founders Satya Nadella of Microsoft. He came in with a mantra that basically said we need to be a culture of learning at all is not know it all and has transformed Microsoft ag Lafley came into Proctor and Gamble with the consumer is boss and a vision about how he was going to drive organic growth through innovation and transformed Proctor and gamble. So there are professional managers, if you will, who have taken the role to be visionary in their organization. And I found the more that you can articulate your vision and become more narrative oriented and tell the story of why something needs to be done. That might be painful at first, or may seem to threaten the core. But you, if you explain the reasons and the direction that you're taking people within the organization, as well as stakeholders outside the organization, including investors will be more readily supportive than you might think.

 But it's just when it fails to be articulated in a compelling narrative where nothing is said, that actions that go past the status quo might come under greater scrutiny.

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
And that's why you also do a great job in differentiating between truly a vision and the strategy. And a lot of times those two are confused and this future back thinking can give the leaders the vision that they can aligned organizations around. I would like to go a little bit further on this conversation though.

A lot of organization has a lot of secondary education Institutions of higher learning colleges and universities are right now facing this struggle. I've had conversations with presidents of different institutions. And in most instances they are repeating that, you know what, online will be there to a certain extent, but people get value from in-person, which I believe they do get from in-person experiences that said they also have.

Big buildings that they have built that they need to pay for and alumni that have certain expectations. And there are lots of different stakeholders. Get in the way of these institutions from truly being able to embrace that vision of the future. It's not the university president or the deans that can drive the organization forward by themselves.

We'd love to get some of your thoughts, Mark both with respect to where some of this education, secondary education is headed and how, again, leaders. These multi-headed monsters, where they have lots of different stakeholders can guide their organizations to that future vision that might require sacrificing some of what they have built up to date.

And I've gotten used to up to this point.

Mark_Johnson: 
Sure. One is I use this terminology as a section of of the early part of the book that the Calvary's not coming, meaning there's no time. At least I see soon where incentive structures are going to change or where an existing large university or large organization is all of a sudden going to be able to forego its assets and its all the things that it's invested in for a very long time. So the first step is just like any entrepreneur who is not bogged down by any of the existing infrastructure is an entrepreneur dreams. An entrepreneur has a vision absent of resources of what could be.

And that's what motivates him or her for what they try to do when they create something new and different in a startup. I think it equally applies to a university president or a CEO, or ahead of a government agency. You first have to again, take and put all of that aside for the moment. It doesn't mean it isn't going to come back, but you have to start with what's the right thing to do first and say, if we just have our assets like our core assets of money and what we're good at inherent things we're good at. And we look into the future and we understand where things are going based on trends and faint signals and so forth along with trying to really fulfill our purpose. What's the vision. Based on the environment and its implications of where do we want to put ourselves in that environment and do that in a normative fashion.

And I argue in the book, the Calvary's not coming in again of doubt to that means you got to drive through vision. It's not going to start with way, Hey, we just need to change or we're going to change things. You have to bring the power of, and the passion that comes behind a purposeful vision, that's articulated well to say, this is where we need to go.

And then you work that backwards through milestone planning to say, we recognize we have all of this infrastructure and orthodoxies and existing ways. We do things. But we're going to plant some seeds now. Test and learn experiments a separate organization to start doing things, to help us get online which of course has been many of the case of different universities anyway.

 And use that as a mechanism to start moving in the direction of thumb, the things that could happen in the future. And when you do that, you learn. First of all, how are the exam experiments playing out? It helps you adjust your vision to say based on how the world actually is moving forward and what I've learned with trying to move towards that future, I'm adjusting my narrative.

And so you're constantly in this feedback loop of adjusting the narrative while also learning and doing things in a different way. In allocating a small portion of resources to do that. Managing things that have to be managed today, but the alternative is to say, We can't do anything because we have all this baggage and just end up getting disrupted in dying a slow death.

So we'd rather build the boat, even if it's a very small boat to start thinking about how we can move over to this new boat from the old boat, then to not build the new boat at all, and just live on something that maybe ultimately sinking. 

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
Yeah, and I love combining what Bob Johnson says with a beautiful image that you talk about is that Bob Johansen talks about clarity, not certainty, right? You do need to have clarity and I love how you describe it's an impressionist painting. 

 That you are creating in that vision. And there's a certain level of experimentation.

You have clarity on the direction, but not necessarily on the exact specifics of it.

Mark_Johnson: 
Exactly. And Bob also talks about be clear on where you're going, but flexible on how you get there. So there needs to be a lot of flexibility in this and the whole point of doing experiments as much as you can do. I understand that some things require some minimal level of capital and all of that, but the more you can be in learning and discovery mode, as opposed to, we're just going to invest in, go on this, the more ability that you have, the more agility you have to be able to pivot and make changes.

But I think what has to be understood is. It's as much about the opportunity as it is the threat. Yes, a lot of this could be about a threat to the core organization, but we don't have good metrics to, to define lost opportunity costs and that's as important we just never measure that.

 We always measure like return on investment on the existing, but we don't have any good measurement to say what's the cost of missed opportunity. And there's lots of opportunity for organizations more than they think to reinvent themselves, if they can do it in the right way. But absent, looking into the future with a vision to say, this is pulling us in this direction.

You're only stuck. Shortsightedly just saying we have all these things to date. Like we have a film business, how are we going to protect the film business? Because look at all this money we make from the film business. And so therefore I can't, we can't see how we could ever adopt digital and therefore it gets deprioritized.

And then you face what we face, which if it's not going to be your organization that does it to yourself, then somebody else is going to do it too. So it, there's no way out of this. All you're doing is prolonging the inevitable and really looking so short-sighted to not see what's coming at you.

And that's why I said the distinction between vision versus strategy. A good vision allows you to think about potentially playing a new game or at least part of a new game. Whereas strategy really is about how do you win the existing game? And so that's why we've lost. I think in many ways, the discipline of vision development it's relegated down to basically a one sentence statement that comes down to the HR organization, helping leaders create a vision and mission statement.

And we're not sufficiently developing what a vision really should be in the purpose for it and how to make it something powerful. 

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
Absolutely. That's one of the reasons I love your book and that it's not just the vision statements that a lot of organizations have come up with, that they put up on their website or on the wall. It is truly a vision of that future. World. So it's not the typical vision statement now, as I recommend your book and your thinking to a lot of different people, one of the initial concerns I'd heard was people I said I'm not the CEO, I'm not the top person, the organization.

And I have found myself referring to bill HighQ repeatedly. My question to you, Mark is. Part of the important role of a future back thinking is for the CEO and the senior leadership team, but how can others in the organization also embrace future back thinking and have an impact on their organizations?

Mark_Johnson: 
Sure. Just by way of analogy, when Clay's book innovator's dilemma, it came out in the late nineties, one of the first groups to really grab a hold of this idea that disruptive waves enabled by technology and how that could disrupt the incumbent business. One of the first groups was a set of middle managers in Intel corporation and they saw this coming and they said this our microprocessor business could easily get disrupted.

 We're going towards the high end. And there's the potential for there to be low end chips. They started to build a language around sustaining versus disruptive innovation and it was grassroots and it ultimately led towards a chairman and CEO, Andy Grove. Catching wind of this and what's this innovator's dilemma about, he read the book and he found religion.

If you will, on this and brought Clay in and lo and behold, this was something that mattered to him in the management team. So I think there's tremendous influence that people have in an organization. They don't have to be in the C-suite. They can build a language, right? A lot of things. Change management piece. And this is a lot of what this is about, is being able to say, we need to kind head in a new direction and how do we move to that? Change starts with a common language and a common way to frame the future and foresight to insight and clarity versus certainty, and being able to do it from a future back and build that language and vocabulary on how to manage the future, and then be able to share that knowledge.

Across peers, but being able to share it on the way up as well. And I think a number of executives can say I embrace what's being taught to me by somebody who works for me. So that's one piece of it. And the other is demonstration. It doesn't have to be an enterprise future back. It could be a project future back that a manager is leading or it could be a departmental future back, so there are different ways that the thinking and the planning can be applied at the level of the organization where somebody is sitting that could further show that this is a capability that is helping us better to anticipate. Things in the future that can then ultimately make their way up.

So it's not just exclusively a C-suite or enterprise. I even wrote future back yourself that there are elements that help an individual think about purpose and understanding for their own career by putting themselves in the future and saying, where do we want to be in 10 years?

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
And I've been using the process giving the book to clients, whether in government that I'm working with for them to do some of this future back thinking or even nonprofit organizations where I serve on a board, getting them to think a future back. So I think there's tremendous value in the book.

And in the thinking and truly understanding what the vision is what a true vision would be, how to think about that future and how to plan backwards. Now, I know you mentioned clay Christianson a couple of times he co-founder with you or. At 21 years ago, as significant to lots of people's thinking and development.

I know he had a huge impact on my own thinking. I read everything Clay put out both with respect to disruption, with respect, to how to measure your life purpose. You name it, Clay had it. And you dedicate this book to your friend. And partner Clay Christiansen, and wanted to hear some of your thoughts and perspective expect to Clay's impact and how as we are going through this disruption.

And to great extent, he coined the term disruption. How should we be learning lessons from clay in helping manage and lead our organizations?

Mark_Johnson: 
This topic near and dear to my heart because Clay's influence on me just as a mentor. Do you know, has been both professional and personal. So last year was a bittersweet year. It was our 20th and it was unfortunately the time that he passed doing some longstanding health issues. I would say one of the big lessons from clay and there are many and many teachings of him is just his focus on being able to put on a set of lenses.

Being able to use theory in a practical sense, not a, just an academic sense to be able to look and understand what causes, what and why. And that's where his influence on me and writing the book lead from the future was that recognition that I think as leaders who are facing disruption, That they were going to have to not just try to create an innovation organization or a bunch of teams that wouldn't be enough.

That leaders also had to have a responsibility to come up with the right vision and strategy behind breakthrough innovation. Otherwise these teams and these efforts weren't really going to go anywhere because leaders have the resource allocation decisions. And I think what we learned from Clay is, along with teams that leaders have to put on a set of lenses and not just say, Hey, we're in the leadership team and we're gonna have data and information given to us and we're going to make decisions, but they're also going to have to put on a set of lenses to learn about where breakthrough innovation fits and that they internalize it and understand it. Like I said, the influence of Clay's helped me really try to write a book that is about putting on a set of lenses. It's a out of way of thinking as much as anything else in clay always talked about that. He always said how do you think in the right way. Because if you think in the right way with the right principles in the right theory, then you be able to better understand managerially what causes, what and why, and have a better likelihood of making the right managerial choices on how to address it versus versus not having that foundation of theory and categorization.

So that to me is I think what really didn't matter whether it was talking about disruption or jobs to be done theory or. We used to call interdependency modularity. It was always to him about putting on a set of lenses in teaching people, by analogy, as opposed to trying to push an answer and say, here's the answer.

And I think that's his impact on me and on Innosight. But everybody that touched his life and that he tried to influence overall and management thinking. 


Mahan_Tavakoli: 
What way to put it. He helped people put on different sets of lens. To be able to see things differently. And clearly, as you have done with lead from the future now, I would love to also, so get some of your thoughts, Mark, with respect to the disruption that organizations have faced and the future of work we've been through a unique experience an experiment over the past year and based on what we have experienced, how do you think, or organizations and the future of work will be different.

Mark_Johnson: 
It's interesting. It's a, it's another topic that I love because I actually wrote a Harvard business review article. In, I can remember may or so of 2020 after the book came out on this particular topic, because Facebook and Twitter had come out and said by. 2030 everybody can work virtually or something like that.

And Satya Nadella again from Microsoft challenged it and just said, are we trading one dog? For another not so fast. And to your point earlier there are people mean a lot of corporations have buildings and footprint and. All of that. And I think this is another perfect application of future back because it's not just about some people are going to be remote and some people are going to be working and we're going to have this hybrid model and all of that, we have to think differently, which is about it being a system. It's a system of people, it's a system of norms, it's a system of rules. It's a system of a physical footprint with productivity tools of technology. All these things have to come into play. And I think we have to. Be able to think about what are we trying to achieve with different way that we think about the future of work and workforce systems understand was it a sustainability goal, a talent spreading goal we can access to greater talent, be able to think about it in that way and then say, What is the trends going to be?

And then how do we imagine in a holistic way, the system of physical technological people policy, how does that all come together and envision that normatively and then work back and say, How do we conduct an experiment with a subsection of our organization to see how it works of combining people at home when work and how do you create enough social capital and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, on, on that score.

 But I think we have to be thoughtful about it, as opposed to saying it's going to be one way or the other, because nobody really fully knows how it all is going to shake out. The one thing that I think we could all agree. Is COVID has definitely catalyzed a way of interacting as people in organizations that would have never happened without COVID.

And I think we can safe to say we're going to be more virtual and more hybrid than before COVID. But we're not going to be as remote for sure. As we have been during COVID. So where does that land? I think it, it has to land by being thoughtful about the future environment of our company and just to our industry or our organization, how we fit in that from a workforce system point of view, make sure we have all the pieces of the system and be able to visualize that.

And then walk that back to say, Again, let's not bet the farm here. So how can we take a geographic location or a specific line of business or a specific subsection the organization? And see different archetypes of ways of putting together this combination of technology, people, footprint, and policy, and how it works together.

And is it sustainable? And what do we learn about some unforeseen consequences that maybe we haven't thought about and adjust from there? 

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
What great advice, because there is so much more noise. Now there is potential for signal. The further out you go. Built on the framework and the thinking you share in the book. Also thinking about that future, then. Coming back and experimentation. It's not certainty 

experimentation that guides you toward the clarity of that future.

So I truly appreciate your thoughts on that. Also mark. Now in addition to the book it is available on all booksellers. How do you typically recommend for people to find out more about you about Innosight and connect with you?

Mark_Johnson: 
As you said, it's on the books certainly helps. I think in a lot of ways, understand what we're more about but also going to Inosight our website. www.inosight I N O S I G H t.com you could help. And then there's also, I think a book website, which I always forget what the domain is, but I think if you Googled lead from the future, you'd find that as well.

So those are probably good ways. And then of course, if anybody wants to reach out to me directly they can find that on the website, on the site as well, and I'd be happy to continue the conversation. 

Mahan_Tavakoli: 
I've truly enjoyed this conversation with you, mark and I know that 21 years ago, one of the many reasons why Clay Christianson decided to partner with you obviously was your smarts and brilliance, but also you embody a lot of clay hat through his life. To be giving with respect to thoughts and frameworks to help elevate others, both the conversation and their impact.

That's why I truly appreciate what you have done, not just with your book, but in sharing your insights on this podcast, joining other organizations and having conversations really appreciate you, Mark Johnson.

Mark_Johnson: 
Thank you. Mahan has been a pleasure to be with you.